The Best Way To Properly Store Za'atar, According To Alon Shaya - Exclusive

Israeli-born, Philly-raised, and New Orleans-made, chef Alon Shaya is no stranger to living life amidst split identities — and that's not something he shies away from in his food. Like American food, Israel's cuisine is something of a melting pot. Shaya proudly recognizes the combination of cultures — be it Palestinian, Syrian, French, or German — that influence the modern Israeli cuisine found on his restaurant menus. Originating in Palestine and ubiquitous throughout the entire Middle East, za'atar is undoubtedly included in that, and given his experience with the zesty seasoning blend, he knows a thing or two about how to store it.

Tasting Table had the opportunity to speak on the topic with Shaya face-to-face during his Master Class at the second annual Nassau Paradise Island Wine and Food Fest in the Bahamas, where he recently opened his new restaurant, Silan. According to him, if you're looking to store your za'atar for the long term, freezing it is the best option. He also said that, if you're questioning the sanctity of it, there are few things you can look out for — or sniff. "Usually, the olive oil is the first thing, or you just smell a little bit of a staleness or rancidity starting to happen. So I would look out for that," he advised.

The ins and outs of storing za'atar

Whether you brought it back with you after traveling, made it yourself, or bought it at the farmers market — you're going to want to make sure your za'atar blend lasts as long as possible. That's a sentiment that Alon Shaya can undoubtedly relate to. Made from a blend of olive oil, sesame seeds, sumac, salt, and dried za'atar leaves, there's more than one thing inside of your za'atar that can spoil. The freezer, however, will keep spoilage at bay.

To freeze your za'atar, transfer it from whatever container it's currently in to an airtight container. Stored this way at room temperature, it should last you up to 3 months. However, if you have more than you can go through in that time, it can also go in the refrigerator. There, it will last for 6 months. Freezing, as previously mentioned, will be your most long-lasting option and can keep your za'atar fresh for as long as a year. Depending on how much you use at once, you may want to do so in batches so you can pull out and thaw it as needed.

Do note that freezing za'atar with olive oil can impact the texture of the other spices. If possible, freeze the rest of the ingredients on their own and add the olive oil after thawing. For more from Alon Shaya, check out his braised short rib recipe.