Mana’eesh bi Zaatar: Zaatar Pastries

This recipe is originally my great aunt’s – that’s my granddad’s sister-in-law, Khadija, from Jerusalem – and was then passed down to me by my mom. Needless to say, it’s tried and true and has fed  many a daughter, son, sister, cousin, etc. I’m delighted to share it with you today.
Zaatar – oregano in Arabic – is ubiquitous at the Middle Eastern table. The oregano is mixed with olive oil as a dip for fresh bread, either on its own or with sesame seeds to make a spice mix. Perhaps most commonly it’s baked into homemade dough to make this mana’eesh, among one of the most popular street and breakfast foods in the region. It’s found in loads of bakeries now. Even food journalist + Masterchef judge Matt Preston took Anthony Bourdain out for a tasty mana’eesh lunch while in Melbourne.

What you’ll notice about the dough is that it uses olive oil, rather than the butter much of the West is accustomed to. In the Middle East oil-based dough is the rule, and it results in a light, crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside pastry. When raw, it’s quite sticky and stretchy. Dipping your fingers in more oil while kneading each pastry round makes it much easier to handle. This also brings out the oil’s flavor.

There’s also a fun old-fashioned trick to getting each mana’eesh the same size: grab a palmful of dough and make a fist around it. Gently squeeze your fist, easing the dough up between your thumb and index finger to make a little ball. Each ball will be exactly the size of your unique hand :)

You can of course use your favorite store-bought zaatar mix. If you don’t have any, it’s really easy to make at home. Just mix a few equal tablespoons of dried oregano and sesame seeds, plus a dash of sumac for a tangy taste. Add a small drop of olive oil to make a paste, plus a pinch of salt, and it’s ready!


For the dough

   4 cups flour
   2 eggs, at room temp
   1 cup water

   Pinch of salt

   Yeast mixture: 1 tsp yeast + 1/2 tsp sugar + 1/2 cup warm water, mixed and set aside 15 mins
For the zaatar
   Equal tbsp (start with 4 tbsp each) dried oregano and sesame seeds
   1 tsp sumac
   Drop of olive oil, to make a paste

Using your hands, combine the flour and eggs. Slowly add half of the water, and mix until just combined. Add the yeast mixture and rest of the water, then mix once more until incorporated. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and place in a warm spot to rise for 2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 200C / 400F while making the dough balls. Rub your hands lightly with olive oil. Take a handful of dough and make a fist, squeezing a little ball of dough up between your thumb and index finger. Place on an oiled cookie sheet, and repeat until all dough is used. Dip your fingertips in a bit more olive oil, and pat each sphere flat (they may shrink the first time, just keep flattening them).

In a small bowl, make the zaatar: mix the oregano, sesame seeds, sumac and olive oil into a paste (alternatively use store-bought) . Spread a thin layer of zaatar on each pastry round, and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and puffed up.

Audio pairing: Jurassic 5, “Canto de Ossanha”

  • Candace

    As I was reading your description of the dough and the use of olive oil…before I saw your photo….it reminded me of the foccaccia bread that my husband makes. This must be the Middle Eastern version of it? I’ve seen Zaatar spice used so much lately in recipes; but I’ve yet to experience it myself. My stepson told me of a global market in a nearby city that I’m going to visit soon. Hopefully I will be able to find some of the things that you have featured here that I haven’t been able to find locally. Once again, you have made me hungry! It looks delicious!

  • msihua

    That looks so good, for a moment there just looking at the picture, it reminded me of an English muffin half with oregano on it. I think this would go so well in my tummy :)

  • Bella

    How lovely! I’ll try this dough recipe :) Thank you.

  • Andria

    I really enjoy reading your descriptions of things. These sound wonderfully tasty, thank you!

  • Jennifer (Delicieux)

    These pastries look gorgeous!!! And I love your tip on getting each pastry the same size. How cool!

  • lamina @ do a bit

    Yum.. they look delicious!! I will have to give them ago :)

  • Adriana

    This is making me so hungry, too bad ive injured myself and cant make it out of the house, otherwise I’d be making these babies.
    Nice :)

  • food, glorious food

    I totally LOVE these! We get them from our local Arabic bakery on the weekends….it’s a bit dangerous now that I know the recipe.

    Great blog btw….can’t believe I only just discovered it.

