Zhoug is a lesser known Mediterranean sauce, but a must-try! Think spicy, fragrant, cilantro pesto...kinda.

Bowl of Zhoug: Spicy Cilantro Pesto

Mediterranean cooking is rich with all sorts of dips and sauces. Obviously hummus tops the list of dips (my current favorite being this roasted red pepper hummus) A drizzle of nutty tahini--creamy sauce from toasted sesame seeds--is a must atop kabobs.  Creamy Greek Tzatziki spread on a sandwich...heavenly.

One sauce that's less known to us here in American is zhoug (also spelled zhug or skhug). This magic, herby, spicy green sauce originated in Yemen, but made its way to Israel in the late 1940's via Yemenite Jews.

What is Zhoug?

Zhoug is a fragrant paste of hot green chillis (I used jalapenos), lots of fresh cilantro, parsley, garlic and warm Middle Eastern spices. It is similar to chermoula, only zhoug is very cilantro forward and has a big spicy kick. It's also somewhat similar to my vegan green goddess dressing, minus the creamy tahini!

You can treat it as you would pesto: stir it into a soup or stew; toss it in a salad; or spread it over a labneh or cream cheese sandwich! It's also great with eggs! Remember my pesto eggs recipe? Just replace the pesto with zhoug!

Tips for best zhoug (spicy cilantro pesto)

As a simple sauce or pesto, Zhoug (or zhug) is truly the sum of its parts. So it's important to start with the freshest of ingredients here.

And as you would expect, this cilantro pesto makes a feature of olive oil. That's why, it's important to use quality extra virgin olive oil. My choice is our Early Harvest Greek EVOO. It's an exquisite, low-acidity oil (less than 0.35%) from organically grown and processed Koroeniki olives. Because Early Harvest has the aroma of green figs and fresh green herbs with hints of flat leaf parsley and thyme, it perfectly enhances this green sauce.

Mason jar containing Zhoug with a thick layer of Early Harvest extra virgin olive oil on top. Bottle of Early Harvest EVOO on the side.

One important tip, this isn't meant to be just a green cilantro pesto, but a spicy pesto. It is particularly spicy on the first day you make it, but mellows quite a bit after a day or so.  Make a day or two ahead.

To store, place the zhoug cilantro pesto in a sanitized mason jar and top with lots of extra virgin olive oil. The oil acts to seal the zhoug and helps take off a bit of the spicy edge. Cover and refrigerate; it'll keep well for three days or so.

How to Use Zhoug?

Zhoug is quite versatile. The owners of a local Middle Eastern joint in my area use it on falafel sandwiches, on top of creamy hummus, or stirred into a bowl of soup. It would do well with grilled meats, and I regularly drizzle it on top of omelets like this zucchini baked omelet or this Greek tomato omelet.

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Zhoug: Spicy Cilantro Pesto | The Mediterranean Dish. A fragrant, spicy green sauce with fresh cilantro, parsley, Middle Eastern spices and olive oil. Think cilantro pesto with a nice kick. Great on all sorts of sandwiches, stirred into soup, or as a topping to your meat! See the recipe on TheMediterraneanDish.com

Zhoug: Spicy Cilantro Pesto Recipe


Description

Zhoug is a lesser known Mediterranean sauce, but a must-try! Think spicy, fragrant, cilantro pesto...kinda.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 6 jalapeno peppers (or hot green chiles), sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup (packed) fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground green cardamom
  • ⅓ cup Early Harvest extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juice of

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, add the jalapeno, garlic and salt. Coarsely chop.
  2. Now add cilantro, parsley and spices. Run processor until a finer thick paste forms.
  3. Transfer the cilantro paste to a bowl. Add the olive oil and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Enjoy!

Notes

  • To store place in a sanitized mason jar and top with lots of extra virgin olive oil. The oil acts to seal the zhoug and helps take off a bit of the spicy edge. Cover and refrigerate; it'll keep well for 3 days or so.
  • Recommended for this Recipe our Early Harvest extra virgin olive oil; all-natural and organic coriander, cumin, and all-natural cardamom.
  • SAVE! Try our Ultimate Mediterranean Spice Bundle; or create your own 6-pack or 3-pack of our all-natural or organic spices! VISIT OUR SHOP
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Category: Sauce/Dip
  • Method: Counter top
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean

Keywords: Zhoug, Spicy Cilantro Pesto, Zhoug Pesto,

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Spicy Spinach and Lentil Soup

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Mediterranean Vegan Wraps with Cauliflower and Tahini

Garlic Cilantro Salmon 

 

 

Zhoug: Spicy Cilantro Pesto | The Mediterranean Dish. A fragrant, spicy green sauce with fresh cilantro, parsley, Middle Eastern spices and olive oil. Think cilantro pesto with a nice kick. Great on all sorts of sandwiches, stirred into soup, or as a topping to your meat! See the recipe on TheMediterraneanDish.com

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. I love Zchug ! This green one is my favorite . There is also a red version but I love the green better. You can find this at any falafel or shawarma joint in Israel . It goes very well in falafel or shwarma pita and another way to use this is to mix it with cheeses . Even labaneh or farmer cheese it’s Particularly good with the soft cream cheese from
    Israel which they sell here in Brooklyn, NY . It’s also good with the Yemenite soup called Maraq , I also use it with chicken soup . By the way I love all your videos !

  2. I made this to go with the Pumpkin Soup and it was amazing. Do you have any other dishes or suggestions for the Zhoug to go on?

    1. Sure! It's great on falafel sandwiches, on top of creamy hummus, with grilled meats, and I regularly drizzle it on top of omelets... just to give you a few ideas :).

  3. I am curious- my husband cannot tolerate spice at all. I know this is meant to be spicy but if I subbed green bell peppers... would it be a mild form of the same thing or should I just skip it if we can’t do spicy?

    1. We dine at an Indian/mediterranian restaurant whose signature is a cilantro pesto that takes just like this minus the heat and it is delicious! They serve it along side either mango or pomegranate chutneys with most things on their menu. So I would go ahead and leave the peppers out entirely, adjusting the liquids to get the best consistency. It will be wonderful.

  4. Just want to say to watch it on the jalapeños! Six is a huge number!!! I used two and the resulting mixture is incendiary.

    1. I would not freeze it. It can stay well for a few days refrigerated in a jar topped with enough olive oil and sealed well.

  5. This soups looks beautiful; I plan to make it this week. One of my guests is allergic to fresh parsley. What can I use as a substitute for that ingredient?