Zhug: The Hot Sauce You Should Know About

First things first, the pronunciation of this word (zhug) is far from intuitive, so we’ll get right to it: The spicy hot sauce we’re talking about today is pronounced “skhoog.” Originally from Yemen, it migrated to Israeli tastebuds, and is now considered one of Israel’s national hot sauces, and we’re kind of very excited to be putting our own Plated spin on the tasty condiment this summer. No shade to Sriracha, but zhug is here to stay.

What’s in it?

Zhug is a combination of herbs and spices blended together, alongside plenty of oil, and served mainly as a dip. Though it’s often made with mortar and pestle, we expedited the process a bit by using a blender. Ground cardamom, coriander, and cumin are blended with pine nuts, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, Thai chile, garlic, and olive oil. The result? Spicy, refreshing, and saucy—all at once. So much goodness.

Why it’s awesome

We love zhug for more than a few reasons. Not only is it delicious, it’s super simple to make, and combines ingredients that don’t require trips to specialty stores. We relish in its vibrant green color, and the fact that in just a few minutes you can whip up your very own hot sauce is just too good to pass up. You can customize spice levels, and stray from tradition with other fresh herbs. We love the aromatic combo of parsley and cilantro, though, the earthy spices, and creamy texture from pine nuts (one of the main ingredients in classic Italian pesto). Zhug can be added to a sandwich for extra kick, served on top of eggs for a little freshness, or slathered over any protein.

How we use it

When envisioning our Middle Eastern Sweet Potato dish, we knew we wanted to combine a number of different ingredients from the region into one great dinner. In addition to a chopped Israeli salad, we topped crispy smashed sweets with chickpea salad and silky tahini. For a little fire, we put our zhug on top—perfect for balancing the richness of the potato, chickpea, and tahini. Here’s to a hot sauce you can make in just a few minutes!

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon pine nuts
½ ounce cilantro
½ ounce parsley
1 squeeze lemon juice
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
As much Thai chile as desired

In a blender or food processor, combine spice mix, pine nuts, cilantro, parsley, 1 squeeze lemon juice, as much Thai chile as desired, garlic, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Pulse until smooth. Season with .125 teaspoon salt and pepper.


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