Romesco Sauce

Romesco sauce is simply an almond, garlic, and roasted pepper-scented puree that hails from Catalan, in the northeastern part of Spain along the Mediterranean coast. It’s a classic. [Editor's Note: A vegan classic.] You can spread it on grilled bread, use it as a dip for roasted or grilled vegetables, or eat it right from the spoon.–Kim O’Donnel

Author's Pick a Peppa' Note

Ancho chiles are dried poblanos, which will yield a sweeter, almost raisin-y Romesca sauce; fresh roasted poblanos will deliver more smoke. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the peppers listed in the ingredients below. If red bell peppers are all you have, this elixir, er sauce, will still make you swoon.

Romesco Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 20 M
  • Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • A 1-pound loaf country-style bread
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded
  • 3 dried ancho chile peppers, soaked for 1 hour, drained, seeded, and roughly chopped, or 2 fresh poblano chile peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded (either pepper is optional, but makes a really nice addition to the resulting sauce)
  • 1/2- to 1-inch piece fresh serrano or jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup almonds and/or hazelnuts, roasted
  • 2 to 3 plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded (I use canned whole plum tomatoes, drained)
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (this, too, is optional, although it’s particularly useful in the absence of the optional ancho or poblano chile peppers)

Directions

  • 1. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Cut a 1-inch-thick slice from the loaf of bread, trim the crusts from the slice, and toss it in the skillet. Let it sizzle until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Set the rest of the loaf aside.
  • 2. In a food processor, pulse all of the bell and chile and hot peppers along with the garlic, nuts, and the fried bread slice. Pulse until combined but still chunky.
  • 3. Add the tomatoes and pulse to combine. Then add the remaining oil and vinegar and pulse. The mixture will emulsify quickly. Add the salt, cayenne, and smoked paprika, if using. The romesco sauce should be thick but also have a slightly viscous quality. If it seems on the thick side, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Taste for salt and heat and acid and season accordingly. You can cover and refrigerate the romesco for up to 5 days. It just gets better and better with every day the flavors are allowed to meld.
  • 4. Slice the remaining loaf of bread, allowing 1 to 2 pieces per person, and grill or toast until lightly browned. Serve with the romesco.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Chiyo Ueyama

Nov 10, 2010

This smoky, spicy and garlicky sauce was fantastic with every item on our dinner plates: we smothered it on lamb chops, put dollops on roasted potatoes, and dipped grilled asparagus in it. Yes, there are quite a few ingredients, and there’s a lot of prep work involved for just two cups of sauce, but I did some online research and have good news for us all: romesco sauce keeps well in the freezer, for up to three months. Make a lot, and divvy it up for later use; it’s worth the trouble. In my own romesco, I used ancho chile peppers, a jalapeño pepper, hazelnuts, and smoked paprika.

Testers Choice
Robert McCune

Nov 10, 2010

Don’t ask any questions, just double the recipe! Oh, and have extra bread and spoons on-hand. This “elixir” is pure heaven—not only good as a dip, a spread, and straight from the spoon, but it’s wonderful on grilled fish or chicken, isn’t too bad on pasta, and you can even add a few spoonfuls to a pot of soup (your guests will wonder what the secret ingredient is). I feel that canned tomatoes work better than fresh, simply because of the uniformity you get with canned. Make the romesco a little thick to begin with; you can always thin it later if necessary. When working with hot peppers, garlic and paprika, I like to follow the recipe exactly at first to get an idea of the level of spice or heat. I’d suggest using the jalapeño with the cayenne, unless you like more heat. The red wine vinegar is better with the smoky sweetness of the peppers.

Testers Choice
Carol Anne Grady

Nov 10, 2010

This sauce is rich and warming, with a great level of spice and flavor. It definitely improves over time, too. I thinned the sauce with water until it had a pourable consistency, and tossed it with some vegetables before roasting them in the oven. I used hazelnuts this time, and look forward to mixing in some almonds next time. I’ll definitely make this again.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Nov 10, 2010

This is a delicious sauce, and is very easy to make. There were a few issues with the recipe which can be easily remedied for next time: First, the skins of my dried chile peppers didn’t break down very well in the food processor. Next time, I’ll either scrape the reconstituted pulp from the skins and discard the skins (as I was taught by a Catalan chef this past summer), or I’ll process the reconstituted peppers first to break them down, and then add the rest of the peppers to the processor. Also, four cloves of raw garlic make for a very garlicky sauce with a strong, lingering aftertaste. I think the sauce would be much better with less garlic, probably half of the amount specified. The sauce definitely gets better with time; aging it for few days did allow the vinegar and other ingredients to meld. For me, the vinegar taste was a bit too pronounced right after the sauce was made. I peeled and seeded the fresh plum tomatoes using the concasse method. Certainly, canned whole plum tomatoes (ideally San Marzano) would work fine. If using fresh tomatoes, an easier alternative is to simply grate the tomatoes with their skins on a box grater.

Testers Choice
Jeremy Schweitzer

Nov 10, 2010

I don’t know why it took me so long to make this amazing sauce at home. I’ve run into it in various guises at many restaurants, and even looked up the recipe a few times, but never grabbed the ingredients to make it. What’s funny is that all of its ingredients are staples in my house. I have a pepper plant that’s just giving up its last fruits, both types of nuts in the freezer (I used half almonds/half hazelnuts), canned tomatoes, and jars of roasted bell peppers in the cupboard, and whole, dried anchos in my spice collection. I did have to adjust the vinegar to about twice the amount called for and still needed to add some extra water to make it sauce-like. But the resulting romesco was a complete joy smeared on some toast with a fried egg the morning after. This is definitely a repeat item.

