By Sam | 20 September, 2020
We first heard about zhoug a few years ago and have since observed it make an increased appearance in the world of food. Once we tried it we were definitely intrigued and gradually started using it more and more. It has now become a very commonplace condiment for us and we’re here to demystify this vibrant sauce for you. If you’ve recently come across it in a restaurant or during your grocery shopping and weren’t sure what it was or how to use it, you’ll find all the answers to your questions, and more, right below.


Zhoug is a herbaceous, spicy green paste used as a condiment of sorts throughout much of the Middle East in a similar fashion to salsa verde or chimichurri.

Sometimes called Zhug, Skhug, S’chug, Sahawiq, S’rug, Sisbas, or Daqqus, the name derives from the root S-H-Q in Arabic, Yemenite, and Hebrew which refers to eroding, or grinding. This points directly to the technique used in making Zhoug, utilising pestle and mortar to grind the ingredients together into a paste.

Though numerous minor variations exist, typically Zhoug comprises fresh coriander, fresh parsley, cumin, garlic, and green chilies as its core ingredients. 


Zhoug can be found throughout much of the Middle East, perhaps most noticeably in Israel. However, Zhoug originates from Yemen, more specifically from the country’s Jewish communities.

So I'm a sucker for history and Zhoug has a pretty epic origin story. If this is not your thing, no hard feelings, you may want to skip this bit. 

Although you may see every now and then headlines about the civil war that has been raging in Yemen for many years, the country used to be a strong trading player of the Silk Road. Namely, the country was key in the trade and distribution of frankincense and mhyrr, and many powerful nations from East and West drove their camel caravans in its direction.
It is believed that around 900BC King Solomon sent Jewish merchants and soldiers from Jerusalem to Yemen to prospect for gold and silver and safeguard the spice caravans that were making their way through the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. A number of them settled and their community grew in size over time.

Fast forward to the 20th century, and it appears that political persecution was increasing against Jewish citizens in Arab countries, including Yemen. It reached a high point in 1948 when Israel was declared a state. Many Yemenite Jews, therefore, desired to move to Israel, however, the Egyptian government had blocked the main access points going through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

As a result, 50,000 Yemenites were airlifted and brought to Israel, in an operation called Wings of Eagles (pretty crazy right!?), and by 1950 almost all Yemenite Jews had relocated to Israel. With them, they brought their culture and recipes, amongst those Zhoug! 


Now that you literally know ALL about Zhoug, it's time to make some, no?
Ok so for Zhoug, these are the ingredients you'll need:

1 tsp Coriander seeds
½ tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Black peppercorns
4 Green chillies
2 Garlic cloves
25g Fresh parsley, chopped

15g Fresh coriander, chopped
145ml Extra-virgin olive oil
4 tsp Fresh lemon juice 

Salt, to season

First, you want to toast on a dry skillet pan the cardamom seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and black peppercorns on medium-high heat. Moved the seeds around for about 2 minutes until toasty and fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder) and grind to a fine consistency.
Then, roughly cut the chillies and garlic and add to your mortar and pestle and grind to a paste. Follow by chopped fresh parsley and coriander and olive oil and grind some more until you get a spread. Season with salt and finally add the lemon juice. 


A little perplexed as to ways to use the stuff? Don't be! Zhoug can be viewed in a similar way to salsa verde or pesto. This essentially means that you can use it on pretty much anything that tickles your fancy when you’d like to add a little heat.

Traditionally, Zhoug is often served alongside falafel, to jazz up a sabich sandwich or as an accompaniment to a chargrilled lamb shawarma kebab.

Very versatile, the spicy sauce is delicious mixed with olive oil or yoghurt to make a salad dressing or a dip for crusty sourdough, as a seasoning for roasted vegetables and potatoes, or as a vibrant addition to rice or couscous.

One thing to keep in mind when using zhoug though is that to preserve the sauce’s flavours, it is best to use it fresh or to only gently cook it. To ensure that the flavours of the condiment come through, brush extra on in the last few minutes of cooking, when seasoning vegetables or fish for example. 


Ready to experiment some more? We went for it and created recipes that include zhoug and are really better for it. 


Zhoug is often served with falafel, and in this recipe, we have combined the two in one! The zingy, garlicky, bright green sauce boosts the herb-filled falafel to a wonderful effect.


Somewhat of a tired classic, Chicken Kiev is usually filled with garlic butter sauce. To re-invigorate this dish we chose to lace the traditional butter with the flavour-packed zhoug sauce, which truly takes these chicken kievs to entirely new heights whilst still paying ample homage to the original dish.


Somewhat more traditional, we’ve included zhoug into our Miso Aubergine Sabich sandwich, to great effect. Sabich is an extremely popular street food sandwich in Israel where the winning combination of fried aubergine, hard-boiled eggs and a host of punchy condiments, including zhoug, creates a wonderfully flavour-full on-the-go lunch.


The homemade stuff is definitely better, but if you’re short on time (no judgement!) you can find these ready-made versions here:

-Belazu, which you can also find in Waitrose and Ocado, has become our go-to when short on Zhoug. It is wonderfully fragrant with a kick. Perfect to give the condiment a first try.
-Sous Chef is one of our favourite online shops for specialty ingredients. They also have Zhoug sauce from Belazu and ship all over the UK.
-Waitrose have their own Zhoug sauce, which works well too. 
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this article on zhoug, one of our favourite condiments! Is it the first time you hear about it or do you already use it in your cooking? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear about your experience.


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