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Lebanese Zaatar Bread Recipe: A Flavorful Journey

Welcome to the world of Lebanese cuisine, where the flavors are bold, and the aromas are irresistible. Among the many delicious dishes that Lebanon has to offer, zaatar bread holds a special place in the hearts and mouths of those who have had the pleasure of savoring it. Zaatar bread, also known as manakeesh, is a flatbread topped with a mixture of zaatar (a blend of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds) and olive oil. This versatile bread can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, making it a staple in any Lebanese home. In this article, we will guide you through the process of making your very own zaatar bread, from selecting the right ingredients to perfecting your baking skills.

Understanding Lebanese cuisine

Understanding Lebanese Cuisine: Basics, Key Ingredients, and Flavors

Lebanese cuisine is a Middle Eastern culinary tradition that emphasizes the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients and a variety of herbs, spices, and flavors. This cuisine is known for its unique combination of flavors, textures, and colors, which create a delightful dining experience. The Lebanese zaatar bread, also known as “manakish” or “manoushe,” is a popular and traditional Lebanese dish that showcases the unique flavors and ingredients of this cuisine. To fully appreciate zaatar bread, it’s essential to understand the basics of Lebanese cuisine, its key flavors, and ingredients.

Freshness and seasonality

Lebanese cuisine emphasizes using fresh, seasonal produce, which ensures that the dishes are rich in flavor and nutrients. This culinary tradition also focuses on minimal cooking or processing, which helps to retain the natural taste and freshness of the ingredients.


One of the most iconic aspects of Lebanese cuisine is the mezze, which is a selection of small, flavorful dishes served before the main course. Mezze can include both vegetarian and meat-based options and usually features a variety of dips, salads, and finger foods. Zaatar bread can be served as part of a mezze platter or as an appetizer.

Key Ingredients

  • Vegetables: Fresh vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and leafy greens are widely used.
  • Grains: Bulgur, rice, and bread are staples in Lebanese cuisine.
  • Proteins: Legumes, such as chickpeas and lentils, are common in Lebanese dishes. Meat, particularly lamb and chicken, is also used, but often in moderation.
  • Dairy products: Yogurt, cheese, and labneh (strained yogurt) are essential ingredients in many recipes.

Herbs and spices

  • Zaatar: This is a blend of dried thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. It is used as a seasoning in many dishes, including zaatar bread.
  • Mint: Fresh mint leaves are used in numerous recipes to add a refreshing and cooling taste.
  • Parsley: Fresh parsley is often used as a garnish or mixed into salads.
  • Cumin, coriander, paprika, and cinnamon: These spices are frequently used to flavor meats, vegetables, and grain dishes.

Balancing flavors

Lebanese cuisine is known for its harmonious balance of flavors. Dishes commonly combine sweet, sour, spicy, and savory elements to create a multi-dimensional taste experience. For example, pomegranate molasses may be used to add a sweet-tart taste to a dish, while sumac adds a tangy, citrus-like flavor.

In summary, Lebanese cuisine is a rich and flavorful culinary tradition that emphasizes fresh ingredients, minimal processing, and balanced flavors. The zaatar bread is a perfect example of how these principles are incorporated into a delicious and iconic dish. Once you have a good understanding of the basic principles of Lebanese cuisine and the key ingredients and flavors, you can better appreciate the deliciousness of zaatar bread and other traditional Lebanese dishes.

A woman preparing a Lebanese dish in the kitchen.

History and importance of zaatar bread in Lebanon

The Origins of Zaatar Bread:

The roots of zaatar bread can be traced back to ancient Lebanon, where it was likely influenced by millenia-old regional bread-making traditions. Zaatar, the namesake herb blend used to season the bread, has a history dating back to the ancient Egyptians, who valued it for its flavor and medicinal properties. Throughout the centuries, zaatar became an integral part of Lebanese cuisine, paving the way for the birth of zaatar bread.

The History and Cultural Significance of Lebanese Zaatar Bread:

For generations, Lebanese zaatar bread has been a symbol of both sustenance and hospitality in Lebanese culture. The process of bread-making itself has traditionally been held in high regard, with bread serving as a staple in Lebanese households across geographic and socioeconomic lines. Lebanese zaatar bread, in particular, holds a special place in the hearts and stomachs of the Lebanese people.

