Sumac Onion Salad Recipe and a Delicious Shawarma Dinner From Scratch

Sumac was one of the first things I learned how to forage (as a kid at Six Flags, we used to pick the sumac berries while waiting on line for the rides), and I love it as a spice. Sumac and onion chicken is really amazing, as well as zaatar spice mix containing sumac. If you go to falafel or shawarma shops, you'll notice a bunch of salads and fillings to go inside the shawarma or falafel, and sumac onion salad is pretty standard.
It is really easy, and while it is amazing in shawarma, these sumac onions are great on anything, including any sandwich, in a salad, on cooked veggies or whatever. Of course its a must have for falafel. Really versatile.
While I do have an exact recipe, feel free to play around with this and add less sumac or oil if you like. I prefer more sumac, and then letting it sit, because the acidity of the sumac draws out some of the spice from the onion, making it more mild.

This recipe is vegan and paleo and gluten free and allergy friendly, low carb, and pretty much safe for every diet I can think of, other than no fat diets. Only thing to worry about is if you're allergic to sumac, which some people are.

Tonight for supper, specifically because I'd planned on writing this post, I made a shawarma bar for supper, so I could showcase these onions in all their glory. It was a lot of work, because I made everything from scratch, other than some pickles which I had gotten canned free a while back, but it was so, so so worth it.
Everyone really enjoyed it. It was my kids' first time eating shawarma, and my first time having a full shawarma bar since going gluten free 6.5 years ago (since any shawarma stand will be gluten contaminated, since all these things get spread on flatbread), so that was really exciting for me- I was in heaven!

Best part was the cost.

I used one whole chicken breast bought on sale today, that cost approximately $2. I made homemade shawarma spice mix for it. I got the cabbage and tahini and pickles free, as well as the peppers I used in my zhug yemenite hot sauce. The eggplant, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers were all seconds bought at discounted rates from the market. And I made the gluten flatbread for my oldest to eat, from scratch. The gluten free eaters ate these fillings on gluten free buns. The whole meal probably cost under $6- going out for shawarma, even buying one serving costs more than that, so this was definitely a frugal meal.

I first made the flatbread by mixing flour, yeast, salt, and water and letting it rise. Once risen, I rolled it out thinly and baked it in a high heat in the oven, one flatbread at a time.

I chopped up chicken breast really small, and added shawarma spice mix and salt, then sauted it.
The cabbage salad was simple with lemon juice, oil, and salt.
The tomatoes and cucumbers were just chopped, no seasoning.
Tahini was just mixed with water, lemon juice, and salt.
The eggplant sliced and deep fried until browned.
I sauted some onions.
I made a quick carrot salad by thinly slicing carrots and using seasoning similar to here, only with the addition of lemon juice and without fermenting.
And homemade zhug hot sauce, which I'll be sharing the recipe for very soon.

I piled them all on the flatbread, then wrapped it up, covering it with parchment paper to keep it together... Delicious!

 As for the sumac onions, here's the super simple recipe.

Sumac Onion Salad Recipe

1 medium onion
1 tablespoon sumac powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons oil, ideally olive

1. Slice your onions thinly, preferably with a mandolin, but also works with a knife.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well, massaging it in if you want.

3. Eat right away if you want, or let sit for a few hours to become less spicy.


Are you a fan of shawarma? What do you like to put in yours? Do you buy it at restaurants or do you make it from scratch like I did?
Ever have sumac onions at falafel or shawarma restaurants? Does it look like a recipe you'd enjoy?
What is your favorite use for sumac?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I love the new photo in " About Me". Beautiful and relatable. Well done.

    1. Thank you Patti! I loved it too and figured it was time to update my picture. More blog updates coming soon, working with a graphic designer now. Hope you'll like them as well.

  2. I'm finally making some this week for dinner. I can't wait to have them again.

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