7 Best Za’atar Substitutes

If you’re unfamiliar with za’atar, it’s a Middle Eastern spice typically used to season vegetables and bread. It offers unique zesty citrus-like tang flavoring but can be hard to find at your nearest grocery store.

Luckily, I’ve researched five best za’atar substitutes you can try that are easier to find and offer a similar taste.

Italian seasoning, Harissa spice blend, Ground coriander, Schimi togarashi, Thyme, Mixed Herbs, and Dukkah are some easy substitutes for za’atar. 

Alternatively, you can make your own za’atar seasoning at home using the recipe I’ve shared below.

What Is Za’atar?

Za'atar Substitutes

Za’atar is a mixture of herbs, sesame seeds, and spices found in Middle Eastern food. It’s typically used to season vegetables, bread, and other foods.

It is popularly used in Middle Eastern food but has also gotten popular in other cultures like India.

You can use it to season meat like chicken, lamb, or beef. It’s also great for marinating vegetables such as onions and eggplants before cooking them on the barbecue or in a salad bowl.

7 Best Za’atar Substitutes

If you’re in the middle of preparing a recipe and it’s impossible to find za’atar in your locality, try these handy substitutes instead.

1. Italian Seasoning

Italian Seasoning

Italian seasoning is a blend of dried herbs typically used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.

The ingredients may vary, but the most common ones are basil, sage, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. It also contains parsley flakes and garlic powder.

Overall, it’s a pretty close substitute to za’atar in terms of taste and fragrance. More importantly, it is easier to find.

2. Harissa Spice Blend

Harissa Spice Blend

The harissa spice blend is a mix of chilies, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, garlic powder, and salt used in North African cooking.

If you like spicy foods, definitely use this za’atar substitute as it can be quite fiery!

Just make sure to avoid the eyes if you’re not a fan of the spiciness. Also, start with a small quantity when replacing it for za’atar and until you reach the desired spice level.

Harissa can be bought in stores or you could make your own harissa blend at home.

3. Ground Coriander

Ground Coriander

Ground coriander is similar to za’atar because it’s made from sesame and coriander seeds, cumin, and sumac.

However, the latter is more coarse than finely ground coriander. So if you’re on a tight budget or unable to find za’atar anywhere, use ground coriander!

4. Schimi Togarashi

Schimi Togarashi

Schimi togarashi has an intense kick of chili pepper and can be used in Japanese, Thai, and Indian cuisine.

If you are a big fan of spicy food but can’t find za’atar or harissa spice blend, then this is another great substitute.

It is created from chili peppers, ground sesame seeds, Kosho (fermented red pepper paste), sugar, salt, and other spices.

5. Thyme


Thyme is among the most consistent za’atar substitutes. It has a strong aroma similar to that of the Middle Eastern spice.

It can also be used in cooking chicken, lamb, and turkey as you would with za’atar spices.

If you’re on a tight budget or can’t find za’atar anywhere, try thyme as its taste and smell are pretty close.

6. Mixed Herbs

Mixed Herbs

If you can’t find sumac or oregano, try using mixed herbs as a substitute for za’atar. Just mix 1 tablespoon of dried mixed herbs with 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds to prepare the mixture.

Sprinkle it with salt and lemon zest to add the tangy flavoring.

7. Dukkah


Dukkah is an Egyptian spice blend made from various nuts, seeds, and spices. It’s crunchy with a subtle nutty taste that adds flavor to bread or vegetables especially well!

A typical dukkah mix often contains cumin, coriander seed, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, and other spices.

Additionally, it’s perfect for sprinkling on top of hard-boiled eggs or on Hummus dip which pairs well with pita bread!

DIY Homemade Za’atar Recipe

So you can’t find za’atar anywhere? Then here’s to your solution! Make the authentic Middle Eastern za’atar spice mix yourself.

It is made from thyme, toasted sesame seeds, dried oregano, sumac powder, salt, and pepper flakes.

To prepare za’atar at home, just mix 1 tablespoon of each dried oregano, sesame seeds, and sumac powder. Add salt and pepper flakes to the mixture as per your flavor profile.

What Does Za’atar Taste Like?

Za’atar has a unique taste that is difficult to describe. Some people say it tastes like an herbaceous version of parmesan cheese while others say it’s earthy with a touch of lemon.

What is Za’atar Seasoning Made of?

Za’atar typically contains thyme, oregano, sesame seeds or ground sumac nuts blended together into a coarse mixture and then mixed with salt.

Sumac, on the other hand, is dried berries found in the Mediterranean region.

The za’atar ingredients may also include marjoram, mint, and black peppercorns. The rest is made up of salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to help mix everything together.

What Is The Difference Between Zaatar and Sumac?

The difference between za’atar and sumac is that the former is a blend of herbs and spices (typically thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds) while the latter is made up of dried berries.

Does Trader Joe’s Sell Za’atar?

Yes, Trader Joe’s has recently started selling za’atar spice which made a lot of home chefs happy (including me!)

However, Trader Joe’s za’atar blend lacks a key ingredient – sumac. Instead, they use lemon oil to add traditional zingy flavor.

According to the label, you can use the jar for up to 106 servings which gives you plenty of opportunities to sprinkle this miraculously seasoning over and over again.

Final Words

So, there you have it! Those are some of the best za’atar substitutes that you can use while still getting a delicious taste.

You’ll notice that most of the alternatives come from Middle Eastern cuisine which tells us that even though they are different spices and herbs, they all share similar flavors.

Now don’t forget to tell us your favorite za’atar substitute in the comments section below!

I’m a passionate food blogger on a journey to become a go-to person who can help others prepare delicious foods. I share recipes, food substitutes, and other cooking tips. Read more about my journey...

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