Herb-based sauces are one of those things that instantly elevate any meal. Whether its with vegetables, meats or seafood; herbs in general, make things taste so much more delicious! Maybe its the earthiness and distinct bittersweet flavor that makes it shine.
Some of the international herb-based sauces taste better with one dish than other. From my experience, Argentinian chimichurri tastes better with beef. On the other hand, Indian Hariyali tastes better with chicken. And the Israeli/Yemeni Zhug, tastes better with lamb, falafels and fish. It’s actually a pretty cool thing if you really think about it…Almost every part of the world has a similar herb-based sauce but the extra ingredients inside it help dictate which type of dish it will taste the best with.
Zhug is one of those sauces that really tastes delicous with all the fresh parsley in it, but the star in this sauce is the heat! This is one of those fiery sauces that tastes amazing with lamb and other mediterranean influenced foods. (Falafel, shawarma, hummus, roasted fish, pita bread, etc.) I actually made Zhug and put it on some broiled cod this past week. It was sooo good!
The heat comes from the type of chili pepper you use. You can use habaneros, Thai birds-eye chilis or chile de arbol (dried red chili peppers with the seeds) in this mix. For me, the coriander seeds and the chilis are what really makes Zhug so delicious. The two complement each other really well in this sauce. I’m pretty sure you will enjoy it just as much when you make this recipe!
Some recipes call for the addition of cardamom seeds in it. It is purely optional to add it in, but in my honest opinion – just skip it. It adds a bit of sweetness to the sauce, but I personally didn’t enjoy it this time, and I’m usually the “cardamom advocate” for every dish! This time – keeping the ingredients simple but entirely fresh is the key to a good Zhug!
Here is my version of Zhug…
Zhug (Herb Sauce)
Servings: makes about 2 cups of sauce
- 1/2 tsp of coriander seed
- 1 tsp of cumin seed
- 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp of minced garlic (about 4-5 small cloves)
- 5 chile de arbol (dried red chilis with seeds included) – remove stems but not seeds
- 1.5 tsp of salt (add more if desired)
- 2 cups of herbs – loosely packed measurement (I use a 50/50 mix of Cilantro and Italian Parsley with stems..about 1/2 bunch of each)
- 1/2 to 2/3 cups of extra virgin olive oil
You can make Zhug 2 ways..
- Traditional Method
- Use a Morter & Pestle to grind all the dry spices (coriander, cumin, black pepper, salt) till they are powdered.
- Once Powdery, add the coriander/parsley, garlic, chilis and grind till all spices and veggies are mixed together.
- Add the oil and continue to grind with pestle till it becomes a smooth paste and all ingredients are fully blended together. Add more salt to taste if desired.
- Transfer to small serving bowl.
- Modern Method
- In a small coffee/spice blender, add all your dry spices and blend till they are all powdered.
- Add your ground spices into another regular blender, along with the coriander/parsley, garlic, chilis and 1/2 cup of oil.
- Blend till all ingredients are smooth and become a fully incorporated type of paste. Add more oil if needed – the goal is to have the Zhug be a loose pesto-like consistency.
- Add more salt to taste if desired.
- Transfer to small serving bowl.
There you go!! It’s not a difficult recipe or sauce to make, but the flavors are INTENSE and INCREDIBLE! You will want make a batch for your meal and some to spare for the rest of the week! It’s one of those things you can eat with so many different types of foods and even dip it with your bread or add in the middle of your hummus bowl to mix in! The options are limitless!
If you like how this tastes or have any other questions/comments, feel free to tag me on IG @cmspiceculture or leave me a comment below!