Three ingredients is all you need to make these savory and crunchy Za'atar Bread Crumbs that can be used on salads or macaroni and cheese, to coat chicken, and so much more.
There's a few dried herbs and spices that we are constantly going through in our house, with garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, lemon pepper, and Old Bay at the top of the list. Lately, za'atar has been climbing quickly to the top of the list though. It's such a unique flavor -- a little nutty, a good bit earthy, sometimes a little zesty, and even a little floral.
Za'atar is kind of like the Middle Eastern version of Maryland's Old Bay. It really belongs on just about everything.
What is Za'atar?
Za'atar is a combination of quite a few herbs and spices. The combination can vary greatly depending on the region or origin, too. Za'atar generally includes dried oregano, marjoram, thyme, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds. Za'atar also often contains salt, dried orange zest, dried dill, and za'atar (which is a wild herb where za'atar seasoning gets its name).
This combination of herbs and spices gives za'atar an earthy, zesty, and nutty flavor -- making it unique and very flavorful.
Za'atar is delicious on french fries, on roast chicken, on hummus or sliced tomatoes, on boiled eggs, and especially on roasted chickpeas (OH MY GOODNESS! The joy crispy roasted za'atar chickpeas bring to the world!)
Za'atar bread crumbs are so easy to make and elevate anything you'd normally use panko bread crumbs for.
Where can I find za'atar?
Za'atar can be found at most grocery stores in the spice aisle. I get mine at Whole Foods. It comes in a little plastic envelope. Like any spice, za'atar will lose its flavor the longer it sits, so I wouldn't buy za'atar in large quantities.
Three Ingredients Is All You Need
You only need day-old bread (see note below for more details on this), olive oil, and za'atar seasoning. That's it!
How to Make Za'atar Bread Crumbs
Here are some step-by-step directions for making toasted za'atar bread crumbs that can be ready to eat immediately. If you're using the bread crumbs to coat chicken or a vegetable that will be roasted or fried, skip the toasting in the oven.
STEP 1: First, cube your bread.
You can use ANY kind of bread here. For this particular time I made za'atar bread crumbs, I quite literally used the last three slices of my kids' sandwich bread for their lunches. They eat honey wheat bread. I also used about 4 thick slices of sourdough we had leftover from dinner the night before. Mix and match to your heart's content.
STEP 2: Use a food processor to make crumbs.
These bread crumbs can be whatever size you prefer -- depending on what you're using them for.
STOP HERE if you are going to use the bread crumbs for something that will go into the oven. If you're using the bread crumbs for something that will be eaten right away, like a delicious salad, then proceed with the next step to toast.
STEP 3: Toss with olive oil and za'atar
On a parchment-lined baking sheet, toss bread crumbs with olive oil and za'atar seasoning, coating as much of the bread crumbs as possible.
STEP 4: Toast the bread crumbs if using on salads
Be careful with this part because if your bread is already dry, they will toast quickly (2 minutes or so). If your bread still has a good deal of moisture, it may take up to 5.
How to Toast Bread Crumbs (So They Don't Burn)
- Toss the breadcrumbs generously in olive oil and whatever seasoning you're using. Oil helps them get crispy.
- Spread bread crumbs in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet so they toast evenly.
- Toast at high heat. You want the oven set at 400˚F.
- Keep your eyes on the bread crumbs as they are toasting! It will take between 2 and 5 minutes for the bread crumbs to be toasty...and you don't want to forget about them because you'll very quickly have burnt bread crumbs.
- Toss halfway through to ensure even browning.
A Note About the Type of Bread to Use
It's best to use day-old bread for this recipe. Not the kind that you'd want to eat because it's so pillowy soft and fresh and not the days-old stale bread that is rock hard. You want the bread to soak up a little bit of moisture (olive oil) and not have too much moisture to start.
Make Za'atar Bread Crumbs Gluten Free
You can make za'atar bread crumbs gluten free by using gluten free bread. The same process stands!
Making Bread Crumbs Smaller
One the bread crumbs are toasted, you can put the bread crumbs back into the food processor if they're not small enough for your liking. Pulse a couple of times to get the bread crumbs the size of your choice.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Where are bread crumbs in the grocery store?
This is the question of the year because every grocery store hides their bread crumbs, and it's so frustrating! My hang-ups aside, most grocery stores keep the bread crumbs in the baking aisle with flours and oats.
How long do bread crumbs last?
If stored properly in an airtight container, fresh bread crumbs can last up to one week.
What else can I do with za'atar bread crumbs?
- My new pick at sweetgreen these days -- Sprinkle the za'atar bread crumbs on this Copycat sweetgreen Chicken Pesto Parm Salad
- Coat chicken with za'atar bread crumbs before roasting with other winter vegetables.
- Sprinkle on top of this Citrus Fennel Salad
- Turn these Coconut Shrimp into Za'atar Shrimp.
- Instead of Italian seasoning, use za'atar bread crumbs for these Baked Chicken Fingers.
- Top your macaroni and cheese with za'atar bread crumbs for some extra crunch and extra flavor.
Love and za'atar,
Za'atar Bread Crumbs
- 2 cups day-old bread* cubed
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons za'atar
- Pre-heat oven to 400˚F.
- Place cubed bread in food processor. Process on high until the bread turns into crumbs. Process longer for finer crumbs and process less for some varied sizes.
- Place breadcrumbs on sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle olive oil and za'atar over bread crumbs. Mix together, trying to coat as much of the bread crumbs as possible.
- Bake for 2-5 minutes, tossing them halfway through for even toasting. Time will vary depending on how stale your bread is. If there's still moisture in your bread, it will take a couple of minutes longer. If not, the bread crumbs will toast very quickly, so keep a watch out!
- Remove from the oven and use toasted bread crumbs on a salad, macaroni and cheese, you name it!