The Healthy Trader Joe’s Sauce I Use in *Everything*
Growing up in a Brooklyn-based Jewish neighborhood, I often ate at local falafel spots. My go-to falafel pitas would include the staples, such as pickles, hummus, and tahini – but whenever it was an option, I’d always add a drizzle of schug or zhoug sauce.
What is zhoug? Or is it schug?
You may see it spelled a few different ways, as zhoug isn’t an English word but transliterated from Middle Eastern origins. The sauce is originally from Yemen but enjoyed all over the Middle East. Zhoug is traditionally made with coriander, chilies, parsley and other herbs and spices, and it brings a kick of fresh, savory heat. It’s bright green, similar to pesto, and it’s the perfect condiment for everything from the aforementioned falafel to other favorites from the region, such as shawarma.
I was so excited to see in the past year that zhoug sauce appeared at my local Trader Joe’s ($3.69 for 8 ounces), and I immediately bought a container to experiment with at home. Now I buy it all the time, and scrape the container clean – because I use it with pretty much everything, not just Middle Eastern dishes.
I’ve always been a condiment girl at heart, because I love how the addition of a quick swirl of something can add so many layers of flavor and really elevate a dish. One example: My small studio apartment kitchen has an entire shelf in its single pantry devoted to hot sauces. But what I found when I started to incorporate zhoug is that I was using all my other condiments a whole lot less.
How I use it
I’ve started to drizzle it on Israeli salads or put a spoonful on top of my burger or even mix it into mashed potatoes. I spread zhoug on bread while I’m making grilled cheese or add it to vegetables as a simple and easy weeknight dinner side dish. It plays well as a fun dipping sauce for my air fryer wings and sweet potato fries, and it’s even become a fun accompaniment to my weekly Sunday evening roast chicken.
The possibilities are truly endless because zhoug makes everything just a bit spicier, but also adds an earthy and herbaceous quality. One note on the spice: The Trader Joe’s label says very spicy, but if you generally enjoy spicy foods, you’ll find it more medium spicy.
Another way I love to use zhoug is to amp up other condiments. It’s a natural addition to hummus or tahini, and it can really make a salad dressing pop.
Is it ok to love zhoug this much?
Aside from it being versatile and deliciously spicy, it turns out zhoug is actually pretty healthy, too. “Many of my clients struggle to incorporate an adequate amount of vegetables into their daily diet. I’ve suggested using just a tablespoon of zhoug sauce, or a similar sauce, to a bowl of steamed vegetables to help make vegetables more flavorful and exciting to eat,” says registered dietitian and personal trainer Wan Na Chun.
Chun also gave me a new idea for how to use it: “One of my favorite ways to use the zhoug sauce is by adding it on my avocado toast along with some pickled onions for a flavorful and fun breakfast,” says Chun.
Though she notes that “Condiments can be a sneaky place for added sugars and I like that the zhoug sauce does not contain any added sugars,” Chun does have one critique of the Trader Joe’s version of zhoug. “I do wish that the primary oil used was olive oil instead of canola oil, since olive oil is higher in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants compared to canola oil. Olive oil also has a naturally fruity taste, which would be a lovely complement to the cilantro, garlic, and other MIddle Eastern flavors in the Zhoug sauce.”
Like so many packaged foods, it isn’t perfect – but I still recommend giving it a try, and seeing all the creative ways you can use it.