Zaatar, Aleppo or Lebanese-style

April 15, 2012  •  Category: ,


Had to stop for a kaak on my way to the mountains this weekend at ABU ARAB. ABU ARAB is a kaak place in which kaak is baked on the premises and stuffed with traditional things like zaatar or Picon cheese (a cross between cream cheese and Velveeta)or non-traditional like mortadella and cheese, or muhammara and cheese or even Nutella. They have outlets on the highways and their kaak is to-die-for.

Anyway, so Abu Arab (Abu means dad in Arabic) sells zaatar (by the pound) which is the traditional food that kaak gets stuffed with; however theirs is called Aleppo zaatar. I wanted to find out what the difference was between the Lebanese and Aleppo zaatar and the man at Abu Arab kindly gave me samples  to take home and taste. 

Zaatar is a mix  of three things: thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seeds (with some salt); it is never used as a spice but is used as a condiment for bread or baked in a flatbread called man’ooshe. At least, this is the Lebanese version and people usually prefer to make their own (that way they trust what goes in it!).

Aleppo zaatar tasted fruity; it has some cumin  in it, just not sure how it is added on or what the exact dosage is. Loved it too, however the taste is radically different from the Lebanese zaatar.

I invite you to visit Alépine’s blog Paris Alep in which she gives her grandmother’s recipe for zaatar, a most unique combo of spices and nuts!

Aleppo zaatar is on the left, and Lebanese zaatar (green for zaatar and reddish for sumac) is on the right.

These retirees like to play cards by the sea wearing their suits and laying on cardboard sheets. Taken on the waterfront aka the corniche. 

Teenagers smoking hookah by the seashore in Beirut.



21 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Yolanda says:

    What a beautiful post! I love zataar and I make it for both my mother and I. I discovered it in Saudi for the first time and I was very sad to find out that I couldn’t buy it in Romania. But fortunately, you wrote about it on this heavenly blog of yours and now I’ve started making my own. Thank you & lots of love, xxx

    • Castaldo says:

      Actually you can buy it in Romania. I just did buy it in Timisoara at a Palestinian butcher’s place but it’s called Moulouki. It comes actually from Adana (Turkey) but it’s the real thing, I know, because I just come from Dubai where Za’atar is ubiquitous and so I got ‘addicted’ to it.

  2. Rosa says:

    Mmmhhh, a condiment I love! I love dipping my bread in za’atar and olive oil or sprinkling it on fresh cheese and salads..



  3. Mohamed says:

    Very nice article, sorry there is no such thing in Alexandria Egypt,i know only dried thyme

  4. Sally - Custard Pie says:

    So interesting – I’m intrigued to try Aleppo zaatar now. My friend calls that type of flatbread ‘handbag bread’! It all tastes so good in Lebanon.

  5. Kalyn says:

    I am a big fan of Za’atar, but have never heard of Aleppo Za’atar. I thought you were going to say it was spicy (like Aleppo pepper) but it sounds like it’s not. Very interesting, wish I could try the Aleppo Za’atar!

  6. Mira says:

    Delicious!! That used to be my favorite lunch at school. The kaak vendor used to park his cart right by the gate. Brings back memories

  7. Belinda @zomppa says:

    What fabulous spices! Could see many uses for this.

  8. Susan says:

    No too shabby indeed! I’d love a taste with that dollop of cream 😉

  9. Arlette says:

    Of course I prefer the Lebanese style Zaatar, specially my moms recipe where she adds the kdami and nuts and the unpeel sesame seeds

  10. Susan says:

    Beauty-wise, the Lebanese zaatar wins in my eyes – love the shades of red and green. As always, your photos of daily scenes add so much more ‘flavor’ to your posts ;o

  11. Oui, Chef says:

    I love zaatar, especially mixed with a fruity olive oil and spooned onto man’ooshe. Sadly, I don’t have a good resource for the bread nearby, I need to learn how to make it myself. I bet you have a great recipe here….off to look!

  12. Lyndsey says:

    I too love zaatar! Yum, I would love to try it with you on the way to the mountains! I have tried aleppo pepper here, but not aleppo zaatar! Sounds great with the pom molasses.

  13. Christine @ Fresh says:

    This is an interesting accompaniment to bread. I’ve never had anything like it. I like the picture of the retirees at the end. It’s what I imagine I would be doing in the golden years of my life if i was a man.

  14. Sara says:

    I love love love Za’atar! I am addicted to za’atar pita which is made fresh at my local Lebanese bakery!

  15. deana says:

    Zatar is one of my favorite things… I’m crazy about the flavor and often use it with olive oil to dunk my bread into. Love the new recipe for it… adding pomegranate is an inspired touch.

  16. Reem | Simply Reem says:

    Beautiful I love za’atar, i use it so much in my cooking…
    This is sure on my to make list….

  17. Kathy says:

    Za’atar is a favorite of mine! Love your photos of Lebanon…Gorgeous! Thanks for posting!

  18. Nuts about food says:

    I made my own Za’atar for the first time last year and loved it. I am intrigued by the addition of pommegranate molasses…

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