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The Yemen Power: Zhuk (plus recipe)

Zhuk, a Yemen paste of hot green peppers, is one of the hottest things to spice your food with. Very easy to make, and there’s also a story.

Until 1493, the only pepper outside the American continnent was the one we know today as “black pepper”. And when Christopher Columbus brought the first chilis to Europe, no one seemed to care.

It took some 150 years until the old world came to it’s senses, but after that the tiny veg was caltivated and quickly spread to all Europe (espcialy Italy and Hungery) and from there to North Africa, the Middle-East and Asia, where it was engineered into over 2000 species and varaieties of peppers, and dozens of different spices.

Hot peppers are very common in all Midlle Eastern cuisines, where it is eaten fresh, cooked or pickled. In most hummus places in Israel and Arab countries, hot peppers are an integral part of the course – fresh or as part of a sauce of some kind (NEVER as one of the hummus ingredients).


hot green peppers and coriander

In some places the hummus is served with Tatbila, a thin sauce from ground green peppers with lots of garlic and lemon. Many Israeli hummus places serve it with Harif (“hot”), a local variation of the North African sauce called Arissa, in which red chilis are the main ingredient.

Zhuk (*), the Yemen version for the hot pepper sauce, is made of hot green peppers, garlic, oil, spices and tons of coriander. It can be a little hot or very hot, but it’s always very tasty , very green and smells very good.

After eating Zhuk, people who do not like coriander are often surprised when they realise it’s one of the ingredients. So, don’t give up on this one before you tried it. The taste is simply wondeful.

This recipe is a relitively subtle version of the dish, but it’s still VERY HOT. Be sure to use gloves, make it very clean, and don’t make any sudden moves while chopping the peppers – they tend to be juicy, and one drop in enough for hours of burning pain if it accidently find it way into your eyes…. ouch….

green peppers and coriander, from another angel Inside the food processor
Finally: Zhuk FRESH green peppers etc.

for one small jar:
1 teacup chopped coriander
5 mediem hot green peppers
2-4 cloves of garlic
1/2-1/3 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbs. oil

Gently and carefuly cut and clean the peppers from the seeds. Ground with all other ingredients in a food processor until the desired consistancy is achieved.

(*) also spelled Schug, Zchug, Zhug etc. The meaning of the name is “ground”.

42 Comments on The Yemen Power: Zhuk (plus recipe)

  1. Cool! I love this and will make this soon!

    I’ve been looking for a way to use up my green chili peppers.

  2. I was just going to ask you about the wonderful green hot sauce that I have had at The Hummus Place in New York, but you beat me to it! 🙂

  3. I suppose since there are muslims in china, chinese food is muslim cuisine. Nice try.

  4. Budd Margolis // July 9, 2008 at 10:33 am // Reply

    I am pleased zhug is finally getting the attention it deserves. There are a million variants and you can experiment with various peppers which will differ from season to season.

    NOW, when do we start serious discussion about babaghanoush (eggplant) dip and the ultimate felafel recipe?

  5. my spouse’s version (native of Yemen) is basically a handful of cilantro, 2 cloves garlic, one tomato (green preferred when available) and as many jalapenos as he thinks he can get away with….4 if I’m looking….8 if I’m not

  6. it’s the best on Jachnun!!!

  7. Budd Margolis // September 3, 2008 at 4:35 pm // Reply

    Be careful when handling hot tamales, nuked peppers and other hot veggies!!!
    I just make a super ballistic zhug and somehow touched my nose. Ouch!



  10. Hi I like this recipe but have recently tried a red variation which i have also found great. I am not sure if the chillies were of the red variety. My question though is can one freeze this after making it and reuse with success at a much later date? your help would be appreciated.
    The Home Cook

  11. Thanks for the recipe! I used to buy this when I was living in Israel and miss it. You could buy it in the shops and it came in two varieties: red and green. I think the red was the hotter one. I guess it was the same but with red peppers.

    Goes great with Hummus on a sandwich!

  12. Like another reader’s post,I often wondered what the green paste was but did not know it’s exact name. thanks for the recipe…

  13. As a chiliholic I will have to make this recipe. I have had schug before, I just had never encountered a recipe for it until today. As I live in Texas, I will probably try to make the green schug. Fresh red chilis are nearly non-existent, save for the habanero which I’m not sure would be appropriate for schug. So I’ll probably go with serranos, or maybe jalapenos.

