Food writers love to praise the simple elegance of an easy, fresh herb salsa. There are countless recipes out there for herbaceous sauces made with a handful of herbs, a little olive oil, some lemon and chili flake, all promising to use up the herbs you’ve got wilting in the back of your refrigerator, ready to transform all your meals into something special.
Easy never tasted so awesome.
These recipes make sense to me. They sound delicious and easy and like they would actually improve a lot of my meals. I just … never make them. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. But somehow it just feels too fussy and I never get around to it. Which is why Trader Joe’s Zhoug sauce is one of my favorite fridge staples.
It is exactly what all of those recipes promise: a fresh, slightly spicy herb sauce that you can easily add to any meal for a pop of freshness and heat. The ingredient list is short—just cilantro, oil, jalapeños, chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, sea salt and cumin seed. So, yes, I could definitely make this at home. But since I have proven to myself over and over that it’s never going to happen, I simply treat myself to this sauce.
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Zhoug is a version of sauce that exists in many cultures. The label on Trader Joe’s version says that it has Yemeni roots, but variations of this sauce exists across the Middle East. You might see it spelled zhug, or schug or skhug, they’re all spins on a similar sauce.
Whatever you call it and however you spell it, it’s a condiment that is indispensable for a reason. I take inspiration from the sauce’s Middle Eatern roots and drizzle it on hummus or stir it into yogurt for a healthy, easy dip. It’s also become a dinnertime staple, perfect for bringing to life any boring grain bowl or side dish or roasted vegetables. Just a few spoonfuls makes any basic vegetable feel intentional and special. When I cook a real dinner, like a roast chicken or a pan-seared steak, the zhoug brings a brightness and freshness to the rich meat that makes them feel worthy of a restaurant. Trust me, this versatile sauce is worth the space in your cart on your next grocery run.
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