Sumac Chicken – Roasted over Onions and Pita Bread

Sumac Chicken - Roasted over Onions and Pita Bread

This recipe for sumac-dusted roast chicken is not only easy to prepare, but is also an excellent introduction to the spice called sumac, and by extension, the charming simplicity of Lebanese cookery. The purple-maroon spice is used extensively in this cuisine; canisters of ground sumac take the place of ground pepper in most Lebanese restaurants I’ve visited.

A sour spice ground from dried shrub berries to a gritty consistency, sumac is used much like vinegar, lemon juice, or tamarind. It has a pleasant tanginess similar to tart apples, making it seem less harsh than the other aforementioned souring agents. Sumac is probably best known as an essential component in the savory spice blend Zaatar, where it is mixed with thyme and toasted sesame seeds.

Sprinkled with sumac and olive oil, the chicken is roasted over a bed of slivered onions and pita bread. The outer edges of the pita bread will crisp, contrasting sharply against the moist center soaked with olive oil and juices from the roasting chicken. The pita bread essentially turns into a Lebanese take on stuffing, but with a bit of crunch.

Weekend Herb Blogging
Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Zorra of Kochtopf

recipe adapted from Mary Laird Hamady’s Lebanese Mountain Cookery

Djaj Bi Summak
Chicken with Sumac, Roasted over Onions and Pita Bread

makes 4 servings


4 loaves pita bread (6 to 8 inch round), or any flatbread
1 onion, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
Salt and pepper, to taste
5 tablespoons ground sumac
4 chicken leg quarters, or 1 3-pound chicken cut into serving pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


  • The original recipe calls for tearing the bread into smaller pieces but I prefer to keep the pita whole. Each pita loaf can serve as a serving platform for the chicken. Just lift and plate.
  • If using stale or dry pita bread, spray or sprinkle both sides with water before using in the recipe.


Preheat the oven to 450°F/232°C.

Drizzle the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish lightly with olive oil. Stagger the pita bread loaves on the baking dish and top each loaf with the thinly sliced onions. Season the pita bread loaves with salt and pepper and dust with about 3 tablespoons of the ground sumac.

Trim any excess fat from the chicken pieces. Place the chicken leg quarters on each of the pita bread loaves and season liberally with salt and pepper. Dust with the remaining 2 tablespoons of ground sumac. Drizzle the bread and chicken with about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.

Bake at 450°F/232°C for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, checking every 15 minutes to ensure that the pita bread does not burn. Cover the baking dish loosely with aluminum foil if the pita bread is browning too quickly.

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47 Responses to “Sumac Chicken – Roasted over Onions and Pita Bread”

  1. noobcook says:

    never heard of sumac … and it looks so lovely with the chicken and pita bread!

    last blog post: Butter Sautéed Spaghetti with Prawns, Veggies and Cheddar

  2. Rosa says:

    I like that spice! It give an interesting taste to food! A wonderful combination, I’m sure…



    last blog post: PLUMS – PRUNES

  3. zorra says:

    Looks so gorgeous! I would like to have a piece of it right now!

    last blog post: Nachgebacken: Bauernbrot nach Bäcker Süpke

  4. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Oh Jude I’ve not seen chicken like this! You’ve used pita again and sumac! I’m imressed!

  5. Dee says:

    I love Sumac, but my chicken didn’t look nearly as pretty as yours. I also like to dip my pita in olive oil and Sumac for a lazy lunch.

    Jude, every one of your posts is so well-thought out, and beautifully photographed. Just thought I’d let you know :)

    last blog post: Baa Baa Bleah Sheep

  6. kat says:

    I’ve never used Sumac, thanks for turning us on to it.

    last blog post: Weekly Menu 9/15 – 9/19/08

  7. Susan/Wild Yeast says:

    Zaatar is a favorite around here, but I’ve never used sumac on its own. The pita platform is intriguing and unique!

  8. Fearless Kitchen says:

    I LOVE sumac! I like this recipe, not just because it includes one of my favorite flavors but because of its elegant simplicity.

    last blog post: Recipe: Bloody Mary Chicken Wings (Guest Post from Fearless Grill)

  9. Adam says:

    Very interesting, thanks for the great post. Whenever I hear sumac… my brain jumps to poison sumac, which is not something I would cook with :)

    However, I really like what you did with the chicken. I like turmeric and spices like that, so I’ll have to look around for sumac.

    last blog post: Fitness Fun Fridays #10

  10. Arnold says:

    Sumac is great and is pretty universal in Middle Eastern cuisine. But more than that, I think your food porn is great!

