Pronounced “Zhoog,” this spicy pepper cilantro sauce is a staple of Middle Eastern and Israeli cuisine, originally hailing from Yemen. The name comes from the Arabic sahawiq for “to pestle.” Traditionally, the ingredients are crushed with a mortar and pestle to create the desired consistency, though feel free to use a food processor if you choose!
Quick and easy to make, it lends a huge burst of flavor to all kinds of dishes. Dial the heat up or down by varying the type and amount of fresh chiles you use. Zhug is the perfect condiment to falafel, sabich bowls, and even shakshuka. Or get a little sassy with your grilled cheese sammy, pizza or wings.
There are red or green zhugs, depending on the type of peppers you use. This one is a green version, but feel free to switch it out for a red serrano or another spicy favorite.
- 1-3 whole jalapeños, sliced **
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only (about 1 tightly-packed cup)
- 3-4 fresh mint leaves
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp cumin, whole seeds or ground
- 1 tsp caraway seeds – optional
- ¼ tsp peppercorns
- ½ tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more as needed for consistency
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp chili flakes
Over medium-low heat, toast any whole spice seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant. Let cool slightly.
Place toasted spices and all remaining ingredients – except lemon juice, olive oil, chili flakes – in food processor and pulse until uniformly chopped. Add lemon juice and olive oil and pulse into a coarse paste. Add a bit more oil for a looser version.
Taste for salt/heat levels; adjust as desired with more salt and some/all of chili flakes.
Can store in sealed jar in fridge for up to one week.
**Note: Start with less if unsure of heat level. For more heat, use serrano chiles.