Thinly sliced red onions gently massaged with sumac and salt, dressed in oil, lemon and vinegar then tossed with fresh parsley – simple, punchy and incredibly fresh!
Sumac Onions (A Turkish Onion Salad)
Simply put: sumac onions = Turkish-style onion salad.
Main ingredients include: sliced onions, sumac powder, salt, lemon, oil and fresh chopped parsley.
It’s a traditional Middle Eastern condiment usually served alongside grilled meats and fish or as a part of a mezze platter.
Though it may look like nothing more than a simple onion salad at first glance, its flavors are anything but basic!
What is sumac?
Sumac is a popular Middle Eastern spice made from the dried and ground sumac berries of the sumac bush. It has a bright, citrusy, acidic flavor making it an incredibly versatile ingredient found in both sweet and savory recipes.
How to Make turkish sumac onions
- Cut onion into thin slices.
- Use a sharp knife or a mandoline to minimise the chance of tearing up as you cut the onions.
- Add sumac spice and a little salt then use your hands to massage the spice into the onions.
- Stir in lemon juice (or vinegar), olive oil and fresh parsley.
- Cover bowl or transfer to an airtight container and set aside for a quick pickle (about 20 minutes|) or marinate in the fridge up to 4 days.
Why massage the onions?
Salt helps draw out the moisture and tones down some of the more pungent raw onion flavours. This translates to better flavor absorption, a more vibrant color and a softer texture.
Do you have to massage the onions?
No! If you’d prefer not to get your hands dirty, you’ll still end up with an incredibly flavored dish.
It’s a great, extra step that takes little effort if you like getting really involved with your food. That said, it seems to be a step rooted more-so in tradition than necessity.
You might taste the difference. You might not. Your choice!
Additions and Variations
- Swap parsley out for cilantro or mint.
- Add aleppo pepper (pul biber) or red pepper flakes (mild) or red chili flakes (spicy).
- Swap lemon juice for lime juice to lean in to the tart, punchy flavor.
- Add pine nuts for a nice crunch.
- Swap red onion for white or yellow onions which are less spicy and more mild in flavor.
More Simple salads
- Shirazi Salad (Salad-E Shirazi)
- Greek Salad With Chickpeas
- Sweet Shallot Chickpea Salad
- Sun Dried Tomato Cannellini Bean Salad
- Curried Chickpea Salad
- Peanut Cucumber Chicken Salad
If you do enjoy these onions you’ll also like this Turkish White Beans Salad (Piyaz) – it’s like a more bulked out version of this recipe.
Let me know if you try this sumac onion recipe! Leave a comment and review with your thoughts. I always appreciate the feedback and serving suggestions that you come up with!
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice*
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- Add the onion slices, sumac and salt to a medium bowl. Use your hands to gently massage the salt and sumac into the onions for about 30-60 seconds.
- Add the remaining ingredients: vinegar, oil and parsley. Mix together then cover and set aside to marinate at least 20 minutes before serving or store in an airtight container up to four days.
- Serve as a simple side salad or enjoy as condiment. Add onions to burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads, etc.
- The onions will continue to soften over time. Drain excess liquid before serving if needed.
- Swap out the parsley for other mint or cilantro.
- Use white or yellow onions in place of red onion. The sumac onions will be less spicy/sweet with white onions so you may want to consider adding a pinch of sugar.
- Red wine vinegar will enhance the bright pink/purple color of the red onion, but you can use lemon juice instead.