This $3 Trader Joe’s Sauce Brings Bold, Bright, Fiery Flavor to Everything It Touches

published Dec 15, 2022
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Credit: Kelli Foster

Open my fridge and one thing will be immediately evident to you: I love condiments (like, really love them). Combine that with a husband who loves hot sauce, and the ratio of condiments to actual food in my fridge is a little over-the-top. You’ll find a little of everything: sauces galore, bottled dressings, pastes, spreads, jams and jellies, dips, and pickled things. I am the kind of person who has six types of mustard.

Store-bought condiments are my secret weapon for amping up the flavor in nearly everything I eat. They help me turn out impossibly easy weeknight meals with just a couple of ingredients, yet taste like they took far more effort. A favorite that I’ve been tossing in my cart (usually two at a time) again and again for months: Trader Joe’s zhoug sauce.

Credit: Kelli Foster

What’s So Great About Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce?

Zhoug (pronounced zoo-g) is a fiery herb-based sauce with Middle Eastern roots. Recipes can vary, but this version is made with cilantro, canola oil, jalapeño peppers, chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, sea salt, and cumin seeds. It’s bright and vibrant, with a bold flavor that really brings the heat, and the texture reminds me of other herby sauces, like chimichurri and pesto. It’s intense, but in the best way possible. A fun fact that always makes me laugh is that on the zhoug sauce product detail page on the TJ’s website, one of the tags is “Mouth on Fire.”

If we’re being honest, it was not love at first taste. It’s not that I didn’t like the taste. I just was not expecting the degree of heat it packed and it knocked me off my seat. I mean, not literally, but it was close. The first time out of the gate I just dunked a few pita chips into the container. Whoa was it fiery!

Many months later (when I’d forgotten just how spicy it was), it seemed like a great idea to dollop on my plate alongside roast chicken and crispy potato wedges. Still spicy, but better. A light went off for me when I dragged the crispy-skinned chicken and schmaltzy potatoes through the sauce. Introducing other flavors, as well as something fatty and lemony, tamed the heat and brought out the fresh brightness of the herbs. Immediately, my head raced with dozens of ways to use zhoug sauce.

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce, $3.69 for 8 ounces

Credit: Kelli Foster

What’s the Best Way to Use Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce?

Mixed with hummus, yogurt, or sour cream, it makes a simple, wildly flavorful dip. A spoonful or two adds a super-fun pop to tahini sauce and lemon vinaigrette. I’ve never regretted using it as a spread (on its own or mixed with a little mayo) on sandwiches and burgers. And in fact, for mild-mannered chicken burgers and turkey burgers it’s also a really great flavor booster to mix into the patties.

Recently, when I realized I was out of salsa, I spread a little zhoug sauce on the inside of my quesadilla — wow, just wow. And adding a swipe to grilled cheese is just as mind-blowing. I mix a little with rice and grains (it’s an instant grain bowl flavor booster), love tossing it with roasted vegetables (sometimes before roasting, sometimes after). Plus, it’s a quick and easy way to add some zip to mild white fish and chicken breast.

One more thing, because I saved the best for last: It is the key to the ultimate weeknight chicken dinner. We’re talking no more than three minute of prep, hands-off cooking, dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, and budget-friendly — yet this two-ingredient dinner packs in such a wild amount of flavor.

You get the idea. Trader Joe’s zhoug sauce is a total powerhouse and there’s almost nothing it can’t do.

Credit: Kelli Foster