As the bread is often baked fresh daily, mornings in Lebanon are often characterized by the mouthwatering aroma of newly baked zaatar bread wafting through busy outdoor markets and home kitchens. The bread’s wholesome and nourishing nature, coupled with its portability, has made it a popular choice for school children and workers alike.

Over time, it has become customary to offer zaatar bread to guests as a symbol of hospitality. Whether enjoying a cup of tea or sharing a meal, Lebanese zaatar bread has become synonymous with warmth, togetherness, and a sense of comfort.

Lebanese Zaatar Bread: Evolution and Adaptation:

As Lebanese cuisine has become more dynamic over time, incorporating new ingredients and contemporary techniques, so too has zaatar bread. Modern iterations of the beloved bread may feature various toppings in addition to the traditional zaatar spread, such as labneh (a tangy yogurt spread), cheese, or minced meat. Lebanese zaatar bread has also seen a rise in popularity as a street food, being readily available at numerous bakeries and roadside vendors throughout Lebanon.

In recent years, Lebanese zaatar bread has begun to capture the hearts and taste buds of food enthusiasts outside of Lebanon. Whether it is served alongside a mezze platter, used to scoop up a flavorful dip, or eaten on its own, zaatar bread is bringing Lebanese cuisine to the global stage, helping to highlight the deep culinary richness of the country.

In Summary:

Lebanese zaatar bread is more than just a delightful culinary experience; it is a symbol and celebration of Lebanese culture, history, and hospitality. With its humble ancient roots and continued evolution, zaatar bread stands as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Lebanese people. Next time you savor a warm, soft bite of this fragrant flatbread, take a moment to appreciate the culinary journey that has brought it to your plate.

A photo of freshly baked Lebanese zaatar bread

Sourcing and preparing the ingredients

Make a list of ingredients:

  • Zaatar spice blend (a mix of dried thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and salt)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Warm water
  • Active dry yeast
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Find a local store or market that sells Middle Eastern ingredients:

To make authentic Lebanese zaatar bread, it is crucial to use high-quality zaatar spice blend. You can often find zaatar spice blend and other necessary ingredients at Middle Eastern grocery stores or supermarkets that sell international foods. If you do not have any Middle Eastern stores nearby, you can also check larger grocery stores in their international food aisle.

Purchase ingredients online:

If you are unable to find any local stores that sell the required ingredients, you can also purchase them online from reputable retailers. Websites like Amazon and other specialized online stores dedicated to selling Middle Eastern products often have a good selection of zaatar spice blends and other ingredients.

Preparing the zaatar spice blend:

While store-bought zaatar spice blends are generally good, you can create your own zaatar spice blend for a more authentic flavor. To make your own blend, simply mix:

  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Store your homemade zaatar spice blend in an airtight container to retain its freshness and flavor.

Preparing the ingredients:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1/4 cup of warm water, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast. Set aside and let it rest for 5-10 minutes or until it becomes frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, add 3 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix well using a whisk or a fork.
  3. Gradually add the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup of warm water to the flour mixture. Mix until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms.
  4. Lightly flour your working surface and knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, adding more flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Grease a bowl with a little olive oil and place the dough in the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Now that you have sourced and prepared all the necessary ingredients for Lebanese zaatar bread, you can proceed to make this delicious and flavorful bread by following the zaatar bread recipe.

