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Tangy Zest: What Does Sumac Taste Like?

The sumac plant is a shrub or small tree with reddish stems, leaves, and berries.

It grows in dry locations that are moist during the summer, such as riverbanks and stream banks.

So what does sumac taste like? It is a question that many people have asked, and it has been the subject of much debate.

This article will explore what sumac tastes like and provide you with a list of other foods to try if you don’t enjoy this one.

What is Sumac?

what is sumac

Sumac is a spice that has been used for centuries, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

It is a plant that grows in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and has been used as a spice for centuries.

It is also known as Rhus coriaria, which means “drying” or “red” because the leaves are a deep red when they’re picked.

The name sumac is derived from the Arabic word for “red”.

Sumac can be used in a variety of different dishes to add an acidic, tangy flavor.

It is often added to hummus or tahini sauce as the souring agent for these dips and sauces common throughout Middle Eastern cuisine.

It’s often added as a garnish on salads or meats, but you can also incorporate it into dishes like tahini sauce, marinades, and meatballs.

It’s typically dried and ground into a powder before being added to recipes.

In the Middle East, sumac is often used to spice up dishes and liqueurs like raki for a refreshing flavor.

In America, it’s not quite as popular but still adds an interesting tangy note to some of our favorite foods or cocktails.

Sumac can be found at most grocery stores or ethnic markets in the spice section.

Origins of Sumac – Where Does Sumac Come From?

origins of sumac where does sumac come from

Sumac is a spice with a unique flavor and tartness that has been used for centuries.

Wild sumac plants grow throughout the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, including Italy, Greece, and Lebanon.

They are most often found on steep hillsides or near rivers.

There are three different varieties of sumac – lemon-scented sumac (Rhus coriaria), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), and smooth sumac (Rhus glabra).

All three can be consumed raw or cooked, but it is best to cook them before consumption because they contain urushiol, which can cause itching if eaten raw.

Though the exact origins of sumac have never been discovered, its use for medicine, cooking, and ceremonial purposes span several continents.

Native Americans in North America historically used it to create healing beverages and smoking mixtures.

Health Benefits of Sumac

health benefits of sumac

Sumac is a tart spice that, if used in the right way, can enhance your dish.

It can be used in cooking and offers many benefits that other spices don’t.

It’s a powerhouse of nutrition, containing antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals that cause aging and disease.

The tartness of the sumac comes from its high levels of acid, vitamin C, iron, and potassium, which are essential for your body to function.

It has been shown to have antioxidant properties, which may help prevent chronic diseases and help maintain a healthy immune system.

Sumac is not only good for your body but it has been shown to have properties that aid with depression, anxiety reduction and even aids in weight loss because of the high levels of fiber it contains.

Sumac can also act as a natural food preservative, preventing food from spoiling for up to three months.

This souring agent makes it easy and inexpensive to add zestiness without adding any fat or calories.

What Are The Different Types of Sumac?

what are the different types of sumac

As mentioned, sumac is a spice that has many different variations.

It’s common in North African cuisine and can be found dried, ground, or powdered.

Middle Eastern markets typically stock an array of sumac spices available from 150 varieties of sumac plants, including staghorn sumac, little leaf sumac, Sicilian sumac, winged sumac, and sourberry.

The two most popular forms of cooking with different types are:

  • Fragrant sumac, which is an orange-brown powder with a fruity aroma.
  • Smooth sumac, which is a reddish-purple to dark purple powder.

Keep in mind that there are different types of sumacs – some safe to consume, others not.

And while all sumac sold for consumption is safe to eat, there is poisonous sumac that can be confused with the safe varieties.

A general rule of thumb for identifying poisonous sumac is to know that it’s highly toxic, has white berries and a red stem.

What’s the Difference Between Ground Sumac Powder and Whole Sumac?

what the difference between ground sumac powder and whole sumac

Both types of sumacs are derived from the plant Rhus coriaria and dried in supermarkets or fresh at Middle Eastern markets.

While it is possible to find sumac in both powder form and whole, they are not the same.

Whole sumac has a tangy, citrus flavor that works well in sauces and marinades.

Ground sumac has a more subtle taste that is best used as a garnish or spice rub.

To use either type of sumac, grind it up with some salt to create a seasoning blend for meat and fish dishes, or sprinkle on top of hummus for an extra burst of flavor.

In some parts of the world, whole sumac berries are available for purchase.

But in many areas around the rest of the globe, these coveted ingredients can be hard to come by.

This is because they’re not grown commercially, and it’s difficult to harvest them from wild sources.