Testers Choice
Emma Rudolph

Nov 10, 2010

It’s funny that this recipe comes from a vegetarian cookbook, because this is hands down the best side I’ve ever had with steak. All the roasting, peeling, and seeding is totally worth it, as the end result is bursting with complex, smoky flavors. I would suggest using a little less bread than the recipe calls for, as my sauce came out a little too thick. This recipe makes a lot! I halved the recipe and got about 1 3/4 cups.

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Nov 10, 2010

Amazing! What an ingenious combination of humble pantry staples. I had not made Romesco in years, and i was delighted to have stumbled upon this recipe. I used hazelnuts instead of almonds and 2 Thai peppers instead of jalepeno. I quite liked the little bit of heat they added to the sauce. I served it on day 1 with pasta, day 2 with baked chicken, and day 3 to flavor paneer tikkas as an appetizer. You will enjoy the versatility of this sauce as it lends itself beautifully to fusion cuisines. It works well with veggies, meats, eggs—in short, its uses are limited only by your imagination. This will be a staple in our home.

Comments
Comments
  1. Janet Mendel says:

    On home ground, in Catalonia, Spain, ROMESCO would have only the tiniest bit of hot chile. It’s made with dry bittersweet peppers called ñoras, the same peppers used to make pimentón (unsmoked paprika). When I don’t want to bother with soaking and scraping pulp from ñoras, I make the sauce with 2 or more tablespoons of pimentón. As editor notes, it’s a great dip or sauce for grilled vegetables or shrimp. Also, a cook-in sauce for chicken or fish.

    • Karen says:

      Janet, do you have a recipe that I could try? I like the idea of just the tiniest bit of hot chile. I would love to try your version.

      Many thanks,

      Karen

      • Janet Mendel says:

        Karen: This is the version of Romesco from my book Tapas: A Bite of Spain. More about this Catalan sauce on recent blog post.

        Romesco
        Catalan Red Pepper Sauce
        Makes 1 ¼ cups

        2 tablespoons pimentón (paprika, not smoked)
        4 tablespoons red wine
        2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
        12 skinned almonds
        12 skinned hazelnuts
        1 slice bread, crusts removed, or 3 María cookies
        3 cloves garlic
        Pinch of dried mint
        2 tablespoons wine vinegar
        Pinch crushed red chile flakes
        Salt
        Water or fish stock (about ¼ cup)

        Stir the pimentón and red wine together to make a paste.

        In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and fry the almonds, hazelnuts, bread and garlic until bread is toasted. Remove and transfer them to a blender or food processor with the pimentón paste, mint, vinegar, chile and salt. Blend to a smooth paste. Gradually blend in the remaining oil. Add enough water to thin the sauce to the consistency of thick cream.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Many thanks for sharing your techniques, Janet. Is there a source for those ñoras that you could share? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s curious…

  2. Jean Gogolin says:

    I’m not sure which I want more: the sauce or the bowl it’s in. I’ve made Romesco sauce and been unimpressed, but I think there were far fewer ingredients in the recipe I used. I’m about to try this one. Now – bread or potatoes? Or both?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Well, I’m afraid I can’t help you out on the bowl, although I can tell you that yes, I think there’s a requisite number and kind of ingredients that lend the sauce complexity. As for bread or potatoes, I haven’t made it with the latter, has anyone else?

      • Karen Depp says:

        Renee and Jean–how about putting the sauce ON the potatoes? That actually sounds good to me right now. I can only imagine what it would really be like!

    • Dan Kraan, LC Community Moderator says:

      Hello, Jean. I’ll take dibs on the bowl, too. This is going to sound rather “out there,” but I really like this romesco with broccoli (or broccolini if you can get it), grilled or steamed al dente. Any excuse to get more vegetables into my diet is a good one, and this is definitely a good excuse.

  3. R.Krishnaswamy says:

    I love this sauce. It has the right amount of spice and is very versatile. I had it with pasta last night and today with roast chicken. It is a great way to use leftover bread

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Swell to hear, Krish. Am so glad that you and Sita have found a new staple to add to your vast repertoire….

  4. ruthie says:

    Late to the party, but I’m wondering if any paprika pepper can be used if the ñoras aren’t available. Anyone know?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Never too late to ask a question, ruthie. You’re referring to the smoked paprika powder, yes? Not the whole chiles? IF so, yes, any paprika will do.

      • ruthie says:

        Nope. The actual peppers. I usually grow two or three varieties of paprika peppers ’cause I love the stuff. ;) I don’t think I’ve seen the ñoras, though, when I was looking for plants or seeds. So, I’m wondering if i could use another paprika pepper, as long as it’s not a hot one.

        I make something very similar to this with just roasted red bells, but this sounds so much tastier!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Ah. I bet it’d be lovelier with your paprikas, ruthie. The recipe offers red bell peppers as an option, but yes, your paprikas will offer far more nuance and complexity, me thinks.

  5. Susan says:

    So good, great result for the first time to make it. It would have been a great result if it were my umpteenth time to make it! Yes, double (or more) the recipe, eat it from the spoon, swoon. Now that I think about it, what would it not be good served with.

    • David Leite says:

      Excellent news, Susan! So glad that you like the recipe. And, yes, spooning is always an option.

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