The Best Simple Sumac Substitutes

sumac substitutes

If you’re struggling to find sumac, have no fear. Here are my favourite simple Sumac Substitutes…

What is Sumac?

Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice made from drying flesh and skin of the fruit from the sumac trees. It’s also known as Elm Leaved Sumac, Sicilian Sumac, Sumach and Sumak.

It adds a vibrant deep redish purple colour and a fresh lemony zesty flavour. The tree is the same family as cashews so if you have cashew allergies, you may also be sensitive to sumac.

The Best Sumac Substitutes

1. Lemon Juice + Zest

The predominant flavour from sumac is a lemony freshness which comes from its high malic acid content (the acid which gives green apples their freshness). So if I don’t have any sumac, lemon zest is my first port of call. And if I want even more acidity, a squeeze of lemon is a fantastic substitute for a pinch of sumac. You don’t get the same visuals but flavour-wise you’ll be happy.

2. Smoked Paprika

From Spain instead of the Middle East, smoked paprika doesn’t have the same lemony intensity of sumac BUT it will give you the lovely red colour. So if your recipe calls for sprinkling sumac over yoghurt or other food at the end, a pinch of smoked paprika can work instead.

3. Za’atar

This is both a herb and a spice blend containing the za’atar herb, sumac and sesame seeds. It’s more complex and nutty than sumac but does have a similar amount of lemony freshness and can be sprinkled over dishes in a similar manner to add flavour just before serving. Or rubbed onto meat, fish or poultry before cooking.

4. Ground Coriander

Ground coriander would be my first choice as an alternative spice to sumac because it has a similar lemony flavour. Coriander is more earthy and much less vibrant but it will add a pleasing freshness in a similar way to sumac. Especially good for dishes where the sumac is going to be cooked.

How to Store Sumac

In an airtight jar in your pantry.

Delicious Sumac Flavour Pairings

  • Avocado & Sumac
  • Tomato & Sumac
  • Chicken & Sumac
  • Greek Yoghurt & Sumac
  • Fish & Sumac
  • Cauliflower & Sumac
  • Eggs & Sumac

More Articles Similar to Sumac Substitutes

Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x