Discover everything you need to know about this burgundy-red spice, including where it’s grown, what it tastes like and how to use it in your cooking.
What is sumac?
Sumac is a spice made from dried and ground sumac berries, which grow on bushes in both subtropical and temperate regions across the world – particularly East Asia, Africa and North America. Sumac is also known as sumach, sumak, soumak and sumaq. The ground spice has a deep-red colour.
What does sumac taste like?
Sumac spice has a citrus tartness and a sour tang. It’s frequently used in Middle Eastern cookery, sometimes in place of (or alongside) lemon juice and tamarind to create a tangy flavour profile.
Greenfield’s sumac is produced in Turkey and has a slight bitterness and depth of flavour. Sprinkle sumac powder over hummus, use to garnish Persian rice or try combining with fresh lemon juice and olive oil as a salad dressing.
Mymouné is a Lebanese-based family business. All the products are made using all-natural ingredients. Their sumac has a real light, lemony tang. Use the red spice to add zesty notes to fish, chicken, salads and vegetables.
What is a good substitute for sumac?
Sumac is sold pure (it isn’t blended with other spices), so it can be tricky to substitute. Instead of replacing sumac with another spice, it’s better to try and replicate its key flavour, citrus, instead. Use both lemon zest and juice to lend a sumac-style tang to your cooking.
It’s worth noting, however, that strong citrus fruits are sourer than sumac, so use them in smaller quantities.
How to use sumac
Sumac is a versatile spice that can be used to marinate, season or even decorate food. Its sour tang makes it perfect for garnishing fried eggs or shakshuka, and its vibrancy adds interest to dips, flatbreads and focaccia.
Many Middle Eastern dips can be jazzed-up with spices. Hummus, for example, is wonderful sprinkled with salt and sumac; or sumac’s citrus tang would contrast well with cool labneh.
Try more sumac recipes here...
Dill & Sumac Summer Salad
Dill, red onion and cucumber makes for a super-fresh salad. A dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and sumac adds zing to the crunchy vegetables. Full recipe available here.
Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley's Chicken Musakhan
Musakhan is the hugely popular national dish of Palestine. Chicken is marinated in a sumac, cinnamon, allspice and cumin blend, then grilled and sandwiched between flatbread. Click here to try the recipe out.
Turkish Lahmacun Recipe
Lahmacun is essentially flatbread topped with spiced lamb. In this recipe, lamb mince is marinated in Aleppo pepper, mint and garlic, and the dish is served with a sumac-spiced onion salad on the side.
Maftoul, Carrot, Feta, Date & Mint Salad Recipe
Our zingy maftoul salad combines cumin-roasted carrots with sumac-pickled onions, creamy feta and sweet dates. See the full recipe here.
Ellie Edwards is the Food Editor at Sous Chef. Previously she worked at olive magazine, writing about exciting new ingredients, UK restaurants and travelling the world to find the best cinnamon buns. When she's not exploring the likes of Belize, Kerala and Zanzibar, Ellie loves rustling up a feast in her London kitchen, with a particular passion for porridge, sourdough and negronis.