Muhammara is a Middle Eastern roasted red pepper and walnut dip that is sweet, tangy, savoury, and absolutely delicious! It comes together in just a few minutes using a food processor and is perfect served with pita bread.
What is Muhammara?
Muhammara originally is a Syrian dip, common to the city of Aleppo in Syria, but its enjoyed across the Middle East! As with any ethnic recipe, there are many variations to muhammara, but its always made of the following common ingredients:
- Roasted red peppers
- Pomegranate molasses for the sweetness and tanginess
- Walnuts for earthiness and umami
- Aleppo pepper for a bit of spice
The name 'Muhammara' means 'reddened' in Arabic because of its distinguishable bright red colour. It tastes tangy, sweet, and savoury with a hint of smokiness.
It closely resembles Spanish Romesco sauce. Muhammara dip is often served alongside other middle eastern mezze dips like hummus, baba ghanoush, and labneh. Serving it with warm pita bread will be the best thing you do!
I like to roast the red peppers myself (you can use store bought), which is why I end up resorting to easier and quicker dips like Hummus most of the time. But when I served this muhammara at one of my dinner parties, my family were obsessed with it!
It disappeared in 10 minutes and everyone was asking me for the recipe! And that particular time that I made it, I ended up adding sundried tomatoes to it, which I think made all the difference. Since that day, I knew I had to share this recipe with you.
What Makes a Great Muhammara
There are a few key steps that you should take to ensure your muhammara reaches optimum flavour.
Tip #1: grill the roasted red peppers either on a BBQ or on a cast iron stove-top grill pan. This is an optional step but it adds a delicious note of smokiness that takes it up a few notches. Now resorting to store-bought roasted red peppers is totally okay for making the process much quicker.
Tip #2: toast the walnuts and breadcrumbs in a dry skillet on the stove-top to enhance the flavour. Toasting the walnuts will release their oils and multiply their flavour. As for the breadcrumbs, toasting until they turn a light shade of gold will also enhance the flavour.
Tip #3: don't skip the pomegranate molasses! It really is a central ingredient to this dish. Its sweet and tangy and will add layers of flavour. I suggest you pick up a bottle from your local middle eastern shop. The Cortas and Yamama brands are delicious (here's what it looks like - but its cheaper locally vs. Amazon).
Tip #4: use the lemon juice sparingly and don't add more than the specified amount. The lemon juice will overpower the more subtle flavours in the dip. Trust me, I made this mistake in one
Okay allow me this bonus tip: use sundried tomatoes! This is not authentic and it's my own addition, but I use less tomato paste and use sundried tomatoes instead. Oh the umami it adds!
Let's discuss some ingredient notes for you to keep in mind when shopping for what you need:
Red Peppers are necessary, and I will show you how to roast them at home. But feel free to use jarred roasted red peppers from the store.
Pomegranate Molasses is also another important ingredient. Like I suggest above, grab a bottle from your local middle eastern shop. If you don't have it, you can skip it and add a tablespoon more of lemon juice and a teaspoon of sugar.
Raw Walnuts can be whole or crumbled, it doesn't matter because they will be blended up. Ensure they are not salted. If you are allergic to walnuts, you can substitute them with pine nuts.
Bread crumbs can be store bought or homemade using any type of bread.
Aleppo Pepper is a core ingredient, and it's a spice similar to chilli flakes but half as spicy. It has a deeper flavour and comes from the Halaby pepper in the city of Aleppo. If you don't have it, substitute with half the amount of chilli flakes.
Salt, extra virgin olive oil and Garlic are a must - no notes there!
Lemon Juice is required, but careful not to use more than the specified amount. The lemon juice, if used in a large quantity, can mask the more subtle flavours in the muhammara.
Tomato Paste and Sundried Tomatoes add the essential tomato depth of flavour. The sundried tomato is not an authentic ingredient but my own addition. You can skip it and add ½ a tablespoon more of tomato paste.
How to Make Muhammara: Step by Step
How to Roast the Red Peppers
The first step is to roast the red peppers, because it takes the longest. You can feel free to use jarred roasted red peppers instead to save on time.
Wash the red peppers, cut them in half and remove any seeds.
For extra smokiness, grill the red peppers for 5-10 minutes on a BBQ or a cast iron grill pan over the stove top, just until you see some charring on each pepper. You can skip this step but it does add smokiness that enhances the dip.
Once charred, cover the red peppers and place in a pre-heated oven at 450F for 30 to 45 minutes, until the peppers are soft.
Remove the red peppers from the oven and immediately cover them with tin foil. This helps the peppers to steam which will soften the peel and make it easier to peel them.
Peel the peppers, using your hands or tongs. The peel should come off relatively easily. Don't worry if you have small areas of peel that is too stubborn to be removed. Aim for 90% of the peppers being peeled.
Preparing the rest of the ingredients
The final dip consistency will have texture. You can continue to process it until you achieve a smooth paste, but the authentic muhammara always has a bit of texture, which is how I recommend you serve it.
Drizzle it with extra pomegranate molasses and garnish with walnuts and parsley and serve!
Serve Muhammara in a Mezze Platter
Muhammara is best served with fresh pita bread for scooping. You can also serve it with crackers, sliced baguette, or any other crusty bread.
It is often featured as part of a middle eastern mezze spread. Mezze in the middle east, more notably in the Levant, Greece and Turkey, are a selection of small dishes often served as appetizers before a meal.
Here's what you can include in a mezze spread for friends and family:
- Baba Ghanoush
- Eggplant Dip
- Marinated olives
- Sliced or grilled halloumi cheese, or Arabic cheese
- Pita Bread
- Fresh Mediterranean vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers
- Batata Harra
The idea is to serve a selection of 3-4 dishes and allow guests to enjoy with drinks before the main meal. This is a typical practice at many middle eastern restaurants!
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Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)
- 3 large red peppers or substitute with jarred roasted red peppers
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup walnuts raw, unsalted
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper or substitute with half the amount in chilli flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 sun dried tomatoes optional - see notes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Start by pre-heating the oven to 450F
- Wash and cut the red peppers in half. Remove all the seeds
- To char the red peppers before roasting, place the peppers skin side down in a cast-iron pan over medium high heat and char for 5-6 minutes
- Cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes, until the peppers are soft
- Take them out of the oven and cover the pan with foil paper right away
- Allow the peppers to rest for 10 minutes. This allows them to soften and makes removing the peel much easier
- Peel the peppers carefully with tongs or using your hands, and discard the peels
- Lightly toast the bread crumbs in an oil free pan over medium heat and set aside
- Lightly toast the walnuts in an oil free pan over medium heat, and set aside
- Add the roasted peppers along with the bread crumbs, walnuts, and all other ingredients to a food processor
- Process until a paste forms, stopping to scrape the sides of the food processor as necessary. The final dip should have a bit of texture
- Spread onto a dish and garnish with pomegranate molasses, walnuts and parsley. Serve with pita bread
- You can use ready jarred roasted red peppers for this recipe, instead of roasting them yourself
- Be sure to lightly toast the walnuts and breadcrumbs for optimal flavour
- If you don't have Aleppo pepper, replace with half the amount of chilli flakes
- Do not use more lemon juice than specified, because it may overpower the flavours
- Traditional muhammara does not use sundried tomatoes, but I love adding them for a deeper flavour. Feel free to substitute ½ tablespoon of tomato paste instead.