Musakhan, pronounced moo-sah-khahn, is a traditional Palestinian dish that has also gained popularity in other neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. It captures the essence of Middle Eastern cuisine by harmonizing warm spices, tender chicken, caramelized onions, and sumac-infused flatbread. The outcome is a burst of flavors that will leave your taste buds yearning for another bite.
Originating from humble beginnings, Musakhan has evolved over time and has become a staple at family gatherings, festive occasions, and daily meals. Its preparation is not only an art but also a cultural tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. The dish carried historical significance, representing the spirit of unity and shared meals in Middle Eastern communities.
The beauty of Musakhan lies in its simplicity, allowing the quality and combination of ingredients to shine. Succulent chicken, fragrant spices like cumin and allspice, aromatic olive oil, tangy sumac, and sweet caramelized onions work in perfect harmony, creating a symphony of flavors that is nothing short of extraordinary.
Below, we will take you step by step through the process of making Musakhan, from the preparation of the ingredients to the final assembly. We will share tips, tricks, and variations, allowing you to personalize this classic dish to suit your taste and preferences.
Easy And Simple Musakhan Recipe
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken pieces, 1/4 cup of olive oil, ground sumac, ground allspice, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom salt, and pepper. Thoroughly combine the ingredients, ensuring the chicken is evenly coated. Let it marinate for approximately 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
3. Option 1: In the same skillet, add a little more olive oil if needed, and sear the marinated chicken pieces on both sides until they develop a golden-brown color. This step helps lock in the flavors before roasting them in the oven. When your chicken is done, leave the chicken juices as they can be used to flavor the onions.
4. Option 2 (Traditional way): Arrange the marinated chicken pieces on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Roast them in the oven for approximately 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and achieves a golden brown color. Remove from the oven and set aside.
5. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions to the pan and sauté them over medium heat until they transform into a luscious golden brown color, ensuring to stir occasionally for even caramelization. This process may take around 15-20 minutes. Set aside the caramelized onions. If you cooked the chicken in the same skillet previously, pour in all chicken juices to help add a depth of flavor.
6. To assemble, place the flatbread pieces on a large baking pan. Evenly distribute the caramelized onion mixture over the surface of the flatbread. Arrange the roasted chicken pieces on top of the cooked onions. Once the chicken and onion mixture is situated, sprinkle toasted pine nuts on top.
7. Position the baking pan beneath the broiler and allow it to cook for approximately 2-4 minutes, or until the edges of the bread begin to turn golden brown.
8. Once musakhan is cooked to perfection, you can add any garnishes, and it is ready to be served. Musakhan is typically served family-style, allowing everyone to tear off pieces of the flatbread and chicken to enjoy together. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Tips & Notes
Marinate the chicken: Give the chicken enough time to marinate in the spice mixture, and this allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and enhance its taste. Ideally, marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, or for more intense flavor, marinate it overnight in the refrigerator.
Caramelize the onions well: Take your time when caramelizing the onions. Slowly cooking them over low to medium heat until they turn golden brown will develop their natural sweetness and enhance the dish's overall flavor. Stir occasionally to prevent them from burning.
Keep an eye on the chicken: When cooking it in the skillet before baking, brown it on all sides without overcooking it. The chicken will finish cooking in the oven, so it's essential to achieve a nice golden crust while retaining juiciness.
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 26.2g
Saturated Fat 5.1g
Total Carbohydrate 35.9g
Dietary Fiber 5.7g
Total Sugars 6g
Vitamin D 0mcg
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
What is Musakhan
Musakhan, often called Musakhan sumac chicken, is a dish traditionally made during the olive oil pressing season, so fresh olive oil can be used to make this dish. Musakhan is essentially a roasted chicken dish with a flavorful topping of caramelized onions, toasted pine nuts, and sumac.
Chicken pieces are commonly marinated in a flavorful blend of spices, including sumac, cumin, turmeric, and other traditional regional spices, to prepare the dish. The chicken is then roasted until tender and juicy. The whole dish is served on taboon bread or markook, a traditional Palestinian bread very similar to Greek pita bread.
What Ingredients You Will Need To Make Musakhan
Musakhan traditionally uses chicken as the main protein. You can choose to use a whole chicken cut into pieces or specific parts like chicken thighs or drumsticks. The chicken provides a juicy and tender element to the dish.
Using a whole chicken can be a great option as you can cut it into pieces and offer a mix of white and dark meat, which can result in a flavorful combination of juicy and tender meat. You have the option to portion the chicken into pieces, such as legs, thighs, wings, and breasts.
Whole chicken thighs are a popular choice for Musakhan because they are known for their tender and moist meat. They have a higher fat content, which adds richness to the dish and helps keep the meat succulent during cooking. Chicken thighs with bone and skin intact are frequently favored for enhanced flavor.
Chicken legs or drumsticks are another options for Musakhan, especially if you enjoy chicken with a slightly firmer texture. They contain a generous amount of meat and can become wonderfully flavorful when carefully marinated and roasted.
