Condiments are essential in every culture—salsa in Mexico, chutney in India and aioli in the Mediterranean, to name a few. One of the most piquant and potent we’ve encountered is filfel chuma. Deeply savory, powerfully spicy and slightly fruity, this Libyan hot sauce combines ground sweet and hot chilies with cumin, caraway, oil and an eye-popping amount of garlic (some recipes call for as many as 20 cloves).

Filfel chuma was originally crafted by the Jewish population that resided in Libya for centuries. Waves of Jews migrated from the North African nation in the 19th century, taking the fiery sauce along with them. In recent years, it’s gained popularity in Israel as a transformative addition to shakshuka, the poached egg dish cooked in a pepper-tomato sauce (find our version here). In the cookbook “Jerusalem,” Yotam Ottolenghi warns cooks to use it carefully. Because of its concentrated flavor, he treats it more like an ingredient than a condiment—smearing it on vegetables before roasting, whisking it into eggs before scrambling and mixing it into marinades before grilling.

At Milk Street, we tried several brands—some pastes, some powders. Our favorite was a dark red paste from Israeli spice company Neptune (available on Amazon, three jars for $22). While its flavor was intense—with a strong chili flavor with deep raisiny undertones—we found it perfectly palatable as a condiment. Like harissa, filfel chuma’s Tunisian counterpart, we like it stirred into lentil and rice dishes (like this recipe for Lebanese Lentils and Rice with Crispy Onions (Mujaddara), cooked with onions and used as the base for soup; and stirred into cooling yogurt to make a quick dip.

Check out more of our favorite hot sauces below:

Spicy Harissa Dipping Sauce
Honey Chili Sauce
Cilantro Jalapeño Adobo Sauce
Green Chili Sauce
Sichuan Chili Oil