How to Make the Spice Sumac and Sumac Lemon Pepper

About: I have a range of interest bordering on the insane. From blacksmithing to foraging, cooking to sewing, I have probably done it, read up on it, or know someone who has done it. I love to learn, and love to ...

Sumac is a spice used mainly in middle eastern cooking. It adds a sour note and a beautiful red color to food, much like lemon peel adds sourness and yellow. I find that Sumac's sourness is much quicker to fade and has almost no aftertaste.

Not surprisingly, the spice Sumac comes from the plant Sumac. So let's start

Step 1: Collect Your Sumac and Supplies

Warning Do not eat any wild food unless you can positively identify it.

Sumac is one of the easier wild foods to identify though. It has red clusters of berries rising above the foliage. Don't worry too much about poison sumac, for while it shares a name, it has white berries, not red ones.

You will want to collect the clusters during a dry period, as rain can wash out the acid that makes them sour.

Collect as many as you think you will need, but keep in mind that 1 cup of berries is only about 1 1/2 teaspoons of spice. It shouldn't take very long to collect all the berries you need for a years cooking.

Let your berries dry in a cool dark place for a week or two, as this makes the spice much easier to seperate from the seeds.

You will need,

1- sumac clusters

2- a sifter, strainer, or colander

3- a blender, herb grinder, or food processor

Step 2: Grind Your Sumac Berries

Put the berries in a food processor, or blender. I am using a cheap herb grinder. You don't need to worry too much about power, as you are knocking the dry fruit off of the seed. Pulse them in the blender for a while until the seeds are mostly yellow and there is red dust seperate from the seeds.

This red dust is your spice.

Step 3: Strain the Seeds Out of Your Sumac

Put the mixture through a strainer, colander, or mesh. I used a flour sifter, as it moves the seeds well and lets the spice fall through. This red spice is Sumac. If you taste it you will notice that it is very tart, but the sourness fades quickly.

You can use it as is, sprinkling a little on chicken breasts or fish. It is also delicious on vegetables or kabobs.

Or you can make red lemon pepper with it.

Step 4: Make Red "lemon" Pepper and Enjoy

Mix the Sumac with freshly ground pepper, 1/3 pepper to 2/3 sumac. It will have a tendancy to clump somewhat, but don't worry too much about that. Put into a spice shaker and use just as you would lemon pepper. Delicious on zuchinni or grilled veggies.

Here is some Red-lemon pepper on a steamed chicken breast. It made a normally bland meal delicious.

I hope that I have given you some ideas on how to use this wild edible, and I hope you have found that this expands your options in the kitchen.

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    6 Discussions


    Question 4 weeks ago on Introduction

    Can I use the comes after the leaves have fallen off the tree/bush?


    Reply 4 months ago

    Naturally occuring acids in the skins and hairs.


    8 months ago

    Ah this makes me happy. I've always wondered if station sumac which I use for sumac lemonade, and teething sticks for my kids, was about the same as the sumac spice called for in middle-eastern recipes like fattoush. Thanks for the answer!