Tahini za'atar egg salad in green bowl with spoon of za'atar next to it

Vidar Bergum is a food writer and cookbook author based in Istanbul, Turkey.

What’s better than eggs for breakfast? Eggs with tahini and za’atar for breakfast. Once you take this fact to its logical conclusion, there’s no turning back. Make space in the fridge and say hello to tahini za’atar egg salad.

While I’ve always loved eggs, I’ve actually never been particularly fond of egg salad. It’s not that I haven’t liked it. I just feel that loading eggs with mayo detracts rather than adds to their deliciousness.

If you ask me, eggs are more than good enough as it. Boiled for 7 minutes on weekdays, a little more adventurous on the weekend. Scrambled eggs, omelett or one of my two Turkish egg favourites: Menemen and çılbır.

The flavours of a Middle Eastern breakfast

It was my dear friend Mor who introduced me to what I have come to view as the Middle Eastern breakfast trinity. Eggs, tahini and za’atar. Whilst visiting her in Tel Aviv nearly ten years ago, she insisted we go out for breakfast at least once. She had a particular place in mind.

The breakfast was all I didn’t know I wanted for breakfast. Cheeses, jams and olives, yes, but also a chopped salad, tahini and some sort of green powder with toasted sesame seeds in it. Za’atar.

Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Huge meze spread seen from above
Photo: Bahar Kitapci
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Since you’re reading this, chances are you’re well familiar with za’atar already, but in case not: Za’atar is a delicious Middle Eastern spice mix made up of wild thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. Sometimes other spices are added to, but these three are the main ones. The wild thyme is finely ground, as if it were flour, making the whole thing a vibrantly green concoction.

Close-up of tahini za'atar egg salad in green bowl

What makes it even more intriguing, is that each region may have different types of (related) wild thyme used for this mixture. It taste may vary quite considerably from place to place.

And to ensure no confusion arises: Whilst I’ve seen many, especially Americans, call this Israeli breakfast or otherwise credit Israeli culture with the combination of these particular components, this particular combination isn’t Israeli in origin. It’s firmly Levantine and can be seen throughout the Middle East.

This was the first time I had egg, tahini and za’atar in the same mouthful. It most certainly wasn’t the last

Simple egg salad with tahini and za’atar

It was this breakfast of years long gone by, when many of us still could travel the world as we wished on our time off, that inspired one of my new breakfast staples. Tahini za’atar egg salad.

But of course.

Tahini za'atar egg salad sandwich on black plate

Whilst I feel mayonnaise is overkill for the humble boiled egg, tahini and za’atar certainly are not. The earthy and fragrant notes from these two ingredients, along with a little acidity from yoghurt and lemon juice, turns this egg salad into an absolute delight.

Tahini za’atar egg salad is perfect for any occasion and any time of year, and I’ll happily keep some in my fridge just to satisfy my greedy self on a Wednesday morning. It is perhaps even better suited, however, for those slightly bigger breakfasts, which involve a few more people than your humble self.

And picnics! Everyone loves a good egg sandwich. Armed with this Middle Easternised version, you’ll hopefully surprise and delight friends in equal measure.

The recipe makes around 300 g of egg salad. It keeps for several days in the fridge, assuming you’re keeping it in a closed, clean container. As it contains yoghurt, it may leak a little whey. If it does, simply remove the transparent liquids, or mix it again.

If making ahead, hold on with the olive oil and za’atar topping until just before serving. Or make it even easier for yourself, and just serve it alongside. But make sure no one forgets to add the za’atar!

Tahini za'atar egg salad in green bowl

Tahini za'atar egg salad

Yield: Approx 300 grams

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 50 g tahini
  • 50 g greek yoghurt
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbsp water
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 handful (10 g) leaves of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tsp za'atar
  • a pinch chili flakes (I like Aleppo pepper (pul biber)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Boil the eggs for 8-10 minutes, or however long you prefer to cook your hard-boiled eggs. Cool under running cold water, peel and roughly chop. Add a little salt and pepper.
  2. Mix the tahini, yoghurt, olive oil and lemon juice. The tahini mixture will thicken first. Add water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until the mixture has the consistency of mayonnaise. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the chopped eggs, spring onion (if using) and parsley. Taste again to see if it needs more salt or pepper.
  4. Transfer to a suitable container or serving bowl. Top with extra virgin olive oil, za'atar and a pinch of chili flakes.

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Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him

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One Response

  1. This is a wonderful recipe. I dressed up a bagel with the egg salad and then gilded the lily with some of the leftover tomato/cucumber salad from making Vidar’s wonderful chicken schwarma last night.

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

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I’ve published two books on Turkish and Middle Eastern food, available in Norwegian and German.

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