Zhug Recipe: A Fresh and Hot Middle Eastern Sauce You Need to Try

Salads and Dressings

zhug recipe
Share this post

I love experimenting with different spice blends and sauces to add flavor to my meals, and recently I discovered this zhug recipe. This Yemenite hot sauce is made with a combination of fresh herbs, spices, and chilies, and it adds a bold and spicy kick to any dish. After trying it for the first time, I knew I had to learn how to make it myself.

To make zhug, you’ll need a handful of ingredients that are easy to find at any grocery store. You’ll need coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, garlic, Thai bird chilies (or dried chiles de árbol), kosher salt, and a mix of fresh parsley and cilantro. You’ll also need extra-virgin olive oil to blend everything. Once you have all of the ingredients, making zhug is a breeze.

History of Zhug

Zhug is a spicy, flavorful sauce that originated in Yemen and has since spread to other parts of the Middle East and beyond. As a lover of spicy food, I was excited to learn more about the history of this delicious condiment.


The word “zhug” comes from the Arabic word “sahawiq,” which means “spicy.” It is believed that zhug originated in Yemen, where it is still a popular condiment today. Yemeni zhug is typically made with fresh green chilies, garlic, coriander, and cumin, and is often served with bread or as a topping for meat or fish.

Over time, zhug spread to other parts of the Middle East, where it has been adapted to local tastes and ingredients. In Israel, for example, zhug is often made with red chilies instead of green and may include additional spices like cardamom and turmeric.

Regional Variations

Today, zhug is enjoyed all over the world, with each region putting its spin on the classic recipe. In North America, for example, zhug is often made with jalapeno peppers, while in Europe, it may be made with milder peppers like bell peppers or banana peppers.

In addition to the traditional green and red zhug, there are also variations made with other ingredients like tomatoes, roasted peppers, and even avocado. Some recipes also call for the addition of lemon juice or vinegar to give the sauce a tangy flavor.

Overall, zhug is a versatile and delicious condiment that can be used to add flavor and heat to a wide variety of dishes. Whether you prefer it green or red, mild or spicy, there is a zhug recipe out there to suit your taste buds.


  • 1/4 tsp of whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 3 small and toasted internal seeds of green cardamom pods (optional)
  • 4 roughly chopped medium cloves of garlic
  • 4 to 6 roughly chopped fresh Thai bird chiles, red or green (to taste), or 4 stemmed and seeded dried chiles de árbol, torn into fine pieces
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus some more to taste
  • 2 oz fresh cilantro and parsley leaves and fine stems (approx. 2 loosely full cups of the mixed herbs)
  • 1/2 cup (approx. 120ml) of extra-virgin olive oil

How to Make Zhug?

zhug recipe

  1. Grind cumin, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds (if available), and black pepper in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle until it’s a fine powder, using a steady circular motion.
  2. After that, toss in chilies, garlic, and salt, then mash them into a coarse paste. I prefer using a mortar and pestle – it helps control how chunky or smooth the paste is.
  3. Lastly, toss in cilantro and parsley, a little at a time, and keep pounding until everything forms a coarse paste. These herbs bring a fresh, herby taste to the zhug.
  4. While pounding, slowly pour in olive oil until it blends well. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  5. You can enjoy Zhug right away or keep it in the fridge for a few weeks in a sealed container.

Cooking Methods

Raw Zhug

To make raw zhug, simply combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. This method is quick and easy and produces a bright green sauce with a fresh, zesty flavor. Raw zhug is perfect for drizzling over grilled meats or vegetables or as a dip for pita bread or chips.

Cooked Zhug

For cooked zhug, start by sautéing garlic and jalapeños in a little bit of oil until they are soft and fragrant. Then, add the remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes until everything is heated through. This method mellows out the flavor of the garlic and jalapeños, resulting in a more complex and slightly sweeter sauce. Cooked zhug is great as a marinade for chicken or fish or as a topping for roasted vegetables or grains.

Serving Suggestions

When it comes to serving zhug, there are a variety of options to choose from. Here are some traditional pairings and modern twists to consider:

Traditional Pairings

Here are some classic pairings:

  • Falafel: Zhug adds a spicy kick to falafel sandwiches or wraps.
  • Hummus: Drizzle zhug on top of hummus for a flavorful twist.
  • Shakshuka: Top your shakshuka with a dollop of zhug for a spicy and flavorful breakfast or brunch.
  • Grilled meats: Zhug pairs well with grilled meats like chicken, lamb, and beef.

Modern Twists

While zhug is traditionally used as a condiment, it can also be used as an ingredient to add flavor to a variety of dishes. Here are some modern twists to try:

  • Zhug marinade: Use zhug as a marinade for chicken, fish, or vegetables before grilling or roasting.
  • Zhug aioli: Mix zhug with mayonnaise to create a spicy aioli that can be used as a dip or spread.
  • Zhug salad dressing: Mix zhug with olive oil and lemon juice to create a flavorful salad dressing.
  • Zhug pizza: Spread zhug on pizza crust instead of tomato sauce for a spicy and unique twist.

