5 Best Sumac Substitutes (Updated 2024)

Sumac Substitutes

Missing sumac in your recipe? Don’t worry as we share some great sumac substitutes in this post. Keep reading…

Berries are fondly consumed around the world. Whether eating them at their freshest and juiciest, adding them to desserts, or even mixing them with savory dishes, there’s no denying that berries are very versatile. One of the lesser-known berry types is sumac.

With its tart and tangy flavor profile, this berry is used to add a hint of zest and freshness to just about any dish. Not to mention, it also lends a wonderful pop of color to a variety of meals and creations.

What is Sumac?

Commonly found and used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions, this berry is often used as a spice that can be mixed in or sprinkled on foods.

From its use in marinades, as a dry rub, or even in salad dressings and spice mixes, the versatility of this ingredient knows no bounds.

A pinch is all it takes to magically transform a dish into something extraordinary.

Sumac Sprinkled on Salad

Imparting a citrusy and sour flavor, this ingredient gives complexity to salads, marinades, and even simple grilled dishes.

It is normally found dried and ground finely. However, it is also possible to find this plant as a whole berry.

Because it is native to the Middle East, it is not always easy to find outside of the region. Therefore, finding it at your nearby grocery store or even the local farmer’s market might be a challenge.

Worry not. There are other substitutes you can easily find at home or at the nearby Asian or Middle Eastern supermarket in a pinch. Let’s take a look.

Best Substitutes for Sumac

1. Lemon Juice

Lemon Juice

Lemons are a household favorite, so you surely won’t run out of this fruit in your kitchen or pantry. In the event that you are left without ground sumac, you can easily juice a lemon and add this to your dish.

Its sour points mimic almost the same flavor profiles that the red berry has.

2. Za’atar

A quick fix that can easily replace sumac is za’atar. Made of various spices including dried herbs, sesame seeds, salt, and yes sumac, this mix will certainly work just as well as the real thing.

Za'atar as Substitute for Sumac

Bear in mind that since sumac is not the only ingredient in this mix, this alternative might give your dish other surprising flavors.

To prevent confusion and cooking failures from happening, make sure to select the za’atar spice blend that allows you to achieve the recipe you wish to execute.

3. Lemon Pepper Seasoning

Lemon Pepper Seasoning

Elevate simple lemon juice by using this more concentrated form. Lemon pepper seasoning marries dried lemon zest and cracked black pepper perfectly.

The complementary tastes that come from lemon zest and dried black pepper make for a great alternative to sumac, especially replicating its acidity.

Lemon pepper is already quite potent in itself. However, if you do not have sumac in your arsenal, just use around 1.5 servings more than what is required in the recipe.

4. Tamarind

Don’t be weirded out by using tamarind, especially in a pinch. As a tropical fruit, tamarind bears a slightly sweet, salty, and sour taste.

Mainly used in India and Thailand for cooking and drinking, tamarind packs a strong, tart tang.

Tamarind Fruit

They are commonly found in a tube as a slightly thicker paste or as dried pods. In some cases, you can also buy frozen tamarind pods.

To help recreate the unique sumac taste, add small portions to your dish until you have reached your desired outcome. Tamarind is potent, so a little goes a long way.

5. Vinegar


Last but certainly not least is vinegar. A staple in any pantry – or even as a nifty cleaning tool – vinegar is also strong and sour to the taste. It is acidic with a subtle hint of sweetness.

Because of its complex flavor, and of course its tanginess, vinegar is also a suitable substitute for any dish. Because it can come out too robust on the palate, make sure to add it in small amounts.

Recipes You’ll Love Cooking with Sumac Substitutes

  • Baked Fries– For a healthier alternative, try baking your French fries. Finish them with lemon sumac powder or pepper seasoning and you are good to go.
  • Grilled Eggplant Baba Ghanoush – Grilled eggplant already has a lovely, smoky flavor. Finish it with za’atar and this dip will be one you cannot stop eating.
  • Yogurt and Sumac Sauce – Feel free to use whatever you have on hand, including lemon juice, lemon zest, or even za’atar. Yogurt’s simple foundation will be elevated to something richer and creamier, while still remaining light and fresh to the palate.


The next time you find yourself without sumac, you can simply turn to these sumac substitutes without any fuss. Who knows, you might not even miss the red berry the next time you need it for your cooking session.


5 Best Sumac Substitutes

Check out these great substitutes for Sumac that have been shared on Pinterest.

  • Author: Recipe Marker



  1. Click on each link above to view the pin.
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