Amped-Up Portuguese Red Pepper Paste

Amped Up Red Pepper Paste

Massa de pimentão is originally from the Alentejo province. The paste, a pantry staple, is a Portuguese classic and constitutes the major flavor component of the region’s cooking. Every cook has his or her own version. Some are made from fresh bell peppers that have been salt-cured, others from roasted peppers, still others from paprika. My version follows. It’s lightly salted and richly seasoned, so all you have to do to make dinner is rub a little on beef, chicken, fish, or even peeled, halved potatoes before before roasting. I’m a little biased, but I have to say the paste’s most famous—and deservedly so—application is my Grandmother Costa’s Bread Dressing.–David Leite

LC Classico Condiment Note

Although the most classic form of this condiment is made from heavily salt-cured bell peppers, David prefers this version, which relies instead on paprika. For those of you curious to compare the two, we’ve included instructions for the classic in the variation below.

Amped-Up Red Pepper Paste Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 10 M
  • Makes about 1 cup


  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 8 to 10 garlic cloves
  • 2 crumbled Turkish bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon double-concentrate tomato paste, or three tablespoons regular store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 7 sprigs cilantro
  • 5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • Few dashes Piri-Piri sauce, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  • 1. In a food processor, combine the sweet paprika, sweet smoked paprika, wine, garlic, bay leaves, tomato paste, lemon juice, cilantro, parsley, salt, pepper, and piri-piri sauce. 
Pulse until the garlic and herbs are minced, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the motor still running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and continue whirring until the mixture comes together in a slick, homogeneous paste, 1 to 2 minutes. Use the mixture immediately or spoon it into a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to a month.

Classico Red Bell Pepper Paste Variation

  • This classico approach to red bell pepper paste relies on salt-cured bell peppers for oomph. It’s a much saltier version of the paste than mine, so use it with a judicious hand. Wash, stem, and seed 3 red bell peppers. Slice them into 1-inch-wide strips. Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour in about an inch of kosher salt. Press some of the strips into the salt and cover with another inch of salt. Continue layering until all the strips are covered. Top with a heavy pan. Place the colander in a large bowl and set aside at cool room temperature or 5 days. On the 6th day, fish out the bell pepper strips and brush off the salt but do not rinse. Purée in a food processor, transfer to a clean glass jar, and refrigerate until you need your next fix.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. RCM911, many things. One use is for the stuffing in this meal. But it’s such a basic condiment in Portugal. It’s used in stews, vegetable dishes, roasts, grill meats, etc. My cookbook has many recipes that call for it. If you want a simple recipe: rub the paste under and over the skin of a chicken and roast it, occasionally brushing more on while cooking.

  1. Very yummy. Then I took your idea and Mexicanizsed it.

    4 or 5 roasted red Poblano chilies, roasted, peeled, seeded
    3 or 4 garlic cloves
    2 bay leaves
    2 Tbsp tomato paste
    juice of a small lime
    fresh cilantro, parsley and epazote
    salt and pepper
    Put it all in the food processor and added oiive oil

    Very tasty, I promise.

  2. I see some recipes for this online that say to roast the bell peppers first, is this a common thing in Portugal?

    1. Nuno, if you are making a classic massa de pimentão, no the peppers are ground raw. This recipe is something I created for my cookbook, The New Portuguese Table.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe?
Let us know what you think.