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In Palestine, tangy sumac lightens richly seasoned chicken thighs
Milk Street Bowtie Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan)

Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan)

1¼ hours

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Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan)

Free

Sumac is the secret to this dish, a lesson we learned from a young Palestinian named Nadir, who showed us how to make musakhan in a kitchen in downtown West Ramallah. He used a generous amount of the deep-red spice as do we, its tart, citrusy flavor nicely balances the sweetness of the sautéed onion and rich pine nuts in our version. Look for sumac in well-stocked grocery stores, spice shops and Middle Eastern markets; it can also be ordered online.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t skip the tahini for drizzling at the table. Its nutty flavor and richness perfectly complement the chicken. And since tahini separates on standing, don't forget to stir it well before serving.

1¼ hours

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, divided
1 large yellow onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons ground sumac, divided
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
3 cups water
4 8-inch pita bread rounds
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Tahini, to serve
Ingredients
  • 2

    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 6

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • ½

    cup toasted pine nuts, divided

  • 1

    large yellow onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

  • 4

    garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 4

    tablespoons ground sumac, divided

  • 2

    teaspoons sweet paprika

  • 3

    cups water

  • 4

    8-inch pita bread rounds

  • ½

    cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

  • Tahini, to serve

Directions
  1. 01
    Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry, then season with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until just smoking. Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with another tablespoon of oil and the remaining chicken. Set the chicken aside.
    See Demo
    Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan) Step 1
  2. 02
    Chop ¼ cup of the pine nuts and set aside. With the pot over medium, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped pine nuts, 3 tablespoons of the sumac and paprika. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the water, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken and any juices to the pot. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
    See Demo
    Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan) Step 2
  3. 03
    Heat the oven to 450ºF with a rack in the middle position. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a bowl. Use 2 forks to shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer over medium-high. Cook, stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the remaining ¼ cup whole pine nuts. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
    See Demo
    Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan) Step 3
  4. 04
    Brush the pita on both sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and arrange the rounds on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until heated through and softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sumac, then cut each round in half and transfer to a platter. Stir the parsley into the chicken and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve the chicken with the pita and tahini for drizzling.
    See Demo
    Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan) Step 4
Tip: Don’t skip the tahini for drizzling at the table. Its nutty flavor and richness perfectly complement the chicken. And since tahini separates on standing, don't forget to stir it well before serving.
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Reviews
Jan B.
July 18, 2022
Easy and delicious
Delicious flavor, the chickens is tender and great served with pita. We put it inside them along with a little salad and tahini sauce made with lemon juice and water to thin. There is time to roast vegetables while the chicken cooks to make a full meal. If you haven't yet, try the Chicken Shawarma on this site. Also delicious.
Michelle H.
June 3, 2022
Huge hit!
This was delicious, came together quickly, and my family loved it. I used chicken breasts, because I didn't have thighs on hand, so I reduced the cooking time from 25-30 minutes to about 12 when they registered 160 and finished as written.
James B.
May 29, 2022
Messy (but delicious) pulled chicken on flatbread gets others asking for the recipe
Fantastic recipe, makes extremely flavorful chicken. It is a bit messy (uses a lot of oil, end product is placed on (top? inside? both are delicious) toasted flatbreads and eaten, though could easily be eaten in plenty of other ways. The way the chicken absorbed the reduced liquid/gravy made the whole dish come together. Takes a while to make (1.5+ hours for me, I'm bad at prep times) but worth it. Just keep that time in mind though.
Sherry F.

Made this for dinner last night with the last of my pine nut stash. To my surprise, my dad loved it! It took forever to reduce the 3 cups of water at the end. I think I'll do less water next time. Also, I'm going to have to find a pine nut alternative to use next time. Pine nuts are out of season here and I only use local pine nuts to avoid the metallic taste you get from Chinese pine nuts from the grocery stores.

Michele R.

Agree with Sherry F re the need to use really good pine nuts here and not the mass markets ones sold everywhere from major grocery stores to natural food CoOps, almost all of which are processed in China. Having had "pine nut mouth" once myself that lasted about 3 weeks, I too am very careful about sourcing. Check the packages or ask your grocer (even the ones sold in bulk at the top dollar well known whole food store come in via China and although not always labeled they will tell you that is so if you ask). Lucky people like Sherry F to have access to locally grown and processed pine nuts! I purchase most of the time from an American of Lebanese heritage who imports Turkish grown pine nuts via Lebanon. Quality pine nuts makesall the difference.

