Musakhan, A Palestinian Lamb Recipe

Here’s a vision of street food: mounds of slowly cooked, spiced meat piled with onions, lemony-tart sumac and toasted pine nuts, all sitting on top of taboon or flatbreads to use as utensils. Musahkan is a famous, traditional comfort food recipe from the Levant, Palestine, and around Israel.

Musakhan lamb on flatbreads garnished with pine nuts and mint leaves.

Widely thought of as the National dish of Palestine, and typically made with chicken, our lamb musahkan developed by Chef Bergo calls for lamb or goat, and preferably a shoulder or neck cut with lots of marbling and intra-muscular fat to ensure a juicy result. The end product is tender, tart, shredded meat, with plenty of juices to soak into flatbreads or warmed pita.

Alan Bergo
Chef Alan Bergo

Depending on how traditional you want to be, Chef also outlines a method for making simple flatbreads at home, although store-bought pita bread without pockets are a fine substitute. Baharat spice, commonly used in similar regional dishes, can be purchased online, at a local ethnic market, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, Chef has included a recipe for making your own.

This recipe is by James Beard Award-winning Chef Alan Bergo. He’s a chef from Minnesota and author of The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora. Learn more about Chef Alan at 


More Middle Eastern Lamb Recipes

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Lamb or goat mousakahn with sumac and onions
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Musakhan, A Palestinian Lamb Recipe

Tender pulled lamb marinated in sumac and braised slowly with onions, served on flatbread.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time2 hours 45 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Palestinian
Keyword: Flatbread, Lamb, Musakhan, Sumac
Servings: 10 People
Calories: 600kcal
Cost: 20


  • 1 large braising pot or Dutch oven
  • 1 Rolling Pin
  • 1 mixing bowl for the dough


Sumac-Marinated Lamb

  • 4 lbs boneless lamb or goat cut into 2-ounce, roughly square pieces
  • 6 tablespoons sumac divided in half
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt plus more to taste
  • Pinch of saffron crumbled (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Baharat spice mix recipe follows

Baharat Spice Mix Yield: ~ ¼ cup or enough for 4 recipes

  • 5 grams / 1.5 Tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 7 grams / 1 Tablespoons ground coriander
  • 7 grams / 1 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 gram / ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 5 grams / ¼  teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5 grams / 1.5 Tablespoons ground allspice
  • 5 grams / 1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 7 grams / 1 Tablespoon ground nutmeg

Sumac Onions

  • 6 lbs yellow sweet onions
  • 1 cup rendered lamb fat or cooking oil
  • 3 cups water or lamb stock
  • 3 tablespoons sumac
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt


  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup lamb fat at room temperature
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt



  • Combine the lamb baharat, teaspoons of salt and saffron if using. Cover and refrigerate the meat overnight, turning occasionally.


  • Combine the flours, water, sugar, lard and yeast and mix well in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and allow to double in size, then refrigerate. The dough can be made ahead of time, up to a day or two.
  • Flour a work surface, then portion out roughly 2 ounce balls of dough.
  • Roll the dough into even-sized balls, then roll each one out with a rolling pin until they’re very thin. Drape the dough over a metal mixing bowl, and gently stretch until they’re round.
  • The flatbreads don’t have to be perfect. Heat a dry skillet wide enough to fit the flatbread rounds, and cook on medium high heat, without oil. The dough should puff up and brown. Working one at a time, brown the flatbreads on each side, then transfer to a towel to rest.

Sumac Onions

  • Dice the onions medium-large, then add the 2 teaspoons of salt and sweat in the lamb fat for 10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally until the onions are wilted. Preheat the oven to 300.
  • Add the sumac, then transfer with the lamb and it's juices to a deep baking dish. Add the stock, cover with parchment, then foil, and bake for 2 hours or until the lamb is tender when scraped with a fork.
  • Shred the meat with 2 forks. Taste the lamb, adjust the seasoning for salt if needed, chill and reserve. Strain the reserved cooking liquid from the onions, keeping both separate. Chill the stock and onions. When the fat is chilled and set, scrape it off and discard, but leave a few tablespoons of it to add moisture to the finished dish. Traditionally this is often served quite oily.


  • To serve the lamb, dip or brush the flatbreads with some of the cooking liquid, then reheat in the oven, and use them to line a platter. Meanwhile, reheat the shredded lamb with some of the stock, and spoon a generous amount of onions onto each flatbread, arrange the shredded lamb on top of the onions, drizzling over any juices, sprinkle on the toasted nuts, reserved sumac to taste, and serve immediately.


Lamb shoulder is the best cut to use here as stew meat will dry out too much. 


Serving: 4oz | Calories: 600kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 3139mg | Potassium: 522mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 2IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 6mg





Lamb or goat mousakahn with sumac and onions