Muhammara dip is an instant hit at any gathering, filled with a balanced flavor of roasted red bell peppers, walnuts and cumin. It is easy to make and perfect as a dip for pita bread, naan, lavash or any other bread, grilled meat or vegetable!
Muhammara is a complexly delicious spread that is both earthy/nutty, spicy and sour, and I can assure you that you will get hooked immediately by this intriguing combination. You can make it as spicy as you like, by choosing different peppers.
What is it?
Muhammara is a roasted red peppers spread or dip originating from Syria in the Middle East, usually consisting of ingredients like roasted red peppers, walnuts, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. However, it will naturally vary depending on who makes it and often where they are from. Some even exclude red peppers, but I highly recommend this roasted red pepper and walnut combination.
It is also often used in Turkey on their mezze platters, although there it is referred to as acuka.
What to serve with it
As much as you'd want to just eat a whole bowl of this muhammara sauce alone, it is best next to other things. As far as dip goes, you can use it just like you would guacamole or raita - use it with nachos, vegetables, grilled meats and all the bread your stomach can take.
For example; the bread. I like crispy crackers like crostini, chia and sesame seed crackers or tortilla chips, or soft like fluffy pita bread or naan. Lavash bread comes somewhere in-between, as it can be both.
Then there is the vegetables. My favorite dipping vegetables include celery and carrots, but you could also use rutabaga, bell peppers and cucumbers. Make a plate with a variety of vegetables so everyone can find their favorite. Include different dips and bread, and something 'pickly' like olives or pickles, and you've got a proper feast.
Nothing too fancy needed to make this muhammara recipe, and it can be made more or less advanced depending on desirability, accessability or any other ability.
- Roasted red peppers - which is literally just red bell peppers
- Toasted walnuts - that nutty addition makes it so creamy and delicious
- Sun-dried tomatoes - more umami, yes please
- Olive oil - if you're next level like me, use the oil the sun-dried tomatoes came in
- Lemon juice - just a little extra zing
- Pomegranate syrup - optional depth and complexity
- Extra flavorings - garlic, cumin, chilli flakes and salt and pepper
All these ingredients together blend into one gloriously complex, yet easy-to-like medley of flavors. I know I was instantly hooked at least!
Roasted red peppers
I know you can buy roasted red peppers in a jar, but why not make it yourself? All you need is an oven, bell peppers and a little hands-off time. Start by pre-heating the oven to 430°F (220°C).
Cut the whole bell peppers in half from the stem, and then pry the stem and seeds out of the bell pepper shell. Many believe the pepper seeds are toxic, but all that can happen is that they can make the dish more bitter. Hence, I like to remove the seeds to give room for other flavors.
Place the cut side of the halved bell peppers on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the peppers are nice and charred. Let them cool before peeling the skin off, discarding the skin. You can place them in a bowl covered with a plate or plastic wrap to make the peeling easier. Now the roasted red peppers are ready to be used!
I also slice them and serve them in this harissa grilled chicken salad. So feel free to roast more than the 2 peppers you need for this muhammara spread. Yum!
For making muhammara from scratch, you will need an oven for roasting the bell peppers, a non-stick pan for dry roasting the walnuts, and a food processor to make everything smooth. If you like it a bit more chunky and textural, you could also use a pestle and mortar.
If you don't have either of these, then you could try with a high speed blender, but it may be that you will need to use more olive oil to get a smooth texture, and then it will be a thinner dip, or more like sauce possibly.
Instead of the muhammara recipe below, you can add or subtract spices to your own liking. I've heard some have added more sumac to their muhammara, which makes me think that I would really love muhammara with za'atar spice mix (instead of cumin). Other spices that would be delicious is Arabic 7 spice, or the nutty and sweet fenugreek.
You could also switch up the heat level depending on how spicy you want it. I'm making a fairly mild dip here, using only red bell peppers and some chilli flakes. However, you could use other red peppers, even cayenne or bird's eye chilli for extra spicy.
I like to keep my harissa chilli paste super spicy, but my muhammara creamy and lightly spicy. In Syria, it is traditionally made with Aleppo peppers, which is a fairly mild pepper, although I cannot access it here. Bell peppers and chilli flakes are my favorite substitutions for this.
Muhammara dip actually gets even better when stored a day in the refrigerator, so it's great for a make ahead brunch or gathering. Because this dip has fresh garlic in it, it is possible that the dip would get too much flavor or even a bitter aftertaste after day 4.
However, if it still tastes good and you cannot see any mould, it is safe to eat. Use your senses!
For the flavors to really pop, it is best to serve the muhammara at room temperature, but straight from the refrigerator is fine as well.
How to make it
While you roast the bell peppers, toast your walnuts. Roughly chop them and add to a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Let them toast until they smell nutty, a couple of minutes, set aside.
Add prepared red bell pepper, half of the walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, chilli flakes, salt and pepper, and pomegranate molasses if using to a food processor and pulse until smooth, add 1 tablespoon olive oil in-between each pulse. Stir in the rest of the chopped walnuts.
If you're feeling fancy, you can serve it with more olive oil on top, some toasted cumin seeds and more chilli flakes, walnuts and some fresh mint.
Did you like this recipe? Here are more dips I think you would like:
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