Muhammara, or red pepper-walnut sauce made with pomegranate molasses, is an eastern Mediterranean classic that’s prevalent in Turkish, Syrian, and Lebanese cuisines. Here’s how to make it and what to serve with it.
This muhammara from Paula Wolfert is a Mediterranean classic that melds the smoky, nutty, and ever so slightly sweet tanginess of roasted red bell peppers, chile peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses. It all comes together into a slatherable or dippable consistency—all the better to make it an easy accompaniment to skewers of any sort as well as crudités, cheese plates, or simply pita, flatbread, and crackers. Eminently easy entertaining. Even if you’re entertaining no one other than yourself.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Muhammara ~ Red Pepper-Walnut Spread
- 2 1/2 pounds red bell peppers (4 to 6 bell peppers)
- 1 small hot chile pepper, such as serrano (or substitute 1 tablespoon Turkish red pepper paste)
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts preferably toasted
- 1/2 cup wheat crackers or zweiback*
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin plus more for sprinkling
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
- Using tongs and a gas burner or on a broiler tray under a broiler, roast the bell peppers and chile pepper, turning frequently, until blackened and blistered on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Place the peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam for 10 minutes.
- Rub the skins from the peppers. Slit the peppers open along one side and remove and discard the stems, membranes, and seeds. Spread the peppers, smooth side up, on paper towels and let drain for 10 minutes.
- In a food processor, grind the walnuts and crackers with the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin, salt, and sugar until combined and mostly smooth, about 60 seconds. (It still may seem a little grainy. That’s okay.) Add the bell peppers and process until puréed and creamy, about 30 seconds.
- With the machine running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream. Add chile pepper to taste. If the spread seems too thick, thin it with 1 to 2 tablespoons water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Let the dip come to room temperature and sprinkle with cumin and drizzle with oil. (You can refrigerate the dip for up to a week and it will actually improve a little each day. Remember to return the dip to room temperature before serving to ensure the flavor is at its fullest.)
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Muhammara sounded like an interesting spread to add to a mezze medley or to serve alongside hummus and pita. I was curious to make it for myself because a Lebanese restaurant we used to frequent included it on their menu and the owner took a lot of pride in her preparation. She mentioned that, while others cut corners to save money by using more bread crumbs and less walnuts, she never compromised. So when the recipe testing showed up on Leite’s, I had to jump in.
I worked with 6 bell peppers and one serrano, Ak Mak crackers, and toasted walnuts. Our broiler takes forever to blister peppers, so it worked out to over half an hour. Pulsing everything together in the food processor prior to adding the roasted bell peppers produced a crumbly mixture more like pastry dough than a creamy liquid, so I added three tablespoons of water. After blending in the peppers and olive oil, it was off to the fridge for an overnight melding. The flavors coming forward from the elements in the spread were wonderful–the roasted sweet peppers, the touch of cumin, the serrano heat, the walnuts and the pomegranate syrup. What an excellent spread to have alongside hummus, for dipping grilled vegetables into, for accompanying a grilled fish or other meat. And, between the walnuts and the olive oil, a very rich sauce! I’m happy.
I’ve had pomegranate molasses in the pantry for some time because I’ve been meaning to make this recipe (must stop procrastinating!). So I was happy to see it come up on the testing list. Also, charring and peeling peppers is one of my favorite kitchen tasks. As I expected, I loved this spread. I toasted the walnuts before processing, which added a deeply nutty flavor. Once the peppers are charred and peeled, the rest of the recipe is a breeze.
It seemed just a hair on the sweet side to me, so next time I make this I’d cut back on the pomegranate molasses or cut out the sugar and increase the lemon juice. Also, it seemed a bit thinner in consistency than I imagined (and I drained the peppers really well and then blotted them with paper towels to dry them out), more like a dip than a spread. Maybe I would add more crackers next time. For the chile, I used a smallish Fresno, but I wanted more heat, so I sprinkled some Aleppo pepper along with the cumin and olive oil when I served it and it was just perfect.
This recipe makes about 3 cups so you will have a lot of it. It’s a great do-ahead option for a party or potluck and you could use it as a healthy spread on sandwiches or wraps. I served it as part of a mini mezze meal with pita, crudité, olives, and feta cheese. It was just the delicious, easy, and healthful dinner I needed after a very busy day. This will be part of my regular rotation.
I used a smallish Fresno chili. I toasted the walnuts in 400°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes while I was charring the peppers. I added the whole Fresno chili, but still wanted more heat, so I added Aleppo pepper for serving.
This is an unusual and delicious dip that’s substantial enough to be used as a spread. It’s excellent on pita chips, crackers, and vegetables. The vibrant color is a bonus, too. A versatile recipe that is always well-received. Add heat carefully so the pepper and pomegranate flavors can stand out and not get lost.
A tip: Cool the roasted peppers in a sealed plastic bag to make peeling and seeding them very easy.
I recommend processing the crackers alone until they’re very finely ground before adding the walnuts; this gives the dip a pleasant graininess that’s not too chunky.
Muhammara has been on my to-do list for a while, so I was very excited to give this recipe a go. It would make a nice addition to a cheese and charcuterie board with some sliced cucumbers and watermelon radishes as well as a spread on toast. I’m always looking for a vegan-friendly dip and this is a perfect fit to go with crackers, bread, pita, and vegetables. Muhammara will be on my regular rotation.
I used toasted walnuts because it definitely enhances the flavor of the nuts and can be done while prepping the peppers. I forgot to purchase wheat crackers, but I had panko on hand and used 1/2 cup which weighed 1 oz/30 grams and I would probably choose to use them again because it was easy. I chose to broil the peppers, but I quartered them, leaving the seeds, stem, and pith behind and placed them on a foil-lined half sheet pan slicked with olive oil (skin side up) and broiled them for 15 to 18 minutes. I left the jalapeño whole and turned it halfway through. Once the skin was blackened, I placed the peppers in a glass bowl fitted with a lid to steam. I find this method allows you to skip the draining on paper towels because the liquid collects on the bottom of the bowl and can be discarded. I also like this method because it is so much easier to remove the skin and a lot less messy concerning seeds, etc. I added the entire peeled and charred jalapeño (without the seeds).
I would not add the 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar. It’s completely unnecessary with the pomegranate molasses and I’d suggest adding 1 tablespoon of the molasses to the peppers and drizzle the rest on top with the olive oil.
Originally published August 09, 2020
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Oh, the options you’ll have with this tasty spread! I adore the romesco sauce on this site and this muhammara recipe seems like a more straightforward version with fewer ingredients.
I loved its sweet and nutty flavor but the hot chili (mine was a jalapeño) wasn’t as robust as I had expected or wanted. Next time I would broil more than one chili pepper so that the heat can be amplified to my liking. I couldn’t find zweibach—Melba toasts were the closest substitute I could easily find and they worked well.
Besides the obvious bread, crackers, and crudités, it would be wonderful on the side of grilled meats and roasted mushrooms and vegetables (I used roasted cauliflower florets and potato wedges.). I’d absolutely toss pasta in this muhammara and I think dollops of it on halved hard-boiled eggs might be pretty great, too.