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12 Best Substitutes Of Sumac For Cooking To Get Similar Taste Profile

Sumac is a versatile, ancient herb used in marinades and salad dressings. You can make this wine-colored sumac from colored berries with rich culinary history.

The antiseptic properties and health benefits of sumac were documented in Greek medical journals and texts thousands of years back.

Sumac is a multi-use ingredient that people use worldwide to complement the flavors of every recipe, including recipes made with fresh vegetables and delicious meats.

You require only a pinch of sumac to transform your dish magically. Sumac is an excellent seasoning ingredient most common in Middle Eastern cuisines.

Sumac goes perfectly well with fried fish, chickpea salads, chips, rice, and more. The tangy sumac is uniquely sharp, a good ingredient for kebabs and stews.

If you cannot find this exotic ingredient, the substitutes discussed here will perfectly fit your recipes to enhance the flavors, and you may already have them in your kitchen.

What Is Sumac?

Sumac is a commonly used spice in Middle Eastern cuisines. It has a lemon-lime taste that gives the recipes an exotic twist and makes them tastier.

It has a bold flavor and citrusy tartness known to provide medicinal benefits. Sumac is yet to become a household ingredient in America, but it is used worldwide and makes an excellent seasoning ingredient for salads. 

Sumac lends a citrusy taste to the meal, and you can mix in or sprinkle it on foods, and you can never go wrong with sumac.

It is colorful when you use it in bread, salads, or desserts. You can also use sumac for meat to enhance flavors and serve as a marinade.

Now, we will see the best substitutes for sumac to get the same taste and flavors. The 10 Best Substitutes for Sumac are:

Nutrition Table

Lemon pepper seasoning0
Lemon zest and Salt1
Lemon Juice22
Lemon Verbena3
Lemon Balm48
Ground Coriander468.91
Smoked Paprika289

These 12 substitutes for Sumac are discussed here in detail

1. Lemon Pepper Seasoning

Lemon pepper seasoning has a lemon flavor and a spicy aroma.

You can prepare lemon pepper seasoning at home by mixing lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and this mixture will give a lemony, citrusy flavor that you get with sumac.

You can use this zesty spice for seasoning chicken, fish, and steaks. It is an excellent marinade you can use as a top ingredient for salad dressing.

Lemon pepper has become a trendy ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisines. It is an excellent substitute for sumac due to its citrusy profile.

Lemon pepper seasoning is now a common ingredient to give a taste of sourness to dishes. It works perfectly with grilled dishes and seafood. You will get the same authentic taste with lemon pepper as with sumac. 

Lemon pepper has high sodium content, so you can reduce the quantity in low-sodium diets or use less salt. Making lemon pepper with dried ingredients and fresh spices at home gives intense flavors.

You can store it in airtight jars, which will be suitable for six months.

How To Substitute

Substitute sumac with an equal quantity of Lemon pepper seasoning. Taste the dish after adding a small amount and add more if required as per your taste.

2. Lemon Zest And Salt

Lemon zest is the outer part of the lemon that you can use as a substitute for sumac. It is an excellent ingredient to garnish food. Lemon zest adds a bit of zing to the dish, similar to sumac.

Lemon zest has the same acidic and tart profile as sumac, making it a good substitute for sumac.

Grate the skin of the lemon to get lemon zest but do not go deep to the lemon pith, which is the whitish flesh and a bit bitter.

Mix the zest with salt, and you will get an excellent substitute for sumac for salad dressings and add flavor to your delicious dishes.

You can use a good quality grater and smaller slots to zest the lemon so that you do not add lemon pith to the zest.

If you cannot find the sumac at the grocery, use lemon zest by mixing it with salt to get similar flavors and aroma as you get with sumac. Use the exact measurement for substitution.

How To Substitute

Substitute sumac with the exact measurement of lemon zest. One tablespoon of sumac equals the zest of one lemon, or the two normal stalks of sumac equal one medium-sized lemon.  

3. Lemon Juice

Blend Lemon juice with water to prepare a perfect substitute for sumac. Lemon juice is acidic similar to sumac.

