Along the Grapevine

Sumac Recipes



Since I posted my first recipe for sumac in the early summer, I have had time to figure out other ways in which to use this lemony goodness. The sumac I refer to is the Staghorn Sumac. Unlike the sumac with white flowers, it is not poisonous. However, try a little at first, as some people may have allergies to it.

First, I made dried sumac powder. I have been buying this for years from Middle Eastern and Asian shops, and always wondered if I could duplicate it with our own sumac.  So that is one puzzle solved. I generally use it in place of lemon in spicy curries, tagine, soups etc, but always parsimoniously because it is hard to find. Now I can use it with abandon.

To make the powder, simply pick or scrape off the berries, and place them on a cookie sheet in a 175 F oven until they feel completely dry.  This will take probably 4 to 6 hours, depending on how much space they have. I prefer to err on the side of too long, and keep an eye on them. Then put them in a food processor or blender and chop them up as finely as possible, and pass them through a sieve.

Dried sumac

My next project was sumac molasses. Not really molasses, but I wanted to replace my pomegranate molasses with something made from local ingredients. I used 6 cups of firmly packed fresh sumac berries, covered them in water and pressed them tightly down so that I would need the minimum amount of water. I simmered them covered for about half an hour to an hour. I strained off the liquid and added it to 1 cup of brown sugar, then simmered it until all the sugar was dissolved.

The purpose for this ‘molasses’ was for use in some Middle Eastern recipes, and in particular a Persian recipe called Fesenjun. I was first introduced to this by my father when he returned from working in Iran, and I later learned to make different versions of it myself. It is simply a sauce made of walnuts and pomegranate juice (or molasses) cooked with duck, chicken, and I believe other meats.


I used a whole chicken because that is what I had to work with, but pieces or fillets would work just as well. Just adjust the cooking time accordingly.


1 chicken

oil for frying

2 onions, diced

1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground

1 cup sumac molasses

salt and pepper to taste

Brown the chicken on all sides in some oil in a roasting pan. Remove the chicken, pour out any excess oil except a little to which you add the onions. Fry until soft and add the walnuts. Fry for another two minutes. Add the sumac and salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the pot, cover, and place in a preheated oven at 325 F. It took about two hours, and the last half hour I removed the lid.


Traditionally this is served with rice, but I had potatoes, pickled plums and mixed steamed greens from the garden. I am pleased to report that the sumac molasses worked very well with this recipe. All the ingredients, except the walnuts, were locally grown, but I hope soon to gather some local black walnuts which will make this a truly Ontario, albeit Persian-inspired, dish.



Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

28 thoughts on “Sumac Recipes

  1. Hilda, this is awesome! I picked some sumac berries earlier in summer and dried them, but haven’t had the chance to do anything with them. I still have plenty sumac powder, so I’ll be trying the molasses. The recipe sounds really delicious, I’m so excited about it! Thanks! xoxo


    • Glad you found it of interest. I have already used the powder in a few things – it really does beat lemon sometimes. I’ll probably publish some of my recipes with it soon. The molasses I made with fresh berries, but you could use the dried stuff for anything – just in smaller quantities. It actually works better than the pomegranate which tends to get lost with the other flavours, and I think the colour is more appetizing too!


  2. what kind of berries?


  3. Totally rad! When is the best time to harvest the sumac clusters?


    • I have been picking them for a couple of months now, and I think they can be harvested even in the winter. I think now is probably about the best time, as they do lose that bright red colour eventually. It was pretty easy to scrape off the berries of my last bunch – and intend to do at least one more batch of powder very soon.


      • Okay, cool. I actually saw a bunch today while out on an errand and they were beautiful red, and full of clusters. I’ll have to get over there soon to gather them. How many should I harvest?


      • I pick about a bucketful at a time – doesn’t take long, and that makes a good pile of berries and probably about a generous cup of powder. Glad to know someone else out there is collecting them.


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  9. Wow this looks really cool! Your Sumac Molasses would make a great hostess gift 🙂


    • Thanks for visiting. I hadn’t thought of giving it to anyone, but not a bad idea as long as it is someone not too timid about trying ‘foraged’ foods – unfortunately there are those who are.


  10. I have yet to find staghorn sumac here, but I live in hope that someone will have one in a garden or park. In the meantime, I have some excellent spice shops near here, so I can continue to buy it.


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  13. You suprise me over and over again: I just got over my amazement that you make maple syrup. And now I discover you make your own sumac 🙂


    • Thanks. The sumac is super easy – even easier than maple syrup. I just pick, dry, chop and sift. Where we live it grows in vast lots, so there is no shortage.


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  17. I followed your advice for making sumac powder. It is delicious. Thank you!


    • Shanta, I am so happy someone followed my advice. Sumac seems to be a hard sell, and yet it is so easy and so versatile. It is actually my all-time favourite of foraged ingredients. Thanks for letting me know.


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