  14. Paul Schnall // October 15, 2010 at 11:52 am // Reply

    I live in Israel and I have some Yemenite friends. I have been making this shug weekly for some months now. I enjoy this with houmous on a pita. I definitely do not make it as hot as Grandma Yona, but then again I am a little too white(ashkenazi) for really hot shug.

  15. sarina eliyakim // October 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm // Reply

    I am going to try it and come back, Thanks for sharing.

  16. I’ve been looking for this recipe for a long while; I also used to have this frequently while I was living in Jerusalem; there was a dark greenish-red or brownish-red variety which I preferred, though… which I think is being referred to as the red version. Amazing stuff;

    Great in Shawarma and falafel…

    I just made a batch of it, but had to substitute a bunch of ingredients, since green and red chilis are out of season… otherwise I’ll be buying some frozen chilis. Next August, I’m on it.

    I’ll definitely be sending this recipe to my Thai friends; they’ll love it.

  17. sarina eliyakim // November 11, 2010 at 1:51 am // Reply

    Today I made it adding some ginger but forgot the cumin. I removed all the stems of the cilantro or coriander before using the food processor. What a work! We call in Israel Coriander and in America Cilantro. I love it in every dish. It adds some flavor.

  18. This article started out with the sentence:

    “Until 1493, the only pepper outside the American continnent was the one we know today as “black pepper”. And when Christopher Columbus brought the first chilis to Europe, no one seemed to care.”

    I find this a little hard to believe…
    In China and India, chilis have been a significant ingrediant (sp) in their foods for along time. The silk road and spices of all types came to the middle east and Europe way before Columbus.
    I’ve not done research on this, but that is the sense that I get.

    • Roger, the article is correct. While there were certainly other plants that created a “heat reaction” in the mouth – the most common being black pepper, Piper nigrum, the members of the Capsicum spp family that we know as peppers, or chili, or chiles, were not present in the West or the East prior to the Conquest of the Americas. Shortly after the Conquest – 1525 or so, the Spanish began the trade known as the Manila or Acapulco Galleons – depending on where they were heading. It is quite likely that the galleons were the bearers of hot peppers to the East. To the West, it was perhaps Columbus, but certainly Cortéz who carried peppers back to Europe. From Spain they made their way across the Mediterranean, and into Turkey, which, when it invaded Hungary, introduced peppers there – thus, the origins of paprika.

  19. I agree but some fruits and veggies were ONLY found in america. like tomatoes and pumpkins. so if no one discovered the american produce then the spice traders would not have it available if it was just found in north America. how long has china had hot chili peppers? pumpkins have been in europe a long time but don’t originate there. like tomatoes in italy.

    • There is no botanical connection between the hard black peppercorns like tellichiri, Malabar, Sumatra, etc.and the green and other colored peppers if the capsicum family. In English we call them both peppers which leads to confusion. In other languages they have separate names.

  20. Thank you, thank you. I had falafel from a place on W. 4th street FIVE years ago. It was served with a green sauce that was amazing. When my daughter went to NYU a year later, the shop had closed. I’ve been searching for a recipe for that sauce ever since. I’m making it tonight!

  21. shmuela padnos // May 25, 2011 at 1:20 am // Reply

    i have spent half a day looking for the recipe. hareef, zoog, it is hard to find. i ate this in israel on felafel , there is a brand with a yemin looking rabbi on front one red one green. whenever anyone i know goes to isreal it is the only thing i want. alot of places in america use the korean hot pepper paste on top of felafel but this is what i remember and tastes totally unkike anything else. thanks for this.

  22. How interesting. In India we make exactly same “green sauce” as you call it. coriander,cumin,garlic,green chillies and lemon juice. We call it “Dhania chutney” or coriander chutney. We also make a very hot chillies dip with just green chillies and garlic, sometimes with red chillies and garlic.

  23. Well, it is very interesting indeed katekee! You are the second person to tell me that and it does make me think that Shuk might origins from India (or the other way around).

    Oops… I hope we didn’t just started the Shuk war…

  24. I discovered the joys of harif in Israel 15 yrs ago. I couldn’t make up my mind which I liked better, the green or the red. So, I brought home multiple jars of each. I’ve tried every hot sauce I’ve encountered for decades. None come close to the flavor of harif. By the grace of a benevelent Diety, the single glat kosher deli/butcher/ bakery/grocery in my Greater Metro area carries many Israeli food products, including 2 of my favorite Israeli products, Yarden wines and harif. I’ve been in Heaven ever since. Now I’m dying to try making my own. Thanks for the recipe!

