Spotlight Spice: Sumac

Sumac (or Rhus coriaria) is a plant in the cashew family native to southern Europe. The plant produces a red fruit with a sour taste reminiscent of lemon or vinegar, which is dried and crushed into a powder commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking.

Sumac’s acidic, citrusy sourness makes it a great spice to have on hand. Use it in ways you might typically use a lemon. Add it to hummus and dips or sprinkle it over vegetables, meat (especially lamb, pork, or chicken), and fish. Two of our favorite recipes using sumac are Lebanese Chicken Kebabs or vegan Chickpea Patties.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “I thought sumac was poison…” you’re not wrong; however, the poison variety and the edible variety come from different plants in the overall family, with the poison variety being common in the eastern half of the United States.

The edible variety is a real treat. Branch out of your culinary comfort zone and grab a jar to try the next time you pick up spices. You might be surprised to find it becomes a favorite in your spice rack!