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This authentic Zhoug recipe is full of spicy, punchy flavor! A popular Middle Eastern condiment, zhoug sauce is made with fresh cilantro, jalapenos, garlic, cardamom and cumin. Includes a video.
Meet Zhoug! One of the tastiest Middle Eastern sauces, made with cilantro, chilies, garlic and spices. Pronounced zoog, zhoug (also goes by zoug, zough, zhug, skug, or schug) originates from Yemen, but has become wildly popular in Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine. Think of zhoug as a Middle Eastern version of our chimichurri recipe . By now, you’ve probably seen it at Trader Joe’s in the refrigerated section- it’s that popular!
The surprising ingredient that gives Zhoug its unique flavor is quite unexpected -cardamom! Tradionally versions also include whole caraway seeds– for the BEST flavor.
Why You’ll Love zhoug!
- Dress up simple dishes! Zhoug or zhoug paste, is a versatile green sauce that can be added to all sorts of simple dishes to add a burst of flavor, along with a pop of color. Add it to wraps, pitas, falafel sandwiches, roasted veggies, or hummus. See our list below for even more ideas!
- 5-minute recipe. This green zhoug only takes 5 minutes to whip up using the food processor! A quick and easy Middle Eastern sauce, yet so beautiful and impressive.
- Packed with complex flavor. Cardamon is the secret ingredient here! Jalapeños make this a mildly spicy sauce, garlic and lemon add bright flavor, and cilantro is the main herby component. Ground cumin gives earthy depth of flavor.
- Jalapenos: Provide a spicy kick. Add heat and depth of flavor to the sauce. Feel free to use Serrano for an even spicier sauce!
- Garlic: Adds a pungent and savory taste. Enhances the overall flavor profile of the sauce.
- Cilantro leaves: Provides a fresh and vibrant taste. It adds a bright and aromatic element to the sauce.
- Cardamon: Ground cardamon or whole seeds contribute a unique and unexpected flavor. It adds a subtle floral and earthy note to the sauce.
- Cumin: Whether ground cumin or in whole seeds, it adds a warm earthy flavor.
- Caraway seeds: Optional but recommended as they add complexity, nuttiness and a unique flavor.
- Black Peppercorns: Optional, but can be added for a touch of heat and mild spiciness.
- Kosher salt: Essential for balancing the flavors, enhancing the ingredients, and bringing everything together.
- Olive oil: Used to achieve the desired consistency of the sauce. It adds richness and smoothness.
- Lemon juice: Provides a tangy and citrusy flavor. It adds brightness and freshness to the sauce.
- Chili flakes: can be added for an extra layer of spiciness and a subtle smoky flavor. They are optional but can be adjusted to individual preferences. Aleppo chili flakes are nice here.
How to Make Zhoug (instructions)
- Toast the seeds (if using) Toast any whole seeds in a dry skillet over med-low heat until fragrant. If using cardamom pods- crush the pods and remove the seeds- just toast the seeds. Let cool slightly.
- Pulse in the food processor. Place the toasted spices and all the remaining ingredients- fresh chilies, cilantro, garlic (everything except the oil) in a food processor and pulse until it’s uniformly chopped. No need for a mortar and pestle here! Add extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and pulse into a coarse paste. For a looser version, add a bit more oil.
- Taste and adjust. Taste for salt and heat, adding more if necessary.
- Add chili flakes. Add red pepper flakes or Aleppo chili flakes if you like.
Zhoug must be refrigerated. Store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to one week. Freeze zhoug for up to 6 month. See the list of ways to use Zhoug Sauce below for ideas of how to use up this spicy cilantro sauce throughout the week!
Try Zhoug Yogurt!
If zhug is too spicy, try stirring a little Zhoug into plain yogurt for a flavorful, yet mellower, yogurt sauce.
Ways to Use Zhoug Sauce
- Spoon zhoug over beans, tacos, wraps , shawarma pitas or grilled eggplant wraps.
- Serve zhoug with falafel!
- Drizzle zhoug over roasted veggies, chickpeas, tofu, eggs, grilled chicken, and fish.
- Swirl it into soups for a bright burst of flavor.
- Swirl it into hummus, or labneh for a delicious dip.
- Drizzle it over Avocado toast.
- Use zhoug (or zhoug yogurt) it as a flavorful marinade for meat, fish or chicken.
Zhoug is traditionally made with cilantro, garlic, chili peppers, spices, and olive oil. Typically bird’s eye or serrano peppers are used, but we use jalapeño because it is milder and easier to find!
Spoon over a falafel pita, roasted vegetables, drizzle over wraps, stir into yogurt, spoon over eggs, spoon onto fish or grilled chicken shawarma, or mix into hummus. You can even mix it with additional extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice for a punchy salad dressing. For even more ideas, see our full list below!
Zhoug means a spicy sauce containing chilies. Yemenites believe that daily consumption of zhoug can keep illness at bay and strengthen the heart.
Yes, zhoug can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Drizzle the top of zhoug with lemon juice or olive oil to prevent it from discoloring.
Zhoug can also go by zoug, zough, zhoung, zhug, zoog, skug, skhug, zhoug paste, green paste, or schug!
You’ll find a hundred uses for Zhug Sauce. I promise! Similar to both Chermoula and Green Harissa Sauce, it’s signature difference is the addition of cardamom and caraway seeds. It’s quite addicting, and it tastes like nothing else. Make it spicy or keep it mild, totally up to you. Hope you give Zhoug a try!
More Favorite Sauces You’ll Love!
Enjoy this and let us know your thoughts in the comments below! xo
Watch How to make Zhoug | 30-sec video
- 1–3 whole jalapenos, sliced ( start with one, if unsure)
- 2 fat garlic cloves
- 1 bunch cilantro, small stems ok (about 1 cup packed tightly)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon (or whole seeds, please see notes)
- 1 teaspoon cumin- ground or whole seeds
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds– optional but good!
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns – optional
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
- 1/3 cup olive oil, more to desired consistency
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (Aleppo chili is nice), more to taste (optional)
- Toast any whole seeds in a dry skillet over med-low heat until fragrant. Note: If using cardamom pods– crush the pods and remove the seeds- just toast the seeds. (Video is not accurate here.) Let cool slightly.
- Place the toasted spices and all the remaining ingredients (except the oil) in a food processor and pulse until it’s uniformly chopped. Add oil and lemon juice and pulse into a coarse paste. For a looser version, add a bit more oil.
- Taste for salt and heat, adding more if necessary.
- Add chili flakes if you like.
- Store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to one week.
Toasted whole spices have the best flavor here! Remove cardamom seeds from the pods- leave the pods out. The video is not right. 😉 TIP: The cardamom is the star here, so make sure you use enough so you can taste it.
Chilies: Jalapeños are not traditional yet produce a very consistent and milder heat. You can swap them out for hotter serrano or other green chilies.
Herbs: Feel free to swap out the cilantro for flat-leaf parsley or even part fresh mint. You can also do a blend of all three!
Make Zhoug Yogurt: mix 1-2 tablespoons of Zhoug with a cup of yogurt, add more to taste. Taste, adjust salt.
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
- Calories: 26
- Sugar: 0.2 g
- Sodium: 29.6 mg
- Fat: 2.8 g
- Saturated Fat: 0.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 0.3 g
- Fiber: 0.1 g
- Protein: 0.1 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
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