Moutabal ~ Roasted Eggplant, Yogurt, and Tahini Dip

Moutabal, a roasted eggplant, yogurt, and tahini dip takes those pita chips, crudites, and plain old crackers to a scrumptious new level. Lemony, garlicky, and smoky, it’s full of flavors we love and it definitely tastes like more.

The components for moutabal -- eggplant, tahini, and yogurt -- being mixed in a bowl with a fork with a charred eggplant on the side.

Adapted from Anas Atassi | Sumac | Interlink Books, 2021

My grandmother had an outdoor kitchen in her garden, set up at a safe distance to keep smells out of the house. We called this kitchen the “eggplant oven.” This is where the eggplants were either roasted over an open fire or fried, though any smelly kitchen task, actually, was moved outside to the eggplant oven. So take heed! You’ll have to put up with some strong smells before eventually enjoying the sultry, smoky taste of this dip. —Anas Atassi

Moutabal ~ Roasted Eggplant, Yogurt, and Tahini Dip

The components for moutabal -- eggplant, tahini, and yogurt -- being mixed in a bowl with a fork with a charred eggplant on the side.
Moutabal is usually served cold, as part of a mezze spread, though I harbor a secret preference for the more pronounced flavors of moutabal served warm.
Anas Atassi

Prep 15 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr
Appetizer
Syrian
4 servings
121 kcal
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Ingredients 

  • 1 (1-pound) eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves pressed
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2 to 4 tablespoons) preferably organic
  • Salt

To serve

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful of pomegranate seeds
  • Pita chips crackers, or crudité, for serving

Directions
 

  • If using an open flame, gas burner, or grill,use a fork to poke a few holes in the eggplant. Roast the eggplant over the flame, using tongs to turn occasionally, until the skin is charred and the flesh is soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Let the eggplant cool until easy to handle, about 20 minutes.
    If using the oven method, preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Use a fork to poke a few holes in the eggplant. Roast the eggplant until slightly charred and the flesh is tender, 40 to 55 minutes. Let the eggplant cool until easy to handle, about 20 minutes.
  • When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scrape out the flesh, discarding the skin, and transfer it to a bowl or food processor. Using a fork or the food processor, mash or puree it until mostly smooth.
  • Add the tahini, yogurt, garlic, and lemon juice to the mashed eggplant and blend well. Season with salt to taste.
  • Spoon the dip into a bowl and drizzle with some extra ­virgin olive oil. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve with pita, crackers, or crudité.
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Notes

*What is tahini?

If you’ve had hummus, you’ve had tahini. But unless you’re making hummus, or other Middle Eastern foods from scratch, you might not know what it really is. Tahini is a rich, thickly unctuous, nutty-tasting spread made from ground sesame seeds mixed with oil (usually a mixture of olive and sesame).
Most tahini is made from toasted seeds, giving it a deeper and richer flavor but “raw” is also available. The sesame seeds can be hulled or unhulled—unhulled sesame seeds are a little bitter but they do have a higher nutritional value.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 121kcal (6%)Carbohydrates: 11g (4%)Protein: 4g (8%)Fat: 8g (12%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Cholesterol: 1mgSodium: 10mgPotassium: 341mg (10%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 6g (7%)Vitamin A: 32IU (1%)Vitamin C: 5mg (6%)Calcium: 37mg (4%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

This is a delicious dip, that really leans into the traditional "less is more" minimalism, only requiring a few ingredients treated well for a good result. The smoky undertones blend seamlessly into the nutty tahini, with a zing of garlic and lemon to brighten things up. Even eggplant haters have liked it. Especially nice is it's easy to roast more than one eggplant at once, so you can make a bigger batch. However, I think some constraints need to be introduced to help guarantee success for the reader—and I've now made this dish 3 different times to nail down the variables.

First, the eggplant used should be the teardrop-shaped Italian variety, which averages 210-245 grams each. While it's possible with a globe eggplant, these are usually twice the weight, have a ton of seeds, and don't turn as silky when roasted. The extra weight means longer roasting time and the given quantities of mix-ins feel underpowered. Second, the juice of one lemon is so variable, I've found that 2 Tbsp per Italian eggplant brings enough brightness without upstaging the eggplant. My first attempt using a whole lemon as directed brought 4 Tbsp, which was way too much.

