8 Best Sumac Substitutes That You Can Try

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Do you enjoy tangy flavors? If that’s the case, sumac is the herb for you. It’s not only a savory spice, but it’s also a vibrant one. However, it is not something we frequently have on hand. In such a case, let’s embark on a search for the best sumac substitutes!


Has this ever happened to you that you stumbled upon an amazing recipe but did not have sumac to cook it? Well, if you have, you need to save this article right now. Because today we are going to explore all about sumac substitutes!

Can’t think of any good alternatives to using? Well, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon pepper, and chipotle powder are some of the best sumac substitutes.

Before going deep into the sumac substitute, let’s take a moment to introduce the sumac itself. If you are someone who has never heard of sumac before, this section is for you. Let’s have a look at its flavor, texture, health benefits, and much more. Shall we start?

Quick Peek: Sumac


This section will help you understand all about sumac. You will get to know what it is, its flavor and texture use, and nutritional information. Read on to know all about sumac!

What Is Sumac?

Sumac is a flowering plant grown mostly in North America, Asia, and Africa. Its fruit is widely used as a spice and medicine. Sumac is related to the cashew family, so if you are allergic to cashew, do a quick allergy test before eating it.

There are different varieties of sumac plants. While the sumac plant with white seeds is said to be poisonous. Sumac with the red fruit is the one that is preferred for human consumption.

Sumac is extremely flavorful as well as colorful. We may often find red sumac powder in the grocery store. However, in some countries, sumac is sold as it is. Sumac is widely used to make the well-known spice mix called za’atar.

Describing Sumac: Flavor And Texture

Sumac has a surprising flavor. Sumac has a very lemony tart flavor. However, sumac doesn’t have the sourness of lemon. It is often used in the grounded form and, therefore, has a coarse and gritty texture.

Sumac has a crimson red color. Even the name ‘sumac’ originated from the Armenian word summaq, which means “dark red.”It smells very much similar to that lemon. Like lemon, sumac also has a very pungent smell.

Similar to salt, sumac is a flavor enhancer. Sumac is a staple food in Arabian and Mediterranean cooking. It adds flavor, but it also helps to improve the natural taste of other ingredients present in the dish.

Uses Of Sumac

Sumac is an ingredient that has been in use for a really long time. Before lemon made its way, even Romans used sumac to give tartness to their dishes. Even today, sumac has multiple benefits.

Sumac is often used as a spice. Its crimson red color and lemon flavor make it a great addition to vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Sumac lemonade is a famous beverage made from sumac seed. 

Sumac is widely used to impart color to varieties of dishes like grills and salads. It is also a flavor enhancer. Even though sumac has a unique taste and texture, it goes well with other spices like chili and pepper.

Sumac On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope

Sumac, I will say, is one of the underrated spices. It is often mistaken for poison, and no one is bothered to check its health benefits. I think it’s time to explore more about this spice and add more to your dish. But why? (you may ask)

Sumac is packed with many vital minerals and nutrients. Also, it contains a lot of antioxidants. It is said to have the properties to control free radicals. That means it can control cancerous cells in the body.

Sumac, above all, can help you with controlling type 2 diabetes. It also aids in controlling our blood pressure and thereby maintaining good cardiovascular health. In conclusion, we can say sumac isn’t just tasty but also healthy.

 Why Use A Substitute For Sumac?

This is a question that many of you have probably asked yourself. Why use a replacement when sumac suffices? I can give you a few good reasons to use a sumac substitute!

First and foremost, sumac may not be readily available. The majority of the substitution options listed in this article are much easier to come by. Furthermore, sumac’s sour flavor may not be to everyone’s liking.

In that scenario, one of the alternative suggestions from the list may be useful. Finally, why run to the Arabian grocery store when you can just substitute it? I believe these are compelling reasons to choose sumac as an alternative.

I believe you’ve learned enough about sumac and why you might want to consider an alternative at this point. Let’s get on to the body of this article: the greatest sumac substitutes!

Other Food Substitutes You Can Try

8 Best Sumac Substitutes

This section will help you find the best sumac substitutes. Moreover, you will also get to understand how to use each substitute. So, here are the best sumac seeds substitutes.

1. Zaatar 


Zaatar is a herb mix that has sumac as one of its main ingredients. Therefore it is considered one of the best sumac substitutes. Zaatar can bring you the exact same aroma and flavor as that of sumac.

Zaatar, other than sumac, also contains oregano, thyme, marjoram, and many other ingredients. When we add zaatar to a dish, it brightens up the dish’s flavor as it has many other ingredients as well.

However, when using zaatar as a sumac substitute, do not overuse other spices as it already has many spices.

2. Tamarind 


Tamarind is another great option as a sumac substitute. Tamarind, just like sumac, has a tart flavor with a sweet undertone. Hence it can be recognized as a good sumac substitute.

You can either use tamarind or tamarind puree to create a similar taste. However, tamarind has a very different aroma when compared to sumac. If you just need the right flavor, choose tamarind over anything else.

