Beef Kebabs with Zhoug and Harissa Raw Onion Relish Ronit Penso
appetizer, CONDIMENTS, Meat, Recipes, Salad, sandwich, Sauces

Beef Kebabs with Zhoug and Harissa Raw Onion Relish

Zhoug is an aromatic Yemenite hot pepper and cilantro paste, which is known all over the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean, especially in Israel. It is mostly used as a condiment, but it is also added to soups and other dishes. In the dish here, I’ve decided to use it to flavor a raw onion relish, along with sweet Harrisa, a spicy North African hot peppers paste, which was served with broiled beef kebabs.

Ready made Zhoug can be found in some specialty stores, or online. However, unlike Harissa, it tastes best when freshly made. There are many recipes for it, with various spice combinations, so it can be easily adapted to your personal preferences. Red hot peppers can also be used instead of the green ones shown here.
As the relish has plenty of seasoning in it, I kept the kebab mixture minimally seasoned. The combination of flavors was bold, fresh and tasty; perfect for a summer lunch. Try it and enjoy.

* Grinding or chopping the meat at home, is the best way to ensure freshness and quality. For this dish, chopping the meat is more recommended, as it gives a lighter and less dense texture to the kebabs.
* I used THIS Sweet Harrisa, which is fairly mild, compared to most Harrisa pastes. If you’re using hotter one, adjust the amount accordingly.
* For a quicker option, grilled strips of flank steak can be used instead of the kebab, as shown at the bottom.

Makes: 1 cup
Prep time: 20 minutes

1 bunch cilantro
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 jalapeno peppers, deseeded
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cardamom powder
¼ tsp cayenne or hot paprika
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp allspice powder
¼ tsp cumin powder
2 tsp oil

1. Wash the cilantro, removed large stems and drain with a salad spinner. Chop roughly and set aside.
2. Place the garlic and jalapenos in a small food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Process roughly and add the cilantro, salt and spices. Process again, and add the oil towards the end of processing. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a week.

Raw onion relish:
Makes: 1 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Marinating time: 1 hour

1 medium white onion
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs sweet Harissa paste (see notes)
2 Tbs Zhoug (recipe above)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1. Peel and dice the onion into fairly small cubes. Add salt, Harrisa, Zhoug and lemon juice and mix well. Keep at room temperature for at least an hour, to let the flavors blend. Mix well before using.

Makes: 3-4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Broiling/grilling time: 10 minutes

0.7 lbs (340 grams) beef (I used flat iron steak)
1 small onion, peeled and roughly cut
½ cup parsley, packed
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For serving:
Pita bread
Raw onion relish (see above)
Fresh parsley

1. Cut the beef into large cubes and place in a food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Chop well, cleaning the side of the bowl once. Transfer into a bowl.
2. Place the onion and parsley in the food processor bowl, and chop roughly. Add to the meat, along with the baking soda, salt and pepper. Mix well and form into 10-12 oval kebabs.

3. Broil or grill for about 10 minutes, until the kebabs are cooked through.
4. Spread the pita bread generously with the onion relish, add the kebabs, top with fresh parsley and serve.

A quicker version, using strips of flank steak:

43 thoughts on “Beef Kebabs with Zhoug and Harissa Raw Onion Relish”

  1. Well, zhoug in the Middle-East and chimichurri in S America ! The two herb mixtures so beloved ! Have made zhoug for many years, very quickly and simply in my case and use it most everywhere 🙂 ! Must try your recipe as I have not used turmeric or allspice . . . interesting ! Personally use whole cardamom but sometimes leave the latter out also depending on the spice profile of the dish with which it will be served . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Judi, I’m glad you liked the dish. Zhoug was indeed only recently introduced in the US. Since you’re not into cilantro, you can try using parsley instead. Pita bread is really perfect for serving such foods. 🙂


          1. Zhoug seems to be popular as a recipe appeared in my recent Eating Well Magazine along with 2 other herb based sauces. Your recipe is much more complex and has more spices than the magazine. They do sub 1/2 cilantro and 1/2 parsley – maybe I could live with that combo 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yes, it’s getting to be more familiar here. In Israel it’s a very popular condiment, introduced by Yemenite Jews many years ago.
              I got curious so googled the Eating Well recipe. it sound tasty, but definitely not authentic, with lack of spices and the addition of lemon. But using parsley along with cilantro sounds like a good option. I hope it will work for you. 🙂


  2. A grand combination of flavors! I love zhoug and make it with Piri-Piri peppers and use regular paprika instead of cayenne. It makes for a spicy zhoug indeed. With that said, I’ve never thought of using it in an onion relish. This I have to taste. Grinding/mincing your own meat is so much better than store bought ground/minced meats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ron, I’m glad you liked the dish. Making Zhoug at home indeed allows us to adjust it to our taste and tolerated spice level. It works well in this raw onion relish. I hope you’ll like it.
      No doubt grinding/chopping meat at home is the best way to ensure quality and freshness. It’s only a small effort and I’m yet to understand why so many people don’t bother with it.


    1. Thank you Jin, I’m glad you liked the dish. It’s my pleasure to share.
      Substituting the cilantro will change the flavor dramatically. Though I’ve never tried it, you can try making it with parsley, or, as suggested in one of the comments above, use half cilantro and half parsley.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fabulous meal! I love ever part of this – the onion relish as well. I still don’t know how I missed this post. It’s right up my food alley. I love what you wrote about Zhoug. If I’m not really familiar with something, I don’t tend to paraphrase Wikipedia or google information, which is why i had a link. But this is a perfect post for you. I wish I’d learned about Zhoug years ago. I’m making more today!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.