Lebanese Zaatar Bread

Creating the dough


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (approx., not too hot to touch)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Combine dry ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Use a whisk or a fork to mix the ingredients until they are well incorporated.
  2. Add warm water: Gradually pour the warm water into the flour mixture while stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. You may not need the entire amount of water, so add it slowly until a rough, shaggy dough starts to form.
  3. Add olive oil: Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the dough. Mix it into the dough using your hands or a spatula until well combined.
  4. Knead the dough: Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Use your hands to knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should become smooth, elastic, and only slightly sticky. Add more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands or the countertop.
  5. First dough rise: Shape the kneaded dough into a ball and place it back in the mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven: While the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Place a pizza stone or baking sheet on the middle rack to heat up as the oven preheats.
  7. Divide the dough: Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down to release any air bubbles. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide it into 6-8 equal portions.
  8. Shape the dough: Roll each portion of dough into a ball, and then use a rolling pin (or your hands) to flatten the balls into thin, round discs, about 1/4-inch thick. Be gentle with the dough to avoid tearing it.
  9. Rest the dough: Place the shaped dough discs onto a floured surface or baking sheet and cover them with a damp kitchen towel. Allow them to rest for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the zaatar topping.
  10. Proceed with adding the zaatar topping: Once the dough has rested, you’re ready to spread the zaatar mixture on each dough disc and bake the bread according to your recipe’s instructions.

A delicious loaf of Lebanese zaatar bread

Mixing the zaatar topping

Lebanese Zaatar Bread Recipe: Mixing the Zaatar Topping


  • 1 cup zaatar spice blend (dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and salt)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (for added flavor)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (for added flavor)
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (for added spice)


  1. Make sure you have all your ingredients measured and ready to go. Ensure that the zaatar spice blend you have contains the essential ingredients like dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. You can make your blend or buy a pre-made one from the store.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the zaatar spice blend.
  3. If you are using optional spices for added flavor or spice, like ground cumin, ground coriander, or chili flakes, you may add them to the zaatar spice blend at this point.
  4. Slowly pour the extra virgin olive oil into the mixing bowl with the zaatar spice blend, stirring the ingredients together as you pour. If you prefer a thicker zaatar topping, you can reduce the amount of oil to 1/2 cup. If you like a stronger and more intense flavor, feel free to adjust the proportions according to your personal taste.
  5. Stir the mixture well until it becomes a homogenous mixture. The consistency should resemble a thick paste or spread.
  6. Taste the zaatar topping to check if it suits your preference, and adjust the ingredients if necessary. It should be well-balanced, with a tangy, herbal flavor from the zaatar spice blend and a smooth, rich quality from the olive oil.
  7. Cover the mixing bowl with a plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. This will allow the flavors to meld together and create a more harmonious taste.

After mixing the zaatar topping, you can now proceed to prepare the dough for your Lebanese zaatar bread. Once the dough is ready, you can spread the zaatar topping evenly on top of each circular piece of dough, and then bake the bread as per the recipe instructions. Enjoy your homemade Lebanese zaatar bread!

Baking techniques

Lebanese Zaatar Bread Recipe: Baking Techniques


  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (around 100°F)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1/2 cup zaatar spice mix (store-bought or homemade)


  1. Prepare the dough:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and instant yeast. Stir well to combine the dry ingredients.
    • Gradually add the warm water to the dry ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon or your hands until the dough starts to come together.
    • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 7-10 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and elastic. You can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough on low speed for about 5-7 minutes.
    • Once the dough is smooth, add the 1/4 cup olive oil and continue kneading until the oil is completely incorporated into the dough. The dough should be soft, slightly sticky, and shiny.
  2. Allow the dough to rise:
    • Form the dough into a smooth ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
  3. Preheat and prepare your baking sheet:
    • Preheat your oven to 450°F (232°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.
  4. Shape and season the zaatar bread:
    • After the dough has risen, punch it down to release the air and transfer it to a clean, lightly floured surface.
    • Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and then use a rolling pin to flatten each ball into a circle, about 1/4-inch thick and 4-5 inches in diameter.
    • In a small bowl, mix the zaatar spice blend with 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil to form a thick, spreadable paste. Adjust the consistency as needed by adding more oil or zaatar.
    • Brush each dough circle generously with the zaatar paste, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the edges.
  5. Bake the zaatar bread:
    • Place the zaatar-topped dough circles onto the prepared baking sheet, making sure they are not too close together, as they will expand slightly when baking.
    • Bake the zaatar bread in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and the zaatar topping is slightly crisp.
    • Remove the zaatar bread from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Serve and store:
    • Enjoy the Lebanese zaatar bread warm or at room temperature. Serve it alongside your favorite dips, salads, or as a part of a mezze platter.
    • Store any leftover zaatar bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat the bread in the oven or toaster to refresh its flavor and texture before serving.