Also, tamarind has a very concentrated tart taste. Therefore whenever you add tamarind instead of sumac, start by adding a small quantity. 

3. Vinegar


Vinegar is a readily available sumac substitute. It can reproduce the tart flavor of sumac almost to perfection. But I will say vinegar should be your last resort. Even though vinegar has a tart flavor, it doesn’t do justice to the tart flavor of sumac. Therefore even if you have to add it, add a small amount and do a taste check before adding more.

4. Lemon Juice

Lime Juice

Lemon juice has a very intense tart flavor and lemon aroma. It gives a fresh flavor to the dish, just like sumac. Therefore lemon juice can be used as a sumac substitute.

Lemon juice refers to the juice we obtain from the lemon fruit. It is liquidy in texture and can be added to multiple cuisines. However, lemon juice has an underlying sourness to it.

Therefore when substituting sumac with lemon juice, use less amount of lemon juice. Lemon juice might not make any contribution to its visual appeal, but it does enhance the flavor of your dish.

5. Lemon Zest

lemon zest

Lemon zest is one such substitute that can totally replace sumac in any dish. It has a sour taste and lemon aroma and hence can be regarded as the best sumac substitute.

Lemon zest is nothing but the yellow outer peel of the lemon. You can easily grate the outer layering of the lemon to make this zest. Lemon zest is deep yellow in color and has a mild tart and sour flavor.

Lemon zest, when added to the dish, provides a tart flavor and refreshing aroma. Not only this, with its bright yellow color adds vibrancy to the dish. You can either use it as a garnish or can cook it along with the main ingredient.

When replacing sumac with lemon zest, you can follow a 1:1 ratio. Don’t have lemon zest. Well, here is the link to some easy lemon zest substitutes you can try! 

6. Orange Zest

Orange Zest

Orange zest is an excellent choice if you want a sweet undertone to your dish. Orange zest has a mild tart flavor with a sweet smell and works excellent as a lemon zest substitute.

Orange zest is taken from the ripe orange outer layer. It has a tart flavor with a sweet orange aroma. It can be added as a sumac substitute to add a tart flavor as well as a visual aid.

However, orange has a sweet smell, unlike that of sumac. Therefore when adding to a dish, do a taste check to see how well it goes with your dish. 

7. Sweet Paprika

Sweet Paprika

Sweet paprika has a bright red crimson color just like that of sumac, and hence it can be considered a good sumac substitute.

Sweet paprika has a dark crimson color to it. Therefore when added as the sumac substitute, It can bring the same physical appearance as that of sumac and therefore added to a dish to attain the same appearance.

Sweet paprika, unlike sumac, has a spicy flavor. But it is not too spicy to destroy the flavor of your dish. However, it does carry a little spiciness. Therefore it should be only added in small quantities while garnishing your dish.

8. Ground Coriander

Ground Corriander

Ground coriander has a similar fresh lemony aroma and taste and can be used as a sumac substitute in a variety of dishes. 

Coriander is a very fresh-tasting herb. It has a floral and citrusy aroma and light lemony flavor. It can be added to both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes as a sumac substitute.

Just like sumac, ground coriander goes really well with most of the spices. Not just that, it complements the flavor of most dishes. We can easily substitute a teaspoon of sumac with one teaspoon of coriander powder.

Short Recap For The Best Sumac Substitutes

I am sure that by now, you must have gone through all the substitutes for sumac. Although, are you still confused about which substitute would work best for your recipe?

No need to worry! I have broken it down further for you into three categories to make it easier to pick your substitute!

Most Suitable: The most suitable substitute for sumac is lemon zest. 

Easily Available: Vinegar is the most easily available substitute for sumac. 

Best Flavor Profile: Lemon zest will provide the best flavor profile when used as a substitute for leeks. 

How To Use Sumac Substitutes In A Recipe


Sumac Substitutes

Vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and chipotle powder are some of the best sumac sustitutes.
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  • Zaatar
  • Tamarind
  • Lemon Zest
  • Orange Zest
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Ground Coriander
  • Sweet Paprika


  • Go through the substitutes and see which one seems fit for the recipe.
  • Collect your ingredients and use your preferred substitute.
  • Use the substitute in the required amount and proceed to make the dish according to the recipe.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Final Word

I hope this article was worthwhile and helped you find the best substitute for sumac. Sumac has a tart flavor and refreshing aroma. It can visually brighten up your dish while adding to its flavor. 

I hope I have given you enough easily available sumac substitutes to add to your favorite cuisine. However, leave it in the comment session if you think something else can work just as well or more than that of any of the given substitutes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a good replacement for sumac?

Vinegar, lemon zest, lemon pepper, and chipotle powder are some of the best sumac substitutes.

Is Zaatar a substitute for sumac?

Yes. Zaatar can be employed as a sumac substitute in spicy dishes.

What is the flavor of sumac?

Sumac has a very lemony tart flavor

Is sumac poisonous to eat?

No, the Sumac powder that we get in supermarkets is made from red sumac seeds and is safe for human consumption.

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