The fruity flavor and the low pH of the lemon juice help you increase the shelf-life of your dishes and enhance immunity.

Lemon juice is widely used in preparing refreshing drinks, sweets, and meat and fish dishes. Avoid using lemon juice if you are sensitive to acidic products and if you are suffering from migraines. 

Lemon juice is a good substitute for sumac, and it also enhances the tartness of the dish and gives an excellent citrus flavor.

Lemon juice may lack the spicy complexity and the reddish tinge of sumac, but its sourness and tangy notes match that of sumac and make it a good substitute for sumac.

Lemon juice has both the features of acidity and tang, which are the main reasons for replacing sumac in Middle Eastern cuisines.

To brighten the flavors, you can generously use lemon juice in kebabs and kofta made from lamb meats.  

Lemon juice also has nutritional value and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Use little juice after preparing the dish, and then add as per your taste.

Use lemon juice immediately after extraction as it loses its fresh flavors soon.

How To Substitute

One tablespoon of lemon juice provides the same taste and flavor as one tablespoon of sumac. Lemon juice is highly acidic, so add a small quantity and taste before adding more lemon juice to suit your taste.

4. Za’atar

Sumac is one of the main ingredients in za’atar, so it provides the exact flavor, sourness, and aroma that sumac offers.

The other spices, such as sesame seeds and salt blended in za’atar, will enhance the taste and add to the dish’s flavor compared to sumac alone. 

Mixing multiple herbs instead of preparing a recipe with traditional spices and ingredients may take the recipe to a new level.

Za’atar is more nutty and complex than sumac but provides citrusy and zesty freshness similar to sumac. Before serving, you can sprinkle za’atar over dishes in place of sumac to add flavor.

Use za’atar to marinate meats and fish before cooking to get an excellent taste and tempting aroma.

Since sumac is one of the ingredients in za’atar, you can use za’atar to replace sumac, but the taste may not be the same. You may miss out on some flavor and adjust the quantity perfectly. 

Za’atar is an excellent blend of spices that brings out intense flavors from pasta, soups, vegetables, roast chicken, and meats.

It gives the tangy and acidic touch to the dishes that sumac does. The additional spices and herbs in za’atar add to the taste.

How To Substitute

Za’atar and sumac are not the same, sumac is an ingredient in za’atar. You can start by adding a similar amount and then go from there to adjust the taste. You may require adding a large portion of za’atar or two pinches more than sumac to substitute.

5. Tamarind

The tartness and sweetness of tamarind make it a great alternative to sumac. Thai people use tamarind in their cuisines for making beverages.

You can easily buy the paste and the dried pods of tamarind from a grocery store.

Tamarind is heavily concentrated so use it in smaller quantities and then later adjust the sourness and tartness after tasting the dish.

The medicinal properties and culinary benefits tamarind offers make it a popular ingredient in many South Asian countries. It heightens the flavors and pairs perfectly great with savory and sweet dishes.

Tamarind substitutes sumac well because of its tangy taste. It makes a good option when you cannot find sumac.

This souring agent is a healthy addition to dishes as it provides vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants helpful in relieving sprains and inflammation.

You can use it for sumac in relishing beverages, curries, and sauces.

You can buy tamarind in different forms as per your dish. It comes in various forms, like paste, dried pods, and frozen pulp. Start with a smaller quantity and then work your way up to match your taste.

How To Substitute

Use an equal proportion to the amount of sumac that your recipe requires. Add it gradually to ensure tamarind does not overpower the flavors and taste of the dish.

6. Vinegar

Vinegar is the most readily available kitchen ingredient and the easiest option to replace sumac.

When you only want to use sumac to provide sourness to your dish, vinegar is the best option to consider for replacing sumac.

To achieve the tartness that sumac gives, you must be careful of the amount of vinegar you should use in the dish.

Vinegar is a good liquid substitute for sumac. It has an intense sourness to compensate for sumac, and the best part is its free availability.

