Today, I tried a new spice called zaatar (or za’atar) in a meatball recipe. Meatballs are popular with my kids, and an easy way to introduce new spices to them. Zaatar, a Middle Eastern spice, is a mixture of sumac (which has a lemony taste), thyme and sesame seeds.
Some mixes include marjoram, oregano, coriander, fennel and cumin. Zaatar is not a strong spice, but it has a nice tang from the sumac.
Traditionally, zaatar is mixed with olive oil and baked on a flat bread called manakeesh bi zaatar. It is also eaten with labneh (a strained yogurt), bread and olive oil for breakfast. In the Middle East, zaatar is believed to have health advancing properties, including making the mind alert and the body strong.
I found a recipe for meatballs using zaatar on Cara’s Cravings, and made a few adjustments to the meatball recipe, including using gluten-free bread crumbs (ground rice crumbs), minced onion, an egg to bind the mixture, and a heavy dose of zaatar. I decided to serve the zaatar meatballs with tzatziki sauce, a creamy sauce made from yogurt, cucumbers, dill, garlic and lemon juice. Kalyn’s Kitchen has a nice recipe for tzatziki if you want to make it yourself. I happened to have some prepared tzatziki from a local Greek store.
Here’s my recipe for Zaatar Meatballs:
For a kid-friendly meal, try serving these meatballs taco style in a tortilla, with some mixed baby greens and tzatziki sauce. The allspice and cinnamon compliment the zaatar nicely.
Zaatar Meatball Ingredients:
1 pound ground turkey
4 tablespoons gluten-free all purpose crumbs (I used Orgran), or bread crumbs
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 teaspoons zaatar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
mint leaves, for serving
tzatziki sauce, for serving
To make zaatar meatballs, combine all Zaatar Meatball Ingredients and mix gently. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer for flavors to meld and to allow meatball mixture to firm up (this makes it easier to form meatballs). Wet both hands and make small meatballs, about 1″ in diameter. Heat 1/2 cup of water in a deep saucepan. Gently place meatballs in pan, and cook until water is just evaporated, turning meatballs after a few minutes to color all sides. Heat oil in a skillet. Brown meatballs and cook through.
Skewer zaatar meatballs with mint leaves and serve with tzatziki sauce.
More recipes using Zaatar:
Cafe Liz’s Herbed Yogurt Dip with Chives and Zaatar
Choosey Beggar’s Pomegranate and Za’atar Tofu Kebabs
Morsels and Musings’ Chicken with Sumac,Za’atar and Lemon
A Little Bit Burnt’s Za’atar Spiced Zucchini, Garbanzo and Tomatoes with Whole Wheat Spaghetti