Pomegranate sumac chicken is a quick sheet pan meal that serves up succulent chicken thighs that have a bewitching flavor from the mixture of Middle Eastern spices in the marinade. Pomegranate molasses, sumac, allspice, and Aleppo pepper make a sticky, sweet, and spicy dinner.
This is an easy chicken sheet pan recipe inspired by a meal I ate at Reem, a restaurant on the Greek island of Lesvos run by Mahmud Talli. Mahmud is a powerhouse of energy and, when I met him, he was splitting his time between volunteering at a local community center and running the restaurant. A Syrian doctor who managed to escape the war, Mahmud found himself trapped on the island after seeking refuge there, and soon put all his efforts into helping to provide services for new arrivals to Lesvos. Reem serves traditional Syrian food to hungry tourists, volunteers, locals, and refugees alike and this was one of my favorite dishes on the menu.–Yasmin Khan
Pomegranate Sumac Chicken
For the marinade
For the chicken
- 8 large bone-in chicken thighs or a whole chicken (about 3 lbs | 1.4 kg) cut into 8 pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Make the marinade
- In a large bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
Marinate the chicken
- Add the chicken to the marinade and, using your hands, massage the chicken until it is evenly coated, then cover and stash in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
- When you're ready to cook, take the chicken out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature (this will take about 20 minutes).
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
☞TESTER TIP: Line your sheet pan with foil for easier clean up.
*What is Aleppo pepper?Named after the Syrian city, Aleppo pepper is a brightly colored, mildly spicy dried pepper that has a unique taste—a little raisiny, a little tomatoey, a little peppery. It’s widely used in the Middle East and is becoming more popular in North America. It makes a terrific replacement for the ubiquitous red chile flake, but with a little more flavor. At the same time, you can use red chile flakes, hot paprika, or ancho chiles if you can’t find Aleppo pepper.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Two of my favorite pantry staples are pomegranate molasses and sumac, but I sometimes struggle with using them since there aren't many recipes in my repertoire that incorporate them. This recipe for pomegranate sumac chicken, fortunately, finds a way to pair them together in a way that made me say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
My favorite trait of pomegranate molasses is that it caramelizes beautifully. This definitely had a positive effect on how the thigh skin cooked—subtly crispy, full of flavor, nicely rendered. *chef’s kiss* Underneath the flavorful blanket on top was tender, succulent meat, perfectly cooked and waiting to be savored.
Thanks to its marinating time, the skin’s punchy flavors also had a bit of presence in the thigh meat. The fruity sumac and warm allspice flavors, for example, played nicely in the background with the meat’s overwhelming juiciness. I wasn’t getting much flavor from the garlic, though, so I’d probably grate the cloves into the marinade instead of crushing them the next time I make this. I served the chicken with roasted carrots and fennel.
As much as I love its effect on food, the molasses’ strength is a huge weakness when it comes to cleaning. Because it caramelizes so quickly, it often evolves into burnt concrete on your pan by the time your food’s done roasting in the oven. In this situation, you could probably avoid a lot of soaking and strenuous scrubbing afterward by propping the thighs on top of a rack over your sheet pan prior to sticking it in the oven.
This pomegranate sumac chicken is an easy, flavorful weeknight chicken dish that the family enjoyed, and it helped round out a little (maybe big) discussion on the Middle East, too. It was nice to use a good amount of spices in my drawer that aren’t called for often: sumac, Aleppo chile, and allspice, plus that bottle of pomegranate molasses which rounded out the spice with a little tangy sweet--it's SO good.
We wanted an appropriate side, so Googled sumac chicken and found a recipe for cucumbers with yogurt and red onion but it was a little heavy on the yogurt. Something between that and an Asian cucumber salad would be nice. Maybe hummus would be a better starter? We tried a Spanish Basque region white that wasn’t quite right, nor was the red we went to—an opportunity for exploration all around.
Originally published July 18, 2021