Be careful with the quantity of vinegar, as its intense tartness can spoil the dish quickly. It can be an excellent substitute for sumac, like lemon juice, zest, or tamarind.

The acidic profile, sour taste, and sweet undertone of vinegar work perfectly as a salad dressing, marinating meats, and fish, and it pairs well with soups, sauces, and many other dishes.

Vinegar is a good source of vitamins, and it is rich in minerals. It helps in lowering cholesterol levels and helps you control sugar.

Vinegar can, however, damage teeth; bring down blood sugar to a dangerous level. 

How To Substitute

Use the same quantity of vinegar as you would sumac for preparing your dishes. One tablespoon of vinegar is a good substitute for the same amount of sumac.

7. Amchoor

Amchoor is an Indian name for dried mango powder. The sour taste and acidic nature make amchoor an excellent souring agent.

Its sourness profile that you use sumac for makes it a good substitute for sumac. Amchoor also pairs well with stews and is commonly used for braising meat. 

It has a tart taste and fruity flavor similar to sumac, which helps its substitute. You can also use amchoor to replace lemon in some recipes.

You may need less amchoor than you would use sumac in your recipes, as dormant flavors burst when you use this flavorful ingredient.

This popular spice is made by grounding unripe mangoes that preserve its sour and citrus flavors for a long. It helps replicate the role of sumac.

Amchoor has a tinge of sweet taste and slightly departs from the original tastes of dishes made with sumac.

But when you do not have sumac in your pantry, amchoor is a good alternative. Its sour profile does perfectly well with fish dishes and white meat. 

The advantage of using amchoor over other liquid souring agents is that it doesn’t add liquid to your dishes.

You can easily preserve the crispiness of roasted chicken and vegetables and add the tartness of sumac with amchoor.

How To Substitute

To substitute sumac, use a 1:1 proportion of amchoor for sumac. If making a huge batch, taste the dish before adding more amchoor.

8. Lime Juice

The flavor of lime is bitter, which matches perfectly with the flavors of sumac. Like lemon, lime also has notes of citrus aromas but is a bit more expensive than lemon and harder to find.

Lime makes a suitable liquid souring agent replace sumac. For dishes that require tangy flavors and do not find sumac, lime will work well to give a similar taste to your dish.

Since lime juice is very acidic and sour, you can use half a teaspoon of lime juice in recipes that need one teaspoon of sumac.

Adding a pinch of salt and pepper to the lime juice gives an authentic sumac flavor. If you want to avoid tasting lime juice before adding it to the dish due to its intense sourness, add lime juice gradually to adjust the taste and get the perfect flavor.

If you want to use the lime zest, get the limes from grocery stores and thoroughly scrub them. Lime’s acidic and sugary contents are significantly higher, so consider this while using it to replace sumac.

Lime juice combines perfectly with grilled meats, fish, and barbecue chicken.

How To Substitute

To prepare a dish with lime to substitute sumac, take half a teaspoon of lime juice for a teaspoon of sumac. Lime juice is more acidic, and sourness is quite intense.

9. Lemon Verbena

The refreshingly lemony flavored spice like sumac and lemon verbena has medicinal values, thus providing many health benefits.

Lemon Verbena is quite helpful in relieving digestive disorders, insomnia, joint pains, asthma, varicose veins, and many more.

You get a yellow cup of tea from lemon verbena with a citrusy aroma and herbal notes. Besides using lemon verbena for herbal tea with balanced natural sweetness, you can also get high-quality essential oil.

The sweet-smelling and lemony flavor of lemon verbena gives a citrus flavor that helps it to substitute sumac in many dishes.

Its intense fragrance sets it apart from other citrusy-flavored ingredients and makes it a good option if sumac is not around.

Due to the exceptional flavors and scent of lemon verbena, you need to use only a small quantity as a substitute for sumac in your dishes.

Chop or tear the lemon verbena leaves to use them while preparing the dishes. You can utilize and substitute sumac in sauces, cakes, and curries.

It promises a flavorful recipe, and you will not regret missing sumac in your dishes. You can quickly soak steam or ground the lemon verbena leaves and pair them perfectly in frozen yogurt, teas, salad dressings, and syrups. 

