If you love heat, you are going to LOVE Shatta. This fiery Middle Eastern hot sauce is super easy to make and is endlessly versatile. Serve it with sharwama, spice up sabich, throw it on a tapas platter or add it to your favourite salad dressing.
What is Shatta?
Shatta sauce is a fiery condiment that originated in the Middle East, specifically in Yemen. Popular in Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Palestinian cooking, this spicy sauce is fresh and versatile and I think you are going to love it.
Traditionally, Shatta is made by pounding fresh red or green chilies with salt before sitting them in the sun for a few days to ferment. Afterwards the chillies are combined with extra-virgin olive oil, spices, and herbs.
Don't worry, we're not doing that here. This version is super easy.
What's in it?
The primary ingredient in shatta sauce is chili peppers. These can range from mild to burn-your-lips spicy, depending on the type of pepper used. Besides heat, the peppers also provide a unique flavour that is slightly sweet and zesty.
Other ingredients commonly used in shatta sauce include garlic, coriander, cumin, lemon juice, and salt.
What Does Shatta Taste Like?
So, the not-so-secret secret is that this vegan hot sauce is really spicy.
However, blending the salted chillies with vinegar and lemon juice tempers the heat a little and you are left with a spicy but clean chilli taste.
You can add fresh herbs to the mix and temper the flavour even further.
How is Shatta Fermented?
Shatta chilli paste is a product of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) convert sugar into lactic acid giving lacto-fermented foods their characteristic sourness.
Non-iodised salt is used to kill off any nasty bacteria creating a safe environment for LAB (the good bacteria) to thrive without any nasty competition.
Why This Sauce Works
If, like us, you keep a bottle of chilli sauce or spicy homemade kimchi on standby, I think you are going to love this Middle Eastern chilli sauce.
What You'll Need
Sterilised jars - find full instructions on sterilising jars in my strawberry jam with chillies post.
A food processor or mortar and pestle.
You'll find some recipe variations below, but I'm pretty faithful to my favourite version from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley. This Middle Eastern chilli sauce recipe is simple, has a handful of ingredients and keeps beautifully.
You're going to need:
Chillies (Peppers). I use Cayenne chillies or jalapeño chillies. We go through a mountain of this paste so I like to alternate which chillies I use. One week I make a green Shatta, the next, red.
Non-iodised salt. Use a salt that doesn't contain anti-caking agents or additives, they inhibit the fermentation process. Table salt won't work as it generally contains both iodine and anti-caking additives.
Apple cider vinegar. You could use a white wine vinegar or a white vinegar but I like the slight sweetness and more subtle flavours of apple cider vinegar.
Lemon juice. Fresh lemon gives a lovely fresh, zesty kick but if you don't have any on hand, just add more vinegar.
Olive oil. Use the best quality oil you can manage.
How to Make Shatta Sauce
You'll find full instructions and measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Honestly, making this chilli sauce is super easy.
Step 1. Remove the stems and slice the chillies in to coin-width rounds
Step 2. Add the slices to a large bowl and stir in the salt
Step 3. Transfer the salted chillies to the sterilised jars, pop a lid on and transfer them to a cool corner of the kitchen to ferment for 3 days. You can also leave them in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Step 4. After the 3 days, strain the chillies through a fine colander and transfer them to a food processor. Add the apple cider vinegar and lemon juice and process until desired consistency.
Step 5. Spoon the chilli paste back in to the jars and pour in enough olive oil to cover. Store the Shatta back in the fridge for up to 6 months.
The good bacteria produced during lacto-fermentation thrive at temperatures between 18°C and 22 °C (65 °F and 72 °F), but they do tolerate a much wider range. Cooler temperatures slow down fermentation, and warmer temperatures speed it up.
If you live in a cooler climate, leaving the salted chillies out in a dark corner of your kitchen for 3 days is fine. If it's hot where you live, or humid, ferment them for a day on the counter (out of the sun) and then pop them in the fridge for 3 days. The longer you leave the chillies, the more sour they will get.
Solidifying Olive Oil
Olive oil solidifies in the fridge but you have a few options to bring it back to room temperature. Either, pull out the shatta for at least 10-minutes before serving or you can sit the jar in a bowl of warmish water until the oil liquifies again. Finally, you can just spoon out what you want to use and pop it in the microwave for 10-seconds.
While this shatta recipe generally keeps in the fridge in a sealed jar for up to 6-months, it would be safest to start checking it at the 3-month mark. If it smells "off" or has developed dark mould, ditch it. Better safe than sorry.
What to Eat With Shatta
- Shatta is essentially a chilli paste so you'll find it is as versatile as it is delicious. Serve it as a condiment on pitas, sandwiches and falafel.
- Add a few tablespoons of Shatta to a vinaigrette for a fiery hit to a salad or tossed through grilled veggies.
- Combine a few tablespoons with some vegan mayonnaise in the processor to a make a spicy creamy sandwich spread.
- Stir it through your hummus for a delicious kick in the pants.
I am faithful to this base recipe but you can mix your shatta up a number of ways.
Try using different chillies. I've used both cayenne and jalapeño.
Add fresh herbs. Cookie + Kate offers a herby variation on the shatta recipe with fresh coriander and parsley.
Add spices. Try adding a some lightly toasted cumin seeds or a touch of sumac.
Love tomatoes? Yotam Ottolenghi mixes it up by adding fresh tomatoes to his shatta.
In the fridge, shatta will last up to 6-months.
This one is!
You can make this chilli paste without fermenting it, but it won't keep as long. Use a half teaspoon rather than the full 1 tablespoon of salt and process all the ingredients (except the olive oil) together. Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge for up to 1 week only.
More sauces and sides.
Want more plant-based goodness?
- Sterilised jars
- Food processor or mortar & pestle
- 250 grams long red or jalapeño chillies stems removed
- 1 tablespoon salt, non-iodised with no caking agents
- 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoon olive oil enough to cover the paste in the jar
- Sterilise a 500ml jar and lid. Instructions for sterilising jars.
- Slice the chillies into coin-width rounds
- Combine the sliced chillies with the salt and stir through well.
- Transfer the salted chillies to the jar and pop the lid on. Place the jar in a cool, shady place for 3 days or transfer to the fridge for up to 7 days.
- Drain the chillies through a colander or sieve and transfer them to a food processor or mortar and pestle.
- Add the vinegar and lemon juice and process - or pound in the pestle - until you are happy with the texture. I like my saucy but with texture.
- Transfer the chilli paste back to its jar and pour in enough olive oil to cover it. Store in the fridge for up to 6 months.