Sumac-Roasted Whole Chicken

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Sumac once served as the tart, acidic element in cooking prior to the introduction of lemons by the Romans. This tart, lemony red spice is harvested from shrubs in the Middle East and traditionally sun-dried. A Sunday dinner of roast chicken is one of my favorite weekend rituals but, just because we do it on the regular, doesn’t mean it’s boring. One week it’s Roast Chicken with Sage and Garlic, others this Spicy Roast Chicken situation, and this last weekend it was a twist on Middle Eastern za’atar with this Sumac Roast Chicken.

Serve this great chicken with Garlic Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes or Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes.

Sumac-roasted chicken is a dish in which a whole chicken is coated in a mixture of sumac and other seasonings, and then roasted in the oven. Sumac is a spice that is made from the ground berries of the sumac plant. It has a tangy, slightly sour flavor and is commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

To make sumac-roasted chicken, the sumac and other seasonings are mixed together to create a rub, which is then applied to the surface of the chicken. The chicken is then placed in a roasting pan and baked in the oven until it is cooked through and the skin is crispy. The final dish has a savory and slightly tangy flavor, and the sumac gives the chicken a reddish-purple color. Sumac-roasted chicken is often served with rice or other grains, vegetables, and a variety of dipping sauces.


Sumac-Roasted Whole Chicken

Sumac Roasted Whole Chicken 683x1024 1

Sumac once served as the tart, acidic element in cooking prior to the introduction of lemons by the Romans.

  • Author: Suzanne Zeidy
  • Prep Time: :30
  • Cook Time: 1:10
  • Total Time: 1:40
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven


Units Scale
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt, plus more
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 10 sprigs rosemary
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 2 heads garlic, plus 5 cloves (4 crushed, 1 minced)
  • 4 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 lbs.)
  • 2 tbsp. sumac
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil


  1. For the brine: Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, sugar, peppercorns, 5 rosemary sprigs, 5 thyme sprigs, the crushed garlic, and three-quarters of the lemon slices until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour the brine into a large bowl and stir in 8 cups cold water. Submerge the chicken in the brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sumac with the lemon zest. Drain the chicken, discard brine, and pat dry with paper towels. Using your fingers, gently separate the skin over the chicken breasts and thighs and stuff the sumac and lemon zest between the skin and meat. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the oven to 400°. Drizzle the 2 heads of garlic with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and then wrap them in foil. In a medium bowl, toss the remaining rosemary and thyme sprigs with the minced garlic, remaining lemon slices, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Rub the outside of the chicken with the oil, and stuff the cavity with the herbs and lemons. Transfer the chicken to a roasting pan with the heads of garlic, and roast until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 160°, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes. Unwrap the garlic heads, cut in half crosswise, and squeeze the cloves into the roasting pan. Whisk the garlic with the pan juices, scrape into a bowl, and serve the sauce alongside the chicken.


  • Serving Size: 4
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