Musakhan – means heated up in Arabic. It is a dish of Sumac seasoned chicken on a bed of onions sitting on a flatbread called Taboon bread. Click to read more about taboon bread and oven.
Although this dish is found all around the Levantine area, it is Palestinian in origin. In fact, many an argument has broken out over whether it is the Musakhan or the Maqlouba that is the national dish of Palestine!
Musakan is traditionally made during the olive pressing season and the recipe calls for the onions to be cooked in a huge amount of olive oil (don’t worry I’ve cut it down!).
The principle is very similar to the Turkish Zeytinyağlı dishes or “olive oil foods”, where vegetables are slow simmered in a whole lot of olive oil resulting in deliciously soft and full flavoured dishes.
This is how we make musakhan:
- Cook the chicken in one pot
- Cook the onions in a different pot while the chicken is cooking
- Take the chicken out and brown it (on the stove or under a grill/broiler)
- Mix the onions into the sauce left behind by the chicken
- Assemble the musakhan – bread, onion sauce, chicken, then garnish
Taboon bread is probably not the easiest to find for many of us. The good news is, it is so easy to make, and doesn’t take long.
However, if you don’t fancy making your own bread, I suggest using any form of flat Middle Eastern bread you have access to, pita would work too, with the added advantage that you can stuff it with the chicken, if you are so inclined. Even tortillas, nans, chapatis and parathas would work well for this.
Manoushe, the Lebanese Za’atar bread above, is probably one of my favourite bases for Musakhan, aside from taboon bread.
You can also eat Musakhan as wraps, which in my opinion, makes it easier to eat! Let’s face it, this is definitely food to be eaten with your hands.
Ideally we want to use chicken on the bone, for a better flavour. Just shred the chicken after cooking to fill your flatbread. Musakhan wraps make great picnic food and are perfect on the summer table.
This is how you make musakhan wraps:
- Shred the chicken
- Spread the onion sauce all over the flatbread
- Top with shredded chicken
- Garnish with pine nuts, parsley and sumac
- Roll up and eat up!
More Middle Eastern Recipes
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Musakhan (Sumac flavoured chicken and onions on flatbread)
For the Chicken
- 4 large chicken legs or 8 chicken thighs
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 small clove garlic crushed
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp Sumac
- 1 tsp salt to taste
- ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 500 ml water
For the Onions
- 4 medium onions finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp Sumac
- 2 cardamoms seeds only, ground
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 pieces Taboon bread OR flatbread of your choice
- a little Sumac for sprinkling over
- handful of pine nuts
- Marinate the chicken with the lemon juice, sumac, salt and pepper and leave aside for 30 minutes, while you get the other ingredients ready.
- Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a good sized frying pan and sauté the onions on medium heat until they are soft, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, stir and cook for a minute.
- Add the chicken and stir to coat. Arrange the chicken pieces neatly flat in the pan and add the water.
- Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 45-60 minutes until the chicken is just done, depending on what portion you’re using.
- While the chicken is cooking, let’s get the onions going.
- Take a medium sized saucepan and heat the 3 Tbsp of olive oil on medium heat and sauté the rest of the onions.
- After about 1 minute, reduce the heat right down and let the onions cook away for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. They should be very soft, just golden.
- At the end of this cooking time, stir in the sumac, salt and cardamom, cook for a minute and set aside while waiting for the chicken to be done. This waiting period will allow the flavours to develop.
Back to the Chicken
- At the end of the cooking time for the chicken, take the chicken pieces out onto a plate, reserving the gravy/stock.
- Place the chicken under a hot grill (broiler) and brown both sides, about 2 minutes each side.
Back to the onions
- Tip the onion mix into the sauce left by the chicken and bring up to boil at high heat. Keep cooking until the sauce has reduced, while the chicken is grilling.
How to Serve Musakhan
- Warm your flatbreads up either in the microwave for a few seconds, or just place them under the chicken in the grill (broiler).
- Top each bread with the onion mixture, place a chicken leg (or 2 thighs), scatter with pine nuts, parsley and a little Sumac.
- Serve hot, with extra bread on the side to soak up all the juices, and some yoghurt if you fancy.