These Turkish sumac onions are a tasty combination of finely sliced red onions mixed with sumac, lemon juice and fresh parsley. Made in minutes, this delicious Turkish condiment is a must as it goes with so many dishes; from Turkish meze, to shawarma, sandwiches to salads, and more!
What are sumac onions
Also called Turkish red onion salad, or sumac onions, these sumac marinated onions are a fresh and lemony side dish that is served with many Turkish dishes instead of yogurt, especially kebabs, shawarma, and grilled meats. These Turkish pickled onions should taste lemony – both from the lemon juice and the sumac. They are fresh, with a hint of tartness, crunchy, slightly sweet and sharp all the same time. Even if you are not a fan of raw onions, this sumac salad will be sure to change your mind!
Why we love this recipe
- It’s a flavour packed and colourful condiment to add your favourite dishes.
- The onions with sumac go with so many dishes, and can be served as a salad as well as a relish.
- The marinated onions keep well – whip up a batch of this red onion salad and enjoy throughout the week.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Red onions – red onions are sweeter than brown or white onions, and I do think add a nicer flavour to this quick pickle, but you can use white onions if you prefer.
- Sumac – this popular Middle Eastern spice is the star of the dish, what makes this go from a simple red onion salad to a sumac onion salad! It is available in supermarkets and wholefoods/spice stores.
- Fresh parsley – chopped parsley adds beautiful specks of green amongst the red sumac red onions, but you can leave this out if you don’t have any.
- Lemon juice – you can use red wine vinegar as an alternative to lemon juice.
- Extra virgin olive oil – use the best olive oil you can, for a greater flavour in your onion salad.
How to make Turkish onions from scratch
- Carefully slice the red onions finely with a sharp knife, place in a bowl and cover with water, leave for 30 minutes.
- Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice.
- Drain the onions, add the sumac, finely chopped parsley and drizzle over the lemon dressing.
- Mix well to combine.
Sumac is the dried and ground fruit of a shrub called Rhus that grows throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean. It is often used in dressings, spice rubs, dressings and as a condiment.
Sumac is tart and tangy, with a hint of lemon-lime.
Soak the sliced onions in water for 30 minutes, then drain, pat dry, and use.
My recipe tips
- Soaking the onions first helps them lose their fiery onion flavour. You can omit this step if you want more sharp onion flavour, but we prefer the more subdued tones.
- Use your hands to massage the sumac and lemon dressing in to the red onions, this really helps get the flavour in to the onions.
- The onions should taste lemony – both from the sumac and lemon juice.
- Grilled kababs or meats – these sumac onions are the best for shawarma, and they are a must at a barbecue – try spooned over sausages for the best hotdog!
- With Turkish köfte, lamb, kebap, or shish kebab, with pita bread, rice or couscous.
- In a sandwich or wrap – try with leftover baked chicken on a wrap with slices of tomatoes – a personal favourite!
- On rice bowls or roast chickpeas or vegetables.
- As part of a Turkish mezze with ezme (Turkish pepper salad), Kisir (Turkish bulgar salad), some white cheese, Haydari (strained yogurt dip) and some flatbreads.
Some people like to add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for some spice, or drizzle of sweet-sour pomegranate molasses to their sumac onions.
These onions with sumac will keep for up to 5 days, covered, in the fridge.
Ideas for leftover Turkish onion salad
As you can see from the list of varied serving ideas listed above, these marinated onions have so many different uses! Toss a spoonful through pasta with some cooked chicken and broccoli, add to a cheese sandwich, or sprinkle over a simple salad.
Why not try…
You may also like these recipes for easy and fresh sides and condiments:
- 1 red onion peeled and finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice From approx ½ a lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- Peel and finely slice the red onion – cut in half and then finely slice in to moon shapes.
- Soak the sliced onion in water for 30 minutes (this step is optional)
- Drain the onions then pat dry on kitchen paper towel.
- Place the onions in a mixing bowl.
- Whisk the lemon juice and oil together.
- Add the sumac, chopped parsley and salt to the onions with the lemon dressing.
- Stir well to combine – use your hands to massage the lemon flavour into the onions.
- Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Their flavour will mellow the longer they are kept.