What Is Sumac?

Use this slightly bitter, brick-red spice to add dimension to your meals.

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Sumac is a pillar of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, but this wonderfully citrus-like spice should have a place in every kitchen. Made from dried shrub berries, this long-treasured seasoning gives incredible lift to whatever it flavors. Its uses range from being a key ingredient in flavorful Lebanese salad to cutting through the velvety fat in sausage-stuffed squash. If you've just discovered sumac, there are a few things you'll need to know to make it your next favorite spice.


What Does Sumac Taste Like?

Sumac is often compared to citrus fruit in flavor profile, having a pleasant but powerful tang that lends brightness to any meal. It plays well with other spices, specifically strong, herbal options like sage, thyme, and mint. It can even be used to give a subtle edge to desserts. Equally beautiful and functional, this deeply-hued spice is valued for its versatility and boldness. And if you don't have sumac on hand, lemon juice, tamarind, and vinegar are acceptable substitutes.

Where to Find Sumac

Sumac is commonly found in the international aisle of grocery stores, and via online retailers like Amazon. Also look for sumac in Middle Eastern groceries that specialize in traditional ingredients like sumac.

Buy it: Cerez Pazari Ground Sumac ($5.39; amazon.com)

How to Use and Store Sumac

Sumac is a highly versatile seasoning that complements both smoky and herbal elements. Try it in a marinade for roasted chicken, as a bright pop of flavor in deviled eggs, or lightly dusted over popcorn. Its acidity helps to cut through fatty meat dishes and to temper sweetness in desserts with lots of fruit. Use it as a finishing seasoning or as the starring flavor — sumac works wonders wherever it's sprinkled.

Store in an airtight container away from direct light to maximize shelf life. Doing so will result in a dynamic, colorful results for every sumac recipe you create. Your new spice should last you several months before needing to be discarded. Here are a few ways to start using sumac today:

Arabic Fattoush Salad

Arabic Fattoush Salad

"If you've never made a single Arabic dish, this is a delicious and healthy place to start," says recipe creator Sonja Taha.

spiced popcorn

Butter Popcorn With Sumac

Sumac's lemony brightness pairs with earthen chili powder to make this popcorn anything but ordinary.


Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is seasoned with sumac, cinnamon, white pepper, and cloves before being filled with a sausage and cranberry mixture.

Check out our complete collection of Middle Eastern Recipes.


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