Musakhan is the national dish of Palestine, and it is as tasty as it is unique.
Definitely one of my favorite things to eat from the Middle East, and when made well, it makes you want to eat your fingers up after it, as the Arab expression goes.
It’s an easy recipe to make but a hard one to make just right.
The trick is to get the perfect balance of well done chicken, soft bread with just enough crunch to it, onions that are translucent but not mushy, and sumac with olive oil that provides flavor without being grainy or greasy!
My Aunt Selwa makes the best Musakhan by far in our family.
It’s the way we all remember eating it back in Palestine when my Grandmother would make it.
Our whole family will gather when she makes this for lunch.
It’s quite funny when you invite people who aren’t from the Middle East to come and eat this with my family.
What is Musakhan?
Musakhan literally translates as ‘heated up’ and is typically served on taboon bread, which is a thicker variety of flatbread cooked over hot rocks.
Musakhan is an Arab dish originating from Palestine.
All these ingredients are served over taboon bread which is a very famous old Palestinian bread that is cooked in a Taboon oven.
It was probably originated as a way to use up day old bread which is common to many cultures.
It is traditionally eaten with the hands, and can guarantee a messy experience of eating.
But there is no better way to eat this dish.
It’s quite difficult to eat with a knife and fork.
With your hands you can more easily gather up a piece of each ingredient for a full Musakhan experience with every bite.
Palestinian food is some of the best Middle Eastern food you can find in the Levant.
You may also know this dish as ‘Muhammar’.
How to Make Musakhan
This is a relatively easy dish to make and very enjoyable to eat.
Firstly, begin by cooking the chicken pieces.
Preheat your oven and then mix olive oil, salt, seven spices and sumac in a small bowl.
Add in your chicken and make sure to massage the mixture thoroughly into the chicken on both sides.
You don’t want your chicken to come out having not absorbed these succulent flavors!
Spread out on a baking tray and cook for 30 minutes until you have browned the chicken.
Next, it’s time to construct the scrumptious onion mixture that sits on top of the taboon bread.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onions until they are translucent, and stir occasionally.
Don’t forget to add the sumac here!
Add this to the onions and keep cooking until you have beautifully caramelized onions.
Once you have your chicken and onion mixture, it’s time to assemble and bake!
Using a spoon, spread the caramelized onions over the taboon bread until you have a nice coating.
On top of this, place a piece of chicken, sprinkle a few pine nuts on and put on a baking tray.
Throw this under the grill until the bread has toasted and then serve.
Make sure to serve this while it’s still hot!
Where to Find Taboon Bread
It can be very hard to find good taboon bread in the States, so I always opt for making my own.
It’s quite easy to make (you can see the full recipe here).
But if you’re looking for a quick solution and can’t find taboon bread at your local bakery or supermarket, there are a couple alternatives.
The best alternative is greek pita bread.
But you can also use regular pita as well as tortillas.
Tips for Making Musakhan
- To avoid a soggy bread, toast the bread first under the grill with some olive oil brushed on them. This crisps them up before adding the onion mixture and chicken.
- Avoid cooking the onions too much. Crispy onions don’t work well on this dish.
- Baking the chicken instead of boiling or pan frying gives it more flavor.
- Pour the chicken juices into the cooked onions for extra flavor.
Equipment I Used
For The Chicken
For The Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Mix the olive oil, seven spices, sumac, and salt in a small bowl.
- Place chicken in a baking tray, using your hands rub the spice mixture into the chicken skin.
- Bake for 30 minutes until done.
For The Bread
- Put the chopped onions with the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent. Do not brown.
- Mix the salt, sumac, cumin, seven spices. Add to onions once done.
- Split the onion mixture between the taboon bread loaves spreading on the bread leaving a rim around the edge.
- Place one chicken leg on each loaf of bread. Sprinkle equally with a few pine nuts.
- Place each loaf under the grill to toast the bread slightly.
- Serve while hot.
Nutrition Per Serving
I like the idea of fusing foods and flavors from different cultures.
This is the kind of thing I have tried to do much of my cooking life.
Being a mixture of cultures myself, I enjoy finding what is different, and what is complementary.
Putting together what has traditionally be seperate can create some really good foods.
Of course failure rates can be high.
But then again success is usually built on a pile of failure.
The true cook is not afraid of these failures, and uses them as the learning process they are.
Give this Musakhan recipe a chance and I think you will find it to be one of the food success stories you are looking for!