Zaatar is a mix of thyme, roasted sesame seeds, sumac and salt. Mix zaatar with a little olive oil and serve as a dip or spread on flat bread.
Some varieties may add savoury, cumin, coriander or fennel seed. One distinctively Palestinian variation of zaatar includes caraway seeds, while a Lebanese variety sometimes contains sumac berries, and has a distinct dark red color. Like baharat (a typically Egyptian spice mix of ground cinnamon, cloves, and allspice or rosebuds) and other spice mixtures popular in the Arab world, zaatar is high in anti-oxidants.
Zaatar, both the herb and the condiment, is popular in Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.
Zaatar can be used as a seasoning for meats and vegetables or be sprinkled onto a plate of hummus. It is also eaten with labneh (yogurt drained to make a tangy, creamy cheese), and bread and olive oil for breakfast, most commonly in Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as other places in the Arab world. The Lebanese speciality shanklish, dry-cured balls of labneh, can be rolled in zaatar to form its outer coating.
Fresh zaatar, the herb itself, rather than the condiment, is also used in a number of dishes. Borek is a common bread pastry that can be stuffed with various ingredients, including zaatar. A salad made of fresh zaatar leaves is also popular throughout the Levant. The recipe is a simple one consisting of fresh thyme, finely chopped onions, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
A traditional beverage in Oman consists of zaatar steeped in boiling water to make an herbal tea.