Crispy Duck Cracklings With Za'atar and Sea Salt Recipe

Rendering duck fat gives you the bonus of a delicious, crispy duck skin snack.

A bowl of duck cracklings encrusted with za'atar and salt.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Slowly rendering duck fat and skin on the stovetop with a little water ensures the cracklings don't stick and scorch in the saucepan during cooking.
  • Duck cracklings are a delicious byproduct of fat-rendering that get a boost from crunchy coarse sea salt and tart, herbaceous za'atar.
  • Seasoning the cracklings while they're hot allows the spice mixture to adhere and coat them all over.

Rendering the excess duck fat and skin from breaking down whole ducks gives you two delicious things at once. First off, you get a batch of rendered duck fat, perfect for making confit or duck fat–fried potatoes. And you also get a bonus of crispy duck skin cracklings, which make for the perfect cook's snack, especially when tossed with bright and herby za'atar and crunchy coarse sea salt.

January 2020

Recipe Facts

Active: 10 mins
Total: 60 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

Rate & Comment


  • 2 pounds (900g) duck skin and fat (from 2 whole ducks), cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1/2 cup (120mlwater

  • 1 tablespoon (8g) store-bought or homemade za'atar spice blend (see notes), plus extra as desired

  • Coarse sea salt


  1. In a 3-quart saucier or saucepan, combine duck skin and fat with water and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally with rubber spatula to prevent skin from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, until mixture begins to simmer and bubble rapidly, and liquid is cloudy, 10 to 15 minutes.

    Overhead of duck fat in a saucepan with a little water.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  2. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is fully rendered and turns golden and clear, and bubbles begin to subside, 25 to 30 minutes. Continue to cook until duck skin pieces are golden brown and crisp on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

    Closeup of stirring pieces of duck skin in clear golden duck fat.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  3. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl. You can line the strainer with cheesecloth if you have on hand. Strain contents of saucepan through the prepared strainer.

    Straining duck fat into a heatproof bowl through a fine-mesh strainer.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  4. Immediately transfer duck skin to a medium bowl, sprinkle with za'atar and season with sea salt to taste. Toss to evenly coat cracklings with spice mixture, adding more za'atar if desired. Transfer cracklings to a serving bowl, and serve right away. Transfer rendered duck fat to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 6 months or freeze for up to 1 year.

Special Equipment

3-quart saucier, fine-mesh strainer


Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture most often made with sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and oregano. Store-bought versions often have varying amounts of added salt, so be sure to taste it before seasoning the cracklings with sea salt. Za'atar can now be found at many well-stocked grocery stores as well as online.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Duck cracklings are best enjoyed immediately. Rendered duck fat can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to six months or frozen for up to one year.

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
353 Calories
31g Fat
1g Carbs
16g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 353
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 31g 40%
Saturated Fat 9g 44%
Cholesterol 64mg 21%
Sodium 300mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 16g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 22mg 2%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 120mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)