Mussakhan (Palestinian chicken wrap with onions and sumac)

This dish is inspired by the classic Palestinian dish called mussakhan (pronounce moo-ssa-khann), which is Arabic for “heated up”.

A thin bread encases chicken and rings of caramelized onions fragrant with sumac.

I like to use a Lebanese flatbread called markook for this dish, although a large pita (or several small ones) will do just fine as a substitute.

The lemony  aroma of sumac comes wafting out of the envelope of bread. After baking, the bread is crackly and gets torn up in bite-size pieces. The chicken  pieces get  pulled up and placed on the bread with a few onion rings.

A great dish to take to a picnic. A dish to feed to an army of men who like to eat with their fingers!

I have used both deboned and bone-in chicken pieces and prefer the bone-in; it delivers more chicken flavor. To save time and effort, use deboned chicken and cut it in bite-size pieces.

If you can’t get a hold of a large and very thin piece of flatbread, then use some pita bread, split  open and stuff  with chicken and onions.

Sumac is sold in all spice stores, Middle-Eastern stores and online. Be wary of sumac that looks bright red, it is usually dyed! It needs to be a dull brownish-red color. Sumac imparts a lemony, sour taste to the dish.


  • 1 package of chicken thighs, bone-in (about 6 per package)
  • 1 jumbo yellow onion sliced in rings
  • 3 Tablespoons of sumac
  • A splash of white wine (optional) to deglaze the skillet  (around one cup)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 markook breads or 2 large pita breads (or 3 standard-size pitas)
  • olive oil, as needed


  1. Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet and stir-fry the onions until soft and golden. Sprinkle with sumac and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, add a splash of olive oil and fry the chicken pieces until golden on both sides, sprinkling them with salt and pepper. Do not cook them thoroughly, they will finish cooking in the oven.
  3. The skillet will have browned bits of chicken; deglaze the skillet by pouring around one cup of white wine and letting it sizzle; dislodge the browned bits with a wooden spoon and add more water if needed to get 2 or 3 cups of liquid; simmer the “stock” for about 10 minutes until it is reduced a bit and has a good chicken stock flavor, adding salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Cover a large baking pan with foil; place one piece of bread on the pan; scatter half the onions in the middle of the bread  and lay a maximum of 3 chicken pieces on the onion rings. Sprinkle with the remainder of the sumac and close the bread like a parcel. Fold over to have the seams at the bottom and with a spoon douse the bread with  one cup of the chicken stock. Repeat the operation for the second bread.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350F (180 C) oven till the bread is golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

TIPS: A substitute for sumac would be to squeeze the juice of a lemon and douse the chicken and onion with it right before baking.

The chicken should only be half-cooked before baking. The bread needs to be brushed or sprinkled with chicken stock prior to entering the oven.

Some people like to sprinkle salt and sumac on the onions prior to frying; the salt will draw out the moisture from the onions and they will become crispier. I don’t find it necessary.

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  1. Posted December 14, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    A Middle Eastern Chicken Wellington!

  2. Posted December 14, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Such a fabulous looking chicken inviting.

  3. Posted December 14, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    j’aimera bien gouter le gout de cette fameuse épice, mais je la trouve pas ici…
    merci du partage de cette belle recette.. bisous

  4. Posted December 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Your posts always make me so hungry. What a delicious chicken recipe this is!
    *kisses* HH

  5. Posted December 14, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    This is a bit like modern “beggar chicken” in Chinese cuisine , which is wrapped with bread. Totally flavoursome!

  6. jenny
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I love this dish! I learned to make it in a cooking class in Jordan, but have never tried to recreate it yet. Yummy!

  7. Lazaro
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Lovely dish. Fantastic flavors at work here. I am a big fan of sumac.


  8. Posted December 14, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic taste!!….I love sumac!!….your chicken is very yummy!!….Abrazotes, Marcela

  9. Marie-Claire
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    J’avais découvert le sumac dans une de tes vinaigrettes chez Anne-Marie. Je vais essayer cette recette ce weekend! Elle a l’air excellente.

  10. Posted December 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Tu m’invites quand tu veux.
    Je viendrai avec plaisir et gourmandise.
    A bientôt.

  11. Posted December 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    This looks great – never seen anything like this before.I think I’d prefer to leave the chicken on the bone, too. We love sumac; especially with onions. A cupboard should never be without it.

  12. Posted December 14, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Great idea! I need to find this “sumac” !!!

  13. Posted December 14, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I love this dish! Summac and onions is the ultimate combination.

    I’ve made it a couple times with flour tortillas and using small cut up pieces of boneless chicken. I made them into little individual rolls, like taquitos.

    I’ve also made it without any bread, just the chicken and filling in a glass casserole dish and added a couple sliced potatos.

  14. Posted December 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Woww this looks incredibly exotic and authentic!!! I must try this someday, when I get back from holidays!! Have a wonderful holiday season :)

  15. Posted December 14, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    This is an absolute favorite in our house. Yours looks fantastic, Joumana!

  16. Posted December 14, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I just love this. I made it for the first time a couple of months ago and fell in love with it. The kids like it too, so that makes it even better in my book!
    I will be giving your version a run tonight, thanks Joumana!

