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Sumac-Spiced Chicken (Musakhan)

4 Servings

1¼ hours

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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.




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


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.
Alev E.
January 18, 2023
Another delicious recipe!
This was so full of flavor! Pine nuts add a very subtle taste to the sharpness of sumac. I even made the pita using the recipe from the same episode. Will make it again!
John F.
November 12, 2022
Wife's new favorite
Love this. Easy to make and delicious. I refer to this as Capt Johnny's Panty Butter
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.

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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.

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.

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 - - which has a similar flavor profile but calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

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.