What Is Sumac

With a distinctive taste and a color ranging from bright red to deep maroon, almost black, this bright, citrusy seasoning is a staple in Middle Eastern cooking but not widely used in American. Coming from the bright red berries of a bush that grows wild in the Middle East, it has a lemony, tart zing that is the perfect punch to cut through fats and add an acid note without adding liquid to a dish.

Sumac's Culinary History

Sumac has been used since the times of the Roman Empire. It appears in 2,000 year old Greek texts about its health properties. Before they discovered lemons, Romans it was used to deliver a tart flavor to a variety of dishes. Indigenous people in North America created drinks from another variety of sumac native to the Americas.  It is the key ingredient in Za'atar and is used to enhance the flavors of everything from meats to salads.

Villa Jarada Sumac

How To Use Sumac

You can use it anywhere you'd like to add a bit of tangy zing or a hint of acid without using lemon. It is amazing simply sprinkled on hummus or baba ghanoush, added to marinades, sprinkled on top of fruit or salads, rubbed on meats and even sprinkled on ice cream. When you feel like a dish is lacking that little punch, try a dash of sumac!  Here is a roundup of some of our favorite ways to use your new favorite pantry staple. 

Roasted Root Vegetable and Quinoa Salad with Hot Honey and Sumac

Roasted Root Vegetable and Quinoa Salad with Hot Honey and Sumac

Root vegetables and citrus are paired with a spicy, sweet, tangy dressing that brings sunshine to dreary winter days. It delivers an explosion of flavor that is satisfying enough to be a main dish, yet light enough to be a supporting player. 

Lemon, Cumin and Sumac Roasted Cauliflower

We were inspired by a recipe in Cool Beans, one of our favorite go-to cookbooks, and served our Hummus Noir with this scrumptious cauliflower dish. Of course you don't have to serve them together. Both recipes are so easy and delicious they deserve a spot in your regular rotation. I think this would also pair well with other riffs on hummus, I can't wait to try the lemony cauliflower paired with the earthy notes of roasted beet hummus. It would also be an incredible side dish all on its own. 

Brussels Sprouts With Fried Egg and Spiced Yogurt

The Bon Appetit Test Kitchen had us at brussels sprouts! This is a decadent take on an already amazing dish with goey eggy goodness and a tart, spicy yogurt that balances the fat perfectly. 

Mussakhan Photo by Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Susan Spungen

Mussakhan (Roast Chicken With Sumac and Red Onions)

This recipe by Yasmin Khan and Adapted by Mayukh Sen is a comforting  Palestinian dish that makes a dazzling dinner party star attraction but is simple enough for an average Wednesday night when you're feeling something new.  *Photo by Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Susan Spungen


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