Lebanese Onion & Parsley Salad

Wait! I know you’re probably not feeling super excited about a pile of onions. But don’t turn up your nose yet!

Here in the U.S., we’ve been conditioned to think of onions as an after-thought go-along, rather than a star of the plate, but trust: a sweet onion, tossed with tangy sumac, fresh mint, and smooth parsley becomes so much more than a garnish.

This salad has a light, bright taste, and it’s surprisingly subtle. It’s as if the strong flavors of the onion, sumac, and mint work together to make each other relax. It’s got a tangy taste, but the sumac mellows the onion-y bite.  I like to use sweet onions (Vidalia), and I get my sumac from Penzeys.

A Few Words About Sumac
I grew up in rural Pennsylvania where summers meant avoiding poison ivy and poison sumac. This sumac is not that!

This sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that’s used as a tabletop condiment the way we use salt and pepper in the U.S. It has a lemony taste that’s bright and fresh, but less acidic than lemon juice and vinegar. Sumac is combined with thyme and sesame seeds to make the spice blend za’atar.

Fun fact! Sumac berries were used in medieval medicine, and today, the fruit is still used to tan Morocco leather and to dye fabric. It’s easy to see why; the berries are a deep, rich burgundy, even after they’re ground.

I hope you’re ready to give this somewhat unusual recipe a try. This salad perks up grilled chicken, steak, or burgers – try it alongside a lamb burger! It’s also a nice surprise tossed onto an everyday green salad. I like to make myself a Mediterranean Platter  – like at a restaurant, only better – with a mound of Mediterranean Tuna or egg salad (or sometimes a can of sardines), cucumber slices with tahini dressing, a few olives, a serving of Onion & Parsley Salad, and some fresh fruit. If I close my eyes, I can almost feel the soft breeze and warm sun of a café on the Mediterranean coast.

Lebanese Onion & Parsley Salad

1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon ground sumac berries
salt & black pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
generous pinch cumin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


1. In  a large bowl, toss onion with mint leaves, sumac, salt, and black pepper. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, ’til the onions soften slightly and become one with the sumac.

2. In a small bowl, mix the parsley, cumin, and lemon juice with a fork. Stir with the fork and slowly add the olive oil, stirring while you drizzle so the dressing emulsifies a bit. Pour the dressing over the onions and toss gently with a wooden spoon to combine.

This is wonderful chilled or at room temperature and will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. When it starts to look too wilty to be appetizing as a salad, sauté it in a hot skillet until the onions are tender, then add ground beef or lamb and your favorite vegetables to make a quick, one-pan meal.


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19 Responses to “Lebanese Onion & Parsley Salad”

  1. Erin says:

    This looks so crisp and fresh! Will have to try and hunt down some sumac!

  2. Jude says:

    See, this is what I love – a salad recipe that you can turn into a one-pan meal.

    Genius :)

    • Mel says:

      Today for lunch, I tossed some of the onion salad with a serving of blanched red cabbage — it was AWESOME. This salad is super yum on its own and really versatile in other dishes. Plus, I think it tastes even better on day 2. It definitely ages very nicely.

  3. Meredith says:

    I LOVE onions (it’s rare for me to cook a meal that doesn’t include at least one variety!) and I’ve always loved sumac dressing on Fattoush salads. Can’t wait to try this recipe tonight — I’m heading straight to Penzey’s after work!

    • Mel says:

      Hooray! I hope you tried it and liked it. It’s even tastier the next day… I had some in my lunch today. Super awesome treat!

      • Meredith says:

        Not only was the salad delicious, but I found a related spice mix at Penzeys — the Zatar blend, which includes sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and salt — that I used with some olive oil to marinate the chicken before grilling it. I also made some baba ganoush and (wha-la!) had a mediterranean feast! So delish… thanks for the inspiration to finally purchase some sumac!

        • Mel says:

          Right on! Zatar is super tasty, too! You could probably do the onions with Zatar if you skip the mint. Then they’d have that nice thyme flavor instead of the cool mintiness. Neato!

  4. Harmony says:

    I like to toss cauliflower with sumac before roasting it.

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  6. Buttoni says:

    This looks real good. I keep sumac around as I have several Iranian recipes that call for it. We lived there when I was 10 years old.

    Say, that was a lovely write-up on you int he Austin Statesman this week! Congratulations! I live just up the road a bit in Temple!

    • Mel says:

      Hello, neighbor :-)

      Thanks for the congrats on the Statesman article. I was really happy with it! Hope other people will at least consider paleo after reading it.

      How cool that you had the opportunity to live in Iran for a bit!

  7. Brandy says:

    Mmmmmmm Sumac. Have not had that stuff for so long. Must get some…. So good.

  8. aseafish says:

    Just stumbled upon this recipe and I’m so excited. Though I am Lebanese, I’ve all but given up the tastes and smells of my youth, since so many of my favorites are heavy on the grains. I will most decidedly try this soon, maybe tonight with our braised lamb shanks. We always have mint growing in the yard and onions and parsley in the kitchen.

    • Mel says:

      YAY! This would be really good with lamb shanks, for sure. And I’m going to be re-working more Lebanese recipes soon… Tuesdays are recipe-testing day, starting in March.

  9. Charlene says:

    This was great! I had a few slices of Campari tomato I needed to use up so cut them into chunks and added on top of my serving.

    I searched your site to see if you had a recipe for Mediterranean pickled beets and carrots. I can’t quite duplicate the ones I’ve had in a restaurant. So if you have a recipe, please share!

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  11. June says:

    I guess this is your version of Tabouleh… Tabouleh is chopped parsley, onions , tomato, lemon, olive oil, etc etc…

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