Musakhan – Sumac Chicken with Sautéed Onions

Musakhan (Arabic: مسخّن‎‎) is a Jordanian dish, composed of roasted chicken baked with onions, sumac, allspice, saffron, and fried pine nuts served over taboon bread. It is also known as muhammar (Arabic: محمر‎‎). It is often considered the national dish of Palestine.

The dish is simple to make and the ingredients needed are easily obtainable, which may account for the dish’s popularity. Many of the ingredients used — olive oil, sumac and pine nuts — are frequently found in Jordan cuisine. The dish is also popular in levant, particularly among Jordanians.

Musakhan is a dish that one typically eats with one’s hands. It is usually presented with the chicken on top of the bread, and could be served with soup. The term ‘musakhan’ literally means “something that is heated.”

Musakhan - Sumac Chicken with Sautéed Onions
Bread is so important in the cooking of the Middle East and there are breads that are particular for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bakers in Amman come from the many countries that surround Jordan, and many are refugees, but bread is a reminder of who you are and where you are from. This recipe is based on a bread called taboun from Palestine: chicken spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and sumac is placed on lightly caramelised onions and is traditionally baked in a bread oven. All the flavours of the chicken and onions seep into the bread to make a heavenly dish that you just have to dig into and eat with your hands!
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Recipe type: Chicken
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 2 tablespoons sumac
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • good pinch sea salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 chicken breasts, trimmed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 675 g small onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 4 large thick flatbreads (taboon, lavash or markook, depending on what you can find or make)
  • 2 cups coriander leaves
  • 50 g toasted blanched almonds (or pine nuts)
  • ¾ cup roasted red and green chillies
  1. Combine the sumac, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt in a small bowl. Set aside 2 teaspoons, then add the lemon juice to the remaining spice mix. Rub the mixture all over the chicken, then place in a non-metallic dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight if time permits.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, then sprinkle over the reserved spice mixture and toss gently to coat. Add ⅓ cup water, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the onion is completely softened but still holding its shape. Transfer to a bowl with all the juices and allow to cool.
  3. Wipe out the pan and place over medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil and when hot, cook the chicken pieces until lightly golden all over.
  4. Arrange the flatbreads in an overlapping layer in a large, lightly oiled shallow baking dish or a large roasting tin. Spoon over the softened onion mixture, then top with the chicken pieces and drizzle any pan juices on top. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through and tender.
  5. Scatter over the coriander, almonds, and roasted chillies, then place in the centre of the table for everyone to help themselves.


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