Za’atar Tofu

On Thursday evening after two dance classes I was pretty hungry, and Heikki was at a somewhat early Christmas party. Luckily this dinner didn’t take me more than about 10 minutes to make. I had marinated the tofu earlier the same day, instant cous cous cooked in a few minutes – and the Ajvar yogurt sauce was ready as quick as can be.


Za’atar is a spice mix, eaten especially in Lebanon and Syria, and usually contains thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac. Sumac is slightly pungent and sharp in taste, and gives za’atar its special flavor. The owner of our local Middle Eastern food store, Al-Marwan on Fleminginkatu, told us that za’atar is often simply eaten on some pizza dough with olive oil. Obviously, it is not traditionally eaten with tofu, but there’s no tradition without invention!

Tofu marinade:

  • 3 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon raw cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste (or other chili)
  • 1 big clove garlic, pressed

I sliced 500 g of tofu and wrapped it in a kitchen towel. Then, I placed a small tray on top of the pile of tofu slices, put two chick pea cans on top of the tray, and let them press the tofu while I was making the marinade.


For the marinade, I just mixed all the ingredients together. I cut the tofu in strips, and layered them in a container, spooning marinade between each layer. Then I closed the lid and shook the container until each piece of tofu was covered in marinade.

I refrigerated the tofu for 8 hours or so, and then fried on a high heat until browned. Delicious!

Ajvar yogurt sauce:

Just mix together and serve:

  • 2 dl plain unsweetened soy yogurt
  • two teaspoons of Ajvar sauce
  • a clove of garlic, pressed
  • and a pinch of sugar, salt, and black pepper to taste.


  1. Posted November 25, 2007 at 01:04 | Permalink

    I just love your creativity! These flavors sound divine, and since tofu is so good at absorbing whatever is put into it, I can imagine how delicious this must be! Thanks again for a great dinner idea!

  2. Anni
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 11:01 | Permalink

    Kamini, you’re welcome, and thanks for your kind words! I couldn’t agree more; tofu has endless potential for variation.

  3. Posted November 26, 2007 at 11:02 | Permalink

    Cool! sounds interesting I have never heard of Za’taar before :o

  4. Posted October 4, 2009 at 02:48 | Permalink

    Thank you for your wonderful post! I had a similar idea today after coming across za’atar on another food blog. Your recipe sounds so simple and yummy! I hope to carry out some experiments with it on my own blog and will definetly link back to you and this post! All best wishes

  5. siobhan
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 09:13 | Permalink

    Thank you for this fabulous recipe Anni! I am just wondering what the minimum time is to marinate the tofu in the za’atar?
    Having lived in the middle east I love the taste of za’atar but never thought of combining it with tofu – have had it with mashed potatoes before which is quite yum. Cant wait to try it!!

  6. Anni
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 11:50 | Permalink

    Siobhan – thank you for commenting! I would marinate the tofu for two hours at least, and make sure that it’s pressed extra well, to get more moisture out so it absorbs the marinade better. If there’s some liquid left in the container after your marinating time is up, you can pour that in the frying pan as well for extra flavor. I hope this helps!

  7. Posted July 9, 2010 at 06:41 | Permalink

    This sounds wonderful. I’ve never tried za’atar spice. I just saw some in a Syrian grocery the other day and almost bought it…I’ll have to go back and get it.

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