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Feb 28, 2010 04:13 PM

An alternative to sumac?

I want to make Food & Wine's recipe for Palestinian Spinach pies. The filling contains spinach, lemon, onion, pepper & sumac. What would be a good alternative to sumac in this recipe?

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  1. There really isn't a substitute for sumac. but if you can't find it locally, try looking for zataar, which will contain sumac, and sounds like it'd work in your recipe. If you can't get either, you're looking to add a fruity/sour flavor to your dish. You could use amchoor, which isn't near as fruity, but is sour. You could use lemon juice or something along the lines of tamarind, but honestly, I think tamarind would overwhelm the other ingredients. You could also use a bit of vinegar (and only a bit, because sumac isn't that sour, and is balanced by some sweetness.)

    If you want to mail order sumac, Penzey's is a good source, reliable and fresh, and fairly reasonably priced. I encourage you to get the real thing, if possible. It's also great on lamajhun, which are sort of a flat bread pizza, and something we make regularly in summer for a quick, tasty lunch with store bought lavash.

    2 Replies
    1. re: amyzan

      I can get a great big bag of za'atar for less than $5 at my local Meijer stores -- it's Ziyad brand and relatively easy to find at regular grocery.

      1. re: LauraGrace

        Not in Kansas! No Meijer here, and the nearest middle eastern market is Al Habashi house in City Market, in KC, MO, about 45 minutes' drive in benevolent traffic. Little Cupcake doesn't say where he/she lives, but there are many areas of the US where sumac couldn't be found outside a specialty market. We are lucky to have a Penzey's in Overland Park, about 20 minutes drive.

    2. i know the recipe already contains lemon, but unfortunately the best option is grated lemon zest. since sumac has a tart, somewhat lemony flavor, it's really the closest you'll get in terms of substitution.

      5 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        I agree with lemon zest.
        However, the smell of sumac oddly reminds me of the powder on ketchup chips, if you're feeling crazy you could add some of that. XD

        1. re: AndrewK512

          Andrew, what on earth are "ketchup chips?" Powder on them? I am so curious...

          1. re: amyzan

            Sorry, I forgot that they are primarily a Canadian-only flavor of chips -- very tasty!

            1. re: AndrewK512

              Very interesting! Never seen them, but it's a good concept since so many people like ketchup with fries. Barbecue chips are pretty popular here.

              1. re: AndrewK512

                What?! All the poor, deprived non-Canadians!

        2. I would just omit the sumac. The lemon will provide enough flavor and tartness.

          1. Why substitute? Why not just order online if you don't live near a spice market? Amazon carries it and since you have an internet connection, I'm assuming you probably have postal service in your area as well.

            1. Call your county extension agent and ask if Sumac grows in your county and if so, where.
              I'd expect that you could find it as a shrubby weed along stream beds and in minor flood plains.

              1 Reply
              1. re: shallots

                In March here, it's going to have been eaten long ago by birds and foraging animals...