Sumac is an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine. This spice is made from the fruit of sumac trees and has a rich red, almost purple color with a lemony-tart flavor. It is commonly used in spice blends or to make dry rubs, as well as a seasoning for hummus.
But if you don’t have access to this special ingredient, don’t worry — there are plenty of other substitutes that can help bring your dish to life! This list of some of the best sumac substitutes will make for wonderful alternatives to many recipes.
1. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is an excellent and accessible substitute for sumac. It contains various vitamins and minerals and is rich in antioxidants, low in calories, and fat-free. To get the most out of the flavor, make sure you squeeze fresh lemon juice whenever possible. You may also consider adding a pinch of salt to help bring out the tartness and provide more balance to replace the characteristic flavor of sumac.
Lemon juice pairs great with fish, stews, soups, salads, and dressings, making it an ideal option for adding some tang and zest to meals. It also adds a unique flavor to desserts such as cakes and ice cream.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. sumac = 1 tsp. lemon juice.
Tamarind, with its acidic and slightly sweet flavor, is another excellent substitute for sumac. It’s also packed with nutrients and is high in vitamins B1, B2, and B3, as well as minerals like copper, potassium, and magnesium. You can use tamarind as a replacement for sumac in two ways — paste or dried pods containing the pulp.
To replace one teaspoon of sumac with tamarind, mix one teaspoon of tamarind paste or tamarind pulp juice with one teaspoon of brown sugar. Note that there is no exact ratio for using tamarind as a substitute for sumac. The amount of tamarind used will depend on the recipe and the desired flavor. You can start by using the same amount as sumac and add more if needed.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. sumac = 1 tsp. tamarind paste.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has a tart, acidic flavor similar to sumac. It is also popular for the many health benefits it offers. ACV is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it a highly nutritious option for those looking to add flavor to their dishes without using sumac.
When using ACV as a substitute for sumac, you will need to reduce the amount of vinegar used by half in order to replicate the same flavor as sumac. Adding a few drops of fresh lemon juice will also help enhance the sourness and tartness and make it taste closer to sumac. ACV is very versatile and can be used in many recipes, such as salad dressings, salsas, roasted vegetables, fish and meat dishes, and marinades.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. sumac = 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar.
Amchoor is essentially dried mango powder that is commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine to give dishes a distinct acidity. It is made from unripe mangos or other acidic fruits, which are dried and ground into a fine powder. It is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber, making it a healthy alternative to other more processed spices.
Amchoor has a tangy, fruity taste that is great for flavoring salads and yogurt-based sauces. You can also add a pinch of amchoor powder to grilled vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness while also adding a spicy taste to each mouthful.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. sumac = 1 tsp. amchoor.
5. Wild Thyme (Za’atar)
Wild thyme, also known as za’atar, is a great substitute for sumac in a variety of recipes. It is an excellent source of iron, and its earthy, nutty taste is very similar to that of sumac. Wild thyme works well in both savory and sweet dishes and adds a complex flavor to any meal.
You can use wild thyme to substitute for sumac in almost the same amount, depending on what you’re preparing. The combination of wild thyme with other ingredients like garlic and lemon juice will provide a distinct flavor that will add a lot of depth to everything from stews to salads. Wild thyme also has a lengthy shelf life, so you can easily store it for future use.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. sumac = 1 tsp. ground wild thyme.
Cilantro not only has a similar taste to sumac, but it also has high nutritional value and versatility. It is rich in vitamins A, C, and K and is a good source of fiber and minerals such as calcium and magnesium. This makes it a great choice when looking for a healthy substitute for sumac.
In terms of flavor profile, cilantro has a mild earthy taste with a hint of citrus and is much less bitter than sumac. It also pairs well with many dishes, making it versatile enough to replace sumac in any recipe that calls for it.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. sumac = 1 tsp. ground cilantro.
7. Lemon and Herb Seasoning
Lemon-herb seasoning is a flavorful blend of tangy lemon and savory herbs such as oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder. In addition to its unique flavor profile, lemon and herb seasoning is also a much healthier alternative to sumac because it does not contain any added preservatives or sugars.
You can use lemon and herb seasoning in a variety of ways, from marinating meats to flavoring salads and sauces. When using it to replace sumac, you can use it as a direct substitute in equal amounts. It will give the meal the same zesty and tangy flavor without overpowering the other ingredients.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. sumac = 1 tsp. lemon and herb seasoning.