Let the zhoug sauce do the talking as it forms the luxurious base for these gorgeous roasted red Brussels sprouts. This is the perfect side dish for the cooler months and let the warm spices and the spicy sauce give the winter chills the flick!
Why You’ll Love This Side Dish
This zhoug sauce is out of this world, and I promise you that everyone around the table will be fighting to lick the sauce off the bowl. Zhoug sauce is so popular that you can just buy them as a condiment in a jar. But please do yourself a favour and make this cilantro sauce yourself.
This salty, spicy and herbaceous sauce is also accompanied by some warm and earthy spices which you’ll find in cardamom and cumin. These ground seeds enhance the spicy sauce and don’t take over the flavours.
Red Brussels sprouts are always such a treat in the autumn and winter months as they start to make an appearance.
Their gorgeous purple-hued leaves and red veins don’t fade in colour when roasted, so it’s such a beautiful contrast against the vibrant green of the zhoug sauce.
The Red Rubine Brussels sprouts or the Red Bull Brussels sprouts are equally suitable for this side dish or for our Roasted Purple Brussels Sprouts Salad.
This side dish is easy to plate up, stunning to look at and truly delicious.
Do yourself a favour and make an extra batch of zhoug sauce as I’ll guarantee you’ll want it for dinner the next night.
What is Zhoug Sauce?
Zhoug sauce is Yemen’s culinary gold! It is a spicy cilantro sauce made mainly with fresh cilantro leaves, aromatic ground spices and red pepper flakes.
Many people have resembled it to a spicy version of an Argentinian chimichurri sauce or a Middle Eastern pesto in terms of the herbs and the consistency of the sauce itself. However, it is otherwise quite different.
Zhoug is a Hebrew word, and it is known by many different names as the Yemenite Jews took this recipe to Israel in the 40s.
Zhoug is now also an important condiment in Israeli cuisine. Some other names it is known by include sahawig, harif, mabboj, skhug, schug and sahowqa.
The traditional name for zhoug in Yemen is Shawaig which in Arabic means to pestle or to crush.
How to Use Zhoug Sauce?
This spicy cilantro sauce is a popular condiment for many dishes, especially falafel and shawarma. It is usually also served with hummus on the side. You can also have it with shakshuka, omelettes, stirred through scrambled eggs and used as a dip for bread or even used as a spread in a sandwich.
You can mix it with Greek yoghurt to make a creamy version of zhoug, used on grilled fish, BBQed meats, stirred through some soup or simply eaten by the spoonful.
For us, we love pairing gluten free zhoug sauce with roasted vegetables. Its versatility is endless as it can be paired with so many different vegetables that are grilled, roasted, blanched or even raw.
Is Zhoug Sauce Healthy?
Yes! Homemade authentic zhoug sauce is so healthy. Using fresh cilantro leaves and beautiful olive oil, this is a great Middle Eastern condiment to always have on hand.
Flavour/Texture: Nothing quite beats the bitter flavours of Brussels sprouts which I still maintain is only truly appreciated by an adult palette. The red Brussels sprouts are slightly sweeter than their green counterparts and completely delicious.
The zhoug sauce is out of this world. It is salty, spicy and warm from those lovely ground cardamom and cumin powders. The cilantro is lovely and herbaceous, and certainly not obnoxious. I tested this spicy sauce on a cilantro hater and it passed with flying colours!
The red Brussels sprouts are perfectly roasted. Test at the 15-minute mark for how soft it is. If you like your Brussels sprouts al dente with still a bit of crunch, 15 minutes will do. Maybe even less if they are quite small in size. Cook for longer if you like them soft.
Ease: This is an easy winter side dish to make. Perfect for Christmas and thanksgiving, too, as it’s quick and fuss free. Just place the red Brussels sprouts in the oven and put everything else in the food processor, and blitz way.
Time: A quick 20-minute side dish of which you can maximise your time and make the zhoug sauce ahead of time.
These are the ingredients you’ll need for Red Brussels Sprouts and Zhoug Sauce:
Red Brussels sprouts: During the cooler months, red Brussels sprouts start to make an appearance. Apart from their gorgeous colours, they are also sweeter than the green varieties, so grab some for a delicious side dish if you come across them.
You can use any of the different Brussels sprouts varieties, such as the red rubine or red bull. Even the bright purple kind are absolutely stunning.
Roasted Brussels sprouts are so incredibly easy to make in the oven. Just tossing it through some oil, and in the oven it goes!
If you’re not big on Brussels sprouts but would like to incorporate into your diet more, it’s great to understand what goes well with Brussels sprouts. Our pairing guide will give you some inspiration.
Avocado oil: A great vegetable oil to use that does not have overpowering tastes and does well in high heat. You can, of course, opt to use olive oil or extra virgin olive oil if you prefer.
Cilantro leaves: We are looking for the leaves of the cilantro or cilantro only. To yield 1 ½ cups of cilantro leaves would take about 1 big bunch or 1 ½ medium sized bunches.
This is an incredibly versatile cilantro sauce, so if you have extra, you can use this spicy sauce on a myriad of dishes. Such as beef or lamb.
Jalapenos: Grab 3 even-sized jalapenos and remove the seeds. If you can take the heat, throw them into the food processor without the stem. This will give the cilantro sauce a big kick!
Garlic cloves: 2 whole cloves are required for this spicy cilantro sauce—no need to chop them up. Just remove the skin. We’re using fresh garlic for this recipe to really give the zhoug sauce strong flavours.
Salt: We’re putting in quite a bit of salt for the zhoug sauce. Not only is it spicy, but we like it salty! If you don’t think you’ll like it salty, add ½ the portion to begin with and dial it up if you think you may need more.
