Versatile and nutritious, tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds— its rich, nutty flavor and creamy texture make it a popular addition to many dishes. Tahini is a key ingredient in hummus, baba ganoush, and halva, and it’s also often used as a condiment, dressing or sauce for vegetables, meats, and sandwiches. And BONUS! tahini is a good source of healthy fats, protein, and minerals such as calcium and iron, making it a nutritious addition to any diet.
Za’atar is commonly paired with tahini. The two ingredients complement each other well, as the nutty flavor of the tahini and the herbaceous notes of the za’atar blend together deliciously.
One of the most popular uses for za’atar and tahini together is in a dip called muhammara. Muhammara is made with roasted red peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, and of course, za’atar and tahini. The dip is creamy, slightly tangy, and has a complex flavor profile that is both savory and slightly sweet. It is often served with pita bread or crackers as an appetizer or snack.
Scroll down for recipe, but first…
A Little History
Za’atar has a long and rich history in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s been used in cooking and baking for centuries, and it is a staple in many dishes such as flatbreads, meats, and dips. It’s also used drizzled over salads, vegetables, and even cheese or popcorn.
In addition to its culinary uses, za'atar has also played a role in religious and cultural practices in the Middle East. In some cultures, it is used as incense during religious ceremonies, and it is also believed to have spiritual and symbolic significance. Additionally, Za’atar has been used for medicinal purposes in traditional medicine, as it is believed to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Za’atar has gained popularity outside of the Middle East in recent years, as the cuisine of the region has become more widely appreciated around the world. It’s now a common ingredient in many kitchens, and it can be found in most groceries, and on the shelves at Boketto!
Adapted from Kamal Mozawak recipe for Bon Appetit
1 cup walnuts
3 large red bell peppers
½ cup fine fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. Graza Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Za’atar
1 Tbsp. Seed + Mill Organic Tahini
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses (or honey), plus more for drizzling
- Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing halfway through, until golden brown and fragrant, 8–10 minutes. Let cool. Pick out a few walnuts for serving and coarsely chop; set aside.
- Meanwhile, place a rack in upper third of oven and heat broiler. Broil bell peppers on a rimmed baking sheet, turning occasionally, until skins are charred and flesh is softened, 12–15 minutes. (Alternatively, you can char over a gas burner on medium-high, turning occasionally with tongs, 12–15 minutes.)
- Transfer bell peppers to a medium bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap so that they steam, 10 minutes (this extends the cooking and also makes it easier to remove the skins).
- Remove skins from bell peppers (it’s okay if some bits don’t come off); remove and discard ribs and seeds. Pulse bell peppers, breadcrumbs, oil, 1 Tbsp Za'atar, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, toasted walnuts, and 2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses or honey in a food processor until mostly smooth; season muhammara with salt.
- Transfer muhammara to a small bowl; drizzle with more pomegranate molasses or honey and top with reserved chopped walnuts and the remaining Za'atar
Uses for Za'atar Tahini
As we’ve seen, Za’atar and tahini are two peas in a pod, and are used together in salad dressings, marinades, and sauces, Seed + Mill to this cue and made their Organic Za’atar Tahini that can be used when whipping up a simple salad dressing can be made by whisking together Organic Za’atar Tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil. This dressing can be drizzled over a variety of salads, including roasted vegetable salads, grain salads, or leafy green salads.