Roast sumac chicken

A quick weekday roast chicken dish with tangy notes.
Roast sumac chicken - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
Roast sumac chicken - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Sumac is one of my favourite spices. Its tangy depth of flavour is unique, somewhere between lemon and a slightly sour berry ir fruit. It’s much more balanced than lemon juice. I’ve even been known to nibble it on its own…

But what is it? Unlike most spices, sumac is not a seed, flower or leaf, but a bright red berry. It grows in bushes or small trees, mostly in Africa, parts of the Middle East and North America. It was in fact widely used in ancient Rome to flavour food until the arrival of the cultivated lemon relegated it to a more limited use. Yet, owing to its distinct and unique flavour, it lives on to flavour many dishes in the Middle East and Turkey to this day. The most famous dish is perhaps fattoush, and it is widely used to flavour salads, now often alongside lemon. But it also works really well with chicken.

Roast sumac chicken - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
Roast sumac chicken - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
Roast sumac chicken - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

I’ve made this dish on many occasions – it’s a classic of sorts at our home. I tend to use chicken leg – the slightly fattier cut balances the tanginess of the sumac perfectly. If you prefer, substitute chicken breast, but leave the skin on if you can.

Roast sumac chicken goes well with almost anything, but I find it best with a couple of simple sides. Plain rice or bulgur and a fresh salad or some roasted veggies. Serves two.

Roast sumac chicken - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Roast sumac chicken

Simple and delicious everyday chicken with plenty of sumac.
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Main Course
Middle Eastern-inspired
45 minutes
2 servings
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  • 2–3 Tbsp olive oil, I use a mild extra virgin, divided
  • 5 spring onions (green onions/scallions), white and light green parts cut into 3 cm (1 in) sticks, dark green parts thinly sliced (2–3 Tbsp of the dark green part suffices)
  • 6 tsp sumac, divided
  • 2 chicken legs, or breasts, skin on
  • salt and pepper

How I make it

  • Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
  • Mix the white and light green spring onion sticks with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp sumac and some salt and pepper. Place in a roasting tin which will accommodate the chicken snugly.
  • Rub 1 Tbsp olive oil onto all sides of the chicken. Season and add 2 tsp sumac to each piece (1 tsp on the underside and 1 tsp on the top of each piece). Transfer to the roasting tin, skin-side up.
  • Leave to roast high up in the oven until the chicken is done, typically 25-30 minutes or more for legs, a little less for breast. If using chicken breast, I recommend using an electronic roasting thermometer and remove the chicken when its core temperature is 67 °C. This ensures the chicken is cooked through but not overcooked (It should reach 74 °C after resting). If using legs, eave a few minutes extra if unsure and make sure the juices run clear before removing from the oven.
  • Leave the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle on the final 1 tsp of sumac before serving.
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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar, a Norwegian food writer based in Istanbul since 2015.

Join me in exploring the food and cultures of Turkey and the Middle East.

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar Bergum, a food writer based in Istanbul since 2015. I’ve published three books on the food and cultures of Turkey and the Middle East in my native Norway.

This website and my newsletter Meze are the homes of my writing and recipes in English.

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4 responses

    1. Hi Kees, this isn’t a Turkish dish so it doesn’t have a specific Turkish name.

  1. I hate skin on chicken, can I just rub sumac on skinless chicken before I cook. Plus can I use sumac when I’m making a curry??? Thank you

  2. Ahh! This recipe is just in time! I am searching for recipes that contain sumac and this one looks really good. It’s very easy, too. I am so excited to make this. Thanks for sharing!

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