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Vegan and Gluten-Free Za'atar Popcorn: Snacking Gets a Middle East Makeover

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Zatar Popcorn Recipe


This vegan and gluten-free za'atar popcorn recipe is a Middle Eastern take on regular butter popcorn. It’s so delicious and easy to make, consider it your go-to snack for, well, forever.

Za'atar or zatar refers to a Middle Eastern spice and herb blend that can be used as liberally in your cooking as salt itself. In the Middle East, za'atar is sprinkled on hummus, used as seasoning on chicken, tossed with raw veggies in a salad, or stirred into couscous. In Arabic, za'atar means thyme, but it involves more than just the thyme we are accustomed to in American cuisine – it is a blend of thyme and other green herbs related to thyme such as marjoram and oregano, as well as dried sumac and raw sesame seeds. The result is a slightly nutty, aromatic, earthy spice blend that takes all of your dishes to the next level, even ones as basic as your go-to popcorn recipe. Better yet, you just need a bag of popcorn from the grocery store to toss into the za'atar and, voilà!, you’ve got yourself an exotic snack in less than ten minutes.

There are many variations of the za'atar blend. This recipe is a notch above the basic ingredients usually required and may include spices you don’t already have in your pantry. Check out your local ethnic food store for the less common spices. The key is to make sure you at least include thyme, marjoram, sumac, and sesame seed in the mix. The rest of the ingredients are optional, but the za'atar popcorn recipe turns out best when all of the listed ingredients are included!

The za'atar recipe makes far more than is needed for the popcorn recipe, but intentionally so. Don’t just use the za'atar blend for this snack – use it in all your favorite dishes for a unique twist. Enjoy!


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  • 1 tablespoonServings


  • 1 cup dried wild thyme
  • 1/4 cup dried marjoram
  • 3/4 cup ground sumac
  • 3/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground anise
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt


  1. Roast the sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes until they turn light brown, while you stir constantly.
  2. Transfer the sesame seeds to a bowl and toss in the other ingredients.
  3. Store in a sealed container in a dark and dry place in your pantry.
  4. Every time you want to make popcorn, toss two tablespoons of the za'atar blend into four cups of plain, unbuttered popcorn.

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