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Zahtar, a Pantry Special (Recipe: fattoush, a salad of pita bread, tomato and cucumber) {vegan}


Zahtar, zatar, za'atar: what's in a name? Though the word means thyme in Arabic, the name also refers to a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, salt and dried green herbs (thyme, usually, but sometimes oregano, marjoram or parsley). Zahtar, a popular table condiment in the Middle East, is sprinkled on or cooked with meat and vegetable dishes. Most often it's ground in a mortar and pestle, so the texture remains a bit coarse. For a perfect snack, mix zahtar with a bit of olive oil, and smear it on pita bread or pizza. And don't worry: sumac, the dominant ingredient in zahtar, is not the poison sumac we're taught to avoid in the woods. This sumac, from the dark-red berries of a shrubby tree native to the Middle East and parts of Italy, has a tart, fruity, lemony flavor.

Is this Pantry Special new to you?


How to make your own zahtar:
Zahtar, with a variety of spices
Zahtar, a simpler version

Where to buy online:
World Spice Merchants ($2/oz)
Zamouri Spices ($3.95/1.7 oz)
Penzeys ($5.69/4 oz)

How to use zahtar:
Pita pizza with hummus, eggplant pesto and zahtar
Turkish black-eyed pea salad with pomegranate, walnuts and zahtar dressing
Zahtar with labne (yogurt cheese)
Charred feta, pita and chicken kebabs
Zaatar pita chips
Zatar spiced meatballs
Za'atar spiced lavash crackers
Roasted garbanzos


Fattoush (a salad of pita, tomato and cucumber) 

Use the salad to fill a pita and add some garlic chicken for a complete meal. Serves 4.


2 oat-bran or whole wheat pita breads
2-3 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 mini cucumbers, diced
Handful of pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
10 spearmint leaves, torn into small pieces
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp zahtar
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste


Toast the pitas in a dry frying pan or in the oven (set at 375°F) for 5 minutes or until slightly crispy. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and mint.

In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine oil, lemon juice, zahtar, salt and pepper. Shake well until the dressing is well mixed.

Tear the pita into bite-size pieces and add to the vegetables. Toss with the dressing, and serve.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Shish taouk (garlic chicken on skewers)
Couscous salad with herbs
Rice pilaf
Zahtar (in appetizer form)

Need more ideas for how to create salads with pizzazz? Get Dress Up Your Salad, my e-book packed with easy mix-and-match recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. Exciting salad recipes from everyday ingredients can be just one click away, on any computer, tablet or smart phone, with the FREE Kindle Reading app. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Ooh, this is a very different version of fattoush than the kind I've made. No doubt I would love it! And I have Za'atar too! (Love those Costco mini-cucumbers too. I splurge on them all winter whenever I'm craving cucumbers.)

In Australia, za'atar is affectionately known as Lebanese vegemite as it is commonly eaten in the morning on fresh pita, much like we like to smear our vegemite on toast in the mornings. One of my sons adores za'atar

I'm just chuckling to myself over the thought you might actually have a jar of vegemite tucked away in your pantry! somewhere!

LOVE za'atar!!! I mix it with some creamed goat cheese and the rest is history.

will definitely try this!
funny about the Sumac- I am pretty sure the Sumac in this must be from the same Sumac trees in NH that as a girl scout we "brewed" the berries like tea to make a lemony drink.(and definately not the poison sumac!)
I would recommend someone research this before trying it!

I love za'atar and when I did a little research on it, I learned about sumac. So I went on a hunt to find sumac and I did use it to make za'atar but now I'm in love with sumac too.

I don't know if Lydia has a jar of Vegemite in her pantry now, but I do know that when we visited Australia years ago we did have it on toast--at least once! But we both have "Lebanese vegemite" and I do like it on kebabs.

Mmm, this is my kind of condiment!
I have read about it but haven't made it yet.
Lovely salad too!

I love sumac in salads and zahtar on flatbreads. My friend introduced them both to me several years ago and I've loved them ever since.

Kalyn, I think there are lots of variations on fattoush (like panzanella) that use up what's on hand. It's the zahtar that makes it delicious, isn't it?

Neil, vegemite is one thing I do not have tucked away in the pantry! It's an acquired taste, and I never acquired it.

Bellini Valli, what a great idea. I'll have to try it.

Carol, I think if the sumac you brewed as a kid was the poison kind, you wouldn't be leaving comments here today! Seriously, thanks for the reminder that all sumac is not created equal.

Jessica, what are some of your favorite recipes that use zahtar and sumac?

Cousin, I do not have vegemite in my pantry. Never have. But I do remember eating it in Australia when we were there.

Natashya, you would love this salad. Light and tangy, and uses up little bits of things in your fridge.

Janel, the first time I had zahtar it was made into a paste with olive oil and smeared on a pita.

For me Zahtar works great when I want to fancy up stale bread. I just mince a bit of garlic add the garlic to the zahtar and olive oil toast the bread and spread… yumm

I have fond memories of the fresh flat bread with za'atar at the little bakeries in Saudi Arabia. They had hot wood fired ovens and would slide a whole peel full of the bread into the oven, then bring it out all hot and puffy and sprinkle on za'atar and olive oil. I buy bags of za'atar in the local Middle Eastern grocery stores or at Wegman's. The brand I like is called Ziyad (www.ziyad.com).

Za'atar is SO good! I must admit I haven't tried making my own, though I've been told I could use the staghorn sumac I have in my back yard. (Or just use Penzey's sumac with the other ingredients.)

Where can I find sumac?

Kim, that's a great idea. The zahtar and oil make a delicious paste.

Andrea, thanks for the info about Wegman's, and for sharing your memories. I think zahtar is so fragrant; I can just imagine the aroma coming from the bakeries.

Sandra, EB: Both Penzeys and The Spice House carry sumac. If you don't have a local Middle Eastern market, try these two online sources.

Zahtar is new to me! I have all the ingredients to mix up some though!

Sumac also grows on Martha's Vineyard.

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