Zhoug (1)
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  • Food: Zhoug (Spicy Cilantro Sauce)
  • Writer: Nicolas Wilson
  • Content-Type: Food Blog

Zhoug! Meet zhug, also spelled skhug and pronounced “zoog,” my newest condiment passion. It’s a Yemeni cilantro sauce that’s vibrant and spicy. You’ll love zhoug if you like chili-pepper spice, cilantro, and pesto.

Zhoug has become increasingly popular in the Middle East. It’s drizzled over falafel in Israel, and it’s the perfect fiery complement to the chilly tzatziki sauce. If you’re lucky, you might find it on your Los Angeles restaurant table.

I’ll admit that I discovered zhoug at Trader Joe’s, near the prepared salads in the refrigerated department. Its mossy green tint made me pause for a moment, but I love herbed sauces, so I bought it.

Since then, I’ve been sprinkling zhoug on every meal or scrap of leftovers that need a kick. I adore it—to the point where I’m afraid Trader Joe’s will stop producing it, and then how would I survive without my zhoug? So I figured out how to make it at home and wanted to tell you about it.

What do you need to know about Zhoug?

  • Zhoug is prepared from a few simple ingredients: Cilantro, garlic, chile peppers, spices, and olive oil are all used in this dish. Because jalapeos are readily available, I used them.
  • Cardamom is used in Trader Joe’s zhoug, which adds an unexpected layer of warmth and richness. I believe you will enjoy it.
  • In a food processor, you can make zhoug.
  • Zhoug is and should be, a fiery dish. Add fresh jalapeno seeds (reserved from your peppers) or red pepper flakes to taste to make it as spicy as you prefer.
  • Over time, the flavor of Zhoug mellows and alters. Straight from the food processor, it can taste peppery, harsh, or overly spicy. Don’t worry if you don’t like it right away. Simply place it in a jar for storing and chill for at least an hour.

Zhoug’s Uses

Zhoug yum (1)
Food: Zhoug (Source: Unicorns In The Kitchen)

Zong is deliciously swirled, drizzled, or dipped in any of the following.

  • Black beans, chickpeas, and lentils are examples of beans.
  • Plain yogurt, crème fraîche, sour cream, goat cheese, or feta cheese are examples of creamy, tangy dairy.
  • Fried eggs, frittatas, and scrambled eggs are all examples of egg dishes.
  • Falafel
  • Flatbread
  • Hummus
  • Bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, red onion, and other roasted vegetables
  • Brown rice, farro, wild rice, wheat berries, and other whole grains
  • Salads: Use it as a salad dressing by thinning it with extra olive oil, or drizzle it over any slaws or vegetable salads that need a boost.

Zhoug (Spicy Cilantro Sauce)

Time to Prepare: 10 minutes

Time to cook: 0 minutes

10 minutes in total

Yield: 1 1/4 cup yield

Any meal gets a spicy cilantro kick with homemade zhoug sauce! Zhoug is a common Middle Eastern condiment that is simple to prepare. 1 1/4 cup is the yield from this recipe.


  • 4 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 packed cups fresh cilantro (about 2 bunches, mostly leave but skinny stems are ok)
  • 4 medium jalapeños, seeds removed but reserved
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, more to taste
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil


Zhoug yummy (1)
Food: Zhoug (Source: Unicorns In The Kitchen)
  1. Place the garlic in a food processor and pulse until it is broken down into small pieces.
  2. Add the cilantro, jalapeno (save the seeds in case you want the sauce to be spicier after tasting), salt, cardamom, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Process until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and very finely chopped.
  3. Slowly sprinkle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. Blend until the sauce is largely smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
  4. Add the jalapeno seeds or additional red pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon at a time) and blend again for a hotter sauce. Is it too sour? You can season with more salt or wait for the flavors to blend. The flavor of this sauce changes with time, so if it’s too hot or you don’t like it right away, chill it in the fridge for an hour and try it again.


  • STORAGE SUGGESTIONS: This sauce will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, covered. When olive oil is cooled, it can solidify; if this happens, bring the sauce to room temperature or microwave it for a few seconds. Recombine by stirring.
  • ADD VERSATILITY: Some zhoug recipes call for a combination of cilantro and parsley. If you prefer that mix, use half of each. Other pepper kinds can be used; Epicurious suggests Hungarian wax peppers.