Lebanese zaatar bread topped with zaatar spice blend

Presentation and serving suggestions


Lebanese Zaatar Bread, also known as “Manakeesh” or “Manouche,” is a popular Middle Eastern flatbread topped with zaatar spice mix (a blend of dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt). It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, or a delicious snack. In this guide, we will explore various ways to present and serve Zaatar Bread to impress your family and friends.

1. Traditional Style:

  • Present the zaatar bread whole or sliced into triangular portions on a large, decorative platter.
  • Add a side of fresh veggies such as cucumber, tomato, bell pepper slices, and black olives.
  • Accompany the bread with a bowl of labneh (strained yogurt) and hummus for dipping.
  • Garnish the dish with fresh mint leaves, lemon wedges, and a sprinkle of zaatar on the dips.

2. Rustic Style:

  • Cut the zaatar bread into rectangular strips and place them in a rustic, wooden serving tray or breadbasket.
  • Offer a variety of dips and spreads such as baba ganoush, muhammara, and olive tapenade.
  • Add some marinated feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and a handful of mixed olives to the tray to complete the mezze-like experience.
  • Scatter some torn parsley leaves and pomegranate seeds across the tray for added color and flavor.

3. Rolled Sandwiches:

  • Cut the zaatar bread into individual-sized circular portions.
  • Spread a layer of labneh or hummus on each piece of bread.
  • Add a selection of thinly sliced veggies, such as cucumber, tomato, and red onion.
  • Roll each piece of bread into a tight wrap, then cut them in half diagonally.
  • Arrange the sandwich rolls on a serving platter, spiraled side up, and secure them with toothpicks or decorative skewers if needed.
  • Serve with a side of pickles, such as cornichons, dill pickles, or pickled turnips for an additional burst of flavor.

4. Mini Zaatar Pizzas:

  • Create mini zaatar bread by cutting the dough into smaller circular portions before baking.
  • Top each mini bread with the zaatar spice mix and bake as directed.
  • Arrange the mini zaatar pizzas on a large serving platter.
  • On the side, offer a selection of toppings, such as crumbled goat cheese, diced tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and chopped parsley, for your guests to customize their mini zaatar pizzas.
  • Include a bowl of homemade garlic sauce for drizzling or dipping the mini pizzas.

5. Deconstructed Zaatar Bread Platter:

  • Cut the zaatar bread into small squares or diamond shapes and arrange them on a large serving platter.
  • Create a DIY Zaatar Bread station by placing various toppings, such as labneh, roasted vegetables, crumbled feta cheese, and olives, in small bowls surrounding the bread.
  • Include a small bowl of zaatar spice mix for guests to sprinkle onto their bread and toppings
  • Finish the presentation with colorful garnishes such as radish slices, parsley, and edible flowers.


With various presentation options and accompanying garnishes and sides, zaatar bread can be the star of your next gathering or family meal. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with different serving styles and accompaniments that suit your personal taste and preferences. Enjoy the delicious flavors of Lebanese zaatar bread and bon appétit!

Plate of Lebanese Zaatar Bread with assorted dips and toppings

Storage and preservation


Lebanese zaatar bread, also known as manakish, is a popular Middle Eastern flatbread typically enjoyed fresh and warm. However, there might be instances when you want to save some for later. To maintain its delicious taste and perfect texture, proper storage and preservation techniques are key. This guide will explain how to store and preserve zaatar bread and how to reheat it without compromising its quality.

Materials/Tools Required:

  • Ziplock bags or airtight containers
  • Parchment paper
  • Marker or pen for labeling
  • Microwave, toaster oven, or regular oven


