If there’s one thing all my friends know about me, it’s that I live for condiments. At any given time, my fridge door is completely stuffed with condiments. Zhoug was already one of my go-to condiments before trying Trader Joe’s version because I’ve always loved how bright and spicy it is.
It’s popular all over the Middle East after originating in Yemen. It pairs really well with Mediterranean dishes such as shawarma or lamb kebabs or shellfish.
Zhoug is a funny word and a difficult one to pronounce. In fact, many people don’t pronounce it correctly. The easiest way to pronounce Zhoug is “Sa hoog or Skoog. You’ll also find it spelled different ways such as schug, skhug or zhug.
What is Zhoug?
Zhoug is an herbal flavored hot sauce that is traditionally made by grinding together cilantro, jalapenos, red pepper flakes, garlic and cumin. It has Yemeni origins and is the most popular hot sauce in Israel. It’s extremely versatile as a condiment and can be used on just about anything.
With such a short list of ingredients, Zhoug isn’t inherently hard to make.
I do, however, tend to use it as a condiment to complete a meal, so I don’t always feel like making it.
After spending hours making shawarma or falafel, I just want to slap scoops of yogurt, hummus, and Zhoug onto my plate and be done with it.
Discovering that Trader Joe’s has a version of Zhoug was very exciting because I love both Zhoug and Trader Joe’s.
Zhoug Taste Test
Upon opening the Zhoug from Trader Joe’s, it looked great. It looked quite a bit like my homemade version; it’s bright green and has the right consistency, which should be almost pesto-like.
It smelled amazing- very herbaceous and fresh.
Upon opening the container the light floral notes that I cherish were instantly present.
I stirred it up before tasting a little plain on my spoon. Immediately I got that hit of cilantro and zing from the jalapenos that I love in Zhoug.
One negative was the lingering spice from the jalapenos which was likely due to the presence of canola oil. The oil acts as an emulsifier and coats your mouth with the spice. This causes the spice to linger and makes you feel like it won’t go away.
It’s for this reason that when I make Zhoug at home I leave out the oil. It’s unnecessary and the lingering spice makes the sauce less pleasant.
How to Use Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce
Zhoug is an amazing condiment to finish full dishes, but I also love it as a dip! So after tasting it on its own, I decided to try it out a few different ways: plain on garlic flatbread (also from Trader Joe’s), with plain yogurt served on flatbread, with hummus served on flatbread and on top of grilled chicken.
All four ways were really great. Alone on the flatbread, their Zhoug really stands on its own as a dip, and it works. It stays on the flatbread like a normal dip, and the flavors are bold enough for it to work by itself as a dip.
With the yogurt on flatbread, it was amazing; it felt like a luxurious dip, but if you use Greek yogurt, it’s actually quite healthy. If you are adverse to spice, the yogurt is a really great way to cool it down.
The Zhoug with hummus on flatbread was another home run. The warmth from the cardamom and the heat from the jalapenos in their Zhoug are a mouthwatering addition to plain hummus.
Lastly, on grilled chicken the Zhoug added an herbal spice packing heat with a pesto like texture.
What We Would Change
While eating the Zhoug, I spent time comparing Trader Joe’s ingredients to my own recipe. The ingredients were extremely similar, which is evident in how good it tastes.
One thing I mentioned earlier, however, is that it contains canola oil. This is probably done for cost reasons, but it does create a lingering heat that can be avoided if made it without oil.
Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce Ingredients
CILANTRO, CANOLA OIL, JALAPENO PEPPERS, CHILE FLAKES, GARLIC, CARDAMOM, SEA SALT, CUMIN SEED.
The zhoug sauce from Trader Joe’s is both vegan due to it’s plant based ingredients and gluten free. Just note that there is no gluten free label on the container so please use at your discretion.
Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce Nutrition Facts
There are 8 servings in the 8oz container making the serving size 1oz or 2 Tbsp (30g). Each serving contains:
- Calories: 90
- Total Fat: 9g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 160mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 3g
- Total Sugars: 0g
- Protein: less than 1g
After tasting it so many ways, I decided I really enjoyed it every single way. It had the herbal burst and spice I look for in Zhoug. It’s also fresh and sold in the refrigerator section near the dips and hummus, which I love.
When I found Zhoug in stores, it’s typically the shelf-stable kind and not very good. Of course, nothing beats homemade, but if you’re someone who enjoys Zhoug to use as a condiment for your Mediterranean dishes but want a fresh convenient option. Trader Joe’s Zhoug passes the test as a great substitute for homemade.
So here’s a quick summary of my review:
Trader Joe’s items to pair it with:
- Shawarma Chicken Thighs
- Gyro Slices
- Mediterranean Style Hummus and/or Greek Yogurt
- Indian Style Flatbread
What I like about it:
- Very herbaceous, fresh and brightly colored
- Nice bite of spice from the jalapeno
- Fresh and not shelf stable
- Great replacement for homemade
What I don’t like about it:
- Made with canola oil
If you have never had Zhoug but are looking for a condiment to kick your falafel, shawarma, gyros, or anything up a notch, this is perfect to try! If you love cilantro and a good kick of spice, this dip is worth trying at only $3.69 a container. It’s become a staple in my house!