Traditionally, Musakhan is made using chicken with the skin on. The chicken skin adds flavor and helps keep the chicken moist during the cooking process. When roasted, the chicken skin becomes crispy, which adds a delightful texture to the dish.
However, if you prefer to reduce the fat content or for personal dietary reasons, you can choose to use skinless chicken pieces for Musakhan. The dish will still be delicious and flavorful, although you may miss out on the crispy texture and added richness that the chicken skin provides.
Chopped onions play a significant role in Musakhan, providing a sweet and caramelized flavor. It's preferable to use yellow onion or sweet onions for their natural sweetness.
Sumac is a crucial spice in Palestinian cuisine, known for its tangy and slightly acidic flavor, and it adds a distinct taste to Musakhan. Ground sumac is used in the marinade for the chicken, as well as a garnish.
Olive oil is a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking, including Musakhan, and it is used for both marinating the chicken and sautéing the onions. Look for a good quality olive oil for the best flavor.
Adding thyme to Musakhan can be a delightful flavor enhancement that adds a fresh and herbaceous note. Thyme is a versatile herb commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, known for its earthy and slightly floral flavor.
When incorporated into Musakhan, thyme can complement the other spices and ingredients, bringing a vibrant and aromatic element. It adds a layer of complexity and freshness that pairs well with the roasted chicken and caramelized onions.
Cardamom, known for its strong aroma, is a highly aromatic spice that finds common usage in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Scandinavian culinary traditions. It has a distinct flavor profile with citrusy, minty, and slightly sweet notes.
When added to Musakhan, cardamom can contribute a fragrant and exotic element to the dish, and it elevates the overall aroma and introduces a delicate complexity to the flavors. Combining cardamom with other spices like sumac, cumin, and cinnamon can create a unique and harmonious blend of flavors.
In Musakhan, a small pinch of ground cinnamon is used to enhance the overall flavor profile of the dish. The cinnamon adds warmth and depth, complementing the other spices like sumac and allspice. It does not overpower the dish but rather provides a gentle background note that blends harmoniously with the savory elements.
Allspice is a warm and aromatic spice commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine, and it adds depth and richness to the flavor profile of Musakhan. When ground, it releases aromatic notes that evoke a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Flatbread is an integral part of Musakhan, as it serves as a base for the dish. Traditional Palestinian bread, such as taboon or markook is commonly used. These breads have a thin and soft texture, making them ideal for absorbing the delectable flavors of the chicken and onions. If you can't find specific Palestinian bread, substitute it with other thin flatbreads like pita bread, lavash, Greek pita bread, or naan.
Lightly toasted pine nuts can be sprinkled on top of Musakhan before serving. They contribute a crispy texture and a subtly nutty flavor that harmonizes beautifully with the dish.
How to make Musakhan rolls
Another way to make Musakhan is to turn them into rolls like Taquitos. To make the rolls, here is the step-by-step guide:
Prepare the Musakhan filling
Start by making the Musakhan filling consisting of roasted chicken, caramelized onions, and toasted pine nuts. You can refer to the Musakhan recipe provided earlier for detailed instructions on filling preparation.
Warm the flatbread
Place the flatbread on a clean surface or a plate. You can lightly warm the flatbread by heating it in a dry skillet for a few seconds on each side or microwave it for a few seconds to make it more pliable.
Assemble the rolls
Take a flatbread and place it in a flat position on a clean surface. Spoon a portion of the Musakhan filling onto the lower half of the flatbread. Spread it evenly, leaving some space around the edges.
Roll it up
Beginning at the bottom, roll the flatbread tightly over the filling, making sure to fold in the sides as you proceed. Continue rolling until you reach the top, creating a secure and compact roll.
Repeat the process
Repeat the process with the remaining flatbread and Musakhan filling, making as many rolls as desired.
Brush with oil or butter
Brush the top of each Musakhan roll with a little olive oil or melted butter. This step helps to add flavor and keep the rolls moist.
Heat and crisp
Place the Musakhan rolls on a baking sheet and lightly brush the bottom with oil or butter as well. Place them in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 10-15 minutes, or until the rolls are heated through, and the edges are lightly crisp.
How to Elevate Musakhan
Experiment with spices
While traditional spices like sumac, cumin, and cinnamon are fundamental to Musakhan, you can enhance the flavor profile by adding your own twist. Consider adding spices like paprika, coriander, or nutmeg to create a more complex and personalized flavor profile.
Just before serving, drizzle a bit of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice over the Musakhan to infuse it with a lively and tangy flavor. The citrus juice can balance the dish's richness and brighten the flavors.
Garnish with flair
Consider garnishing the Musakhan with additional toppings to elevate its presentation. Toasted pine nuts, slivered almonds, or pomegranate seeds can add texture and visual appeal, and arrange them strategically on top of the dish before serving.
Add fresh herbs
Finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, or mint, can give the dish a burst of freshness and vibrant color. Sprinkle the herbs over the Musakhan just before serving to add a bright contrast to the warm flavors.