How To Substitute

Add the lemon verbena to dishes and check to get the desired level of flavor. One to two lemon verbena leaves can replace one stalk of sumac. You can add the whole leaves or slash them to your dishes and remove them before eating the food.

10. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a versatile herb with low calories, and you can use it in many ways to add citrusy flavors to your dishes. If you want a new tempting taste to your favorite dish, lemon balm is a great option.

This mint-flavored herb has many health benefits that make a perfect sumac substitute, like lemon zest. The lemon balm leaves add a gentle lemon fragrance to the dishes.

Besides being an excellent alternative to sumac, the lemon balm provides tremendous bodily benefits. It helps in relieving stomach-related issues, spasms, and many types of cerebral pains.

The lemon balm provides lemony flavors with a tone of bitterness similar to sumac, and you can use it to add tartness to dishes as you get with sumac. 

The citrus scent and lemony flavor in lemon balm are fragile, so it is better to use them towards the end of the cooking process to retain the refreshing flavors when you relish your dish.

Cleave the lemon balm before adding them to your recipes; it also pairs well in desserts.

How To Substitute

Cleave the leaves or cut them in half to boost the fragrance of lemon balm. Three lemons balm leaves give the same flavor and taste as one stalk of sumac.

11. Ground Coriander

Sumac has a tart and lemony flavor, making it a versatile addition to many dishes. It is an essential part of tahini sauce and Middle Eastern salads and is commonly used as a spice in meat and fish dishes.

However, because it is often pricey and hard to find, you may substitute it with ground coriander. You may use it as a substitute for Sumac in a spice blend, particularly in a Middle Eastern dish like baba ganoush. It is a great way to add a different flavor profile to the recipe.

How To Substitute

Use ground coriander to replace Sumac in your recipe in a 1:1 substitution ratio.

12. Smoked Paprika

Unlike Sumac, smoked paprika provides your recipe with a stunning visual presentation. Yes, smoked paprika is prepared from smoked and dry peppers and has nothing to taste sour like Sumac.

But if you are short of Sumac and your dish calls for color and presentation like Sumac, you should give it a try to smoked paprika.

How To Substitute

Use half quantity of smoked paprika in your recipe that it calls for Sumac. Since it has a smoky taste, you must adjust the number of other products.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Sumac Taste Like?

Sumac is lemony and tangy in taste, similar to lemon zest but a bit sourer. It has a slightly bitter taste but doesn’t give a tingling feeling to your tongue. Sumac adds tartness to the dishes. It 

How To Store Sumac?

Sumac is a grounded spice made from dried ingredients that can last for months. To enhance its longevity and keep it fresh, store it in airtight containers in a cool and dry place. 

Is Sumac Healthy?

Sumac has medicinal value and provides many health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, reducing the risk of heart disease and minimizing the chances of cancer.

To give a tangy taste to recipes, you can make sumac spice only from the dried fruits of some red sumac varieties.

Some sumac varieties can be poisonous, so you cannot get this tangy spice from all the sumac varieties.

Can I Buy Whole Sumac?

Getting the sumac berries in grocery stores or the market is difficult. You can only get the grounded coarse powder made from dried sumac fruits. The powder form of sumac is used in the recipes.

Are Za’atar And Sumac The Same?

Sumac is one of the main ingredients in Za’atar. Za’atar is a herb with a flavor similar to thyme and oregano, whereas sumac is a shrub or small tree.

Some sumac varieties are poisonous and avoided to make the spice.

The 12 Best Substitutes For Sumac

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It has a tart, tangy flavor that makes it great for use in salads, dips, and marinades. It is also great for use in pickling.


  • Lemon pepper seasoning

  • Lemon zest and Salt

  • Lemon Juice

  • Za’atar

  • Tamarind

  • Vinegar

  • Amchoor

  • Lime

  • Lemon Verbena

  • Lemon Balm

  • Ground Coriander

  • Smoked Paprika


  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith