The Universal ‘Green Sauce’

Salsa verde, chimichurri, pesto, chermoula – you can find the characteristic ‘green sauce’ in most corners of the world. While these sauces all vary in ingredients and preparation, generally they’re defined as an uncooked sauce made primarily from fresh herbs. They add a fresh, punchy flavour and are often used to provide balance, cutting through any oiliness or richness coming from the food.

When studying the differences in world cuisines, it is also important to recognise our similarities. Interestingly, during the rise of dietary manuals in the 15th Century we subsequently saw a level of gastronomic xenophobia, the fear of eating foods which our bodies were not accustomed to. This meant that in Europe especially, food became very localised – there was very little outside influence. Despite this, cultures around the world developed their own versions of a ‘green sauce’, an interesting example of the running similarities between cuisines. Of course as migration became increasingly common, we see cuisines develop into melting-pots of various cultures, and we see even more examples of green sauces appearing.

I’m going to be running through a few examples of essential green sauces from around the world, and a basic recipe for each one.

Chimichurri

Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce often served over grilled meat, made primarily of chopped parsley, red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. Variations also include shallots, chillies, or lemon juice, and the sauce can either be used during the cooking process or served as a condiment at the end. I like to use up my leftover chimichurri with some fried eggs the next morning, it really is a perfect all-round sauce.

You’ll need to combine:

  • A large bunch of parsley, finely chopped (around 1/2 US cup)
  • 2 Garlic cloves, grated
  • 4 tbsp Red wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 Shallot, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 Red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cover and refrigerate for a few hours so the flavours can get to know each other.

Salsa verde

Pesto may be the most famous Italian green sauce, but salsa verde is just as delicious. Similar in appearance to chimichurri but with a very different flavour profile, Italian salsa verde is full of chopped capers, garlic, mustard, and anchovies for a salty, umami kick. This is perfect drizzled over fish, chicken, roasted vegetables, or even as a salad dressing.

You’ll need:

  • Large bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Capers, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 Anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove, grated
  • 1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 2 tbsp Red wine vinegar (or to taste)
  • 4-5 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

If you’re using a food processor rather than chopping by hand, make sure you don’t add the oil until the end, otherwise the oil emulsifies and makes the salsa more like mayonnaise.

Zhug

Zhug, or zhoug, is a spicy herb sauce from Yemen but is popular across the Middle East. There are red and brown variations of zhug, but its most traditional form is green. It’s made from fresh chillies, coriander, cumin, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Modern adaptations often add parsley too, along with various other spices – I also like to add a splash of vinegar sometimes to give it an extra kick. Stir it into yoghurt, on top of hummus, with some flatbreads – it goes with everything!

Using a pestle and mortar, combine:

  • Large bunch of coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 2 Green chillies, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground coriander
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 4 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Green chutney

This Indian green sauce is spicy, aromatic, and one of my favourites on this list. There appears to be no one way to make green chutney with every recipe differing slightly, but the key ingredients are coriander, mint, cumin, ginger, garlic, and chillies, with yoghurt, chilli powder, and chaat masala as common additions. This is perfect on top of a curry for some extra spice, or as a dip for bhajis, pakoras, or samosas.

My version includes:

  • A large bunch of coriander
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 3 Garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 inch Ginger, peeled
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 2 Green chillies, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Chaat masala
  • 1 tsp Ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend everything together until smooth, then cover and refrigerate for a few hours.

All of these sauces have similar characteristics, namely an acidic element, garlic, and either parsley or coriander, which is interesting given the vastly different range of produce available around the world. There are many other green sauces I haven’t had a chance to mention: French sauce verte, Senegalese rof, Mexican salsa verde, Italian gremolata, English mint sauce, Spanish mojo verde, American green goddess dressing, Peruvian aji verde, the list goes on – all of them different, all delicious, and all worth trying!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I love your combination of spices.

    Like

    1. spencooks says:

      Thanks so much!

      Liked by 1 person

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