  17. Posted December 14, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Love the flavors in this wrap. Very inviting

  18. Posted December 14, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    That would be perfect picnic food!! I’ve never cooked with sumac, so I can’t even begin to imagine the flavor. I hope to find a Middle Eastern market soon so I can stock up on all these lovely things you’re posting. :-)

  19. Posted December 14, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    sounds interesting…

  20. SYLVIA
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Joumana dear, thanks to you this is my new favorite recipe, everyone in my family loved it, we even had some friends over for a casual dinner, they flipped over it. It was a terrific night inn, sometimes food tastes so much better when eating with friends,
    sumac really brings this dish it to life, I like that purple hue that it gives, this meal has so much aroma and taste that it hits you right away.
    Doused in the sauce this amazing chicken takes a nap covered by the markook comforter. It’s nice when you don’t need to polish silverware, and the bread can be used as a utensil.
    Sumac contains antioxidants, my grandmother picked sumac berries all the time, she dried them, then crushed them it was tangy and clean, she also used it as antimicrobial. Joumana you’re the best.

  21. Posted December 15, 2010 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    This looks perfect in every way… I can even call it Armenian chicken because we use lavash all the time… but had no idea that it translated to Markook in Arabic. In fact, I am currently in love with a lavash brand that’s just the best. It’s called Kargin Lavash… but not sure if they are a big establishment. I have to make this for the family for sure.

  22. Posted December 15, 2010 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    These little wraps of chicken sound delicious Joumana. When i saw soumac in the s/m one day i bought it and I had no idea what to do with it. Now I know.

  23. Posted December 15, 2010 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    I have never heard of sumac before and had to look it up. It seems I would only be able to buy it on line but I see you have a substitute so may be I will try that. This looks very yummy. Diane

  24. Posted December 15, 2010 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Exciting dish with sumac! What goes with this delightful recipe is the culture behind it that really makes it an eating experience. I tasted sumac in a Persian restaurant once before and really liked it but never came around using it but I must now. Your narrative writing makes all the difference. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Posted December 15, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I have never hear from this tasty dish before but it surely looks wonderful, tasty & apart!


  26. Posted December 15, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    And I thought I was head over heels in love with the last recipe…

  27. Posted December 15, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    This looks really good. Do you think that the chicken could be substituted with fish or perhaps tofu or tempeh for a pescetarian or vegetarian version?

  28. Joumana
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    @Stevie: Why not? let me know how it turns out! I love white fish with sumac, the sumac brings the fish to life.

  29. Posted December 15, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    je crois que ma pâte à mahjouba ferait tout à fait l’affaire. merci pour ce partage!

  30. Posted December 15, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    That is one wrap that I would LOVE to bite into!

  31. Posted December 15, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to look for sumac and the reddish-brown variety. This looks so welcoming and I love coming here to find delicacies that are outside my “box.”

  32. Posted December 16, 2010 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    Goodness. That looks splendid! The “bread” outside seriously is thin enough to be crispy, but thick enough to encase all that wonderful filling and flavor in there…sooo drooling!

  33. Posted December 16, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    This looks and sounds so inviting! The sumac sounds perfect for this dish.

  34. Posted December 16, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I am a huge friend of sumac and love the flavor… I even made lavash once and it was delicious and not that hard… this is great for between holidays…

  35. Posted December 16, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Mmmm…I can smell the goodness wafting from this dish. I have some sumac, but will have to search for a lavash worthy of this dish. – S

  36. Posted December 16, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I’m here again! Thanks always for your inspiring comments! I posted 3 more pictures on how to put and seal the empanada. I hope it is clear enough on photo. I have such difficulty in detailing it in English! Sorry!

  37. Posted December 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing dish! I love it, edible en papier! Thanks ofr the sumac tip as well, I was wondering about the too bright red bags! Happy Holidays!

  38. Posted December 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    The crackly bread with sumac and chicken sounds delicious! That would be a terrific dish to bring on a picnic.

  39. Posted December 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Ah, it looks like a wellington style of chicken. Many goodies were wrapped inside. Can imagine that the meat was moist and tender.

  40. Posted December 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    je decouvre ton delicieux blog
    hilwe ktir yalli 3am te3melih, hadi aklate bitkhalli el 3ael ytir, hihihiihih
    un peu de libanais, la3younik, ya hilwi

  41. Posted December 16, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    This is fantastic and but for the lavash I’ve got everything in the fridge and pantry…must make soon and keep you posted!

    hugs, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  42. Posted December 17, 2010 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    A while ago, I had a similar dish at a friend’s Mom’s Egyptian kitchen…it was delish! How great to have a recipe I may one day surprise her with.
    Also…I’ve seen the very thin flatbread in the store…yet, never bought any…hmm…something else to put on my list ;o)

    Ciao for now,

  43. Posted December 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh I love sumac…lovely dish and great flavors.

  44. Posted December 17, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    I love anything with sumac, and this wrap just sounds like a winner, packed with flavor.

  45. Posted December 18, 2010 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    Lovely. Looks like a baked (and sealed) chicken shawarma roll.

  46. Posted December 18, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I have sumac, and have not even begun to explore its many uses. I really love this way, I can imagine how fragrant everything is when you open up those pockets of goodness.

  47. Posted January 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Yummy it’s a fantastic dish to make.
    Just made it! it’s juicy and crispy and full of flavours! mmmmmm….

  48. Posted March 8, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Une bonne préparation pleine de saveurs et si adorablement ” enveloppée ” un régal en vérité…j’ aime beaucoup, bisous

  49. Posted July 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    YUM!! This was one of my favorite meals growing up. My grandmother would make it for us. Her method was a little different but the end result was the same. My favorite part was the soggy bread on the bottom filled with all the flavors of the onion, chicken and sumak… You have inspired me to make this very soon. Thanks …;-)~

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