Sumac Lemonade Recipe | PBS Food

Sumac berries lend themselves to use in a lemony-earthy flavored spice, or use them immediately to make a tangy and refreshing beverage. Chef Nico Albert (Cherokee Nation) is a self-taught chef, caterer and student of traditional Indigenous cuisines based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.



  • Handful of sumac berries
  • Sweetener to taste, agave nectar or honey


  1. Sumac berries (or “drupes” which is their proper label) are a wild treat that can be found in wooded areas all over North America. Here in Oklahoma, they are ready for picking in late summer to early fall. If you have harvested a bunch of these beautiful red berries, you can dry them to blend up and use as a lemony-earthy flavored spice, or use them immediately to make a tangy and refreshing beverage. (If sumac is not available, a good substitute would be fresh cranberries.)
  2. Rinse your sumac in cool water to remove any of the “outdoor elements” that might be clinging to them. Place sumac berries in cool/room temperature water. One large cluster of sumac will flavor a minimum of 2 cups of water. The more sumac you use, the quicker and more flavorful your sumac-ade will be!
  3. Crush the berry clusters in the water using a sturdy spoon (or even a potato masher if it will fit in your vessel). Allow the sumac to soak for at least a few hours or overnight, depending on how much sumac you used. The longer it soaks, the stronger the flavor, but with enough berries, an overnight soak will produce a very flavorful result.
  4. Strain your Sumac-ade through cheesecloth, coffee filter, or similar fine mesh fabric (I often use my french press to strain my sumac-ade, in batches. It is perfectly suited to the task!).
  5. Once your sumac-ade is strained, you can sweeten to taste with the sweetener of your choice. I prefer to stir in agave nectar or a good local honey, but most any sweetener will compliment the tart flavor of the sumac. Serve chilled or over ice to toast the end of summer and arrival of autumn!