What Does Sumac Taste Like? Does Sumac Taste Good?

what does sumac taste like does sumac taste good

Do you like zesty lemonade? How about a tangy balsamic vinaigrette? Sumac is the perfect ingredient to add a little extra flavor.

Sumac tastes and smells similar to both of these common condiments.

Many say that it has an astringent lemony flavor with a hint of tartness from the aromatic citrus fruit.

Some people don’t enjoy the zestiness because they find it too intense for their palate – but others love its strong peppery citrus flavor.

The taste varies depending on the degree of ripeness and the variety.

The best way to experience sumac is in its pure form, as a freshly crushed spice on top of warm flatbread or labneh.

It is a versatile spice that has been used for centuries, and it’s no wonder why: Sumac gives dishes an acidic flavor with a tartness reminiscent of lemon or lime.

It’s time to spice up your life with sumac, a tangy and zesty flavor that was once found in many traditional recipes from around the world.

Add it as a base for any number of dishes or use it as a garnish.

Sumac’s small, round berries can be used both whole or ground into powder for seasoning anything from salads to meat dishes.

It gives an earthy flavor that works well in sauces and stews too.

With so many uses from one little spice, you can see why sumac has been popular throughout history.

What Can You Substitute for Sumac Spice?

what can you substitute for sumac spice

Sumac spice is a tangy and acidic Middle Eastern spice that can add flavor to your favorite dishes.

However, since it’s not available everywhere, you might be wondering what you can substitute for sumac.

Given its citrusy tang, you can substitute sumac with lemon zest.

You could also use orange zest or lime juice for an unusual twist on the flavor profile of your dish.

If you’re not looking to add spice but rather a tart element to your dishes, then try substituting it with vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar is one of many types that would work well in this instance.

You might even find some varieties that have more fruit notes and less vinegary taste than others.

7 Recipe Ideas with Sumac

recipe ideas with sumac

Sumac is an ingredient that can be found in your spice cabinet.

It’s often used as a substitute for tartar sauce, and it has become one of the latest trends in cooking.

Here are seven recipe ideas with sumac to inspire you.

  • Sumac Roasted Carrots – These carrots are great as a side or part of any meal because you can use the sauce on other dishes as well.
  • Sumac Vegetable Soup – This recipe is packed with lots of vegetables, making it perfect if you need something that will help fill you up.
  • Morrocan Sumac Chicken Skillet Dinner – Served over quinoa, this dish has plenty of protein and veggies, so you’ll feel full after just one meal.
  • Sumac and Honey Glazed Salmon – This is a great dish for dinner parties because it’s easy to make enough and can be served with many side dishes.
  • Honey Sumac Margarita – This drink may seem simple, but it tastes amazing. Plus, if you want something less sweet, use lime instead of lemon juice.
  • Sauteed Chicken with Sumacan Dressing – Serve this dish over rice or couscous for an easy meal that will leave everyone full and satisfied.
  • Sumac and Chocolate Chip Cookies – Who says you can’t have dessert for dinner? These chocolate chip cookies are not only gluten-free, but they’re also vegan.
  • Lentil Soup with Sumac – This soup is simple, super healthy, and uses just a few ingredients. You’ll feel like your body will be thanking you after eating this one.

Where to Buy Sumac?

where to buy sumac

One way to find ground sumac or whole sumac berries is in the spice aisle.

It can also be found alongside other seasonings on a nearby shelf.

One possible place to find ground sumac is in your grocery store’s Middle Eastern or Indian section.

  • Amazon – You can find some of the best deals on buying sumac through Amazon. Many vendors are selling it, and you might find bulk pricing if you shop on Amazon.
  • Walmart – Sumac is available at Walmart by brands like Sadaf and Morton & Bassett, though availability varies. Check online or use the in-store locator to see what you can buy.
  • Whole Foods – Sumac is available at Whole Foods in the aisle with spices and seasonings. Bulk sumac can be found there as well.
  • Kroger – Kroger offers three different brands of sumac: Spicely, Sadaf, and Ziyad. They are located in the spice section.
  • Publix – If you find yourself at Publix, look for Ziyad with the other spices and seasonings.


As you can see, sumac has a lot of potential uses.

It’s an herb that is often used in cooking and also makes for a versatile ground spice.

It has a lemony taste that is reminiscent of lemonade, making it an excellent choice for beverages and desserts in the summertime.

The next time you are cooking something up or looking for a good flavor profile for your cocktail hour, think about using this delicious herb.

what does sumac taste like does sumac taste good

What Does Sumac Taste Like? Does Sumac Taste Good?

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Food Taste
Servings 1 Serving


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  • Depending on the recipes you choose, the taste can vastly differ.
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