What is Sumac?

Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that is widely used. Although it is linked to the toxic shrub of the same name, the culinary variant is safe to eat and may be distinguished by its bright red berries (poisonous Sumac is white). The berries are pounded into a coarse powder and marketed as a ground spice; however, the berries are also accessible whole in the United States. Sumac is a versatile ingredient that gives a meal a vivid red colour and a tangy flavour comparable to lemon juice. The spice combination za’atar is one of the most prevalent uses for Sumac.

What Is Sumac?

Sumac is the name of spice and a blooming shrub that grows in over 150 different kinds worldwide. It spreads like wildfire across Iran, Turkey, and North Africa. It grows throughout North America, with Staghorn sumac being the most widespread kind in the United States (it also has a poisonous cousin, but that one produces white berries instead of red). Rhus coriaria, often known as Syrian Sumac, is the most commonly used to make a spice.

What is Sumac?

Sumac berries are found on the Rhus Coriaria shrub, which grows wild and rocky in high plateau areas of the Mediterranean like Sicily. Sumac can also be found in Turkey and parts of Iran. The berries are picked, dried, and pulverized once they mature. Sumac that has been processed has a dark red-burgundy hue and the texture of pulverized nuts. It smells and tastes like lemon, but it’s not as sour.

Sumac is a common acidulant in Arabic and Lebanese cooking, and like salt, it brings out the natural flavours of the dishes with which it is cooked. Sumac is a bright maroon spice made from the berries of the Rhus Coriaria shrub. The plant grows wild in Mediterranean countries like Italy, Turkey, and Iran, and Sumac is made from those berries that have been dried and ground down.

What does Sumac Taste Like?

Sumac has a surprise flavour reminiscent of fresh lemon juice, and a forceful astringent punch follows this sweet but sour flavour. Despite its broad flavour profile, Sumac combines with other spices like allspice, chile, thyme, and cumin. Sumac’s fiery red appearance can be deceiving, as the spice isn’t quite spicy. Sumac, on the other hand, tastes like lemon. It contains sour, tangy, vibrant, earthy, and fruity aromas that brighten any cuisine. It has a tart flavour with a hint of citrus fruitiness and almost no scent. Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice used in spice rubs, marinades, dressings, and being eaten as a condiment.

Sumac’s flavour profile is typically compared to citrus fruit, with a pleasant yet robust tang that adds brightness to any meal. It pairs well with other herbs and spices, solid ones like sage, thyme, and mint. It can also be used to give desserts a little edge. This deep-hued spice is prized for its versatility and boldness, and beauty. If you don’t have any sumac on hand, lemon juice, tamarind, and vinegar will suffice.

How do you Use Sumac in Cooking?

Sumac is one of my favourite spices to cook with, not just because of its health advantages but also its variety and simplicity. To give brightness to the very last bite, sprinkle it on foods like fried eggs, babaganoush, tomato and feta salad, or this anti-inflammatory broccoli soup. It can also give taste and nutrition to roasted vegetables like cauliflower, sweet potatoes, eggplant, carrots, poultry, or fish.

Ground sumac can be measured from its container and used as-is. It’s a versatile spice that works well as a meat rub, a flavour in vegetable dishes (like eggplant), and a seasoning for homemade hummus. Sumac pairs well with lamb and duck because it cuts through the fattiness. Sumac is best sprinkled over a meal before serving, similar to a squeeze of lemon juice over a finished cuisine.

When you want to add a lemon flavour to a meal but don’t want to use any liquid, Sumac is an excellent option. Check the ingredient list before using Sumac; some brands include salt; if this is the case, reduce the amount of salt required in the recipe. If using a whole berry, softly break or smash it and soak it in water for around 20 minutes. Add to marinades, dips, or sauces as with the ground version.


If you can’t get Sumac in the store, a few alternatives will give you a comparable flavour. You can substitute lemon zest or combine it with salt and black pepper for a more complex flavour. Za’atar, a spice blend that contains Sumac, is another attractive option because the food will still be stained red. If you’re using lemon zest and want to add some colour, add some paprika.

What Is Sumac?

If you don’t have any ground sumac on hand, there are numerous substitutes. Popular replacements include lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon pepper. Vinegar can also be used. You may want to use less of whatever you pick, and Sumac has a more subtle flavour than lemon or vinegar. To recreate the acidic flavour of Sumac, substitute lemon zest, lemon pepper, lemon juice, or vinegar. However, because these replacements are stronger than Sumac, you should use less of them than the recipe calls for.

Where to Find Sumac?

Ground sumac can be found in well-stocked supermarkets’ spice aisles or the international foods department with Middle Eastern items. Ground sumac should be available in specialty grocers and Middle Eastern markets, and entire berries may be available. Both types of Sumac can be found online. Purchase the whole berry whenever feasible because it has a significantly longer shelf life.

Ground sumac can be found in the spice section or the international foods area of most supermarkets. If your local grocery doesn’t have it, a trip to a specialty spice store should suffice. If neither of those solutions work (or you wish to stay in), Sumac is also available online.

Potential Downsides and Safety Precautions

  • Sumac has a solid safety record, with no known adverse responses in available clinical research.
  • However, because Sumac is related to cashews and mango, persons who are allergic to those foods should avoid it to avoid adverse reactions.
  • Sumac isn’t recommended if you’re on blood-sugar-lowering drugs because it can drop blood sugar.
  • It’s also crucial to distinguish between sumac and poison sumac.
  • Toxicodendron vernix, or poison sumac, produces white-coloured fruits rather than the red-hued fruits produced by the edible sumac plant.
  • Poison sumac can create hives that are swollen and irritating. It should never be consumed.
  • Do not forage for Sumac on your own because it may be difficult for unskilled persons to tell the difference between sumac and poison sumac.

What are the Health Benefits of Sumac?

6 Sumac Health Benefits:

One of the most potent anti-inflammatory spices available is Sumac. It has a high ORAC rating, indicating high in antioxidants and can neutralize free radicals that can cause cancer, heart disease, and ageing indications. Sumac is also suitable for people who have type 2 diabetes. Anti-cancer: Because it’s high in vitamin C and antioxidants, it can help prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

  1. Anti-inflammatory: Most diseases are thought to be caused by inflammation, and Sumac is an anti-inflammatory spice that can help with various ailments, including colds and the flu.
  2. Helps lower blood sugar levels and control cholesterol levels.
  3. Sumac is an anti-fungal and anti-microbial spice that can aid in treating skin irritation and diseases.
  4. It’s also been shown to be efficient against Salmonella germs and can be used to disinfect fruits and vegetables safely.
  5. Breast milk supply can be increased, and menstruation cramps can be relieved.
  6. Sumac is a diuretic which helps the body expel toxins through urine. It has traditionally been used to treat urinary infections and stomach disorders.


Sumac gets its name from the Aramaic word summa, which translates to “dark crimson.” Sumac was observed for its beneficial characteristics, notably as a diuretic and anti-flatulent, by Roman Emperor Nero’s physician, Pedanius Dioscorides, as early as 2,000 years ago. Before lemons arrived in Europe, the Romans used Sumac to impart tanginess to meals. Sumac was utilized by indigenous peoples and early settlers in North America to heal anything from coughs and sore throats to stomachaches and wounds.