This helpful how-to-make Sumac Onions guide compiles everything you need to know about this traditional Middle Eastern condiment. These onions are an excellent way to bring deep, savory flavor and irresistible tender-fresh crunch to almost any meal, including kebabs, shawarma, grilled fish, grain bowls, and so much more.
These sumac onions are so simple they hardly require a recipe, but having this easy-to-follow guide within reach doesn’t hurt!
By the end of this post, you will be an expert on sumac spice, marinating onions with sumac, and ways to incorporate sumac onions into breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner.
That said, you may as well double the recipe. Moving forward, you’ll want to put these sweet, tangy, and savory onions on everything!
What are Sumac Onions?
Sumac onions are a mixture of marinated onions, the spice called “sumac,” and chopped parsley. They’re often called “sumac onion salad” or “sumac onions and parsley salad.”
You could also call them “red onion salad,” “raw onion salad,” or “sumac salad.”
However, I wouldn’t classify this dish as a salad.
They are delicious, of course, but a bowl of marinated onions as a stand-alone salad may be a bit much.
However, the bold, dimensional flavor of red onions marinated in red wine vinegar and sumac makes for an excellent condiment for meat, seafood, gyros, and power bowls.
What is Sumac?
Sumac is the key ingredient in this sumac onions recipe.
So, before we dive into the details, here’s a brief on the incredible spice that sets these marinated onions apart from the rest.
Ground sumac is a staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It is made from sumac berries which are dried and ground into a coarse powder.
Its palatable flavor resembles the sharp, tart tanginess of fresh-squeezed lemon juice with hints of sweet floral aromas.
This is a flexible spice that doesn’t overpower dishes.
Instead, sumac improves the flavor profile of practically anything you add it to, like rubs, marinades, soups, and salad dressings. Or, you can sprinkle some sumac powder on top of finished dishes just as you would salt and pepper!
Sumac isn’t just tasty. It also has antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, to boot!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Red onion – Red onions are highly nutritious and packed with nutrients, including vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium. I do not recommend substituting a different type of onion here.
- Hot water – The sliced onions are soaked in hot water to take the bite off. To keep the recipe moving, I start a pot of boiling water before I begin slicing the onion, so the water is ready to go as soon as the onions are sliced.
- Red wine vinegar – This popular vinegar adds a touch of tang and sweetness while intensifying the color.
- Parsley – Fresh parsley gives this simple onion salad a fresh, herbaceous flavor and a pop of green to complement the hot pink!
- Sumac – To add to what we discussed above, if you’re hesitant to buy sumac specifically for this recipe because you won’t find a use for it elsewhere, have no fear! Sumac goes well with just about anything!
- Olive oil – Extra virgin olive oil adds flavor and moisture and helps extend the shelf-life of quick pickled and marinated onions.
- Salt – Kosher or sea salt is best here, but use what you have on hand.
How to Make Sumac Onions
- Slice the onion: I don’t know the secret to thinly slicing an onion without crying. I’ve heard that if you place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, remove the papery skin and rinse it under cold water before slicing, it can prevent tear-jerking enzymes from escaping. There are also a few suggestions in the comments, so check them out. Good luck! (Photo 1.)
- De-flame the onion: Place the onion slices in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water, making sure the onions are fully submerged, and let soak for 10 minutes. The purpose of “de-flaming” the onion with boiling water is to soften the pungency creating a pleasantly sweet and savory flavor. (Photo 2.)
- Drain the onions: Drain and pat them with a paper towel. It’s OK if they are still damp; just remove the excess water. (Photo 3.)
- Quick-pickle the onions: Return the onions to the bowl. Add 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar to the onions and mix them well. Let the onions marinate for 5 to 10 minutes, gently stirring a few times during the process. (Photo 4.)
- Drain the vinegar: Drain all but about 1 teaspoon of vinegar from the bowl. (Photo 5.)
- Season and chill: Add fresh chopped parsley, sumac, and a generous pinch of salt. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to combine. Place onions in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. (Photo 6.)
The longer the raw onions marinate in vinegar, the more acidic they taste. You can skip soaking the onions in vinegar altogether if you don’t want that much acidity. Instead, you can add a splash of red wine vinegar, lemon, or lime juice at the end.
Allowing the sumac onions to hang out in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before serving quickly cools them down and also helps strengthen the flavor.
