Need a Sumac Substitute? The 5 Best You Should Use

Everyone knows that adding the proper seasoning like a Sumac to your food will help improve its flavors and taste. But the question is: What type of herbs should you be using? There are a lot of spices and herbs to use if you want to add more spice to your food.

One of the traditional and tasty ones would be sumac. Sumac is known for its zesty spice that gives any dish a better kick! But there will be times you have no sumac at home, or you’ll need to use a sumac substitute for those who are allergic to the spice.

If you want a good sumac substitute, then read on as I show you the tasty choices!

What is Sumac?

What is Sumac

When dining out in Middle Eastern restaurants, you might have noticed a red powder dusted on a lot of dishes. While you might think it’s some Persian spice that blows your mouth away, that’s sumac!

You’ll be surprised that sumac doesn’t have the fiery hot spice you expect from something so dark red. It has a tart and lemony flavor similar to vinegar. It tastes sour and comes from a sumac bush. This bush produces berries that are dried and ground to powder.

While it was used in Europe before, it’s now less popular around that continent and now used in Middle Eastern or Mediterranean dishes. You can find this spice available in any grocery store or from online shops. It has a red powder that adds color and pop to a lot of dishes and dry rubs.

Benefits and Uses of Sumac and Its Substitutes

Benefits and Uses of Sumac and Its Substitutes (1)

If you aren’t familiar with this seasoning yet, here are the following uses of sumac and its substitutes:

  • Tops Off Mediterranean Dishes: Like mentioned, sumac is very prevalent in any Middle Easter and Mediterranean dish. You can use them for dusting off any savory dish you’d like to add zest in- From Israeli to Moroccan cuisine.
  • Popcorn: If you use a powdered sumac substitute, then you can replace your usual barbecue and cheese powder when eating popcorn. Instead of the salty and typical flavors, add a bit more tart flavors. Add the sumac powder with salt to it, and it’s similar to eating salt-and-vinegar flavored popcorn.
  • Citrus Flavors WITHOUT Liquid: Again, if you’ll be using a powdered substitute for sumac, you won’t need to worry about liquid juices (such as vinegar or lemon zest) from ruining the consistency of your food. You can add it to salads or dry rubs to easily get the lemony flavors without directing acid to pre-cooked meats.
  • Health Benefits: Using sumac has a lot of health benefits you can reap. It’s high in antioxidants and can help lower your cholesterol and glycemic levels. It’s known as a superfood that can help prevent cardiovascular diseases and keep your skin looking fresh.

For a sumac substitute, we only use healthy options that may have the similar benefits or other healthy advantages you can reap.

The Best Sumac Substitute You Can Use

The Best Sumac Substitute You Can Use

Now that you know what sumac and its substitutes can for your food, what can you replace the original seasoning with? Here are some ideal suggestions for just about any type of dish:

Dry Sumac Substitutes

Dry substitutes include anything powdered or containing no liquid. These substitutes are best for dry rubs or to dust off dishes.

Lemon Zest and Salt

If you need something you can easily find at home and need a quick fix, then lemon zest is your best bet. Add a bit of salt to your lemon zest and then top it off or use it as a dry rub. It doesn’t have the similar colors, but it has the same zesty flavor.

Lemon Pepper Seasoning

Lemon pepper seasoning is your next best substitution. It’s easily found in most households and holds the same zesty taste and powdered consistency you need in sumac. This seasoning is best when dusting your dishes or for dry rubs. It’s best to add a bit of salt to it, similar to lemon zest and salt.


Za’atar is a favorite seasoning, a mix of various spices used for Middle Eastern dishes. It gives more authenticity and original flavors to any dish, making it a great substitute. The mixture has sumac inside it, so it’s best for those who want more flavor to their dishes, and not for those who are allergic to the red seasoning.


Amchoor, or also called amchur, is a mango powder that has a sour and tangy flavor made out of green mangoes. Similar to sumac berries, the mangoes were dried and powdered to achieve the sour taste.

It’s a bit sourer than sumac, so add less amchoor than the amount of sumac asked for in the recipe.


If you have none of the other suggestions mentioned above, then tamarind is another quick fix. It were extremely tart and used in Indian or Thai cuisine. You can either purchase it in pods or paste form. I recommend that you small amounts of tamarind and taste it before you get the desired flavor.

Liquid Sumac Substitutes

Liquid Sumac Substitutes

Liquid alternatives are best for salad dressings or dips. Take note that if you add it to your dry rub, it may change your meat‘s consistency.


Sumac, just like vinegar, is sour and has the tartness you need for your dishes that require sumac. But take note that vinegar is more acidic than sumac, so only add a few drops and taste the dish, only adding it in small amounts before you reach the desired flavor.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice, known for its citrusy flavor, makes for another great liquid substitute for tamarind. Use a slice of lemon to top off your salads for a zesty taste. While you can use other citrus fruits, the outcome may be sweeter than expected. You can add salt if needed.

You can find any of these sumac substitutes in your local grocery store or from your kitchen!

Tips on Using Sumac and Its Substitutes

Tips on Using Sumac and Its Substitutes

When using sumac or its substitutes, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Make sure that you store your sumac (or substitutes) properly by placing it in airtight containers in cool places under room temperature. Keeping it correctly will help prolong its lifespan.
  • Only add the right amount of ingredients when crewing a sumac substitute. Even just a little too much will change its overall flavoring. It’s best to taste the alternative before adding it to your recipe.
  • Consider what the recipe calls for. If you need something with a bit more liquid, such as marinades or dressing for salads, then you may want to add liquid sumac substitutes. If you want a dry rub or to top off a dish without ruining its texture, then go for powdered or dry replacements.
  • Remember that these substitutes, though tasting similar, will not entirely replace the consistency and taste of sumac itself. Experiment with the alternatives and test for the right amount before serving it to other people.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for a sumac substitute to use for times you run out, then be surprised that there are an abundance of ingredients you can easily find at home. With a vinegar-like and lemony flavor, you’ll be able to use any sumac substitute to imitate its flavors.

I hope that this article helped you find a good sumac substitute for using if you’re in need of a good tart spice for a delicious dish. So what are you waiting for? Try any of these sumac substitutes to achieve the best-tasting dish for your loved ones to enjoy today.