  11. Mary says:

    Yay! I received a bunch of spices I’d never used before as a gift and just yesterday got around to using the pomegranate molasses. Next on my list was sumac–this is perfect. I’m going to make this exact dish in the next week or so. I’ll link back to your recipe if that’s okay. Thanks for sharing!

    last blog post: CM # 26 Italian Slow and Savory

  12. Sandie says:

    Wow—this is completely new to me. Like Adam, I immediately though of poison sumac, which would be no good at all.

    This, on the other hand, looks & sounds delightful, and is something I would like to try. Next time I’m at the market, I will look for sumac, as I’m bookmarking this recipe now.

    last blog post: Plum Crazy Chocolate Cheesecake (Recipe Included)

  13. Shaula says:

    I am staying with a gourmet friend who will absolutely love this recipe!

    Do you happen to know what the nutritional / medicinal properties of sumac are? (It tastes to good in zaatar, I’m sure it must be good for you in some way!)

    last blog post: How to clear your BlackBerry GPS cache

  14. daphne says:

    I have heard of sumac but never used it before. Love the look of this for sure!

    last blog post: Pulut Hitam

  15. Jerry says:

    This looks amazing – I wish I had some sumac waiting for me at home!

    last blog post: German Meatballs

  16. Jo says:

    I recently came across a chicken recipe using sumac as well. Unfortunately I’ve yet to find this spice in any of the supermarkets. However your pics and recipe looks really yummy!

    last blog post: Fresh Strawberry Tart

  17. oggi says:

    What a simple dish yet sounds so delicious. I love sumac (sprinkled on buttered rice) and always keep a large packet in my pantry. I will definitely make this chicken dish today! Thanks for the recipe.

    last blog post: Six-Layer Lemon Chiffon Cake

  18. cheryl says:

    count me in! I need to get me some more sumac!

    last blog post: And the winner is….

  19. Vera says:

    Beautiful photography and very delicious looking chicken!

    last blog post: Italian Plum Upside-Down Ricotta Cupcakes

  20. JennDZ_The Leftover Queen says:

    Sumac is one of my top three spices comprising a trio with coriander, and cumin. It just totally rocks! I love introducing this spice to people because they always love it! I love this recipe and I am so making it very very soon!

    last blog post: Foodie Friends and Dinner at the Blue Zoo

  21. giz says:

    I’m so glad you posted this. It looks really incredible. Psychgrad brought me some sumac from the Egyptian bazaar in Istanbul and I was nervous about using it – silly really but now I have confidence.

    last blog post: Peach Melba Dessert Muffins

  22. Syrie says:

    Jude, this sounds delicious. I only recently discovered sumac. Now I have another recipe to use it for! Your photos are excellent!

    last blog post: Peach & Barbecued Corn Salad

  23. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    We were inspired to make our roast chicken today with sumac. Thanks for the heads up: it was quite delicious. Didn’t have pita though, but that just gives me reason to make sumac chicken again with homemade pita.

    last blog post: Duck Tortellini in Brodo

  24. Noobcook, Kat – Try it out! It’s not just for Middle Eastern recipes.

    Rosa – It is very interesting.. A different kind of sourness.

    Zorra – Thanks!

    Tanna – I’m really milking that pita bread post for all it’s worth :)

    Dee – I do the pita + olive oil _+ sumac thing, too. Sometimes I replace the oil with tahini. Thanks for the kind words.

    Susan – Sumac is barely noticeable in Zaatar but it can also really shine on its own!

    Jessica – I agree.. It doesn’t take a lot to make a huge difference in your food.

    Adam – I read about poison sumac but its relation to this type of sumac wasn’t clear. Maybe a different part of the plant?

    Arnold – Thanks!

    Mary – Been trying to get some pomegranate molasses, there a lot of recipes I want to try that call for it. You’re more than welcome to link back. Hope you like it!

    Sandie – I should really look into the other sumac. It might be the same plant but different part.

    Shaula – I’m guessing it has no nutritional value. I couldn’t find any info about it.

    Daphne, Jerry, Jo, Cheryl – It’s really worth seeking out. Hope you find some!

    Oggi – Buttered rice with sumac sounds great…

    Vera, Syrie – Thanks!

    Jenn – I have all those three spices on hand every time — so many uses across lots of cuisines.

    Giz – Sumac straight from the source – I’m jealous.

    JS – Glad you liked it… Can’t go wrong with rice either, I’m sure.

  25. Foodie Froggy says:

    I love sumac, very few people use it, I really don’t know why…This chicken looks delicious.

    last blog post: Pas peu fière…le Framboisier de Christophe Felder, Quite proud of myself…Christophe Felder’s Framboisier

  26. Jeff says:

    Thank you!!! I accidently picked up sumac at the grocery store. This is also more reason why I need to learn to write everything down I need not try to go from my horrible memory.

