Muhammara (Syrian Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)


When I moved to Budapest five years ago, I was immediately surprised by the many Middle Eastern restaurants. In those first few months of living in the capital, I got a crash course in the cuisine just by tasting my way through all those eateries, many of which are centered in the seventh district within the former ghetto. The most popular dishes they serve are called meze, a selection of dips, spreads and small dishes that function as shared appetizers. Think hummus, baba ghanoush, labneh, and muhammara. All are incredible here in Budapest, but for me, muhammara is my favorite.

Originating in Syria, Muhammara spread to Turkey, Armenia, and many other nations to become quite well-known. It traditionally features Aleppo chiles, named for the city in Syria. When making this in the States, you'll want to substitute them with red bell peppers and chile flakes. Walnuts and pomegranate molasses are the other predominant ingredients in this dip. This combination of sweet, savory, tart, nutty, and spicy flavors are what makes muhammara so appealing. It's one of those dips that you can't stop eating!

muhammara ingredients

For this recipe I roast the peppers to blacken their skins, which is then easier to remove. You'll want to remove all of the skin, the stem, and the seeds. Also discard any liquid that you're left with after broiling the peppers. In a pinch you could use jarred or canned roasted peppers, but since those are often preserved in some kind of brine and/or oil, you may want to use less lemon juice and/or olive oil specified in the recipe. Be sure to taste the dip and adjust the acidity to your liking.

I've seen this dip served in all sorts of different textures and thicknesses, but I like my muhammara on the looser, chunkier side. If you like your muhammara thicker, add more bread. My recipe calls for half a pita, but you can use an entire pita, or just regular bread, like a slice of sourdough or country bread. The sourdough will add a nice tang! And you can also add more walnuts if you prefer it nuttier. I add half the walnuts to the food processor earlier on, and the remaining half toward the end so that I get a variation in textures.


Note: For thickening the muhammara, I like to use whole-wheat pita bread for its nutty flavor. You could use regular white pita bread, sourdough, or white country bread.

3 red bell peppers
1/2 pita bread
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile flakes
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
freshly ground black pepper
fine sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
chopped walnuts, for garnish
pomegranate arils, for garnish
warm pita bread, for serving

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. with the broiler setting. Place the peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil, and broil directly under the heating element until all sides have blackened. Rotate the peppers every 5 to 10 minutes to ensure all sides have blistered.

Remove the peppers to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. This process will effectively steam the peppers and make their skins easier to remove—not to mention they will be cooler to handle.

Remove the skins from the peppers. Discard the skins, stems, and seeds. Also discard any liquid that has collected in the bottom of the bowl.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the pita and half the walnuts. Process until finely crumbled.

Add the roasted peppers. Process until smooth

Add the remaining walnuts, cumin, chile flakes, pomegranate molasses, and lemon juice. Pulse a few times so that the walnuts stay chunky.

Check the seasoning. Grind in some black pepper and season with salt to taste. Add the olive oil. Pulse once or twice just to combine.

Transfer the muhammara to a serving bowl. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, make a nice swirl on the surface of the dip. Garnish with chopped walnuts and pomegranate arils. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Serve with pita bread. Yield: 4 to 6 servings as an appetizer.


Most Popular