Musakhan (Sumac Roasted Chicken) is the national dish of Palestine and a true comfort food dish. Juicy slow-cooked chicken is flavored with lemony sumac, smothered in soft onions, topped with crunchy pine nuts, and piled onto delicious flatbread. This is one dish you have to try!
I’m so excited to introduce you to one of my favorite meals growing up in Jordan! Musakhan, which is sometimes referred to as sumac chicken, is a traditional Palestinian recipe that is popular in both Palestine and Jordan. You can’t go wrong with roasted chicken and this version is no exception.
The recipe for this Palestinian or Jordanian chicken can be a little different from one area to another. Some like to simmer the chicken to create a broth that they use to soak the bread along with olive oil and sumac, and then they roast the chicken. I just roast the chicken for Musakhan in the oven as this is how my mom prepares it and it’s much easier!
Kids love to eat Musakhan as they get to use their hands to tear off pieces of tender chicken and flatbread. This is the easiest way to eat it and it’s a lot of fun too! I encourage you to give it a go!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe for Musakhan
- It’s great for sharing. Pile the flatbread and chicken onto a large platter and let your friends and family start tearing off pieces. It’s always a hit!
- It’s quick to make. The entire dish can be made from start to finish in under an hour. Musakhan is perfect for a family meal or for serving at a dinner party!
- It’s a comforting meal. Musakhan is a hugely popular Palestinian comfort food dish. You can’t beat roasted chicken for a feel-good meal.
Ingredients In Musakhan
Here’s what you need to make this spectacular dish.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
- Whole chicken – You’ll break the chicken down into 8 or 10 parts. Check out my great step-by-step tutorial on how to cut a whole chicken for more information. The chicken is cooked with the bone-in and skin-on for maximum flavor.
- Baharat spice mix (aka 7 spices) – This spice is optional, but I find it adds a lot of delicious middle eastern flavor to the dish. The mix contains cinnamon, black peppercorns, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, cloves, and cumin seeds. I have a great recipe for making homemade Baharat spice mix.
- Salt, pepper, and olive oil – These are classic seasonings so often used to add flavor to many recipes.
- Yellow onion – You can use any type of onion, but I usually use yellow onions for their mild flavor.
- Sumac – This spice is a dark red powder that has a tart and lemony flavor. You might be able to find it in your local grocery store or look for it in middle eastern grocery stores or online. Sumac is a main flavor ingredient in Fattoush Salad too!
- Flatbreads – The traditional bread used in this dish is called taboon bread which is baked in a special taboon oven. If you can find it, then use it! It’s difficult to find in the US/UK, so I just use my homemade flatbread bread or yogurt flatbread for this recipe. You can also go for naan or Greek pita as well. Even tortillas can work!
- Pine nuts – The dish is topped with toasted nuts that you’ll toast in ghee or olive oil. You don’t want too dark of color on the nuts. We usually use blanched almonds (sometimes slivered), and/or pine nuts.
- Fresh parsley and lemon wedges for serving.
How To Make Sumac Roasted Chicken
- Roast chicken: Rub the chicken with olive oil and season with Baharat, salt, and pepper. Massage everything well into the chicken so it’s fully coated in the spices. Bake the chicken in a baking pan covered in foil for 35-40 minutes. Cook until an instant-read thermometer is at 165°F/74°C.
- Broil chicken: Place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes or until you reach the desired color. There will be juices/stock at the bottom of the pan which is wonderful to drizzle over the bread before serving your Musakhan.
- Toast the nuts: Meanwhile, as the chicken is being roasted, toast the nuts in a dry pan over medium-low heat for a minute. If you’re using two types of nuts (almonds, and pine nuts), I recommend toasting each separately as they toast at different rates.
- Cook onions: The goal is to cook the onions low and slow for about 10 minutes so that they soften without burning. You want soft, translucent, and almost sweet (or at least mild). You’re not looking for burnt crispy onions in this dish. Next, add some sumac and give everything a good stir. Set the onions aside as you get ready to plate everything. As the onions sit for a bit, they will absorb the sumac and become a vibrant pink color.
- Serve: Start assembling the Musakhan dish by placing the flatbreads on a baking sheet separately in a single layer. Spread the onion mixture over the flatbreads and place 1-2 chicken pieces on top of each. Sprinkle with the remaining sumac, toasted nuts, and fresh parsley. Serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, and a side of plain yogurt. Oh, my word!
