If you don’t have a Muhammara recipe yet, you really ought to. This classic walnut and roasted red pepper dip from Aleppo is addictively delicious. Spread it on sandwiches, use it as a sauce for fish or chicken, or eat is as a dip for vegetables or bread. If you have a recipe that calls for hummus, replace the hummus with muhammara and it’ll be way better. Really. I’m in love with the stuff, and I bet you will be too.
Aleppo, Birthplace of All Muhammara Recipes
If I haven’t said so before let me say it now: Aleppo, Syria is a culinary rock star among world cities. So much great cuisine was born in this famous city on the western end of the famous Silk Road. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world (perhaps dating to the 6th millennium BCE). The recent destruction of this fabled city in the ongoing Syrian civil war is a horrible, irreplaceable loss to World heritage and human culture. It’s frankly a bit unsettling to celebrate the gifts of a much more bountiful time from a place that is currently experiencing so much suffering.
Muhammara is yet another amazing dish from Aleppo. It’s fairly uncomplicated, but so incredibly flavorful. To me at least, Aleppan cuisine always seems to be a mixture of familiar and exotic–which I suppose is what you’d expect from a trade route city that benefited from so much cultural intermingling. This mix of familiar and exotic was also clearly demonstrated in the only other Aleppan dish I’ve made, Kabab bil Karaz (lamb meatballs in sour cherry sauce). Wow.
About This Muhammara Recipe
Your basic muhammara recipe involves charring some red peppers under a flame to roast them. After peeling the charred skin and removing the seeds, you simply puree them with walnuts, pomegranate molasses, garlic, lemon juice, and Aleppo’s ubiquitous Aleppo Pepper. If you don’t have access to Aleppo pepper, smoked paprika is a viable substitute (that’s what I use).
Pomegranate molasses has a tangy bitter sweetness that really sharpens the intense pepper flavor. And of course all of the healthy Omega-3 rich walnut puree adds a super satisfying fatty flavor delivery system.
In terms of comparative cultural influences in the foods of the Mediterranean region, I have to also say that the Muhammara recipe reminds me a lot of Spain’s Salsa Romesco. Swap the walnuts for almonds and/or hazelnuts, the bread for tomato, and the pomegranate molasses for vinegar and there you have it. They’re actually a lot alike, which always makes me wonder about trade-facilitated culinary borrowings.
I love this Muhammara recipe so much I simply can’t imagine you won’t love it just as much. I added a dash of extra cayanne pepper to mine, because I like things hot. It’s vegan if that’s your thing. It’s also extremely low carb. Finally, for we fans of the Mediterranean diet, it’s almost the Platonic ideal of healthy eating. Give it a try!
- 2 Red Bell Peppers
- 1 Cup Walnuts
- 1 Tablespoon Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
- 2 Tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 1 Tablespoon Pomegranate Syrup
- ½ Teaspoon Spanish Smoked Paprika (or Ground Aleppo Pepper if you have it)
- ½ Teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Cumin, toasted and freshly ground
- If you have a gas stove top or a propane torch, char the outsides of the peppers until completely blackened. Seal them in a paper bag and allow them to steam until cool. If you don’t have a gas stove or torch you can cut them in half and place them under a broiler, skin side up, to achieve the same effect.
- Meanwhile, lightly toast the walnuts in a dry pan.
- In a food processor, add the whole wheat bread crumbs (I use a piece of whole wheat pita bread, which is probably what they do in Aleppo--and toasted it lightly, then pulsed it in the food processor alone until pulverized).
- Peel the charred skins off of the peppers, remove the stems and seeds, and add them to the food processor along with all of the other ingredients.
- Pulse into a smooth sauce. Don’t over-do it or the walnut oil will separate and break your sauce.