This creamy Sumac Sauce will take your taste buds on a journey. Travel to the Middle East in just 10 minutes with a blend of sour cream, yogurt, lemon, olive oil, garlic and tangy sumac.
Make it thinner and drizzle the sumac dressing over a crisp garden salad or a hearty fattoush. Or serve the sumac sauce with sliced cast-iron chicken breasts and spicy pickled onions stuffed into a homemade pita pocket, and you’ll be transported to a different world.
This recipe is only slightly adapted from the Ottolenghi sumac sauce from the Jerusalem cookbook which uses a combination of sour cream and Greek yogurt in a 2 to 3 ratio. I have always made this recipe with equal amounts of low-fat regular yogurt and sour cream.
I was recently inspired to experiment with the base after realizing how similar the recipe is to classic buttermilk dressing. Given that you can substitute yogurt and lemon juice for buttermilk, you can imagine this recipe will taste like a buttermilk salad dressing with sumac.
This lemon sumac dressing is made with just a handful of ingredients:
- Sour cream and low-fat yogurt. See the discussion below about using other dairy products as the base. Buy organic dairy products if you can afford it, because the organic label means that the cows were not treated with hormones or antibiotics.
- Sumac (see below).
Sumac is a tangy spice with a citrus-like flavor made from dried, ground sumac berries. It’s commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, including the classic Mussakhan, a Palestinian chicken recipe with sumac and red onion.
Sumac has been used as an alternative medical treatment for centuries. In small randomized studies, sumac produced mild improvements in fasting blood sugar and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, among other conditions.
Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
Variations and substitutions
- For a sumac spice substitution, use za’atar, a spice mixture with sumac, dried green herbs like oregano and thyme, and toasted sesame seeds.
- Make a sumac vinaigrette. Drop the sour cream and yogurt, and use a half cup of virgin olive oil, one tablespoon of white wine vinegar, and one tablespoon of lemon juice.
- Vary your base (see below).
The photo below shows bowls of Greek yogurt (#1) and equal amounts of sour cream and Greek yogurt (#2), sour cream and low-fat traditional yogurt (#3), and sour cream plus buttermilk (#4). Depending on what texture and consistency you want, those go from thickest to thinnest.
The table below has nutritional information for a quarter cup of organic sour cream, a full-fat Greek yogurt, low-fat traditional yogurt, and buttermilk. Do with this information what you will.
|Calories||Fat||Carb||Protein||% Daily Calcium|
Recipe tips and tricks
Step by step
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the amount of salt, lemon juice, and other ingredients as you desire. There’s no right or wrong. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
In my experiment, the sumac sauce with Greek yogurt alone (#1) had a flatter taste than those made with sour cream. The one with half buttermilk (#4) was the runniest of them all. The sour cream plus Greek yogurt (#2) remained slightly thicker than the one made with traditional yogurt (#3), but tasters thought the flavor was about the same.
What to serve with sumac dressing
The sumac dressing is a great topper for a green salad. Or it’s traditional with fattoush, a Middle Eastern bread salad similar to panzanella except using fried flatbread.
Make it on the thicker side, and use this creamy sumac sauce to serve with meatballs for dinner or in your meatball wrap for lunch. Just pick a recipe for meatballs or veggie balls like Greek chicken meatballs, lamb meatballs or quinoa balls with pine nuts and raisins.
Sumac adds a tangy, almost citrus-like flavor to your salad dressings and other recipes.
Store your sumac sauce in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week. It will not freeze well.
There aren’t many great alternatives to sumac other than za’atar, a spice mixture that includes sumac. If you can’t find either, you can still make a delicious salad dressing without it. It just won’t have the same tangy flavor.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt plus more as desired, see notes
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice plus more to taste
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced or crushed
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac
- ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper plus more to taste
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.½ cup sour cream, ½ cup low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 small clove garlic, finely minced or crushed, 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon ground sumac, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, or pepper as desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
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