Muhammara is a Syrian spread, which literally means “reddened” in Arabic. And it’s not hard to see how it got its name. In a little while, bell peppers will be in season in temperate climates. And using high quality peppers makes muhammara turn a deep, dark shade of red. While it looks nice and shiny with a drizzle of olive oil, it looks even more dramatic with little puddles of maroon pomegranate molasses.
Before we dig in, there are just a few things to keep in mind to make sure your muhammara turns out super flavorfully. No one wants a bland dip!
How to make super flavorful muhammara
Deeply roasted peppers:
You begin most muhammara recipes (including this one) by roasting red peppers over a flame, which chars the skins and softens the interiors.
Once the skins have sufficiently charred, and the peppers have spent some time steaming, the burnt skins will easily slough off, and the pepper flesh will maintain the roasted flavor with just the tiniest bit of char clinging to it.
Toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts:
To add even more toasty flavor, my own personal technique is to pan-roast the walnuts and breadcrumbs before adding them to the dip. The cumin, likewise, gets toasted for just a few seconds to tone down its raw flavor and highlight its nuttiness. If you think you don’t like cumin, I encourage you to try toasting it this way before cooking with it. It really makes a difference.
Add lots of pomegranate molasses and crushed red pepper
Pomegranate molasses is usually added to muhammara, because it’s the perfect counterpoint to all that roasted flavor, and it’s especially important in this one, since there’s more roasted flavor than usual. It brings a lot of acidity and brightness, which also highlights the flavor of the peppers.
And the crushed red pepper is just the thing that always sends muhammara over the top.
There’s so much going on with this dip: acid, heat, char, and toast. It’s just right for spreading on pita bread, or serving with a dish that needs an extra something. Try it on some vegan pizza (manakish muhammara) or serve it with flatbread.Print
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: about 2 cups
- 2 large or 3 small red bell peppers
- 1/2 cup whole walnuts
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (either homemade or store-bought)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or substitute 1 small clove crushed garlic)
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- For garnish: extra virgin olive oil, pomegranate molasses, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- For serving: pita bread (either homemade or store-bought) or anything savory that needs more flavor
- Turn one or two gas stove burners to medium heat and place the red peppers directly over the grates. *
- Cook the peppers, frequently rotating each as soon as one side becomes very charred. Cook until the peppers are somewhat soft and very charred (about 5 to 10 minutes total).
- Immediately place the peppers in a glass container or bowl. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and microwave for 30 seconds on high heat. Then use the residual heat to let the peppers slowly steam for 30 minutes to an hour.
- While the peppers are steaming, pulse the walnuts in a food processor, until they’re very finely chopped (be careful not to over-process).
- Toast the walnuts and breadcrumbs together in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they turn golden-brown, about 4 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cumin during the last 30 – 60 seconds of cooking. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Once the peppers have steamed long enough (they should be soft and cool enough to handle), use a paper towel to rub away most of the charred skins. Tear the peppers open and discard the seeds, pith, stems, and any excess liquid that has collected.
- Place the skinless, seeded red peppers in a food processor and only pulse 1 or 2 times to very coarsely chop the peppers. **
- Add the walnut-breadcrumb mixture, pomegranate molasses, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, lemon juice, garlic powder, oregano, and salt, and pulse 2 to 3 more times just until everything forms a chunky paste. Do not purée.
- Place the muhammara in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil or pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with more crushed red pepper.
* If you don’t have a gas stove, you can use your oven’s broiler or a grill, using the same method and checking frequently.
** If you don’t have a food processor, you can easily do this by hand. Very coarsely chop the red peppers on a cutting board, add them to a bowl, and use a potato masher to combine the peppers with the rest of the ingredients. You could also use a mortar and pestle, as Ottolenghi suggests. It’s harder to over-process by hand, but be careful to stop as soon as it turns into a chunky paste.
I don’t even look at the recipe anymore because I’ve made this so often I have it memorized! Muhammara is my favorite dip for parties and I also use it as a spread for sandwiches, etc. Sometimes I’m feeling lazy and I sub jarred red peppers 🙈 and it honestly still turns out amazing
Omg subbing jarred red peppers! That’s so, so smart! Especially when they’re not in season—they can turn out kind of pale and unappealing in the winter and spring, when they’re just not red all the way through. Definitely trying this now that it’s no longer red pepper season here in Australia. Thanks for the idea!
Yes that totally makes sense, good to know it’s flexible. I’m back to make a second batch! Last week I had it with toasted pita and a fried egg for breakfast, then when I ran out of pita spread some on a wrap, put the fried egg on top and rolled it up. Soo good. Gonna have it again this week!
omg that sounds SO GOOD!!
I pretty well hacked my way through this, but at the end of the day I think it came out ok? Haha. I’ve only had muhummara once before, years ago at a friend’s rehearsal dinner. I liked it but don’t remember the taste or texture and I’m afraid mine was too…bready*. Kind of like hummus, but chunkier. Can you say a little more about the texture I should be shooting for? Also, this was my first time using pomegranate molasses and now I feel I’m obsessed. I want to put it on everything!
*Shopping in a new food store/in a new country I bought what I thought were regular breadcrumbs and didn’t realise until I measured them out that they weren’t regular at all, but bright yellow and more like panko. At first thought ok I’ll try them anyway, but then they looked all wrong in the pan and I realised that I could blitz up a piece of pita and make my own. So that’s what I did, and then I tried to scoop out as much of the old crumbs as possible, and I got a good couple tablespoons. The final dip – which I mixed in a mortar and pestle – seemed a bit dry, but it tasted good so I left it. The next day I ended up adding in a third pepper to be on the safe side, but the texture didn’t seem to change much. It was delicious on your manakish muhummara though, which is what I used it for.
Aah pomegranate molasses is so good, and so key to the flavor—totally agreed, yum! The breadcrumbs are pretty much just there to give it a less watery texture—charred red peppers tend to be a little on the watery side, and need something to give them a more substantial feel, which is where the breadcrumbs come in. I think the exact texture you’re shooting for is really up to you—I’d add the breadcrumbs gradually next time, and stop once it’s the consistency you’d like. For me, I want it to be hearty and a bit substantial, but not too stodgy, if that makes sense.
Hi Kathryn! Long time follower, love your work! Congrats on your move to AZ. I just moved to Atlanta, GA and not many Assyrians here. I was craving muhammara real bad. And decided to make your recipe! It was so delicious! I appreciate your tips for not having a food processor as I don’t yet. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world!
Aw thank you so much! We are loving it here in Oz <3 It’s tough to be so far from the community, but food sure helps. I absolutely love Atlanta—what a wonderful city to be in 🙂
Hi, How long does this delicious looking Muhammara last…How far in advance of serving can it be prepared?
Hi Tamara! Oh it lasts for quite a while, at least a couple days, if not a couple longer. If you’re serving it to guests, you should be super safe making it 1 or 2 days ahead. And it freezes beautifully if you want to make it ahead even longer.
Can I replace the garlic powder with fresh crushed garlic ? I’m not fond of the slightly dusty taste of the dried garlic… thankxxxx
Yes absolutely! I’ve made it both ways and it’s great either way (just make it a small clove, or use more if you love a lot of garlic). Let me make a quick note in the recipe to let others know too!