Mhammara is the ultimate roasted capsicum dip – smoky, sweet, and a bit spicy, thanks to walnuts and a hint of pomegranate molasses. Slather it on, dip into it – this flavour-packed goodness does it all!
The highlight of an Arabic breakfast spread or mezze platter is the array of delicious dips. While everyone indulges in the humble hummus, this roasted red capsicum nutty dip is my personal favourite after Baba Ganoush.
What is Mhammara?
Mhammara or Muhammara, a delightful roasted capsicum dip has been a staple in Syrian and Levantine kitchens for centuries. The name "mhammara" is derived from the Arabic word "ahmar," meaning red, a fitting tribute to the dip's vibrant colour.
Legend has it that Mhammara's creation was a celebration of Syria's rich harvest of red peppers. The traditional recipe includes red peppers, walnuts, olive oil, Aleppo pepper flakes and other spices. As the popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine has grown globally, muhammara has become a beloved dip, celebrated for its sweet, and spicy flavours.
Let me share this easy Muhammara recipe that is made from scratch!
The roasted red peppers (capsicum) bring a sweet smokiness, creating the canvas upon which the ground walnuts and breadcrumbs add texture. While the ground spices infuse warmth into every bite, the extra virgin olive oil binds these elements into a creamy delight. The pomegranate molasses brings everything together with a burst of fruity sweetness. Get ready to gather the flavorful squad for your Mhammara party! Here's what you need:
- red bell peppers (capsicum)
- extra virgin olive oil
- chilli flakes
- red chilli powder
- cumin powder
- pomegranate molasses
See the recipe card for quantities.
Why you should try this recipe?
- These days you can easily grab a jar of roasted red peppers from the supermarket and make this dip in a jiffy. Trust me, I would do that too - but making from scratch is a charm of homemade food.
- An authentic Mhammara recipe includes Aleppo pepper aka Aleppo chilli flakes, which I have not been able to source (yet). I couldn't wait any longer to try this recipe so I used the highly recommended sub: paprika and cayenne or red chilli.
- I would also like to highlight that this recipe does not include garlic, tahini or tomato paste. You may have seen recipes that have one or all of those items. Nothing against it but after a few trials and experiments, we love this simple version.
- This Mhammara heavily relies on the roasted bell pepper and walnut for flavour and the few spices to bring it alive. This allows you to customize further to serve differently each time, if you will.
- As oven roasting is involved, I made this as a big batch that can be served for four to five people. We enjoyed this batch for several days with homemade pita chips!
My enthusiasm for this dip knows no bounds, and here's why: the smoky roasted peppers, the spicy kick that keeps you coming back for more, and the overall flavour explosion that turns every dip into a moment of pure bliss.
Let me show you how I made this batch of red capsicum dip.
Let's talk roasted capsicums – the hero flavour. First off, give those peppers a good wash and pat them dry. You may roast them whole over an open flame for a rich smoky flavour or like me, halve and bake until the skin is charred and blistered.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Place the red capsicum cut side down on a foil-lined roasting tin. Drizzle and coat them with a few teaspoons of olive oil. Roast them uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes, flipping them halfway.
In a food processor or mixie grinder, combine the walnuts and breadcrumbs. Pulse and grind them together to a coarse crumb.
Transfer the breadcrumbs and walnut mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Remove from the oven and cover the pan with more foil or plate. Let those charred peppers cool for a bit.
Then dive in for the messy yet satisfying task of peeling off that skin. It's like culinary therapy, and trust me, the flavour payoff is worth every messy moment.
Add the roasted peppers to the same food processor along with the ground spices and olive oil. Process until it forms a smooth paste. Add back the ground walnut and breadcrumb mixture a little at a time and mix until your desired consistency.
Muhammara is not just about flavour; it's also about the texture between chunky and creamy perfection. A dip that's not too smooth, not too lumpy – just right. Your trusted food processor is the best partner. Pulse it just enough to keep those delightful walnut and breadcrumb crunches intact, while letting the roasted red peppers waltz into a creamy dip.
Transfer your Mhammara to a serving bowl, and drizzle with a bit more olive oil if desired. Vibrant pomegranate seeds and finely chopped walnuts scattered atop add a burst of freshness and an extra layer of texture to each bite. Pair it with your favourite dippers or spread it on whatever calls for a taste upgrade.
