If you’ve never tried zhoug before, what are you waiting for? It’s a herby, garlicky, spicy sauce with the crunch of caraway and cumin. I love the stuff, and so do people across the globe. There’s a reason it is the most popular Middle Eastern condiment going.
In This Article
It might not be quite as famous as some other green sauces from across the globe, but zhoug is 100% something you need to have in your repertoire. It’s similar to Italian pesto, Mexican salsa verde or Argentinian chimichurri.
The good news is that making your own zhoug is super easy.
Please don’t ruin things by buying zhoug in a jar in the supermarket – it’s often a bit too acidic with insufficient warmth (from the spices) and freshness (from the herbs).
One Sauce, Many Names
As zhoug is widespread across the globe and not just in Middle Eastern cuisine, it can be known by many other names including zhuug, zhug, zhoug, harif, mabooj, sahawiq, sahowqa, skhug, schugg or bisbas.
What’s In Zhoug?
As you may have worked out by now, you’re going to need chillis, herbs and spices to put together your own pot of zhoug. Here’s the precise list of ingredients you’ll need:
- 2 Green Chillies: This is supposed to be a spicy condiment, so don’t hold back. I prefer using green chillies here, not just for their flavour but because it blends seamlessly with the other green ingredients.
- 2 Garlic Cloves: Like the chilli, you want to be able to taste the raw garlic. It is going in raw, so it’ll pack a punch, but the lemon, chilli and spices will mellow it a little. Please stick to fresh garlic and not powder!
- 1 Bunch of Coriander: Once you break this down, you’ll find it goes to nothing so make sure you have a decent handful of coriander leaves.
- 4 Whole Cardamom Pods: I know some people find the flavour of cardamom a little overpowering but it works well in zhoug. You could also use 1tsp ground cardamom.
- 1tsp Cumin and Caraway: These both provide a little warmth and plenty of flavour to your zhoug. Whole is always better than ground spice, but you could use ground cumin and caraway when push comes to shove.
- 80ml Olive Oil: Olive oil will loosen everything up and turn your ingredients into a combined sauce.
- Half a Lemon: You’ll only need the juice from half a lemon, but it will bring just enough acid to cut through all the spice, heat and punchy garlic. If you want to give your sauce more zing then include some lemon zest too.
There are zhoug recipes out there that will overcomplicate this. They’ll add in weird ingredients like jalapeno peppers. Don’t follow those. Instead, stick to this simple recipe.
How to Make Zhoug
A detailed recipe with total quantities can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this page.
Step 1: I prefer using whole spices as they pack far more of a punch than those that have been pre-ground and are left to sit in a jar for months and months. If you are using whole spices like me then give them a toast in a dry pan for a few minutes.
You’ll find that the cumin seeds will jump around the pan as they toast so be careful.
Step 2: You can then pop all the ingredients, excluding the oil, lemon and salt, into a food processor and give everything a blitz until things are roughly chopped. You are looking for a fairly chunky paste.
If you don’t have a food processor, you could also use an immersion blender.
Step 3: Now, while drizzling in your olive oil, continue to process the ingredients. This will take your rough paste to a slightly smooth sauce. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of texture though.
Step 4: Add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, and then give it a quick taste. Adjust the seasoning accordingly. If it’s too spicy then add a little more lemon juice. If it’s a bit bland then a pinch of salt will help.
How to Use Zhoug
If you’ve never made zhoug before, then you’ll probably be left wondering how best to use the stuff. Here are just a few of the ways I use it. Hopefully, these will give you some inspiration and make you realise that this is a versatile sauce:
- Dip or Spread: The easiest way to use zhoug is to serve it as a dip or spread. Even dip raw veg or grilled flatbread into it or use it as a spread in a sandwich or even a burger.
- Marinade: Zhoug is amazing at imparting flavour to meat – especially steak. It’s a ready-to-use marinade. Just add a spoonful to a resealable bag, add in your meat and leave it for an hour.
- Dressing or Topping: Loosen the zhoug with a little extra olive oil to create an instant salad dressing or topping for roasted veg.
- Flavour Booster: I’ve been known to add a spoonful of zhoug to just about anything that needs a bit of a flavour boost. Bland soup, plain rice, uninspiring salad, boring veg. It’s a great way to make anything taste interesting.
How to Tweak Zhoug
This is my authentic zhoug recipe. If you want the classic version, there are no changes needed. But, there are a few tweaks you could make to change it up a little:
- Change the Fresh Herbs: Although traditional zhoug is made with coriander, I’ve also made it by swapping it out for flat-leaf parsley. I’ve also used a combination of fresh mint, coriander and parsley.
- Change the Spices: Caraway and cumin are essential in a traditional zhoug, but you could try using coriander seeds, black pepper and red pepper flakes for a different spice blend.
- Change the Acid: Lemon juice seems to be the best acid to use when making zhoug as it adds a subtle bitterness without overpowering the flavour. But you could also use lime juice or red wine vinegar.
- Add Nuts: Give zhoug some texture by including some nuts. Toast them with the seeds and then add them to your blender. Walnuts, hazelnuts and cashews all work well.
- Use Different Oils: Extra virgin olive oil is always my go-to oil when making any sauce or dip. It’s neutral enough but with a subtle pepperiness. You could use canola oil, avocado oil or rapeseed oil instead.
- Create a Creamy Sauce: Stir a spoonful of zhoug into a pot of Greek yoghurt, and you’ll have created an instant creamy dip without any effort.
How to Store Zhoug
You’ll find that a little zhoug goes a long way. Chances are, if you follow my recipe on this page, you’ll make more than you need in one sitting. Here’s how to store it :
Fridge: Place the zhoug in an airtight container or jar. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to preserve its freshness. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Freezer: Transfer the zhoug to an airtight container or a freezer-safe bag, leaving some space for expansion. You could also use ice cube trays. Label with the date and contents. Freeze for up to 6 months, thawing in the fridge before use.
Zhoug is from Yemeni cuisine but it is particularly associated with Yemenite Jews. This is why it is particularly popular in Israel.
Yes! There are 3 main varieties of zhoug which are green, red and brown. The colour is down to the colour of the chilli used. Green zhoug is green chillies. Red zhoug is red chillies. Brown zhoug is a combination.