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The Palestinian dish par excellence
Delight your taste buds with Musakhan, a Palestinian chicken flatbread
1 May 2024

Musakhan is a classic Palestinian dish popular in villages and peasant communities. The dish uses large fresh baked flatbreads layered with grilled chicken and a mix of caramelized onions and sumac. It is meant for sharing family style where family members assemble around the main platter and tear off pieces of the bread and chicken with their hands, wrapping the chicken with small morsels of bread and onions. It is usually served in cooler weather and is considered a comfort food.

This dish can be easily adjusted to accommodate different tastes and the availability of ingredients. The key to its unique flavor is the combination of caramelized onions and sumac. The chicken can be cooked and served in any way that suits the chef (different Palestinian households have their own styles of making the chicken) and the traditional taboon bread can be replaced with any thick flat bread available (such as naan, pocketless pita bread or even ready-made pizza dough).

Modern versions of Musakhan have the chicken shredded, mixed with the onions and sumac then rolled in papery saj bread and served as finger food. So, feel free to experiment with the recipe and see what works for you.


• 1 split chicken breast (with skin and bone), cut into 2 large pieces or 6 chicken thighs (with skin and bone)

• 1 cup olive oil (good quality if possible)

Marinade spices

• 1 teaspoon ground coriander

• 1 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1 teaspoon allspice

• 5 garlic cloves, crushed (or more if you like)

• cracked black pepper

• salt to taste

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

• 4 large onions – diced

• 2 tablespoons sumac

• Arabic Taboon bread (or any 

  thick flat bread), 2 large or 4 small

• 2 tablespoons pine nuts


1. Place the chicken in a bowl and add the marinade spices to it. Rub in the spices. Cover the chicken and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).

2. Once you are ready to cook the chicken, place it in a baking dish along with the marinade sauce.

3. Heat oven to 375f/190c and place chicken in the oven. (You can cover the chicken with foil while baking it to keep it moist but the choice to cook it covered or uncovered is up to you.)

4. Bake the chicken for approximately 40 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165f/74c. Baking time may vary depending on your oven so just make sure the chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove the chicken from the oven. Keep it in the baking dish with any remaining juices.

6. While the chicken is baking, heat half a cup of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the chopped onions.

7. Fry the onions until they are caramelized. This step is important because you want the onions to reach a sweet flavor. Be sure to stir often when the onions start to cook so you don’t burn them.

8. Once the onions are caramelized, transfer them to a mixing bowl.

9. Mix the sumac and the onions.

10. In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts with a tablespoon of olive oil until they start to brown. (Do not let them get too dark because they continue to cook after you remove them from heat.)

11. Transfer the pine nuts to a separate bowl.


Now that you have all the components, you can assemble the platter.

1. Use your hands to rub the bread with olive oil.

2. Place the bread in an oven safe platter. If using large loaves, you can put a few flatbreads on top of each other, so they partially overlap. If using small pitas or naans, you can place them side by side.

3. Spread the onion/sumac mix over the bread so that it covers it.

4. Add the chicken, placing the pieces evenly on the loaves and sprinkle on any of the chicken’s baking juices and olive oil.

5. Place the bread and chicken in the bottom shelf of the oven and broil it on low for 10 minutes to heat the food and lightly brown the chicken. Keep checking on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. You want the chicken skin to brown but the bread to remain moist.

6. Once warmed and browned, take the platter out, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.


For a simpler version of this recipe, check Rawia Bishara’s “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar” cookbook.

I also recommend Yasmin Khan’s “Zaitoun” cookbook, which offers wonderful details about Palestinian traditions and cuisine by region.

* Valérie Coutarel is Chief of the French Interpretation Section and Lana Ayyad is Chief of the Arabic Interpretation Section in New York.
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