There’s a fine line between toasted nuts and burnt nuts, so keep an eye on them! If they get too dark, they’ll taste like it.
Musakhan Recipe Tips
- Use bone-in, skin-on chicken. Cooking the chicken pieces with the bone-in and the skin-on is recommended for the most flavor. I used a whole chicken that I cut up into parts, if you’re unsure how to do that, I have an easy tutorial on how to cut up a whole chicken.
- Season under the skin. What’s great about keeping the skin on is that it’s just one more way to add flavor. Carefully lift the skin and season underneath as well for maximum flavor.
- Cook the onion slowly. As tempting as it is to turn up the heat, cook the onions on a lower heat and allow them to soften slowly so they don’t burn or take on too much color. We are not trying to caramelize them today!
- Make-ahead. One of the ways you can prepare ahead and save some time is to make the onions up to 24 hours ahead of time. Keep them stored in an airtight container in the fridge and just warm them through when you’re ready to serve.
- Save the juices. Don’t throw all of those lovely seasoned chicken juices down the drain! Use the juice to pour over the flatbread and Musakhan before serving.
What to Serve with Musakhan
I’m excited to share with you an array of delicious traditional Middle Eastern recipes that would all pair nicely with your Musakhan.
For dessert: Serve Atayef, a stuffed pancake traditionally served during Ramadan. Or make Awameh, Middle Eastern sweet dumplings. If you’d like to serve a dessert drink then I recommend Sahlab, which is a sweet milk pudding recipe.
Wash it down with: A Middle Eastern refreshing Lemon Mint Lemonade.
This dish is traditionally eaten with your hands. Tear off a piece of bread and pull off some juicy tender chicken from the bone and enjoy! Eating it with your hands is ultimately easier than with a fork and knife.
Sumac is the best choice for this recipe, but if you can’t get your hands on some and would still like to try making the dish, you can try using lemon zest or lemon pepper seasoning. It won’t have the same flavor but will still give you a lemony tang.
While using chicken is the traditional way to make this recipe, you can replace it with thick slices of roasted eggplant or chunky cauliflower florets as a vegetarian alternative. Toss in the same spices as the chicken and roast at 425°F/200°C for 25 minutes for the cauliflower and 35 minutes for the eggplant. Serve the vegetables with the flatbread in the same way you would with the chicken.
Save this recipe for the next time you are looking for a new chicken recipe. I know your family will enjoy Musakhan as much as mine does! Pin it for more people to enjoy too!
- 1 whole chicken broken into 8 or 10 parts
- 2 teaspoons baharat aka 7 spices, optional
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (160 ml) olive oil divided
- 2 pounds (900 g) yellow onion diced
- 4 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sumac divided
- 5 small flatbreads
- ¼ cup (40 g) nuts pine nuts or blanched, sliced, or silvered almonds
- chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Add chicken to a baking pan, rub with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with baharat if using, salt, and pepper. Cover with foil and roast for 35-40 or until cooked through. If I’m using leg quarters I start checking at 30 minutes, and remove the wings and the breast and set aside so they don’t overcook. And cook the chicken quarters until the internal temp with an instant read thermometer is 165°F/74°C.
- Place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes or until you reach the desired color. There WILL be juices/stock at the bottom of the pan, you can use this to soak the bread if you wish.
- Meanwhile as the chicken is being roasted, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat and add the nuts, cook for a minute or 2 until light brown then remove from the pan immediately (they will get darker as they sit on the plate, if making 2 different nuts cook each separately as they will brown at different rates).
- Add the remaining oil to the pan, and add the onions. Cook until the onions have wilted (not browned) about 10 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons of sumac, and mix it in. Remove from heat, and set aside.
- Place the flatbreads on a baking sheet, spread the onion mixture over the flatbreads and place 1-2 chicken pieces on top of each. Sprinkle with the remaining sumac, toasted nuts, and fresh parsley. Serve warm with a drizzle of lemon juice and a side of plain yogurt.
- Make it Vegetarian Friendly: Replace the chicken with thick slices of roasted eggplant or chunky cauliflower florets as a vegetarian alternative. Toss in the same spices as the chicken and roast at 425°F/200°C for 25 minutes for the cauliflower and 35 minutes for the eggplant. Serve the vegetables with the flatbread in the same way you would with the chicken.
- Sumac can be sourced at most Middle Eastern stores, or specialty retailers at the spice section. You can also find it on Amazon.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
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