As Green As It Gets: 11 Green Sauces to Add Freshness to Your Plate
From chimichurri to green goddess dressing
It's been almost 2 months since we started working from home at Kitchen Stories. After the initial enthusiasm of supposedly more free time and falling for all kinds of cooking trends (from trying out Dalgona Coffee to opening a local sourdough bakery in my kitchen), we’re slowly getting to the "new normal". My current cooking routine may be different than before corona, but there’s already a certain repetitiveness. Maybe you feel the same way and noticed that there are a few recipes you’ve cooked so often that you’re already looking for a little extra something that has the power to enhance a "standard” recipe.
For this exact situation I always have two things in my fridge to the rescue: pickled onions and fresh herbs in the form of a green sauce. All over the world there are many different combinations of herbs, oils, spices, and aromatics. Some of them are on the spicy side, others work as a refreshing pick-me-up. Some are used for cooking, while others are used as a finish to drizzle or as a dipping sauce. Here are eleven green sauces that you can make right away or use as an inspiration for your next green sauce.
What’s your favorite green sauce and in which recipe do you like to use it? Tell us in the comments below!
The green sauce with the (in my opinion) most beautiful name comes from Argentina and is called chimichurri. There’s also a red version of it, but the basic green combination consists of parsley, oregano, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. In some recipes you also find onion, chili, and thyme, as well as citrus juice instead of vinegar. The solid ingredients are finely chopped and then blended with the liquid ones, resulting in a cold sauce that is not creamy, but rather a fine spice mixture in a bath of olive oil.
In Argentina, chimichurri is served with grilled beef or on choripán, a sandwich with chorizo. But you can basically use it for almost all grilled dishes as a marinade or to serve it on the side. Preparing it in a food processor is of course convenient, but if you have a mortar and pestle, now is the perfect time to use it. Here's how to prepare it.
Parsley and cilantro are the herb base for the Canarian mojo verde. As a combination of garlic, plenty of olive oil, roasted bell peppers, vinegar or citrus juice, green chili, and seasoned with cumin, salt, and pepper, this sauce is a creamy, bright green, and slightly sour mixture. All ingredients simply have to be mixed with an immersion blender or food processor.
In addition to the green version, there is also the red mojo picante, a milder mojo palmero and mojo hervido that is boiled up with bread or breadcrumbs. Although they can all be served and enjoyed with a variety of dishes, mojo verde tastes the best with papas arrugadas, Canarian wrinkly potatoes.
When compiling this list, I almost forgot about Italian pesto, as it’s kind of in a league of its own for me. But of course, it’s a perfect example of a green sauce, which, in contrast to many other examples on this list, is actually used as a classic sauce. Pesto alla Genovese consists of basil, olive oil, parmesan (and/or pecorino), pine nuts, garlic, and salt. The addition of cheese makes a difference to many other green sauces as it makes a pesto especially rich.
Although the preparation in a food processor is convenient, a pesto is best prepared in a mortar, as this gives you more control over its consistency. Pasta and pesto are of course the dream couple par excellence, but I also love to use pesto as a sandwich spread or a marinade for oven vegetables. Here's how to prepare Pesto Genovese and plenty more pestos.
The Mexican version of a green sauce is called salsa verde. It’s not only one of my personal favorites, but has already won the big Kitchen Stories Salsa competition, leaving all red salsas behind. Green tomatillos or bigger tomatoes verdes are responsible for its color. Unfortunately they can be hard to find in some areas, but you can try your luck in Mexican supermarkets or even plant them in your own garden.
The preparation is a bit more complex: tomatillos, onions, garlic, and chili are first simmered in water and then mixed with cilantro. The secret tip of our winning recipe is to simmer the mixture a second time with some oil before it cools down. I could eat salsa verde by the spoonful, but to avoid confused looks, I’m also happy to use crispy tortilla chips. The green sauce goes just as well with grilled goods and with any Mexican classic, from burritos and tacos to the breakfast dish huevos rancheros.
Green Goddess Dressing
The green goddess of sauces is from sunny California and is one of the few that we can actually trace back to its origins. Inspired by the play and later silent film "The Green Goddess", Philip Roemer, the chef of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, wanted to express his admiration for the film and its main actor George Arliss by inventing the dressing of the same name.
The herb base consists of parsley, chives, and tarragon, but unlike most of the green sauces in this range, there are additional creamy components: mayonnaise and sour cream (you can also find yogurt in some lighter recipes). In addition to salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice, anchovies end up in the dressing, giving it a salty-savory flavor. Variations of the original recipe include basil or avocado. The green goddess dressing not only matches well with your salad, but is also a great dip for crudités. Get the recipe here.