Then there's the garlic issue. If you are making this the day of and plan to eat it all that day, go ahead and put the garlic straight in. However, if you plan to eat it during the week, the garlic continues to bloom (like it does in hummus) and by day three it is so strong it burns your mouth and is probably best reserved for hunting vampires. In Michael Solomonov's, "Zahev," he soaks his crushed garlic in lemon juice for 10 minutes before straining the lemon juice to add to tahini sauce or hummus, which prevents the garlic from blooming in the fridge and throwing the flavors out of whack. I tried that here and it worked just as well. If someone wants to make this ahead, I recommend soaking the garlic in lemon juice for 10 minutes. Then, strain the lemon juice into the dip and discard the garlic pulp. It will be just as good on day 3 as it is on day 1.

A bowl of moutabal topped with olive oil and garnished with pomegranate seeds.

This is a tasty, easy dip to make for an afternoon snack with pita chips or as a party appetizer. I've made this moutabal three times over the past few weeks. I simply roast the eggplant in the oven until blackened, let cool for 25 minutes, and blend in the remaining ingredients with a fork. Add a few pinches of salt and you have a wonderful dip. Any leftover will taste great the next day. You can adjust as you like; my lemon was generous with juice so I added an extra little bit of tahini and it was totally balanced. This is a keeper in the oh-so-easy recipe file.

I really love baba ganoush and this recipe for moutabal offers a new variation (at least for me!). I hadn't tried blending yogurt in before, and usually have parsley rather than pomegranate seeds. It's a very simple process and doesn't take much time. The result is nicely balanced—creamy, smoky, some sweet and sour notes, and just a hint of bitterness with just the right amount of salt. Really great with crunchy kale and sunchoke chips.

I think I'd add toasted sesame seeds and chopped parsley next time, but I'll definitely keep the pomegranate, or drizzle in some pomegranate molasses in the absence of real pomegranate seeds.

This quick and easy eggplant moutabal dip is a lovely change-up from my staple hummus dip in the fridge. So much flavor from so few ingredients. I've made this before with a slightly different recipe. The other recipe also called for oven roasting the eggplant but also used the broiler to create the char necessary for smoky flavor. If you're attempting this recipe using the oven method, I'd recommend some broiler time to get that char on the eggplant. However, even though it didn't get quite as charred and smoky with the oven method, I still found the final product really tasty. I ate it with whole wheat pitas.

We really enjoyed this moutabal dip. I didn't serve it cold because when I tried it from the fridge, it wasn't very flavorful. I served this at room temp (or a little warmer, I used a microwave), drizzled with olive oil, pomegranate molasses, and pomegranate seeds. I'd recommend serving this way, it was delicious.

The prep is very simple, and the most time-consuming part is roasting the eggplant—but so easy—just put it in the oven and let it roast. I processed this in the food processor until fairly smooth. Using a food processor is a must if you like a smoother consistency.

I would classify this like a homemade hummus – great for lunch with pita and vegetables, and good for a snack, and either way, a good healthy dish to have on-hand for quick eating.

I prepare baba ganoush often as we love it so when I saw this recipe with similar ingredients I was intrigued. I roasted the eggplant using my outdoor gas grill. The temperature hovered around 500°F and charring occurred in 20 minutes. The skin became black and hard and peeled away easily so no scraping was necessary. From here the prep was a snap, everything goes into the food processor and is done in 2 minutes. I served this moutabal as an appetizer, still slightly warm, with homemade pita chips, sliced cucumber, and a glass of red wine. It was very good but a little too garlicky. Next time I'll start with just one clove of garlic and add the second one to taste. The leftovers which had been refrigerated were also good but I agree with the author that warm was better.

Wow, what a punch of flavor this moutabal packs. Absolutely delicious and dead easy. The key to getting a deeply smoky flavor is to roast the eggplant over an open flame. I did two versions, one in the oven and one on the grill and the grill version is heads above the oven version. I had to restrain myself from eating it all in one sitting.

I have always known this dish as baba ganoush and have made a similar version for many years. After looking up the differences between the two, it seems that many middle eastern cultures include tahini in moutabal but don't include it in baba ganoush. Whatever you want to call it, it's delicious.

Served with toasted pita triangles as part of a meze with olives, stuffed grape leaves, and tabouli.


Originally published May 16, 2021

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