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Jun 5, 2023

Red Zhug (Yemenite Hot Sauce)

Zhug, (or z,hug, zhoug, or schug) is a Yemenite hot sauce made with chiles as well as lots of cilantro, sometimes parsley, and a few spices. There are two types, red zhug made with red chiles (sometimes dried), and green zhug, made with fresh green chiles.

Red Zhug (Yemenite Hot Sauce) on a plate with lavash.


Zhug is great with falafel, grilled vegetables, fish, lamb, steaks, and eggs. It can also be added to hummus, soups, rice, pasta, and even drizzled over pizza. 

It's often served with malawach (a Yemenite Jewish flaky pancake), jachnun (a shabbat breakfast pastry), bourekas (a popular Israeli flaky breakfast pastry), kubaneh (a rich brioche-like bread), and sharwarma, and is meant to cut the richness of the food it is served with. 

It's an herb-packed sauce, similar to chimichurri, but much more fiery hot, and used to season nearly everything. 

How did zhug become a staple in Israeli cuisine? In 1949 and 1950, nearly 50,000 Yemenite Jews migrated to the new state of Israel and brought their food and recipes. Zhug, like many Yemenite Jewish dishes, have become part of the food culture of the country of Israel as a result of the large migration. 

Red Zhug (Yemenite Hot Sauce) in a bowl with Lavash.

Ingredients in this red zhug:

Chiles: I used Fresno chiles. Red jalapeño chiles or any other hot red chile will work too. 

Garlic: You will need 15 cloves. 

Fresh Cilantro Leaves: About three bunches. The hardest part is removing the leaves from the stems. It's okay to use a knife to chop the top half of the cilantro bunch because the more tender stems are just fine. You can pick out the larger stems after cutting. 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: My favorites are California Olive Ranch and Cobram Estate 100% California. 

Seasoning and spices: Salt, black pepper, ground cardamom, whole cumin seeds, and ground coriander. 

Red peppers in a colander and cilantro in a bowl.


First, remove the stems from the chiles. You can also remove the seeds by halving the chiles and scraping them out with a spoon or melon baller. It depends on how much heat you like. 

Next, remove the leaves as best you can from the cilantro. Add both the cilantro and chiles to the bowl of a food processor along with the peeled garlic cloves and the salt and pulse everything until everything is pulverized. 

After that, add the coriander, cardamom, cumin seeds, and black pepper and pulse. 

Finally, while the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until everything is emulsified. 

Note: To best develop the flavor of everything, traditionalists will use a mortar and pestle. I used to have one, but in a Swedish death cleaning moment, and to attempt to get rid things I rarely use, I gave it away, along with a Twinkie pan and a specialty tart pan. I still miss the tart pan.... and the mortar and pestle... and maybe the Twinkie pan. Note to self.... 

Equipment You May Need:

In lieu of a mortar and pestle, I used my large Cuisinart food processor, but a good blender will also work. 

Recipe Variations:

If you want a milder version, you can substitute red bell peppers for about half of the chiles. You can also broil or sauté the peppers before adding them to the mix. This will remove some of the fire. 

Another popular option is to replace about a third of the cilantro with parsley. 

Or.... for green zhug, use jalapeño, serrano, or Thai chiles. Dried chiles will also work for either version. 

Who needs store bought hot sauce when you can make your own? 

Red Zhug (Yemenite Hot Sauce) in a jar.


This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. To keep it longer, place it in a ziploc bag and lay it out flat and freeze it. You can then break off pieces as you need it without having to thaw all of it. 

More Homemade Sauces and Condiments You May Also Enjoy:

Little Green Dress Sauce

Carrot Habanero Hot Sauce

Blueberry Barbecue Sauce

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Lightened Up Green Goddess

Tomato and Corn Chipotle Salsa

Welcome to Herb Week where we let the herbs be the star of the recipe and not just a garnish. Mint, dill, sage, and cilantro are just a few of the herbs we are celebrating this week.

Monday’s Herb Week Recipes

Red Zhug in a small bowl.

Red Zhug (Yemenite Hot Sauce)

Red Zhug (Yemenite Hot Sauce)
Yield: 40
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 15 MinTotal time: 15 Min
Zhug, (or z,hug, zhoug, or schug) is a Yemenite hot sauce made with chiles as well as lots of cilantro and a few spices.


  • 1 1/2 pounds red chiles, stemmed and halved, seeds removed
  • 15 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 packed cups of cilantro leaves (from about three bunches)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil


  1. Put the chiles, garlic, cilantro leaves, and salt into the bowl of a large food processor. Pulse to grind everything together, scraping down the sides as needed.
  2. Add the cumin, cardamom, coriander, and black pepper.
  3. While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a glass jar and refrigerate.

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

6 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

1 g

Carbs (grams)

2 g

Fiber (grams)

0 g

Net carbs

2 g

Sugar (grams)

1 g

Protein (grams)

0 g

Cholesterol (grams)

0 mg
sauce, zhug, hot sauce
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Recipe adapted from Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking by Uri Scheft

Would you like to comment?

  1. I love making my own hot sauce but I've never heard of this version! Can't wait to try it out!

  2. Oh YUM! I love hug. The flavor and aroma is simple amazing. This sauce with a piece of flatbread is comfort food.

  3. Looks so good. I picked up some peppers at the farmer's market that are supposed to be hot sauce peppers just a smidge hotter than jalepenos (perhaps Fresno...), so I was on the lookout for a recipe. All the ingredients look amazing!

  4. I almost made this instead of my green harissa. I would have to swap the cilantro with parsley, which I talk about in my post. I'm one of THOSE people that cannot stand cilantro. But this looks so delicious!!


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