    I am going to have to give this a shot with my massive bag of sumac. Any other ideas??

    last blog post: Chili

  27. Astrid says:

    Wow, I love this one.
    I was looking for recipes to use Sumac ever since the nice spice-man at the market gave it to me on top of my spice purchases telling me “you can use it on almost everything…”
    I like the combination of chicken and pita bread.

  28. Kalyn says:

    I’ve had sumac at my favorite Mediterranean restaurant here in Salt Lake and I like it. I keep meaning to buy some from Penzeys! Love the sound of this, especially the idea of roasting the chicken on top of the pita bread. The bread must be heavenly!

    last blog post: Gluten-Free and South Beach Diet Friendly Baked Brown Rice Tortilla Chips Recipe

  29. Tasty Indonesian Food says:

    Interesting recipe … the chicken really looks delicious!!

  30. Middle Eastern Chef says:

    I was just looking for a roasted chicken recipe. Looks like an interesting way to use sumac.

  31. PeterWarren says:

    To make sumac spice do use the leaves and berries?

  32. peter miller says:

    Very nice information. Thanks for this.

  33. Poisoning says:

    Zaatar is a favorite around here, but I’ve never used sumac on its own. The pita platform is intriguing and unique!

  34. Indonesian Food Online says:

    Ahh sumac is a Lebanese food? I always prefer and love roasted chicken as it has different taste, it’s spicy and crunchy at the same time. Glad you share Sumac Chicken recipe, I’ll added in my chicken collection.

  35. Musakhan says:

    Love that recipe which my mom used to cook for us back home!!! thanks for posting. Sumac is a coarse powder condiment and can be found in Iranian/Lebanese/Arab shops. This recipe, also knowns as Musakhan, is very popular in the Levant – Lebanon Syria and especially the Palestinian areas where it originated from. Try sprinkling some sumac on your fried eggs instead of black pepper and see!

  36. Rich says:

    A variation on this recipe that I do is to par boil the chicken pieces and remove the meat in shreds, carmelize the onion seperately, and then layer the bread, olive oil brushed on it, chicken shreds, carmelized onion, toasted pine nuts, sprinkled sumac, and chicken broth to moisten all. Then put it in the oven/broiler til the bread is toasted. The sweet carmelized onion goes so well with the tart sumac.

  37. Allie says:

    So, I stumbled upon your site randomly, because my husband forgot to get lemons, so my usual Turkish dinner was in grave danger! I had bought some sumac at a Meditteranean market nearby a while ago, but hadn’t really used it…your blog was one of the first hits when I searched for “chicken and sumac,” and it was incredibly awesome. Thank you so much for this recipe, it is a new favorite in my house!

  38. Alternative Medicine says:

    Actually me and my family have used alternative medicines for already 5 months for all of our problems and I cant see us turning back.

  39. Dreamalittle says:

    This looks delicious, I’ve finally managed to find some sumac and the idea of soggy/crisp pitta really appeals!

  40. A Fulbright Shabbat « Our Sabbatical in Haifa says:

    [...] made sumac chicken, turmeric rice, and grilled mushrooms, eggplant and sweet potatoes. I had a pumpkin pie in the [...]

  41. canister sets says:

    I have tried looking for Sumac in my area but to no avail, any ideas where I can buy it online?

  42. Helen says:

    Thank you so much for putting up this recipe! It tastes awesome and it is so easy.
    Someone said they can’t find Sumac — I bought it on

  43. Gail says:

    I love this recipe! Having only recently been turned on to Lebanese cuisine, this recipe appealed to me because of its simplicity. The only question was, on the North Shore of Massachusetts, could I find sumac? As it turns out, we have a little grocery/lunch counter in our town owned by a Lebanese man, who generously gave me sumac from his own supply. I’ve made this recipe twice, once for a Lebanese friend, and it was a huge hit! I’m so glad I found this post.

  44. Deepkrishna says:

    This recipe looks wonderful..!!!
    I too have got a simple Sumac Chicken recipe
    on my blog …
    Plz visit when u get time ..

  45. ceramic tile Glendale says:

    A muse, considering youre one of my running heroes on Marathon Training, its an honor to have you pop in, much less say such a nice thing, thank you so much!

  46. Chica says:

    Made this last night! Was so great can’t wait to make it again. So easy to make and taste amazing.

  47. Propiedades y Uso de las Especies en la Cocina | Sabores de Bolivia says:

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