Muhammara or mhammara is a rich, creamy, healthy, and nutritious dip loaded with middle eastern flavors. The smokiness of the bell peppers, sweetness from pomegranate molasses, and flavor from cumin and sumac make it very interesting and a perfect side to go with your snacks.
When it comes to dips, we have plenty of options. There are Mexican salsas, guacamoles, etc. That’s not all! You can also enjoy baked dips like spinach and artichoke dips etc. Also, mayonnaise and sour cream-based dips are super tasteful. The thing about dips is that you can find them in every cuisine. And because I am such a foodie, I love trying out new dishes.
The other day, I was craving hummus. So, I decided to visit a middle eastern restaurant because I was too lazy to make it at home. When checking out their menu, a unique name came across me. Upon enquiring about the dish, I got to know it was made from 2 basic ingredients – red bell peppers and walnuts.
The combination is undoubtedly unique and got me so interested that I couldn’t resist ordering it with some pita bread. And I am so glad that I ordered this dip; otherwise, I won’t be able to share this amazingly unique and tasteful dip recipe with you. This dip is called Muhammara.
Make sure to order one next time if you are visiting a Mediterranean or Lebanese restaurant. I am quite positive that you will not be disappointed. Or better still follow my recipe and make it at home. What I love about this dip is that it is vegan, super easy to make, and has a complexity of sweet and savory flavor. It goes so well with tortilla chips, vegetable sticks, and pita bread. It is amazingly delicious.
WHERE DOES MUHAMMARA COME FROM?
The word muhammara is from the Arabic word ahmar, which literally means red. The exact time period in which the dip emerged is unknown. However, some records suggest that it was a very popular dip during the Ottoman Empire, created by Turkish tribes in the 15th and 16th centuries and now is enjoyed by the people of Levant – the large geographical region centered around modern-day Syria, Israel, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and the Levantine sea.
Syria is well-known in the Middle East for its red peppers, and the iconic Aleppo pepper grows in the area surrounding Aleppo (Syria) and Gaziantep (Turkey). Aleppo pepper is very similar to paprika in terms of its sweet and savory flavor, albeit with a slightly hotter aftertaste (10,000 Scoville as opposed to 1000). No wonder, this dip came about with its roots in Syria or Aleppo. You can read more about Aleppo pepper here.
This side dish is a very prominent dip in Syrian cuisine. Since Middle East is a vast region with several countries in it. Therefore, you can find the same dish with a few variations. You can also find it in Turkey or the Southeastern Arab states. This is due to the fact that Syrian flavors have a strong influence on their food. You can be serve muhammara as a part of Mezze platter, as a spread on sandwiches or as a topping on grilled chicken or fish.
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Muhammara – Indulgent Red Pepper & Walnut Dip
- 2 Red bell peppers, I used fresh
- 4 Tbsps. Extra virgin olive oil
- ½ Cup Walnuts, Shelled & lightly toasted
- 1 Tsp Garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp Scallions or white onions, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsps. Tomato paste
- ¾ Cup Bread crumbs, fresh
- 2-3 Tbsps. Pomegranate molasses
- 1 Tsp cumin, ground
- 1 ½ Tsp Aleppo pepper
- ½ Tsp. Sugar
- 1 Tsp Sumac
- ½ Tsp Salt
- Smoked paprika powder, optional
- Fire roast red bell peppers on the stove top. Once roasted, place in a container.
- Drizzle olive oil on the bell peppers & cover with an airtight lid.
- After 15-20 minutes remove the skin of the bell peppers, the peppers will be soft & not hold their shape.
- Deseed the bell peppers and discard the stem.
- In a food processor, add toasted walnuts. Pulse them to powder form.
- Now add bell peppers, garlic, scallions, salt, sugar, cumin powder, Aleppo powder, sumac. Pulse all the ingredients.
- Add tomato paste, pomegranate molasses and pulse again.
- Check the consistency, add a little panko and little olive oil. Pulse
- Scrape off the food from sides of the processor
- Add olive oil and pulse again.
- Transfer into the serving dish, garnish with olive oil, melon seeds, pistachios or with nuts of your choice.
- Enjoy it with crackers, pita, mezze platter, celery or carrots.
Muhammara can be stored in the fridge anywhere from 3 days to one week, in an air-tight container. Some say you can freeze it, but I haven’t personally tried it as my family always wipes the bowl clean! If you have tried freezing muhammara, please leave a comment below & let me know how did it turn out for you.
When making muhammara, here are a few things you must keep in mind:
- Traditionally, this dip got its unique flavor from Aleppo pepper. But because they are not readily available everywhere, you can replace them with red bell peppers as well. You can either roast the bell peppers at home or use canned roasted red peppers and well. Moreover, you can use Turkish pepper paste as well.
- If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, you can use pomegranate juice as well. I bought molasses from Amazon. It is also available at stores like Walmart & Kroger. Pomegranate Molasses is sweet, sour, and umami, that provides a deep complex tangy flavor to the dip
- You can adjust the tartness from the pomegranate molasses, by adding some sugar to this dip as well.
- In case you do not want to fire roast the peppers, you can grill red bell peppers in the oven at 400 degrees F until blistered all over. Or roast them at 425 degrees F for about 30 minutes. I personally prefer charring them directly on the burner of the gas stove, takes me about 5 minutes to grill 2-3 bell peppers. It’s all about saving time & electricity!
- Grilling red bell peppers bring out the natural sweetness of the peppers and also adds the smokiness.
- When you cover the bell peppers after roasting, a little juice will collect. Do not discard the bell pepper juice. You can use it later to add to the dip (if it is of thick consistency).
- Although I have roasted bell peppers, you can however use store-bought jars of roasted red peppers.
- The texture should come out to be a little grainy not pulverized. When it comes to texture, think homemade pesto! It will not be smooth and creamy like sour cream or Greek yogurt.
- Bread crumbs not available?! You can also include Panko or 1/2 Tsp of tahini to add body to the dip.
- Ran out of walnuts, try using cashews instead.
- If you are trying to substitute pomegranate molasses, you can use a mixture of lemon juice and honey. Some people also use red wine vinegar but I would still recommend using pomegranate molasses as it has a distinct tanginess to it that lends to the authenticity of the dip.
- Other ingredients: try using tomato paste for added depth and color, garlic for flavor, sumac for extra tang, and a little cayenne powder, paprika powder or red chili peppers for extra spice.
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