This Middle Eastern rocket (arugula) salad is fresh and tasty with peppery rocket leaves, lemony sumac and bursts of sweetness from the pomegranate. It is the perfect quick side salad to accompany a summer meal and brings a little taste of the Middle East to your table!
One of the wonderful things about living abroad is being introduced to different cuisines and ingredients. I am lucky enough to be an expat living in Qatar. Rocket salad with sumac (or versions of it) is an absolute staple in this part of the world. Rocket (or jarjeer which is the variety of rocket grown locally) grows prolifically in this sandy soil and is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern homes and restaurants. The lemony spice, sumac, complements it perfectly and is a classic ingredient in Middle Eastern salads. It provides the ideal fresh accompaniment to richer dishes that are typical of the region.
This Middle Eastern rocket salad recipe is an adaptation of the jarjeer salad you get here in Qatar. The local version doesn’t include any pomegranate and it has red onion slices instead of the radish. I prefer the milder flavour of the radish though and I just adore the addition of pomegranate for its bejewelled look and delicious flavour!
We actually have a pomegranate tree just outside our kitchen door. I first realised what this straggly bush was when I saw a miniature pomegranate growing on one of the branches. I was so excited and had visions of picking fresh pomegranates whenever we wanted them. The reality is somewhat different as the fruits are few and far between and whenever they’re ripe enough to pick, I usually find that the bugs have got inside first! I live in hope though…
- Rocket - Jarjeer is slightly different from the rocket that we know from home. It doesn’t have the distinctive spikiness and is softer, more like a spinach leaf. It has a slightly stronger peppery flavour than rocket too. Rocket (arugula) is similar enough to make it a perfectly acceptable substitute if that’s all you have available though.
- Sumac – another widely used ingredient across the Middle East. Sumac is a deep burgundy coloured spice that has a lemony flavour. It is delicious in salads particularly if you don’t want the sharpness of lemon juice. It is becoming more widely available in supermarkets (I’ve seen it in Waitrose in the UK) or online.
- Cucumber – I use the persian cucumbers that look like little mini cucumbers because they are the local variety here. However, the regular long English cucumbers will be absolutely fine here as the flavour and texture is very similar.
- Pomegranate – These are becoming easy to find year round due to their recent popularity. You can often find tubs of pomegranate seeds in the supermarket. That means you don’t even need to go through the bother of getting the seeds out yourself (but see below for tips on this!).
We all know that dark leafy greens are supremely good for us and rocket (arugula) is no different. It’s full of antioxidants and polyphenols, and is particularly high in Vitamins A, C and K, and calcium, iron, folate and potassium. See this Healthline article and this Medical News Today article if you want to read more about rocket’s health benefits.
Pomegranate is also full of antioxidants! Its juice uniquely contains the extremely potent antioxidants, Punicalagins. These have been found to have three times the antioxidant activity of red wine and green tea! (Source: Healthline)
This is really a superfood salad as I could go on and on about the health benefits of all the ingredients! Suffice to say, it’s good stuff!
This rocket salad with sumac and pomegranate is so quick and easy to prepare. You just shake the dressing ingredients in a closed jar , and then mix together with the rest of the salad ingredients! You can store leftover dressing in the same jar that you mixed it in!
I love using rocket in salads because it’s a little more sturdy than the other salad leaves so it’s easier to wash and dry. The only slight faff is getting the pomegranate seeds out but I have some tips on this below.
- Getting pomegranate seeds out of the pomegranate is always a pain, but over the years, I have developed my tried and tested method. I used to follow Nigella Lawson’s recommendation of halving the pomegranate and turning it upside down and tapping it firmly with a knife to let the seeds fall out. This sometimes works for the most ripe pomegranates but even then, it doesn’t get all of the seeds out. I do hate waste so I like to get every last one!
- Instead, I halve the pomegranate across the middle, then halve again in the other direction. Then I take each quarter and break it apart with my hands and gently push my thumbs against the creamy pithy bits to knock the seeds out of their little cubby holes. I rarely use a whole pomegranate in one go so I store the un-used half in a container in the fridge until I need it. I find it keeps better left in tact rather than the seeds on their own.
- As for the radishes… whilst whole circular slices may look very pretty, they are a bit of a pain to slice that way and you can easily cut yourself if the knife or the radish slip while chopping. I find the easiest and quickest way to slice radishes is to top and tail them (cut the top and bottom off) then cut them in half lengthways and put the cut side face down on the chopping board so you have a nice flat surface to keep it steady. Then slice finely along from top to bottom (or vice versa!). This leaves you with lovely little half moon shaped radish slices.
You don’t need to confine this rocket salad with sumac and pomegranate purely to Middle Eastern meals! It’s such a lovely summery dish and the fresh, light flavours pair brilliantly with most summer foods. Think barbecues and picnics and any al fresco dining! I particularly like it as a side salad to my Mediterranean Roasted Red Peppers and some Crispy Air Fried Tofu with Chia Seeds. It also goes really well with this Herby Quinoa Salad too.
If you make this Middle Eastern rocket salad ahead, just be sure to keep the dressing separate from the rest of the salad ingredients. Then only mix the dressing into the salad just before serving. Otherwise, the oil in the dressing will make the salad wilt and look miserable by the time you serve it!
The dressing can be kept in a sealed bottle or jar in the fridge for a week or more. Then you have a ready-made salad dressing in the fridge for whenever you want to make a quick salad.
If you have any leftovers of this rocket salad after it’s been dressed, you could put it in a wrap or sandwich where the sad wilted leaves won’t be so noticeable. The flavour will still be lovely.
Recipe Card 📖
Middle Eastern Rocket Salad with Sumac and Pomegranate
- 150 g rocket / rocca / arugula (or jarjeer if you can get hold of it)
- 8 cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
- 2 persian cucumbers (or English cucumber if that’s all that’s available), cubed
- 2 radishes halved and then sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
- A handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley roughly chopped
- 1 tsp sumac
- First make the dressing by measuring all the ingredients into a clean jar, putting the lid on and shaking vigorously! (or you can whisk the ingredients in a small bowl).
- Next, layer the ingredients into a salad bowl (except the sumac), saving a few pieces of each for garnishing on top.
- Gently toss the salad with as much dressing as you like to use (store the remainder in a jar in the fridge for another day). Garnish with the reserved pieces and the sumac sprinkled on top.
- If you can get hold of jarjeer leaves (the local variety of rocket here in the Middle East), they are a softer leaf than rocket but with the same peppery flavour. Normal rocket will do just fine though if that’s all you have available!
- Likewise, if you can get hold of the persian cucumbers (the little mini ones), they are lovely in this salad but the regular long English cucumber is fine as an alternative as they are very similar in flavour and texture.
If you like this Middle Eastern rocket salad recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free summer recipes too:
I’d love to know how you get on with this recipe. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and please give it a star rating too! Thank you!