Muhammara is a delicious Middle Eastern dip similar to hummus and baba ganoush that will make a perfect addition to your next appetizer platter. Originally from Aleppo, Syria, this somewhat unknown dish is popular in Levantine and Turkish cuisine. We first discovered this tangy spread at Carousel, a local Lebanese restaurant, and immediately fell in love with its smooth, creamy texture and sharp, smoky flavor. We were excited to find an authentic recipe and thrilled when we discovered how easy it was to make this at home. This ancient tradition mixes roasted red peppers with fresh cloves of chopped garlic, toasted walnuts, and a splash of lemon, which is blended with crispy bread crumbs, and seasoned with cumin and red pepper flakes for a hint of heat. This lively mix of flavors is balanced with pomegranate molasses, a thick, tart sauce made from concentrated pomegranate juice which is common in Middle Eastern cooking, that adds a slight sweetness, a zesty pep, and a stunning rusty-red color.
You can find pomegranate molasses online or in Middle Eastern and natural food stores. Since this secret ingredient is inexpensive, and only a few teaspoons are needed for this recipe, one bottle of this deliciously unique syrup will last you a very long time. Anywhere you use hummus, you can use muhammara: Spread it on some warm pita bread or a slice of toast. It’s great on crackers and chips, wonderful with fresh vegetables and burgers, and adds a gorgeous bright color on a mezze platter assorted with hummus, moutabbal, falafel, and tabbouleh.
Muhammara is very easy to prepare. You simply toast the walnuts, crush the garlic, then all the ingredients are blended in the food processor while you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Toasting the ground walnuts is key, as it gives this dish some depth and an irresistible nutty flavor. Also, roasting your own peppers is an option, but one of the appealing things about this particular recipe is how simple it is, and using jarred peppers will keep the prep time under 15 minutes. During our search to find the best peppers, we noticed that some brands happened to be too sweet. We found that Trader Joe’s fire roasted red peppers are well-balanced and work perfectly here, but feel free to use your favorite kind. Sprinkling chopped walnuts at the end can be a decorative garnish as well as adding a pleasant crunch to this otherwise rich and creamy appetizer. Whether you bring this exotic plate to a potluck or a party, or serve it as a healthy afternoon snack, you will quickly see how tasty and versatile this Syrian dish can be.
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, via Epicurious
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
2 to 4 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry
2/3 cup fine bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (see note on where to buy)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup olive oil
In a small dry skillet over medium heat, cook the chopped walnuts until golden and toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove nuts from the pan and allow them to cool slightly. While they are cooling, mash the garlic cloves and salt together in a mortar and pestle.
Place the cooled walnuts in the bowl of a food processor, and also add the garlic-salt mixture, the red peppers, bread crumbs, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as necessary. Then, with the motor running, slowly add the olive oil, and continue to blend until smooth and combined. Taste for salt and season as needed (we usually add 1/8 teaspoon). Transfer the muhammara to a bowl, and serve at room temperature. Enjoy!
— Pomegranate molasses is available online or from Middle Eastern grocery stores and some natural food stores.
— For the peppers, we use Trader Joe’s fire roasted red peppers, as we found other brands to be too sweet, but feel free to use whatever kind you would like!