  1. Allow the zaatar bread to cool completely: Before storing the bread, make sure it has cooled down fully to room temperature. This will help prevent condensation, which can lead to sogginess or mold growth.
  2. Wrap the bread: To keep the zaatar bread from sticking together, place a piece of parchment paper between each bread slice or individual bread. This will make it easier to remove the slices when you’re ready to eat them.
  3. Choose proper storage: Depending on how soon you plan to consume the bread, you can either store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
    • Refrigerator: If you plan to eat the zaatar bread within the next 2 days, place the wrapped slices in a Ziplock bag or airtight container, removing as much air as possible. Then, store the container in the refrigerator.
    • Freezer: If you want to store the zaatar bread for a longer period (up to 3 months), place the wrapped bread slices in a Ziplock freezer bag or airtight container. To avoid freezer burn, make sure to squeeze out any excess air before sealing. Label the container with the date and contents.
  4. Reheating the zaatar bread: When you’re ready to enjoy your stored zaatar bread, follow these steps for best results:
    • Thaw the bread (if applicable): If you stored your zaatar bread in the freezer, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or you can place it on the countertop for a few hours until it reaches room temperature.
    • Preheat your heating appliance: Whether you’re using a microwave, toaster oven, or regular oven, preheating is essential to achieve the desired taste and texture.
      • Microwave: Place the zaatar bread on a microwave-safe plate, cover it with a slightly damp paper towel, and microwave on low to medium power for 20-30 seconds or until warm. Be cautious not to overheat as it may result in a soggy or tough texture.
      • Toaster oven or regular oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the zaatar bread directly on the middle oven rack or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Heat the bread for 5-7 minutes or until it is warmed and slightly crispy.


By following these storage and preservation techniques for your Lebanese zaatar bread, you can enjoy its delicious taste and texture even when it’s not made fresh. Choose the appropriate storage method depending on your intended consumption time, and always take care when reheating to ensure the bread remains just as enjoyable as when it was first made.

Lebanese Zaatar Bread

Experimenting with variations

Variations of Lebanese Zaatar Bread Recipe

Lebanese zaatar bread, also known as manakish, is a popular Middle Eastern flatbread flavored with zaatar spice mix. While the traditional recipe is simple and delicious, experimenting with variations can provide an exciting twist to satisfy your taste buds. In this guide, we’ll explore some alternative ingredients and dough recipes to help you make your very own unique zaatar bread.

Basic Lebanese Zaatar Bread Recipe


  • 1 lb pizza dough (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons zaatar spice mix


  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Divide the pizza dough into 4 equal portions and roll each one out into a thin circle, about 6 inches in diameter.
  3. Combine the olive oil and zaatar spice mix in a small bowl.
  4. Spread the zaatar mixture evenly over each portion of dough, leaving a small border around the edge.
  5. Place the dough circles onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and crispy.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Variation 1: Whole Wheat Dough

For a healthier option, you can replace the regular pizza dough with whole wheat dough. Just substitute whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour when making your own pizza dough.

Variation 2: Gluten-free Dough

For those with gluten sensitivity, try using a gluten-free flour blend in your dough recipe. Gluten-free blends are readily available in stores or can be created by combining different gluten-free flours like rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch.

Variation 3: Herb-infused Dough

Add a burst of flavor to your dough by incorporating minced fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or rosemary into the dough mix before letting it rise.

Variation 4: Toppings

Before baking the zaatar bread, you can further enhance its flavor by adding toppings like:

  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Diced bell peppers
  • Crumbled feta cheese
  • Caramelized onions
  • Olives
  • Thinly sliced zucchini
  • Ground beef or lamb

Variation 5: Labneh Swirl

Labneh, a Middle Eastern strained yogurt, adds a tangy flavor and creamy texture when swirled into the zaatar mixture. Combine the zaatar mixture with around 1/4 cup of labneh, then spread this thick paste onto the dough.

Variation 6: Spicy Zaatar Bread

Give your zaatar bread some heat by adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes into the zaatar and oil mixture.

With these different variations of Lebanese zaatar bread, you can satisfy your cravings for a delicious, homemade flatbread while exploring new flavors. Have fun experimenting, and enjoy your creations!

Lebanese Zaatar Bread

Embarking on the journey of making zaatar bread is not only a delicious adventure but also an opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Lebanese cuisine. With the right ingredients and techniques at your disposal, you will soon be enjoying your very own flavorful zaatar bread. From sourcing the most authentic zaatar spice blend to mastering the art of dough kneading, every step of this process will reward you with newfound knowledge and appreciation for Lebanese food. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different variations and serving styles, and remember – the more you practice, the better your zaatar bread will taste!

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