The simplicity of sumac onions leaves plenty of room for customization.
Here are a few ways to adapt the flavors precisely to your taste preference:
- Omit the parsley and serve the onions sans fresh herbs, or swap the parsley with other fresh herbs like cilantro, dill, or tarragon.
- If red wine vinegar is too tangy for your tastes, you can marinate the onions in freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice.
- Add a pinch of cayenne or Aleppo pepper flakes to make spicy sumac onions. For a smokey dimension, add smoked paprika or chipotle chili pepper.
How to Store
After soaking the onions in hot water, marinating in vinegar, and tossing with sumac and the remaining ingredients, transfer the mixture to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep it refrigerated for up to 3 days. Do not freeze.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you serve sumac onions?
Sumac onions make a perfect condiment for all sorts of dishes, bowls, salads, and more. Enjoying these recipes with sumac onions for a flavor experience like no other:
- Egg Avocado Toast
- Meatballs without Breadcrumbs
- Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs
- Easy Tuna Chili
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Feta
- Mediterranean Tomato Salad
Can I make sumac onions in advance?
The onions taste great the next day. However, the parsley will wilt a bit, so if you want to prepare it in advance, you can make the onions a day ahead and add the parsley before serving.
More Helpful How-to Guides
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- How to Thicken Soup without Flour or Cornstarch
- How to Cook Rutabaga
How To Make Sumac Onions
Learn how to make sumac onions. This popular Middle Eastern condiment will add savory flavors to your meat, fish, wrap, or veggie and grain bowl. A very easy recipe.
- 1 large red onion
- hot water
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3/4 to 1 cup chopped parsley, loosely packed
- 1 Tbsp ground sumac
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- pinch of salt
- Thinly slice the onion and place it into a bowl.
- Pour boiling water over the onions making sure they are covered. Soak the onions for about 10 minutes.
- Drain the onions and pat them with a paper towel.
- Add 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar to the onions and mix them well. Let the onions marinate for 5 to 10 minutes, making sure to stir them a few times.
- Drain the vinegar leaving about 1 teaspoon in the bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Place the onions in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving.
1. The longer you leave the onions in the vinegar the more acidic they will taste. If you don't like them to be acidic, you can skip this step and just add 1 tablespoon of the red wine vinegar at the end.
2. The onions taste great the next day, however, the parsley will wilt a bit so if you want to prepare it in advance you can make the onions a day ahead and then add the parsley before serving.
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Nutrition InformationYield 5 portions Serving Size 1/5 of recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 43Total Fat 3gSaturated Fat 0.4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2.4gCholesterol 0mgSodium 65.8mgCarbohydrates 4.1gFiber 1.1gSugar 1.5gProtein 0.8g
Nutrition facts provided on this website are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a qualified health care provider for personalized diet advice and make sure that each of the ingredients is allowed in your diet.
Saturday 4th of September 2021
Hi, cut the onion close to the sink and turn on the cold water, and keep it running the whole time while you are cutting the onion.
Saturday 1st of June 2019
I never cry when chopping onions. The trick? Keep your mouth shut. (Its harder than you think)
Sunday 5th of May 2019
You should keep a stainless steelspoon in your mouth while you are chopping onions this will stop you from crying very often it works quite well
Saturday 23rd of February 2019
I wear swimming goggles while cutting onions! I just keep a pair in my kitchen drawer.
Saturday 22nd of September 2018
I accidentally found the secret of the no tears onion chopping this evening. I was making my homemade Korean BBQ sauce and started tearing up while chopping. I remembered that stick it in the fridge trick and thought this would be a good time to try it. Buuutttttt, I was impatient and in a hurry. Sooooo I stuck them in th e freezer. My 10 yr old then had 15 million requests while I was trying to get the rest of dinner ready and kinda forgot they were In the freezer till I got to that part of the recipe to add them. Boy did I feel foolish. I rushed to the freezer to get them, and they had only slightly frozen to about the consistency you would freeze meet if you wanted to slice it really thin. Again I was being impatient and decided to try cutting them up anyway. Low and behold perfectly diced onions with NO tears!! I know I'll be doing that from now on.
Monday 24th of September 2018
Hi Tanya! Thanks so much for sharing! This sounds interesting. If freezing them slightly doesn't affect the taste, then it's great.