Sharon M.

Do you have a mail order source for domestic or even Italian pine nuts? I bought for a small specialty store in New England and wasn’t successful at finding a wholesaler for our store. So frustrating!

Karen G.

Thank you for your comment! Your comment is currently under moderation and will appear shortly.

Brad P.

Surprisingly mild we thought, but it was our first dish primarily seasoned with sumac. Delicious. I might put another onion in it next time, but just because I love sliced onions cooked into this kind of dish.

Robert J.

So delicious. We followed the recipe exactly, and it's a winner. But I'm curious whether it's even necessary to brown the chicken. Why not just put the raw chicken in the sauce in the same manner used in the guajillo-orange pulled chicken. In our final musakhan, I don't think we can even see that the chicken was browned first — it's so covered in the sumac sauce that it's all brown anyway. We might try it without browning next time. Any thoughts?

Lynn C.

Hi Robert -

For this dish, we are browning the chicken more to add flavor to the overall dish than to the chicken itself. The browned bits left in the pan add flavor to the cooking liquid which is simply water, onion, pine nuts, and spices. We don't do this additional step for the pulled chicken since that sauce is already chock full of flavor with the chilies and orange juice.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Jennifer B.

Any other nut suggestions rather than pine nuts? Walnuts? Almonds? Pistachios?

Lynn C.

Hi Jennifer -

You can substitute blanched slivered almonds for the pine nuts.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Marianne S.

This recipe sounds as if it would be delicious…. But we don’t care for chicken dark meat. How could this recipe be adapted for boneless chicken breasts?

Lynn C.

Hi Marianne -

You might prefer this recipe - https://www.177milkstreet.com/recipes/sumac-spiced-chicken-cutlets-tn-med - which has a similar flavor profile but calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Brian M.

Huge fan of Milk Street -- but this one just didn't "spark" for me. I thought it was certainly rich, and the tahini drizzle is a must...but despite adding a fair amount of salt and pepper at the end, it just tasted kind of flat to me. I wonder if adding some acid at the end might've brightened it up. I was happy enough to eat it -- but just not wowed where I feel like I'll ever make it again.

Alan P.

It looks like sumac is the main source of acidity, so I would probably keep a bowl of it at the table for liberal sprinkling.


Down arrow

Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan)

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

1¼ hours

Tip

Don’t skip the tahini for drizzling at the table. Its nutty flavor and richness perfectly complement the chicken. And since tahini separates on standing, don't forget to stir it well before serving.

Ingredients
  • 2

    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 6

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • ½

    cup toasted pine nuts, divided

  • 1

    large yellow onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

  • 4

    garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 4

    tablespoons ground sumac, divided

  • 2

    teaspoons sweet paprika

  • 3

    cups water

  • 4

    8-inch pita bread rounds

  • ½

    cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

  • Tahini, to serve

Step 1 of 4

Begin to cook the chicken

2
pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry, then season with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until just smoking.


Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with another tablespoon of oil and the remaining chicken. Set the chicken aside.

Step 2 of 4

Cook the aromatics and simmer

¼
cup toasted pine nuts
2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3
tablespoons ground sumac
2
teaspoons sweet paprika
3
cups water

Chop ¼ cup of the pine nuts and set aside. With the pot over medium, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened slightly, about 5 minutes.


Add the garlic, chopped pine nuts, 3 tablespoons of the sumac and paprika. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the water, stir to combine and bring to a simmer.


Return the chicken and any juices to the pot. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Step 3 of 4

Shred the chicken

¼
cup toasted pine nuts
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 450ºF with a rack in the middle position. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a bowl. Use 2 forks to shred the meat into bite-size pieces.


Bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer over medium-high. Cook, stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the remaining ¼ cup whole pine nuts. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Step 4 of 4

Finish cooking and serve

4
8-inch pita bread rounds
2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1
tablespoon ground sumac
½
cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Tahini, to serve

Brush the pita on both sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and arrange the rounds on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until heated through and softened, 5 to 7 minutes.


Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sumac, then cut each round in half and transfer to a platter. Stir the parsley into the chicken and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve the chicken with the pita and tahini for drizzling.

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