Storage and Preservation


Once you have made your delicious zhug, you may be wondering how to store it. The good news is that it’s easy to keep fresh in the fridge for a few weeks. Transfer your zhug to an airtight container, and store it in the fridge. Be sure to keep it away from any other strong-smelling foods, as zhug has a strong aroma that can easily transfer to other foods.


If you have made a large batch of zhug and want to keep it longer, you can freeze it. Freezing zhug is a great way to preserve it for up to six months. To freeze zhug, transfer it to an airtight container or freezer bag. Be sure to label the container with the date, so you know when it was frozen. When you’re ready to use the zhug, simply thaw it in the fridge overnight.

It’s important to note that while zhug can be frozen, the texture may change slightly. The herbs may become slightly wilted, but the flavor will remain the same. If you’re planning to use the zhug in a cooked dish, the texture change won’t be noticeable.

Overall, zhug is easy to store and preserve. Whether you choose to refrigerate or freeze it, you can enjoy the spicy flavor of zhug for weeks or even months to come.

Health Benefits

As someone who loves to cook and experiment with different flavors, I always try to find recipes that not only taste great but also offer health benefits. That’s why I’m excited to share the health benefits of zhug with you! Here are some of the health benefits of the ingredients commonly found in zhug:

  • Cilantro: Cilantro is a good source of antioxidants and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like calcium and potassium.
  • Parsley: Parsley is another herb that’s packed with vitamins and minerals. It’s a good source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health, and also contains vitamin C and iron.
  • Garlic: Garlic has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It’s been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, and may also help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Chili peppers: Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which gives them their spicy flavor. Capsaicin has been shown to have pain-relieving properties and may also help boost metabolism.

By combining these ingredients in zhug, you get a flavorful sauce that also offers a range of health benefits. Plus, because zhug is made with fresh ingredients, it’s a great way to add more nutrients to your diet.

So next time you’re looking for a way to add some heat to your meals, try making zhug! Not only will it add a delicious kick to your food, but it may also offer some health benefits too.

Common Variations

As with any recipe, there are countless variations of zhug. Here are a few of the most common:

Green Zhug

Green zhug is the most traditional and well-known version of this spicy condiment. It is made with fresh green herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, and mint, as well as garlic, green chilies, and spices. This version of zhug is typically milder than its red counterpart but still packs a flavorful punch.

To make green zhug, simply blend all the ingredients until smooth. You can adjust the spiciness to your liking by adding more or fewer chilies. Green zhug is perfect for drizzling over grilled meats, or roasted vegetables, or as a dip for pita bread.

Red Zhug

Red zhug is a spicier and more complex version of the condiment. It is made with red chilies, roasted red peppers, garlic, and a blend of spices. This version of zhug has a smoky, slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with grilled meats and vegetables.

To make red zhug, roast the red peppers until charred, then blend them with the other ingredients until smooth. Adjust the spiciness to your liking by adding more or fewer chilies. Red zhug is a great way to add a kick of flavor to any dish.

Overall, zhug is a versatile and flavorful condiment that can be customized to your taste preferences. Whether you prefer the milder green version or the spicier red version, zhug is sure to add a burst of flavor to any meal.

Tips and Tricks

When making zhug, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you achieve the perfect balance of flavors and texture.

  1. Firstly, it’s important to use fresh ingredients. This means using fresh herbs and spices and avoiding pre-ground spices that may have lost their flavor over time. I like using a mortar and pestle to grind my spices fresh, which brings out their flavor.
  2. Another tip is to adjust the amount of spice to your taste. Zhug is meant to be spicy, but you can adjust the amount of chili peppers to your liking. If you want a milder zhug, remove the seeds and membranes from the chili peppers before blending them.
  3. To get the right texture, it’s important to pulse the ingredients in a food processor rather than blending them until they are completely smooth. This will give the zhug a nice chunky texture that is perfect for spreading on bread or using as a dip.
  4. Finally, zhug can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but it’s best to store it in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out. If the zhug does dry out a bit, you can stir in a bit of olive oil to bring it back to the right consistency.


In conclusion, making this zhug recipe at home is a simple and rewarding process. With just a few ingredients and a food processor, you can enjoy this flavorful and versatile condiment in a matter of minutes.

One of the best things about zhug is its versatility. It can be used as a marinade for meats, a topping for roasted vegetables, a dip for bread or crackers, or even mixed into salad dressings. The possibilities are endless!

Another great aspect of zhug is its health benefits. The combination of fresh herbs and spices provides a powerful dose of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it’s a great way to add flavor to your meals without adding extra calories or fat.

When it comes to making zhug, don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients and ratios to find the perfect balance for your taste buds. Whether you prefer a milder or spicier version, zhug is a delicious and healthy addition to any meal. So why not give it a try and see for yourself?

As mentioned above, shakshuka goes really well with zhug.
Get its recipe now (by clicking the image below):
israeli green shakshuka1

Share this post

Related posts: