Musakhan – Roasted Chicken with Onions and Sumach on Pita Bread

Musakhan (=browned during additional baking) is a Palestinian dish, which is developed in Nablus over the years and is a good example of the influence of various occupying powers on the local cuisine.


Crusaders loved meat and fowl and they often ate meats on a flat bread. The bread absorbed the juices of the meat, which made it soft and juicy. They especially appreciated the local herbs and prices and used them on all of their meals in the Holy Land in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Musakhan Sumac Chicken
Musakhan Sumac Chicken

This roast chicken dish is one delicacy that resulted from the Crusaders’ encounter with local Muslims. Over the years, Nablus was in the center point of developing this dish even more and many Palestinian families developed their own varieties. Today the dish has spread all over the Middle East and North Africa. What’s also special and a variant of this recipe is the Musakhan rolls (instead of flat bread (Pita), the bread is covering the meat (rolled up).

Musakhan Rolls
Musakhan Rolls

  • 1 large or 2 small chickens (about 4 lb or 2 kg)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) olive oil
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, and bahar or turmeric (optional)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons ground sumach (rhus)
  • 3-4 onions, sliced into strips
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 lb (500 g) pita dough

  1. Rinse the chicken in cold water and wipe dry.
  2. If using two small chickens, halve them lengthwise with a sharp knife and cut each half into two pieces.
  3. If using a large chicken, cut it into 6 to 10 pieces.
  4. In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, Y4 cup (60 ml) of the olive oil, the crushed garlic, spices, and 1 heaped tablespoon of ground sumach.
  5. Immerse the chicken, coating all the pieces well, and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  6. Roast in a covered dish at 350’F (I8o C, gas mark 4) for about an hour, or until the juices run clear, and the internal temperature of the meat reaches I80’F (82 C).
  7. In a deep frying pan, saute the onions in the remaining oil until golden.
  8. Add the pine nuts, mix, and remove from the heat.
  9. Increase the oven heat to 425’F (220C, gas mark 7).
  10. Cut the pita dough into fist-size pieces and flatten each piece into a round about ¼ in (½ cm) thick.
  11. Place the rounds on a baking sheet and bake for 4 to 5 minutes.
  12. Remove, but leave the oven on.
  13. Lay half the fried onions over the pitas. Place the chicken pieces on top, and then cover with the remaining onions.
  14. Sprinkle with sumac and return to the oven.
  15. Bake until the top browns and serve immediately.
Musakhan Rolls
Musakhan Rolls
Musakhan on a plat with mix
Musakhan on a plat with mix

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