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10 Ideas on How to Use Sumac in Cooking

10 Uses for Sumac

Ground sumac is a popular Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spice used in everything from meat dishes and salads to dips and flat breads. It is also a key ingredient in za'atar, a spice mix that frequently pops up in Levantine recipes. Below, we provide 10 ideas on how you can upgrade your diet with this pleasantly tangy spice with numerous health benefits.

1. Substitute Sumac for Lemon Juice in Meat Marinades

Try replacing some (or all) of the lemon juice or vinegar in your favorite meat marinade recipe with a sumac-water mixture. Not only does sumac give your marinades Middle Eastern flair, it also helps protects the meat against spoilage due to its natural antibacterial properties. Another way to use ground sumac is to rub it directly into meats before grilling or frying.

2. Use Sumac to Add Tangy Flavor to Salads

Fattoush is a Lebanese bread salad typically made from pieces of pita bread, mixed greens and other vegetables, and staghorn sumac is typically added to the dish to give it a pleasantly sour flavor. But you can use sumac in other salads as well – simply sprinkle some on top before serving or incorporate it into the salad dressing.

3. Use it to Spice Up Roasted Veggies

A sprinkling of this pretty spice also adds color and lemony flavor to roasted vegetables. Tip: If you need ideas on what to include in your next roasted veggie dish, plus information about the ideal cooking times, check out HealWithFood.org's roasting times chart covering 60 common vegetables.

4. Use it to Add Lemony Flavor to Seafood

In her award-winning cookbook Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour singles out sumac as a great complement to seafood thanks to its lemony flavor. To get her irresistible recipe for prawns featuring sumac, coriander, lemon and garlic, order a copy of Persiana through Amazon here (US residents) or here (UK residents). Other seafoods that are often paired with sumac in recipes include salmon, red snapper, sea bass and prawns.

5. Sprinkle it Over Hummus and Other Dips

In Arab countries, ground sumac is commonly sprinkled over hummus to add both visual appeal and flavor to this thick vegan dip. Made of cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with sesame seed paste, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and garlic, hummus is typically served with flatbread, such as pita, or as an accompaniment to falafel patties, vegetables or grilled chicken. Hummus aside, also other dips and spreads can benefit from a sprinkle of sumac.

6. Bean Dishes Beyond Hummus

While sumac and legumes typically come together in hummus, there's no reason why you couldn't use sumac in other dishes featuring beans and lentils as well. In the here cookbook, for example, Sabrina Ghayour combines tangy sumac and lemon juice with earthy puy lentils and nutty quinoa to create a filling salad that is a meal in itself. Need another example? Check out the mouthwatering recipe for Fried Lima Beans with Feta, Sorrel and Sumac in Plenty, a best-selling vegetarian recipe book created by Yotam Ottolenghi, one of London's most famous chefs and restaurant owners.

7. Sumac Popcorn, Anyone?

Yet another way to use sumac is to season your popcorn with it. Not only is popcorn seasoned with sumac tempting to the taste buds, this savory snack is also healthy provided that you skip the oil and salt, or at least use them in smaller quantities.

8. Add it to Homemade Pasta Dough

If you have one of the trendy fully automatic pasta makers, or even just an old-fashioned manual pasta roller, take note: finely ground sumac makes an intriguing addition to homemade pasta dough! And even if you don't make your pasta from scratch, you can still incorporate sumac into your Italian-inspired meals by adding it into a spaghetti sauce or by sprinkling some on top of the finished dish.

9. Make Your Own Za'atar Seasoning Blend

Ground sumac is one of the key ingredients in Za-atar, a popular Middle Eastern seasoning blend that is used much in the same way as pure sumac – on top of flatbread, over roasted or grilled vegetables and meat, or in dips. Here's a basic recipe for making za'atar at home:

  • 1 part ground sumac
  • 1 part dried thyme
  • 1 part sesame seeds


Simply shake the ingredients together in a jar, or if you prefer a finer texture, use a pestle and mortar to crush the ingredients into finer powder. The most basic recipe for za'atar only calls for the above-listed ingredients, but some people also like to add salt and oregano or marjoram to the mix.

10. Look for Bread Recipes with Sumac – or Create Your Own

There are plenty of Lebanese and other Arabic flat bread recipes that use either pure sumac or za'atar spice mix. Turn to a good baking book, such as this one, for a tried-and-true za'atar bread recipe, or if you are an inventive baker, come up with your own sumac bread recipe!

Where to Find Sumac

Did you feel inspired by the above ideas on how to use sumac in cooking and can't wait to start using this versatile spice in your recipes? Head to your nearest Middle Eastern market to see if they stock sumac – or order it conveniently online through the following links:
Buy sumac in the US   Buy sumac in the UK   Buy sumac in Canada

Book You May Like
Middle Eastern Cookbook In this much-anticipated follow-up to the bestselling and award-winning cookbook Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi delivers more than 150 exciting vegetarian recipes to try your hand at! Jam-packed with stunning photography to whet your appetite, this uplifting cookbook is a must-have for vegetarian and omnivore home cooks alike. Buy a copy of Plenty More through Amazon
here ( UK edition) or here ( US edition).