Zhoug is a spicy cilantro sauce that's ready in 5 minutes. You can serve this spicy Yemeni sauce with anything from grilled meat to falafels.
One of the things that makes Mediterranean cuisine absolutely amazing is that it offers many dips and spreads. From toum and tahini sauce and classic tzatziki to aioli, there is always a delicious condiment to accompany your meal. If you're looking for an herby condiment, you can try our basil oil or zhoug, which is a Yemeni spicy cilantro sauce that's taking over now!
Table Of Contents:
What is zhoug?
Zhoug, also known as sahawiq or bisbas is a spicy cilantro sauce from Yemen. It comes in different variations such as red and green. Green zhug is the most popular version and that's what we're discussing today. Making this spicy green sauce is as easy as placing all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined, but the flavor is out of this world.
This hot herb sauce is popular in other Arab cuisines and can be served with different dishes including falafel, shawarma and even eggs. If you've had chermoula before, you'll know that's it's pretty similar to zhoug.
Ingredients and substitutions
Cilantro: Fresh cilantro is the main ingredient of this sauce. Make sure to remove thick stems.
Jalapenos: You want this sauce to be spicy, so jalapenos are the way to go. You can keep or remove the seeds, depending on how spicy you want it to be.
Garlic: A few cloves of garlic for extra flavor.
Spices: We are going to use a combination of cumin, salt and Aleppo pepper.
Olive oil: High quality extra virgin olive oil brings everything together.
Lemon juice: Skip the bottled stuff and use real lemons to add some brightness to zhoug.
How to make zhoug sauce
I prefer to use a small food processor to make zhoug and start by blending the garlic, jalapenos and spices followed by the cilantro. I mix in the olive oil and lemon juice at the very end and stir using a spoon instead of blending.
That being said, many prefer to pour in the olive oil and lemon juice into the food processor while it's running. Both methods work well for this recipe.
It's best to make zhoug a few hours in advance and refrigerate it so the flavors combine.
Here are a few variations of this classic Yemeni spicy green sauce:
- Use other herbs such as parsley and mint in addition to cilantro. However, make sure that cilantro is still the main herb.
- To make red zhoug sauce, add one roma tomato (cut into quarters) to the food processor with the garlic and spices.
What I love the most about this recipe is that it's so versatile and can be used in many different ways:
- Stir it into yogurt, labneh or hummus for a healthy and spicy dip and serve with pita, lavash or pita chips.
- Use it as a condiment for sandwiches and wraps such as grilled eggplant sandwich, shawarma or falafel.
- It makes a delicious marinade for recipes such as beef shish kabob or spatchcock chicken.
- Serve it as a condiment or dipping sauce for grilled meat such as Greek grilled chicken, salmon kabob or shrimp kabob.
- Use it to jazz up your breakfast - add it to Mediterranean breakfast hash instead of tahini sauce, stir it into eggs when making spinach omelette, or use it as a base for breakfast pizza.
Frequently asked questions
While zhoug uses herbs and lemon juice like the Argentinian chimichuri, the main difference between the two is in the spices.
Sometimes zhoug can be pretty pungent and strong straight out of the food processor. You can transfer it to a container and refrigerate it for a few hours for the flavors to meld and for the sauce to mellow down.
Store the sauce in an airtight container or a jar and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Give it a good stir before serving.
Yes, you can make this recipe by hand. Finely chop all the ingredients and mix in a bowl with olive oil and lemon juice. In the olden days, one would crush the ingredients between two stones to make a paste.
More dips and spread recipes
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Zhoug (Spicy Cilantro Sauce)
- 2 jalapenos seeds removed if you don't want the sauce too spicy
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 2 ½ cups fresh cilantro
- ⅔ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 lemon juice of
- Place the jalapenos, garlic, cumin, salt and Aleppo pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
- Process until all is combined and finely chopped.
- Add in the cilantro and process again so the cilantro is finely chopped as well.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add in the olive oil and lemon juice. Stir to combine and taste to make sure it has enough salt and lemon juice.
- Store in a jar or a container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- You can stir zhoug into hummus, use it as a marinade for beef shish kabob or as a condiment in a shawarma or falafel sandwich.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container or a jar and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- If you don't want to use a food processor, chop all the ingredients very finely and mix in a bowl with olive oil and lemon juice.