With bright flavors from fresh herbs, lemon, ginger, and red pepper flakes, chermoula is the perfect sauce to add flavor to your meals. Use it over fish or meat, stir it in your soups, or spread it on your sandwiches. So many delicious ways to use this herby Moroccan sauce!
Turn up the flavor with chermoula!
Chermoula or charmoula, pronounced sher-moo-lah, is a popular North African condiment or sauce made of fresh herbs such as parsley and cilantro, with garlic, citrus and warm spices.
Traditionally, chermoula is made using a pestle and mortar to meld the flavors while keeping the condiment thick, textured, and not too smooth. I took a shortcut and used my food processor. Just a few pulses is all you need. It takes a fraction of the time, and the flavor is just as wonderful! It can be used in many ways, including as a marinade for fish or chicken.
Picture chermoula as being somewhat similar in nature to chimichurri, the popular Argentinian herb sauce. Both have a base of olive oil and fresh herbs (commonly parsley and cilantro), and are flavored with garlic and red pepper flakes. There are some differences between chimichurri and chermoula, however. First, the spices used in chermoula are decidedly North African with warm undertones like coriander and saffron. And while both sauces have an acidic element, chermoula typically incorporates fresh lemons juice while chimichurri has red wine vinegar.
Some describe chermoula as a pesto, but clearly there are no nuts involved. To me, the closest comparison you can make to chermoula is Zhoug, a spicy Mediterranean sauce primarily composed of cilantro and hot peppers. I consider Zhoug to be chermoula’s spicy cousin.
What is chermoula made of?
There are different variations of chermoula, but they mainly begin with a large amount of fresh parsley and cilantro, which make the base of this rich, green condiment. Garlic and spices such as ground coriander, red pepper flakes, paprika, ginger, and saffron (if you have it), provide the decidedly North African warm flavors. A good chermoula recipe will also include citrus (I used lemon juice) and a generous pour of extra virgin olive oil. The result is an unassuming green sauce with highly complex flavors that will delight your taste buds in the best way possible.
Ingredients to make it
My lazy chermoula recipe is quick and easy. Here’s what you’ll need to make this condiment:
- Fresh parsley
- Fresh cilantro
- Garlic cloves – I’m a massive garlic lover, and one or two cloves were more than enough garlic for me. But simply add more for if you want an extra garlicky taste.
- Ground coriander
- Red pepper flakes
- Ground ginger
- Saffron threads – saffron is optional in this recipe. While it is a nice addition, it will not make or break your chermoula sauce. If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to leave the saffron out!
- Kosher salt
- Fresh lemon juice and zest
- Extra virgin olive oil
How to make chermoula
Chermoula comes together in a food processor or good blender. Here is how to make it:
- Combine the herbs and other ingredients in your food processor. Grab a large food processor and make sure it is fitted with a blade. Add the fresh cilantro and fresh parsley. Be sure to trim a bit off the stem, but not too much: The stems have a lot of flavor, too! Throw in the rest of your ingredients (except the olive oil).
- Blend. Run the food processor very briefly and drizzle the olive oil from the top opening while it is still running. Watch it as it blends. This step should not take very long at all. A few pulses should give you perfectly combined chermoula. Don’t over-process the mixture; chermoula is not meant to be a runny sauce! It should still have a little texture to it at the end. Once it looks like the flavors have melded, turn off your food processor.
- Serve. Taste and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. Die-hard garlic fans might want to add more fresh garlic, but I found that one or two cloves added more than enough flavor to the chermoula sauce.
How to use chermoula
One of the things I love about chermoula is its versatility. It is so easy to put together, and the flavors enhance so many different dishes. I love to keep a batch ready in the fridge so I can quickly use a few spoons whenever the mood strikes!
Use chermoula sauce as a dip or marinade; stir it into soups, stews, and your favorite plain grain; or use it as a dressing for salads! It also adds a punch of flavor to finish up roasted vegetables like smashed potatoes, chicken, and I've even used it on scallops and beef tenderloin.
How to store it
Store your chermoula sauce in a tight-lid mason jar in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can also freeze it to use for later! As you do with pesto, simply add a spoonful of chermoula at a time to an ice cube tray and freeze for two to three months.
Other sauce and dip recipes to try:
5-Minute Chermoula Recipe
- In the bowl of a large food processor, add the herbs, garlic, spices, saffron threads, and a big pinch of kosher salt. Add the lemon juice and zest.
- Run the food processor to combine, and while it is running, drizzle the olive oil from the top opener. Don't over-process it, it should have a little texture to it at the end.
- Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
- This recipe makes just over 1 cup of chermoula sauce.
- Storage and freezing instructions: store it in a mason jar in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can also freeze it for later! Simply add a spoonful of chermoula at a time to an ice cube tray and freeze for two to three months.
- If you don't have saffron, omit it. Saffron is a nice addition, but it does not make or break this recipe and it is expensive.
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