  • Luv’n Spoonfuls

    I just bookmarked this! I LOVE zaatar on anything (but I do confess to buying a bottle pre-made). My family loves it on grilled dishes, vegetables, and now I have your lovely recipe for little snacks. It’s great that you have the family legacy behind it as well…so lovely!

  • Juliana

    Yasmeen, thank you so much for stopping by…therefore I got to know you :-)
    I love this little treats with oregano, sesame seeds…and sumac, what a great combination of flavors. Thank you so much for sharing such a
    “historic” recipe.
    Hope you are having a great week and look forward to know you better :-)

  • Hannah

    Teehee, the photo of you squeezing the dough makes me think of those stress balls… but far, far more delicious 😀

  • Keely aka The Richest Girl in Bondi

    Is it weird that I want to have a go at squeezing the dough through my hands? I want to see your measuring out theory in action! These look so tasty.

  • Tanvi@SinfullySpicy

    I really love the “trick” cool :) This is a recipe which I wanna try right away coz I LOVE zaatar..need to find a good middle eastern store but. I have tried the one from American stores but not as good! Bookmarked!

  • Baker Street

    These look absolutely gorgeous Yasmeen! Thanks for sharing the recipe and the tricks. 😉

  • sliceofmylyfe

    Fabulous looking bread. We have this each time we go out for dinner. I love middle eastern cuisine. Since the time I have moved to Bahrain, this love has deepened and inspired me to make my own in my kitchen. I am yet to try zaatar bread.

  • Ashley

    THese look tasty as! I love the idea of olive oil bread rather than buttery bread. Mmmm!

  • sarah nicole

    I am convinced that you come from a family of the best chefs in the world. I wish my family had such wonderful recipes. I guess it’ll have to start with me! : )

    These look just delicious.



  • thelittleloaf

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog. These look awesome – I discovered za’atar a couple of years ago and can’t get enough of it now!

  • Faith

    Your mana’eesh is gorgeous! All I need is a couple of these and a bowl of yogurt and I’d be a very happy girl. I love your trick for getting each pastry the same size — I will definitely try that!

  • R. Grace

    Just looking at the pictures makes me hungry! This is great.

  • Priya

    Whenever we go out to eat at a Middle eastern place I make it a point to order their zaatar topped flat breads. I am lucky to have a Persian store close by that bakes fresh flat breads but making it at home tops it all. Thank you so much for sharing your family recipe with us and for the nifty tip to size the dough.

  • leaf (the indolent cook)

    They look so perfectly baked, Yasmeen – I would love this bread for breakfast!

  • Rosa’s Yummy Yums

    Oh, I love that speciality! Your Manaeesh look amazing and ever so tempting.



  • penny aka jeroxie

    Perfect! I am definitely keeping this recipe and making them. Thanks for sharing lovely

  • Joanne

    I made zaatar mix for a recipe not too long ago and still have a TON left! Totally making these!

  • Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy

    Thank you for this recipe, I have always wanted to make zaatar. Yet another beautiful blog post :)

  • Ajax

    this looks absolutely delicious! I love homemade breads. :)

  • The Cilantropist

    This looks so fantastic, and I love your cute trick for making them each the same size, and unique to you! :)

  • Ambara

    Bravo Yasmeen, the food looks delicious, I wish I was close to taste it!!!! What a great idea to share what you know, I am wondering if there is any market for books nowadays.
    Abeer Karjawally

  • tasteofbeirut

    This is the first time I see a recipe for a man’ooshe dough with eggs; I need to try this, I bet it makes the dough very chewy and tender. Love the photos, they look fabulous!

  • Kelsey

    YUM! I have been looking for an exact recipe since I came back from Beirut. Thank you, and this is a beautiful blog. Definitely added you to my bookmark bar! :)

  • Noor AlQ

    Ya Salam these look good some of my favorites actually

  • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

    These look so scrumptious! I love zaatar. I first fell in love with it while in Jerusalem. Street vendors sold ring-shaped yeast bread with holes in the middle (like very large doughnuts) covered in sesame seeds. They sold these bread rings along with cups of zaatar for dipping. And then I saw spice vendors in the Arab markets who virtually had mountains of it in their market stalls. Heaven!

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  • nadia

    thank you for sharing your lovely family recipe..finally got round to trying out your family dough recipe tonight ..reluctantly it includes eggs which is very unusual for manaeesh making..but was surprised and enjoyed the more tender finished crust..

  • Fatima

    I’m looking forward to trying your recipe! Sounds and looks yummy!