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Spicy Yemeni Zhoug Sauce

Zhoug sauce is a spicy cilantro sauce made with jalapeno peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices. It’s a spicy Middle Eastern condiment with roots in Yemen.

Low angle shot of zhoug sauce with cut up tomatoes and cucumbers and flatbread.

I became obsessed with Trader Joe’s version of this flavorful hot sauce condiment. When I couldn’t get it for 2 whole months, I had to figure out a copycat recipe.

When I was growing up, my mom was always experimenting with new cuisines and ingredients, and I have certainly carried on that tradition. I remember my mother coming home with a new-to-her spice mixture called Yemenite zhug or zug (pronounced “zoog”).

I don’t remember what it had in it, only that it was super spicy and enchantingly delicious. My mom used it to season meat and fish, and to add a bit of kick to soups and stews.

Where does zhoug come from?

The sauce originated in Yemen, but has become popular throughout the Middle East. You’ll find it in Israel, Syria, and elsewhere. It is put on falafel, used as a dip or spread for bread, and dolloped onto hummus or grilled meats.

When I came across an herby green sauce in the refrigerator section at Trader Joe’s (alongside the hummus) called “Zhoug Sauce” and described as a very spicy sauce from Yemen made with cilantro and chiles, I had to try it. I was not disappointed.

ingredients for zhoug sauce, cilantro, garlic, jalapenos, and spices, in a food processor

What are the ingredients in Trader Joe’s zhoug?

Trader Joe’s version is spicy and herby and very, very delicious. I have to admit, though, that I was disappointed by the level of spice.

The lid proclaimed that it was “very spicy,” but I would call it medium. And for me, the spicier the better. When you make it yourself, you can customize the spice level to your liking.

The ingredients are cilantro, canola oil, jalapeno peppers, chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, sea salt, cumin seed.

What do you put it on?

I put zhoug sauce on everything—hummus sandwiches, falafel, samosas, omelets or scrambled eggs, steak, fish, turkey burgers, or Tandoori Chicken. I love to spread it on Garlic Naan or this sourdough discard pizza crust and top it with cheese. Or use it as a dip for sweet potato fries.

yemenite zug or zhoug sauce blended in a food processor

What ingredients do you need to make zhoug sauce at home?

I started out using the ingredients listed on the Trader Joe’s label, but adjusted the recipe to my taste and based on what I had on hand.

Parsley makes the sauce extra green. Since I have a lot growing in my garden, I included it. You can leave it out if you want.

I also added ground coriander because I felt like the sauce was lacking a bit of sweetness. And I used ground cumin instead of whole seeds because that is what I had. Likewise olive oil instead of canola oil.

Zhoug sauce in a white bowl with bread and vegetables on the side

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Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Zhoug Sauce

Overhead shot of spicy zhoug sauce in a white bowl.

Zhoug sauce is a spicy cilantro sauce made with jalapeno peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices. It’s a spicy Middle Eastern condiment with roots in Yemen.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 bunches cilantro, thick stems removed (about 2 packed cups)
  • ½ packed cup fresh parsley
  • 2 to 4 jalapeños (seeds removed if you prefer a milder sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup olive oil, plus more to taste

Instructions

  1. Place the garlic, cilantro, parsley, jalapenos, salt,
    coriander, cumin, cardamom, and red pepper flakes in a food processor and process until finely minced.
  2. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream.
  3. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 126Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 0mgSodium 181mgCarbohydrates 1gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 0g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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By on May 10th, 2020

About Robin Donovan


Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 40 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners, 5 Ingredient Cooking for Two, Sushi at Home, The Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other popular publications.

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