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Flatbreads with zahtar and red pepper paste; Biberli Ekmek

Turkish flat breads with crumbled feta, hot pepper paste, zahtar and sesame seeds, Biberli Ekmek

Turkish flat breads with crumbled feta, hot pepper paste, zahtar and sesame seeds, Biberli Ekmek

This delicious flat bread with spicy red pepper paste, biber salcasi, feta cheese and za’atar or zahtar spice blend is a specialty from the Antakya cuisine and brings special memories back. I remember my grandmother and mum preparing the delicious topping at home and we children would take it to the local bakery, firin, to be baked over flat breads. They always smelled mesmerizing and we couldn’t wait to have a bite (or two).

Aromatic and pungent zahtar or za'atar blend

Aromatic and pungent zahtar or za’atar blend

Fresh Zahter or Zahtar is a popular herb grown in southern part of Turkey, especially around Kilis and Antakya in spring. Fresh zahter looks more like summer savory, or a crossing of marjoram, oregano and thyme. This herb is wonderful on salads like this Zeytin Ufeleme, Olive salad with pomegranate molasses and zahtar. Za’atar is also the name given to the exotic blend of herbs, spices and nuts, widely used in Southern Turkish as well as Middle Eastern cooking. At my home town, Antakya, zahtar blend is a rich mixture of dried zahter, sesame seeds, crushed cooked chickpeas, cumin, nigella seeds, sea salt, sumac and many more. It has a lovely, pungent, nutty taste and flavors salads, meat, and vegetables beautifully. In Antakya, locals simply dip their bread to a bowl of olive oil than to this zahtar blend for a delicious breakfast. I now see wholesome zahtar available even in supermarkets these days, you can also make your own zahter or za’atar blend, here’s my recipe.

Spread the topping over the flat bread and let the dough rise for 30 minutes.

Spread the topping over the flat bread and let the dough rise for 30 minutes.

These delicious and healthy flat breads also feature Antakya’s much loved olive oil, Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi and crumbled feta cheese, cokelek. Combined with zahtar, sesame seeds and cumin, it makes a scrumptious, wholesome and fragrant topping for the flat breads. There is a delicious heat from red pepper paste, biber salcasi, a staple in Antakya cuisine and in my kitchen, which add so much flavor. You can make your own red pepper paste, biber salcasi with my recipe; it really is worth the effort. If not, you can add red pepper flakes, mixed with tomato paste instead.

Delicious flat breads with crumbled feta, red pepper paste, sesame seeds and spices; Biberli Ekmek

Delicious flat breads with crumbled feta, red pepper paste, sesame seeds and spices; Biberli Ekmek

I hope you enjoy Biberli Ekmek; it is delicious served as a mezze (try with hummus, muhammara, cevizli biber – red pepper paste and walnut dip or with cacik, yoghurt dip with cucumbers and dried mint), accompanies tea time, soups and main courses so well. My cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland, is a tribute to this rich culinary heritage and scrumptious authentic recipes like this delicious flat breads, dips, mezes, regional specialties are all included. You can get a signed copy at this link, if you’d like, now 25 % off for a limited time. We also have this new apron, featuring embroidery of Antakya’s daphne leaves in the design, it can make a lovely gift, you can order at this link.


Afiyet Olsun,


4.8 from 4 reviews
Flatbreads with feta, zahtar and red pepper paste; Biberli Ekmek
I hope you enjoy Biberli Ekmek; Turkish flat breads with crumbled feta, red pepper paste, sesame seeds, spices and zahtar blend. This easy recipe from Antakya, southern Turkey also showcases region's wonderful olive oil and crumbled feta, cokelek. Delicious and wholesome; try as a mezze (try with Hummus, Muhammara – red pepper paste and walnut dip or with Cacik, yoghurt dip with cucumbers and dried mint), or at tea time, with soups and main courses.
Recipe type: Turkish flat breads with spicy feta cheese topping
Cuisine: Turkish Regional Cuisine - Antakya Cuisine
Serves: 8
  • For the dough:
  • 3 cups/16 oz./ 1 lb. plain flour
  • 1 sachet (7 gr ) dried yeast
  • 5 ml/ 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup / 4 fl. oz. luke warm milk
  • ¾ cup/ 5 fl. oz. luke warm water
  • ⅓ cup / 3 fl. oz. olive oil
  • For the topping:
  • 200 gr/ 7 oz. crumbled feta cheese or cokelek
  • 30 ml/ 2 tbsp. Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp. concentrated tomato paste
  • 10 ml/ 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 45 ml/ 3 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp. zahtar or za’atar
  • 30 ml/ 2 tbsp. olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F
  2. Prepare the topping first. Combine the crumbled feta (or cokelek), red pepper paste, tomato paste all the spices, sesame seeds and olive oil. Knead with your hands to blend them well to form a smooth paste. Set the topping aside.
  3. Now let’s make the dough. Combine the flour, dried yeast and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Stir in the warm milk, warm water and olive oil and knead for 3 minutes to form a soft dough. If it gets sticky, drizzle a little extra olive oil in your hand to shape the dough, it really helps.
  5. Grease a baking tray with 1 tbsp. olive oil and spread the dough as a thin flat bread base, reaching all the edges (about ¼ cm, 0.9”).
  6. Spread the topping evenly over the flat bread.
  7. Leave the flat bread with topping on at a warm spot to rise for 30 minutes.
  8. Once the dough's risen, bake in the preheated oven (180 C / 350 F) for 18 – 20 minutes.
  9. Let the baked flat bread with spicy feta cheese topping, Biberli Ekmek to cool down for 15 minutes.
  10. Slice and serve as part of a mezze spread or with tea, Turkish cay.