Ground cardamom: You can easily find ground cardamom in the spice section of your supermarket. If you’re not familiar with this pod spice from the ginger family, you’re about to delve into a warm, aromatic and floral spice.
Ground cumin: Love this nutty, peppery and warm spice used in recipes more than you would expect. If you only have cumin seeds in your pantry, bring out the mortar and pestle and grind to a powder form before adding them into the food processor.
Red pepper flakes: Just adding additional spiciness into the zhoug sauce without adding flavour. But use the red pepper flakes in moderation if you happen to be feeding people who don’t take spice too well.
Perhaps make the zhoug sauce without it first and then taste. Then, if you feel it could with more heat, add the red pepper flakes.
Variations and Substitutions
Don’t like cilantro: If you are not a fan of cilantro, please don’t dismiss this recipe altogether.
This cilantro sauce is very strong in flavour from all the other ingredients, and you may enjoy it as a sauce instead of a herb on its own. You can tone down the cilantro by supplementing it with flat-leaf parsley.
Red Brussels sprouts alternative: If red Brussels sprouts are not in season, regular green Brussels sprouts will be fine. If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, you can try broccoli, cauliflower, grilled cabbage or asparagus.
Reducing spiciness: If you think that jalapenos will be too spicy even without the seeds, get some green chillies or peppers instead or omit the chilli flakes from the recipe. This recipe is just the right amount of heat so adjust accordingly.
Reducing salt intake: This recipe is on the salty side. Half the salt portion if you don’t like things too salty. You can always add more salt after if you need to.
Lemon: Traditional zhoug sauce doesn’t call for lemon, but if you love your lemon flavours, a quick squeeze of lemon juice or even perhaps some lemon zest will work well with this recipe.
Step by step instructions for making Red Brussels Sprouts and Zhoug Sauce.
Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.
Cut the red Brussels sprouts in half. Coat with 1 tbsp of avocado oil and a pinch of salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.
Pick the leaves off the cilantro.
Cut the jalapenos in half lengthways and remove seeds.
Remove the skin off the garlic cloves.
In a food processor, add the fresh cilantro leaves, jalapenos, garlic, salt, ground cardamom, ground cumin, chilli flakes and ½ cup olive oil. Blitz until pureed and well combined.
Place the zhoug sauce onto a shallow bowl.
Place roasted red Brussels sprouts on top.
Season with pepper to taste and serve.
Great Mains for This Side Dish
How to serve up Red Brussels Sprouts and Zhoug Sauce.
For a vegetarian feast, try this tomato and courgette mozzarella bake which has a rich tomato sauce, delicate layers of courgette, a creamy topping and oodles of gooey, rich mozzarella.
Frequently Asked Questions
The traditional Yemeni method of making zhoug sauce is by using two stones. There is a larger stone called the marha, which is essentially the base on which the ingredients are placed.
Then there is a smaller stone called the wdi, which is held in the palm of your hand that does all the work and crushes all the ingredients together. This would translate to the modern-day mortar and pestle.
Cardamom is a spice that comes in the form of a pod from the ginger family. Ground cardamom is essentially dried cardamom pods that have been ground to powder form.
Cardamom is warm, bitter, citrusy and earthy. It has an incredibly unique taste and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. And because their taste is so unique, there is no close substitute for this spice, so if a recipe calls for it, it is best to procure it to add to the flavours.
The purple or the red variety of Brussels sprouts are a little pink on the inside. Especially the Red Rubine or the Red Bull Brussels sprouts.
The first way to tell if Brussels sprouts have gone bad is their appearance. Should there be any discolouration of the leaves or the stem where it’s gone a bit brown, then it’s time to toss them out.
Bad Brussels sprouts will also be a bit slimy on the exterior while emitting a foul smelling odour. They will also have this shrivelled look about them instead of being fresh and vibrant.
The zhoug sauce can be made in advance and will keep in the fridge for 3 days. As this is a warm side dish, the red Brussels sprouts will have to be timed when you’re ready to eat, so this aspect can only be prepared in advance but not cooked ahead of time.
What a fantastic way to amp up a simple Brussels sprouts side dish. The green sauce is so vibrant in colour and makes for the perfect backdrop against the red Brussels sprouts. This remains as one of our favourite dairy free side dishes.
Even non-Brussels sprouts fans may just enjoy it when slathered with the spicy zhoug sauce. Trust me when I say this homemade sauce will change your life!
Red Brussels Sprouts and Zhoug Sauce
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- Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.
- Cut the red Brussels sprouts in half. Coat with 1 tbsp of avocado oil and a pinch of salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Longer if too al dente.
- Pick the leaves off the cilantro.
- Cut the jalapenos in half lengthways and remove seeds.
- Remove the skin off the garlic cloves.
- In a food processor, add the cilantro, jalapenos, garlic, salt, ground cardamom, ground cumin, chilli flakes and ½ cup olive oil. Blitz until pureed and well combined.
- Place the zhoug sauce onto a shallow bowl.
- Place roasted red Brussels sprouts on top.
- Season with pepper to taste and serve.
- If you are not a fan of cilantro, please don’t dismiss this recipe altogether. This cilantro sauce is very strong in flavour from all the other ingredients, and you may enjoy it as a sauce instead of a herb on its own. You can tone down the cilantro by supplementing it with flat-leaf parsley.
- If red Brussels sprouts are not in season, regular green Brussels sprouts will be fine. If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, you can try broccoli, cauliflower, grilled cabbage or asparagus.
- If you think that jalapenos will be too spicy even without the seeds, get some green chillies or peppers instead or omit the addition of the chilli flakes. This recipe is just the right amount of heat so adjust accordingly.
- This recipe is on the salty side. Half the salt portion if you don’t like things too salty. You can always add more salt after if you need to.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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