Roasted Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

I remember my first trip to a grocery store in the US: amazed with the variety and very confused about the size of the products…  I have to say it was a very memorable experience for me. I always like going to the grocery stores that I am not familiar with, especially in different countries. But it is different when you have to get used to what they sell at the place you are going to live from that point on.

My first issue was with the tomatoes… or how big they were! I got over that pretty quickly since I love tomatoes but I had to do a lot of trials until I found my favorite ones. The second issue was green bell peppers! I am used to the small ones that we use for stuffing back in Turkey and there is no way I can find those small types here. The enormous size of the bell peppers did not and still has not made them look appetizing for me. I usually buy a green bell pepper only if I have to for specific recipes.

But red peppers…Oh my sweet red peppers!! They are a different story. I am so drawn to them…every time I see a shiny, meaty one, I have to put it in the bag. And I always have a big jar of roasted red peppers handy to make some appetizer or pasta dish. Or I roast whatever red pepper I can lay my hands on when it goes on sale.

So, I am not sure what took me so long to share this recipe with you. Because we eat this dip or spread, whichever way you make it, any time of the day…even for breakfast. Yes, a bit garlicky maybe for breakfast but a little bit garlic in the morning has not killed anyone yet! At least in my family!

Muhammara, according to the Turkish Cookbook, belongs to the Southern Anatolia part of Turkey. I lived in Istanbul, north-west of Turkey and we made this according to our taste, I believe.. read: not so spicy. I would assume there would be more heat and garlic maybe if I had the real thing in the Southern Anatolia which is famous with their spicy kebabs.

This dip is a concoction of roasted red bell peppers, ground walnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic,lemon juice, cumin, pomegranate molasses and crushed red pepper. Once you roast the peppers, or open a jar of them, all you have to do is to put everything in a food processor. You can start with the measurements I give below and then adjust according to your taste. You can increase the bread crumbs and/or walnuts to give it a thicker consistency. Whatever way you do it, you would not be disappointed. It is great on the bread, on pita, on grilled meat, over feta cheese, you name it… it will be good!

Muhammara – Turkish Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Yields approximately 1.5 cups

Preparation time: 15 minutes if using roasted peppers out of a jar

  • 3-4 roasted red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup ground walnuts (measured after you ground them)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less depending on your heat index)
  • 2 teaspoon freshly squeezed  lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. If you are using fresh red peppers, roast them in a 350-degree oven until it is charred, put them in a ziplock bag and let it sweat. Peel and put it in the food processor. Process until it is finely chopped, almost pureed.
  2. Combine everything else in the food processor or in a bowl and process/stir until everything is very well blended. Adjust salt, black and red pepper to your taste.

24 Comments:

  1. by Gokce
    2:16 am
    Jun 10, 2011

    Looks gorgeous saying “eat me”. Bread looks also delicious by the way.

  2. by Ilke
    8:38 am
    Jun 10, 2011

    Several more people asked for the bread :) I picked up the olive ciabatta bread when we were in Durham, NC at the German Bakery, Guglhupf. (http://www.guglhupf.com/). I so wished I bought several more and froze them! Everything looked great at the bakery!
    And the pots/dishes I used in this post and previous post are my little treasures I found at Sleepy Poet Antique Mall here in Charlotte! That place is AMAZING! (http://sleepypoetstuff.com/)

  3. by rebecca
    8:05 pm
    Jun 10, 2011

    oh my you make the best spreads I so want some Turkish cooking lessons from you :-)

  4. by Tori @ The Shiksa in the Kitchen
    12:14 pm
    Jun 11, 2011

    Ilke, what a beautiful site you have! I love Turkish food– there’s a Turkish kosher restaurant in Israel called Pasha that is out-of-this-world delicious. The spice combinations are so unique. I’m adding you to my blogroll, hope you’ll consider doing the same! :)

  5. by zerrin
    5:00 pm
    Jun 12, 2011

    Ilke, your muhammara looks so appealing! I didn’t know that it is made of roasted red bell peppers. I thought it is made of red pepper paste(salca), but I’m sure it gets even much tastier with fresh red peppers. I love to have such garlicy spreads at breakfast, especially when I have newly baked bread.

  6. by Lana
    8:57 pm
    Jun 12, 2011

    I am so happy I stumbled on your blog via Rebbecca from Chow and Chatter. I am Serbian, living in California, and I have been enjoying browsing through your posts. As newcomers to this country, we have so much in common:)
    I experiences my first cultural shock in the big grocery store, even though I lived in a city, went to college in Belgrade, and traveled through Europe extensively. BIG got me every time:)
    I know what peppers you are talking about. We have so many different kinds, in various shades of green and yellow, small, sweet, and perfect for stuffing, or slightly spicy, beautiful when pickled. I don’t like green peppers here, as they are more bitter, but the red ones are divine!
    I make ajvar often, and muhammara sounds like something which I can get used to really quickly.

  7. by Ilke
    5:48 am
    Jun 13, 2011

    Hi Lana, thanks for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed the posts and I am sure we have a lot in common, we are going through the same feelings apparently. I do not know what ajvar is. Hope you posted it or is planning to post, I am curious :)

    Zerrin, thanks for stopping by :) I used to make it with salca as well, the difference is in the consistency. With red peppers, it is runnier, can be served as a dip which goes better here in the US since people are used to dips. I like the taste better with the fresh peppers.

    Hi Tori, thanks! of course I will. There are so many beautiful blogs to add to my roll, just have not gotten around to it. I am hoping to update it this week or the next.