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18 Responses to Flatbreads with zahtar and red pepper paste; Biberli Ekmek

  1. Phil in the Kitchen November 24, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    They look lovely. I love flatbreads, especially with a topping like this. Just perfect for sharing.

    • Ozlem Warren November 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

      I agree Phil, we had them with hummus as a starter with friends, it is very more-ish and pleased to say easy to make. Many thanks for stopping by, Ozlem

  2. Peri's Spice Ladle November 25, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    Excellent and simple recipe for making flatbread and the topping is so flavorful, I can almost smell the freshly baked aroma:) xxPeri.

    • Ozlem Warren November 25, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      Thank you very much Peri! It really is very aromatic, I wished I could send some on your way! Hope you enjoy making it – kids loved it! Ozlem xx

  3. Senior dogs abroad November 26, 2014 at 7:09 am #

    Ozlem’cigim, What a delicious sounding recipe. I first learned about zahtar in the Syrian bakeries located in Watertown, Mass. but I never was successful in incorporating it into my recipes. Thanks so much for another accessible recipe, one that should remedy that deficit. Coook opuyoruz, herkese selamlar ve sevgilerimiz gonderiyoruz. xo J

    • Ozlem Warren November 26, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      Merhaba Sevgili Jolee, many thanks for your lovely note, very kind as always : ) Zahtar is such a delicious, exotic blend and not difficult make your own, do hope you enjoy the recipe; it comes together easily and has been a big hit with us, afiyet olsun and enjoy your travels! Cok sevgilerimle, Ozlem xx

  4. BacktoBodrum November 28, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    I am a new recruit to zahtar and now want to put it on everything. I love it on my evening olives – it makes the g&t go down a treat. I can see this bread joining the meze table too.

    • Ozlem Warren November 28, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

      You have a great idea with g&t next to the zahtar and olives mix, need to try that : ) I am glad this bread could make it to your mezze table : ) Cok selamlar, Ozlem

  5. Turkey's For Life December 4, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    Ohhh, Ozlem, this looks so lovely. They do a version of it at our Hatay restaurant in Fethiye but this looks so different. Must get our hands on some of that zahtar! 🙂

    • Ozlem Warren December 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

      Merhaba Julia,
      Many thanks for stopping by – indeed have a go at zahtar, really a delicious blend : )

  6. Taste of Beirut December 5, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    I love to see how different cultures use za’atar. This is a great recipe! The blend of spices is just perfect.

    • Ozlem Warren December 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

      Many thanks Joumana, I am enjoying how you use different herbs and spices too, glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. We All Eat February 23, 2019 at 1:24 pm #

    We got a taste for za’atar in Oman where they serve it baked on Flatbreads with cheese – often the local Labneh – delicious! Can’t wait to try it this way. I’ve not got red pepper paste- could I substitute Tunisian harisa paste maybe?
    One of my favourite za’atar recipes, adapted from an Omani dish, is with aubergine. Fry or bake thick aubergine steaks till almost tender, cover with a generous layer of grated cheese and a thick sprinkling of za’atar and grill until the cheese bubbles. Delicious served with spicy sweet potato wedges and salad for a vegan feast!

    • Ozlem Warren February 23, 2019 at 3:30 pm #

      Merhaba, thank you so much for your kind note! Yes you can substitute with harissa – though harissa has a few other ingredients than the red pepper paste, it should still work. You can also make red pepper paste at home, I have a recipe for it in the blog, as well as at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table – signed copies are available at this link and delivered promptly, if interested:

      Ah, I loved the sound of that baked aubergine steaks with cheese and za’atar, look forward to trying out, thank you! Do hope you enjoy this delicious flatbreads, Afiyet Olsun, Ozlem

  8. Zofia January 20, 2021 at 11:58 pm #

    It’s 2021 and I still use your recipe Özlem. It’s awesome and super delicious 🙂

    Greetings from Bosnia

    • Ozlem Warren January 21, 2021 at 2:55 pm #

      Merhaba Zofia,

      Many thanks for your kind note – so happy you enjoy this delicious flatbreads : ) Greetings, selamlar and Afiyet olsun to you,


  9. Elwing October 21, 2022 at 11:43 am #

    Another great recipe.

    I tried it yesterday. However the bread rose too much in the oven. Maybe I should have made forl holes begore putting it in the oven?


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