Food Ingredients Guide Meet Sumac, the Superfood Spice That'll Help You Fight Inflammation—and Bland Food—for Good Step aside, turmeric. It's the return of the (su)mac. By Betty Gold Betty Gold Betty Gold is the former senior digital food editor at Real Simple. Real Simple's Editorial Guidelines Updated on August 2, 2022 Share Tweet Pin Email The ancient herb sumac—made from ruby-colored berries that are ground into a beautiful, coarse powder that bursts with color and flavor—has been underappreciated in American cooking for centuries. We'd like to fix that. If you heard "sumac" and immediately thought of poison ivy, you're wrong! (Poison sumac is a different plant, which has white berries.) If you grew up in a Middle Eastern household, however, you probably have a very different sumac story to tell. "You'll know it as a souring agent that's an excellent substitute for lemon or vinegar, and is great to use on kebabs, fish, or chicken," says Tenny Avanesian, an Armenian-American food entrepreneur and the founder of Lemonette. "It's been used to add tangy, fresh flavors in Lebanese, Syrian, Armenian, and Iranian cooking for many millennia, and you could not walk through a street food marketplace of centuries past (even today) without seeing it everywhere around you." This Superfood Tea Is an Anti-Inflammatory Superhero According to Tenny, sumac is the secret ingredient in endless Middle Eastern mezzes, salads, rice dishes, stews, and kebabs. It's also the primary element and focal point of za'atar, a very popular and timeless Middle-Eastern spice blend of sumac, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, and marjoram. And thanks to its beautiful, rich, deep red color, sumac is the perfect finishing touch for dips, vegetables, grains, and more. Tips for Cooking With Sumac Sumac is ideally used in place of (or in addition to) lemon juice or lemon zest in dishes like salads, hummus, marinades or dressings, tzatziki, or baba ganoush. You can also sprinkle it atop basmati rice, grain salads, pita chips, or any type of flatbread (or use it as way to pump up the flavor of store-bought breads or chips). Add it to roasted vegetables, fried or scrambled eggs, or incorporate it into roasted nuts. Rub sumac on meat, fish, or poultry—if you're grilling them, even better. Shall we go on? Yes. Because sumac also goes extremely well with mint. "Two salads in particular, Shirazi Salad (in Iranian cuisine) and the Fattoush Salad (in Arabic cuisine) both add sumac and mint to their dressings," says Tenny. We *Finally* Found the Perfect Formula for a Super Satisfying Salad Health Benefits Sumac is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory spices out there. It ranks high on the ORAC chart, which means it's packed with antioxidants and has the ability to neutralize free radicals that can cause cancer, heart disease, and signs of aging. And studies have shown that daily intake of sumac for three months will lower the risk of cardiovascular disease among people with type 2 diabetes. 7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Eat Every Day for Long-Term Health and Happiness Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Shidfar F, Rahideh ST, Rajab A, et al. The effect of sumac (Rhus coriaria L.)powder on serum glycemic status, ApoB, ApoA-I and total antioxidant capacity in Type 2 diabetic patients. Iran J Pharm Res. 2014;13(4):1249-1255. Peng Y, Zhang H, Liu R, et al. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of pyranoanthocyanins and other polyphenols from Staghorn Sumac (Rhus hirta L.) in Caco-2 cell models. J Funct Foods. 2016;20:139-147. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2015.10.026 Rahideh ST, Shidfar F, Khandozi N, Rajab A, Hosseini SP, Mirtaher SM. The effect of sumac (Rhus coriaria L.) powder on insulin resistance, malondialdehyde, high sensitive C-reactive protein and paraoxonase 1 activity in type 2 diabetic patients. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(10):933-938.