Zhoug, also spelled zhug, is a Yemini spicy cilantro sauce/ condiment used on grilled meats, in pita sandwiches and more.
Zhoug, a vibrant green, cilantro-based hot sauce with Yemeni roots is used throughout Middle Eastern cuisines (used frequently in Israel and Syria) and sometimes noted as a “green hot sauce”. It was recently popularized in America from its place on Trader Joe’s shelves.
For its complex flavors it’s quite simple to make at home using a few ingredients enhanced with spices. Traditionally made using a mortar and pestle, I opt to use a food processor. The texture of this zhoug sauce is similar to other herby salsas and sauces like pesto or chimichurri.
Cilantro – I use both the leaves from the cilantro and the cilantro stems in this recipe. Be sure to give the cilantro a rinse before using it in the sauce to remove any remaining dirt. So, you don’t want the sauce to have a gritty texture.
Garlic – The use of smashed, raw garlic adds an almost spicy flavor. I always use fresh cloves of garlic, using the pre-minced jars of garlic don’t taste the same.
Jalapeños – Jalapeños give this sauce the majority of the spice. The spice of peppers is concentrated in the seeds and membrane, so by removing those parts it lessens the heat while retaining the flavor. Even if you prefer a dish on the spicy side (and this sauce is still plenty spicy) it also offers more control.
Spices – A combination of roasted ground coriander, cumin, cardamom and red pepper flakes are used to season and round out the sauce.
Oil – Olive oil is frequently used in this recipe though I like using a neutral oil like canola oil or grapeseed oil so the other flavors can shine.
How to Make Zhoug
Step 1: Add ingredients to food processor
So, add the cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, coriander, red pepper, cumin and cardamom to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.
Step 2: Pulse to coarsely chop
Also, pulse until coarsely chopped. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture is emulsified.
Step 3: Slowly add oil
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use or store refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use, up to 1 week.
Other Uses for Zhoug
While this recipe is great on it’s own as a dip for warmed crusty bread, pita or pita chips, I also recommend these other uses for zhug sauce:
Pita – My favorite use for this vibrant sauce is in combination with roasted cauliflower with tahini stuffed into warmed pitas. It is also great spread over falafel in pita or as a dipping sauce alongside tahini for arayes.
Hummus – Add a spoonful of fresh zhoug over homemade hummus for a unique and flavorful twist on the classic.
Yogurt – Drizzle with additional olive oil over Greek yogurt and serve as a dip.
Meats – Spoon over simple roasted chicken thighs like this recipe here or in place of chimichurri in this easy pan-seared steak recipe.
Roasted vegetables – Take roasted vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, broccoli or root vegetables like smashed fried potatoes to the next level by finishing it with zhoug.
Eggs – Add a bit of the sauce over fried eggs, frittata, an omelet or Turkish poached eggs for a spicy finish.
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