Za'atar Pesto Recipe From Israel's Premiere Slow Food Chef

za'atarFresh za’atar at Ramla Open-Air Market

Chef Moshe Basson created this pungent, chunky pesto in just a few minutes, right under our eyes.

According to Wikipedia, Za’atar (Arabic: زعتر‎, also romanized as zaatar, za’tar, zatar, zatr, zahatar or satar) is a generic name for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs from the genera oregano, calamintha, thyme, and savory. It is also the name for a condiment made from the dried herbs, mixed together with sesame seeds, and often salt, as well as other spices and enjoyed as a seasoning or like salt in Middle Eastern cuisine. Used in Arab cuisine since medieval times, both the herb and spice mixture are popular throughout the Middle East and Levant. Today, Slow Food chef, Basson gives us his surprising and mouth-watering alternative: a recipe for za’atar pesto.

Za’atar Pesto


1 cup toasted, blanched almonds

3/4 cup fresh, rinsed, za’atar leaves (in season right now at open-air markets), patted dry and  stripped off the stalks

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon powdered sumac (rhus coriaria, an edible Middle-Eastern variety of sumac with a lemony flavor)

2 large, fresh garlic cloves

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice


1. Place the almonds in a food processor. Whizz till they’re coarsely ground, not pasty.

2. Add the za’atar next. This sequence is important: if you grind the za’atar first, it will liquify too much. Process for a few seconds.

3. Add the salt, sumac, garlic cloves, olive oil, and lemon juice. Process for a few minutes, till you have obtained a spreadable pesto.

Enjoy it as a flavorful shmear on sandwiches, to top pasta as with basil pesto, or as a dip for raw vegetables.

And remember…za’atar is a protected plant in the wild, so buy it from a farmed source.

wild za'atarWild Za’atar

More about pesto and sustainable agriculture in Israel here:

About Miriam Kresh

Miriam Kresh is an American ex-pat living in Israel. Her love of Middle Eastern food evolved from close friendships with enthusiastic Moroccan, Tunisian and Turkish home cooks. She owns too many cookbooks and is always planning the next meal. Miriam can be reached at miriam (at) greenprophet (dot) com.

14 thoughts on “Za'atar Pesto Recipe From Israel's Premiere Slow Food Chef

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  5. Miriam


    You can make this with fresh oregano leaves if you can’t get a hold of za’atar. It really is good! And if there’s one thing I love, it’s going through the open-air markets searching for fresh herbs.

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  10. James

    many thanks Miriam! Looking fwd to trying it….have to figure out where I can get bundle of the fresh hyssop/zaatar from in the UK!never mind, its wild garlic season soon……..

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