  25. Ahhhhhh I am so glad I finally found this recipe!!!

    My ex-boyfriend from years ago is yemin and made the most amazing vegan dishes I’ve ever tasted. This hot sauce is something that I missed the most and have been searching for, for what sealed like forever!

    Thanks Etay!!!

    Yummy yum yum gonna put it on toast with some veganaise stat.

  26. My Israeli husband pines for his mother’s zhug. He has been eating the commercial variety for years since that was all he had in America, but now I’ll try this recipe and see whether I can give him (and our kids, who are also zhug fanatics) a taste of home.

  27. What types of hot peppers are typically used in Yemen to make this sauce?

    I am using local Pablano peppers with a kiss of habinero.

  28. we just had this at a friend’s house over the holidays and LOVED it! We live in dear old loveably stuck-in-the-mud North Yorkshire, so i think it’ll be interesting to watch the reactions of friends on Sunday when we serve this with our roasted pork…!!
    Awesome recipe, fantastic with so many things, try it on toast or bagels with avocadoes or rubbed under the skin of a chicken before roasting…. mmm

  29. tomatos are necessary. i havent met any zahaweeq without tomatos in all yemen

  30. OMG I tried this a couple of weeks ago. An Israeli friend of a friend had made it and I loved it so I was pleased to find this. I used only 3 chillies instead of 5 to start with but I didn’t remove the seeds. It was soooo hot. I mixed some with some yoghurt and we used it as a dip which was good and then I used a little with some hommus which was also good. I am a vegan. How else do you suggest using it? I’ll take the seeds out next time. LOL.

  31. @Daryl you’re a vegan but eating it in yogurt?

  32. I am vegan but my family are not. They had the yoghurt 🙂 Actually you can make a vegan yoghurt from young coconut flesh which I haven’t tried yet. I have recently transitioned from vegetrian to about 95% raw vegan so I am trying out lots of things.

  33. @Daryl Ah! Lacto-ovo 35+ years here! Lost the ability to digest meat (eggs and airy are fine) and haven’t eaten meat of any kind since. Good luck with raw!

  34. Thanks Karen. I’ve been going about 6 months now. My goal was 80% but I’m finiding it much higher as I enjoy it and find it easy. It’s just when I’m out with friends that I expand it a bit and I’m very happy with that. I don’t want to be fanatical about it. Even lacto-ovo is fine. Actually I just wanted to cut out bread and cheese 🙂 and it developed naturally from there.

  35. Lacto-ovo works for me. My goal was never ethical so I tend to have a different perspective than many vegetarians. I think raw is wonderful as long as it tastes good! :))

  36. emile sabbah // May 19, 2014 at 1:14 am // Reply

    why don’t you try when making your S’HOOG to add about 10 to 12 pods of cardamone seeds, then get back to me ,it is a taste for fainting ,and this is coming from an executif chef who knows all kinds of HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT
    to your ingredients add 1/4 to 1/2 tb spoon of tumeric mix and grind every thing and enjoy

  37. emile sabbah // May 19, 2014 at 1:23 am // Reply

    what do you think ? please give comments

    • Shooky Galili // May 19, 2014 at 7:14 am // Reply

      Well, I’d have to try that of course, but it’s not that I make Zhuk everyday so don’t hold your breath. I’ll comment about it alright.

  38. Shooky, you may not make zhuk every day, but if you EAT it every day,… please DO hold your breath – it’s probably enough to frighten a dragon!
    My own version of this natural solution to central heating came about several years ago on Passover, when, being Hasidim, we try to only eat fruits and vegetables that can be peeled . If you roast chilies under the broiler, then “sweat” them in a covered pot, the skins slip off easily (use rubber gloves!). We don’t use garlic at all on Pesach, nor most spices, so I added sauteed onion, salt, a pinch of sugar, and a splash of orange juice. I blended it all together to a somewhat rough consistency. My Israeli-born children (including my daughter-in-law of Moroccan/Egyptian extraction) pronounced it, “Best of Breed”. Some store-bought brands are good, but when you come right down to it, ain’t nothin’ like homemade!

  39. When I say, “chilies, I’m referring to the fresh variety/

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