In the spirit of Italian cuisine, a gremolata combines only a few simple, hand-picked ingredients: parsley, garlic, and lemon zest. As you can see from the absence of oil, it’s not a liquid green sauce, but rather a spice mixture, but since it can be used in a very similar way, I didn’t want to exclude it from this list. It’s ready to serve in a few minutes and for me, it’s one of the best ways to use leftover parsley. All you have to do is finely chop all the ingredients. The base can also be extended, e.g. with additional herbs, orange zest instead of lemon zest, grated Parmesan, or nuts.
Gremolata adds a real fresh kick to almost every dish and is an integral part of the Italian speciality ossobuco. But even the simplest sandwich and supposedly the most boring soup suddenly becomes a gourmet course with a little gremolata on top. However, always make sure to add it to warm dishes just right before the serving.
I discovered the Yemeni green sauce zhoug only recently, but the combination of cilantro (sometimes parsley is added too), green chilli, garlic, citrus juice, and spices like cumin and coriander corresponds 100% to my taste. The jar in my fridge always runs out quickly. Depending on the chili used, there is also red zhoug or a brown variant with green chili and tomatoes.
Zhoug also found its way into the Middle Eastern and Levantine cuisine and is served with many different dishes. Whether you enjoy it with falafel, on egg dishes or stirred into risotto, this green sauce adds a fabulous spiciness and freshness to everything. I found a great recipe for it by Yotam Ottolenghi.
While I’ve mainly talked about liquid green sauces so far, the Moroccan variant called chermoula has an almost paste-like texture. Matching its consistency, it’s mainly used as a marinade for fish and meat, but I personally like to rub tofu or oven vegetables with it. Because it tastes so delicious, I like to stir in some more olive oil into the leftovers until I reach the desired consistency and use it for serving as well.
The main ingredients are coriander and garlic, but you can also find recipes with parsley and mint. The spices range from the simple salt and pepper to cumin, coriander, paprika, and chili flakes. I like to use this recipe as the base.
Huacantay, ají amarilla, and cotija are ingredients for our next green sauce–can you guess to which country it will take us? Ají verde originates from Peru and if you like pesto, you’ll love this one! Don't worry, there are alternatives to the aforementioned ingredients that might be better available in your area, namely cilantro, jalapenos, and Parmesan cheese. Combined with lemon, garlic, and mayonnaise you’ll get a creamy sauce. Depending on the region, there are also recipes with other ingredients.
If you still want to try it in a classic dish despite the adapted list of ingredients, go for the popular Peruvian dish Pollo a la Brasa: roasted chicken served with salad, fries, and of course ají. Alternatively, this creamy green sauce goes perfectly well with all things grilled. You can find the matching recipe here.
Frankfurter Grüne Soße
Germany's green sauce is not only specific to the city of origin, but also super strict when it comes to the herbal ingredients: Frankfurter Grüne Soße consists of 7 herbs that are even registered by the EU as a fresh herb composition with the quality mark of "protected geographical indication". Borage, chervil, cress, parsley, pimpinella, sorrel, and chives are sold in herb bundles and if they want to receive the protected name, must be grown in Frankfurt or nearby and adhere to certain weight percentages.
Besides the strictness regarding the 7 herbs, however, the preparation may vary. At the annual "Grüne Soße Festival" the best recipe is chosen–and in 2019, it was won by an Argentinean restaurant from Frankfurt! The sauce is classically served with hard-boiled eggs and boiled potatoes, but is also popular with fish, boiled beef, and the "Frankfurter Schnitzel". Grab our recipe to see how to make the green sauce yourself.
Although chutneys are often served as a side dish to dosas or the steamed cakes idli, they are the first things I dip my fingers into. Chutneys are extremely versatile and can taste spicy, aromatic, even sweet, and they come in all different consistencies. That's why chutneys can be easily adapted to your own taste and the ingredients you currently have on hand.
This Indian green chutney is a great guide to follow. Herbs like cilantro or mint serve as a base, but spices and aromatics probably play an even bigger role here. Ginger and chili are a good starting point and the spice mixture chat masala (mango powder, asafetida, cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger, kala namak, and pepper among others) brings an intense spicy taste that’s broken up with some citrus freshness. Here you will find a recipe to follow along.
Published on May 27, 2020