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Musakhan is one of Palestine’s greatest gifts to the world, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll know why

March 4, 2018 at 8:00 am

Musakhan is one of Palestine’s greatest gifts to the world, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll know why.

Musakhan could easily be considered Palestine’s national dish, as it is the most popular dish served there and its ingredients are a celebration of Palestine, most importantly, its olive oil.

The word “musakhan” means “heated up” in Arabic, which refers to the fact that the dish’s components are made separately and then heated up together, resulting in the final product. Musakhan is a very simple and straightforward dish that relies on the quality of the ingredients used, so make sure you use the freshest and highest quality ingredients you can find.

Another important tip to remember is when making the onions, adding a dash of salt in the beginning ensures the onions soften without caramelising. This dish is distinguished by its tangy flavour, given to it by the sumac. It is important to use the best sumac you can find. The darker the colour the better the quality. Definitely steer clear of the pink sumac in stores. Look for a deep purple colour. Taboun bread is traditionally used for this dish, but since it isn’t always easy to find outside of the Middle East, naan or a thick flatbread can be used instead.

Musakhan is usually served with a side of yogurt and eaten with one’s hands. Many people like to shred the chicken and roll it up in the bread, making a sandwich. However you eat it, make sure you have lots of napkins on hand because it isn’t the neatest meal to eat and if olive oil isn’t dripping from the bread, you didn’t do it right!



  • 6 large onions, cut into half-moons
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp sumac (or to taste)


  • 1 chicken (4 pieces, skin on)
  • 1 small onion
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp reserved chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp mixed spices
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tbsp sumac


  • 3-4 taboun or naan bread
  • Reserved chicken broth
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Toasted almonds
  • Parsley
  • Sumac
  • Olive oil


  1. To make the onions, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and sprinkle with salt. The salt helps soften the onions without caramelising them. Place on low heat and cover, stirring occasionally.
  2. For the chicken, heat the olive oil in a large pot and once hot, place the chicken pieces skin side down. Brown the chicken and then add the onion, spices and enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to the boil and skim off the fat and cover. Let boil until the chicken is cooked. Strain the chicken and reserve the stock. Place the chicken in a baking tray.
  3. Mix together the lemon juice, chicken broth, and ground spices and pour evenly over the chicken. Brown the chicken until heated through and the skin is golden and crispy before serving.
  4. Once the onions have completely softened, add the sumac. The amount of sumac used depends on the type of sumac you have, as some is stronger than others, and your own personal taste. The darker the sumac, the better quality and stronger taste.
  5. To assemble, pour enough broth on each piece of bread to moisten it, drizzle with olive oil, and spread some of the onion mixture evenly over the bread. Sprinkle with some more sumac and place on a baking sheet. Place in an oven pre-heated to 200C for about 10 minutes, or until the bread is toasted and golden.
  6. Top the bread with the baked chicken and sprinkle with pine nuts, almonds and parsley. Serve alongside some yogurt and enjoy.