  8. by Jeanette
    11:59 am
    Jun 15, 2011

    Ilke, I’ve always wanted to try making this dip, so thank you for sharing your recipe – gorgeous color, so vibrant!

  9. by class factotum
    9:19 pm
    Jun 21, 2011

    I think foreign grocery stores are fun, too! I always find cool things that are hard to find in the US.

    I have seen this recipe before in my Cooks Illustrated cookbook. Red peppers are expensive, but when I see them on the produce bargain counter, I buy them, roast them, and stick them in the freezer for when I need them. I will have to try this.

    Oh – we ate at a Turkish restaurant in Milwaukee and had this delicious dish with strips of meat swimming in butter. The waitress was a Turkish woman with a lovely figure who admitted that she rarely ate the dish because it was so fattening. She said it was a special occasion dish that her grandma made.

    I just looked it up – iskender? Is that in your archives?

  10. by Ilke
    4:51 am
    Jun 22, 2011

    Oh yeah iskender… if there was a bed of yogurt and bread under the meat. No I do not have it in my archives since I dont have the means to make doner (gyro) but you can buy it in frozen packages in some Middle East grocery stores. For the bread for this dish, I would use ramazan pide recipe from http://www.40firinekmek.com , the recipes on her site are in Turkish but this one is also in English.

  11. by Ceren
    9:59 pm
    Nov 23, 2011

    Ilke,I just made the muhammara. My food processor is tiny, and had to do it in 3 parts. I think I crushed everything too much and it became a fine paste. But the taste is wonderful! Even my very-picky-eater 6 year old asked for a second slice of bread with it. Thanks!!!

  12. by Ilke
    10:45 pm
    Nov 25, 2011

    Ceren, thanks for letting me know! Such a great compliment if a picky eater liked it! :)

  13. by Dmarie
    4:12 pm
    Feb 13, 2012

    definitely looks like a winner!!

  14. by Marjolaine B.
    6:46 pm
    Mar 9, 2012

    Hello! I was so happy when I found your site! I have been searching for a while today for a good ethnic recipe to do with all the red bell peppers we have in the fridge! :) But I couldn’t find anything that was good enough. And then I stumbled on this beautiful site. The design, photographs, everything, make this a very pleasing, lovely site! Thank you. And this recipe looks PERFECT. I will definitely make it tonight or tomorrow. Thank you! We LOVE Turkish cuisine! Absolutely LOVE it. We enjoy making some of the dishes ourselves, but we also had a wonderful experience at a Turkish restaurant recently. Everything tasted heavenly!!! :) You are blessed to be Turkish. A couple years ago our family also did an elabourately-decorated Turkish party for one of our birthdays! I will post about it soon on this blog: http://nonpareilsbynikola.blogspot.com. When I do, I’ll notify you. :)

    Well…I am now following your lovely site. Have a great day!

  15. by Ilke
    12:26 am
    Mar 10, 2012

    So glad you found my site too!! I love learning others perception of Turkish food and Turkey. I am curious about the party. Please do let me know when you post.:)

  16. by Gail
    12:59 am
    Sep 13, 2012

    I found your wonderful recipe while looking for roasted pepper recipes, since my daughter (and blog partner) just roasted and froze pounds of peppers. I’d like to make this for myself but cannot eat walnuts — I know it wouldn’t be the same if I left them out, but can you think of another nut that could be substituted? Thanks in advance!

  17. by Ilke
    10:39 am
    Sep 13, 2012

    Gail, you know I never thought about it. Pecans always seem closer to walnuts to me. You might try with those. Also almonds, hazelnuts or cashwes might have a more subtle taste that it might not be overpowering as well. To omit the nuts all together, you might keep olive oil to a minimum and add more bread crumbs maybe. It would not have the crunch or thick effect. Or you can make the recipe and then you can add minimum amount of nuts to a small portion to try the taste.

  18. by Dana
    5:05 pm
    Dec 12, 2012

    Than you so very much for sharing your kitchen. Your pictures are beautiful. I am a horrible cook and do not really like to cook. I dread Sunday nights preparing my shopping lists for the weeks meals. I stumbled across this recipe and let me say it us awesome! I made it for my neighborhood potluck and everyone kept asking who brought it. My husband is part turkish and could not believe I made it. It’s better than our local turkish restaurant. The kisir and lentil soup was a big hit at home also. Getting ready to tackle pide. I gave up making spinach meat pies 10 years ago so we will see! Salams.

  19. by Ilke
    5:07 pm
    Dec 12, 2012

    I am so glad it worked! I am sure you are not a horrible cook, you probably just don’t have time in hectic life schedule! :)

  20. by georgi
    3:33 pm
    Jun 26, 2013

    I have been trying to figure or what this was and how to make it sine I was sixteen and got to eat Turkish food for the first time, a big thanks to you

  21. by Christine
    7:29 pm
    Aug 12, 2013

    Amazing dip! I probably added nearly double some of the spices but I like a little burn in my food. Love your website, brings back lots of memories of living in Turkey!

    Thanks~!!!!!

  22. by Ilke
    7:32 pm
    Aug 12, 2013

    Thank you:)) A little bit more spice does not hurt anyone :)

  23. by Natalie
    4:25 am
    Jun 5, 2014

    love the sound of this just wondering if I can get pomegranate molasses what can i substitute it with . Thanks so much.

  24. by Ilke
    5:44 am
    Jun 5, 2014

    Hi Natalie, thanks for stopping by! I normally use fresh lemon juice to substitute but it does not give the sweet side of the molasses. You can try with a bit of balsamic vinegar or reduction of it to give the color and the taste. But I have not tried this version, just thinking right now what might be close. If I get a chance to try, will report it here.

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