Zhoug (Spicy Cilantro Chili Sauce)

Zhoug is a spicy sauce of blended fresh cilantro, green chilis, olive oil and spices. It has its origins in Yemeni cuisine but it is popular throughout the Middle East.

Since I’ve been swept up in the homemade sourdough craze, we’ve been tearing through a loaf every week or so. It’s inspired me to make more homemade spreads and dips to enjoy with fresh bread, and this zhoug is one of my all-time favorites.

Zhoug is a spicy sauce of blended fresh cilantro, green chilis, olive oil and spices. It has its origins in Yemeni cuisine but it’s popular throughout the Middle East. As a lover of cilantro and spicy food, I quickly fell in love when a local store started carrying it. I started purchasing it so often that I decided it’d be worth it to make from scratch!

This dip is super versatile: it’s an amazing accompaniment to fresh bread and crudités, and can also be used to dress fresh greens, pasta salad and more.

Ingredients for Zhoug

  • Fresh cilantro: Cilantro is to zhoug what basil is to pesto. Feel free to leave the stems on. If you aren’t a cilantro fan, you can try subbing in parsley. It won’t be traditional but it will still be tasty.
  • Jalapeños: Zhoug is meant to be spicy, but you can tone it down a few notches by removing the seeds and ribs. If you’re in the opposite camp, you can add extra jalapeño or use a spicier variety of pepper (like serranos) instead.
  • Ground cardamom, coriander, and cumin: This spice blend gives zhoug a super distinctive flavor that sets it apart from a more Latin-leaning cilantro-jalapeño dip.
  • Garlic and lemon juice: Fresh is ideal! Play around with amounts to find your perfect balance of flavors.
  • Olive oil: Don’t substitute in a different kind of oil. You can adjust the amount of olive oil you add depending on how thick you’d like the zhoug.
  • Red pepper flakes: Optional; add a few shakes if you want even more of a spice kick.
  • Sea salt: Adjust to your preference.

How to Make Zhoug

It couldn’t get any easier! Simply add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and blend to a paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate everything. Feel free to add a bit of extra olive oil if you prefer a thinner texture.

If you don’t own a food processor, this can also be made in a blender. Depending on your particular blender, you may need to add extra olive oil simply to get the mixture moving. Again, scrape down the pitcher as needed.

Finally, if you own neither, you can still prepare this by chopping all ingredients very finely and mixing together. It’ll have a chunkier texture, of course, but it’ll still taste fantastic! You can also use a mortar and pestle if you have one.

zhoug
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Zhoug (Spicy Cilantro Chili Sauce)

Zhoug is a spicy sauce of blended fresh cilantro, green chilis, olive oil and spices. It has its origins in Yemeni cuisine but it is popular throughout the Middle East.
Course Sauce
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Author Sarah Sullivan

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro stems are ok
  • 1-3 jalapeño peppers roughly chopped (see notes)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • juice of 1 medium lemon about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/3 -1/2 cup olive oil depending on how runny you’d like it
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to preference
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

Instructions

  • Add cilantro, peppers, garlic, cardamom, coriander, cumin, and lemon juice to a food processor. Process until everything is chopped evenly. (Check for large chunks of garlic.)
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, then add in oil, pepper flakes and salt. Give it a taste and adjust to preference.
  • Store in an airtight jar in the fridge. I’d imagine it would last for at least a week, I can’t speak from experience since we eat ours so fast!

Notes

  • For a mild zhoug: Use fewer jalapeños and remove the seeds and white ribs before adding. Also, skip the red pepper flakes. I don’t recommend leaving the jalapeño out altogether, because it adds a lot of flavor! You can always just use a regular green bell pepper if you prefer no heat whatsoever.
  • For a spicy zhoug: Use all 3 jalapeños and leave in the seeds and ribs. You can also experiment with adding different kinds of peppers, such as serranos.
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