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What Is Muhammara?
Muhammara ("reddened" in Arabic) is a red pepper dip from Aleppo, Syria. Made with hot Aleppo peppers and earthy walnuts, muhammara dip is spicy enough to wake up your senses, but not so intense that you wouldn't want to slather it on toast. This delicious dip has spread to Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey, where it's served with bread, vegetables, and meat alike.
4 Essential Muhammara Ingredients
Muhammara has four basic ingredients.
- Peppers: Hot peppers, fresh or dry, give muhammara its flavor. Since whole Aleppo peppers are rare outside of Middle Eastern grocery stores, you can substitute a combination of red bell peppers and spicy ground Aleppo pepper. You can also use fresh bell peppers and roast them yourself, or substitute jarred roasted red bell peppers for a shortcut. Aleppo peppers can be up to four times as spicy as a green jalapeño, and they’re about equal in heat to a ripe, red jalapeño pepper. If you have red jalapeños, you can use them to make muhammara in the more traditional way.
- Walnuts: Walnuts add body to the dip, and they tone down the spiciness. For the best flavor, toast whole walnuts, then rub them in a clean dish towel to remove as much of the bitter skins as possible.
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs serve as an additional thickener in muhammara. For a gluten-free dip, simply substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs. It's easy to make your own breadcrumbs by toasting stale bread and then pulsing it in a food processor.
- Olive oil: Olive oil helps muhammara emulsify into a luscious, creamy texture. If you use high-quality extra virgin olive oil, you'll also get a hit of flavor. Just make sure your olive oil isn't so intensely flavored that it overpowers the other ingredients.
Optional flavorings include pomegranate molasses, cumin, fresh lemon juice, and garlic.
What Does Muhammara Taste Like?
Some people compare muhammara to harissa, the North African roasted red pepper dip. Muhammara contains walnuts and breadcrumbs, both of which thicken the sauce and make it mild enough to spread on toast. Where harissa is heavily spiced, typically featuring caraway and coriander, muhammara traditionally has either no additional seasonings or a little cumin and pomegranate molasses, allowing the flavors of the peppers and walnuts to shine. In this way, muhammara is more like a spicy version of romesco, the Italian red pepper and tomato dip thickened with almonds or pine nuts.
How to Serve Muhammara
The classic way to enjoy muhammara is as an appetizer with crudités and toasted pita bread or pita chips. Make it part of a mezze (Middle Eastern appetizer platter) by serving muhammara with other dips, such as hummus. You can also use muhammara as a condiment and serve it with kebabs or sandwiches.
Easy Syrian Muhammara Recipe
Prep Time10 min
Total Time35 min
Cook Time25 min
- 3 red bell peppers, halved, stemmed, and cored
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more if needed
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes, preferably Aleppo-style
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably unseasoned, fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Arrange red bell peppers and garlic cloves on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until peppers are tender and slightly charred, about 20 minutes. Transfer roasted peppers to a plate to cool, and squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins.
- Meanwhile, toast the walnuts. In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts in an even layer, stirring occasionally until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Rub warm toasted walnuts in a folded kitchen towel to remove as much of the bitter skins as possible. (It doesn't have to be perfect.) Transfer the walnuts to a plate to cool.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine cooled roasted peppers, garlic, walnuts, salt, Aleppo pepper, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, breadcrumbs, cumin, and remaining olive oil. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil.
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