I know sometimes we may not have all the ingredients to make a recipe and we look for alternative or sub options. Here are some nifty substitutions suggestions for the Mhammara recipe:
- Walnuts: No walnuts in the pantry? Pecans or cashews can step in with their nutty charm.
- Breadcrumbs: Try crushed crackers, toasted oats, or even sunflower seeds for that delightful crunch. You can make your own with a few slices of toasted bread.
- Olive Oil: Out of olive oil? Avocado oil or even a milder nut oil can bring their subtle flavours to the mix.
- Pomegranate Molasses: Can't find pomegranate molasses? A dash of balsamic vinegar or even a tamarind jam can add a sweet-tart kick. You may also try some sumac to replicate the taste.
- Paprika: You can experiment with sweet, hot or smoked paprika. In the absence of paprika, you can use Kashmiri red chilli powder or cayenne.
Here are some variations to make this dip recipe a tad differently:
- Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a citrusy kick. It brightens up the flavours and adds a refreshing element.
- Toss in a handful of fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or mint. The green burst adds a layer of freshness to the richness of Mhammara.
- Amp up the spice by incorporating a spoonful of harissa paste or gochujang!
- Drizzle in a bit of tahini for a nutty undertone that plays well with the existing flavours.
- Crumble in some feta cheese for a creamy, tangy twist. It's a delightful fusion that takes Mhammara to a whole new level.
Let me know in the comments if you tried and loved any of these mhammara variations!
Here are some of the equipment you'll need:
- Food Processor: An absolute essential for achieving that perfect blend of roasted red peppers, walnuts, and spices. I have used my trusted mixie grinder.
- Baking Pan: For roasting your red peppers to smoky perfection.
If you're wondering how to store this flavour-packed dip. Here's my recommendation:
- Refrigeration: Store it in an airtight container to keep its freshness intact. It's good for about a week in the refrigerator. After that, the flavours might start to lose their vibrancy.
- Freezing: Want to keep a stash for later? Mhammara freezes surprisingly well. Portion it into small containers or sealable bags, leaving some room for expansion, and freeze. When you plan to serve it, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and stir it before serving. Some extra olive oil will bring back the freshness.
Before refrigerating, a thin layer of olive oil on top can help preserve the colour and prevent it from drying out.
Absolutely! The spice level in Mhammara is flexible. Add more or fewer chilli flakes and powders according to your taste preferences. If making for a diverse crowd, then divide and process smaller batches with less or more spice.
Of course! If you have nut allergies or prefer a nut-free version, omit the walnuts and perhaps increase the breadcrumbs or try other seeds like sunflower seeds for texture.
For a rich smoky flavour, it is best to roast the peppers directly over the stovetop flame. You can also increase the smokiness by using smoked paprika.
In a time crunch? Absolutely, jarred roasted red peppers work well. Just make sure to drain them before using.
Mhammara can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free breadcrumbs. You may skip them altogether or increase the walnut quantity.
Improvise! Substitute with a bit of balsamic vinegar or tamarind jam for that sweet-tart kick.
Definitely! Mhammara gets better with time as the flavours mingle. Make it a day or two in advance for the best results.
Hmm.. Nope. The traditional Muhammara recipe uses long or round red bell peppers for their distinct sweet and smoky flavor. While you can experiment with green bell peppers, it will result in a different taste profile. So, I don't recommend making muhammara with green bell pepper.
Looking for other recipes using bell peppers or walnuts? Try these:
What to serve with mhammara?
Grab a warm piece of pita or my favourite— pita chips or some crunchy veggie sticks like cucumber, carrots or celery. Mhammara is not just a dip; it's a versatile dip. Slather it generously on sandwiches or wraps for an instant flavour upgrade. You can also try mixing a adding a dollop of mhammara to your favourite kafta mixture for a flavour bomb kebab!
Mhammara (Roasted Capsicum Dip)
- 3 red bell pepper 350g
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup walnuts 60g
- ⅓ cup breadcrumbs 60g
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon paprika (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
- chopped walnuts
- Pomegranate arils
- extra virgin olive oil
Roasted Red Peppers:
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F).
- Wash, halve, and deseed the red bell peppers.3 red bell pepper
- Line a roasting tin or a baking pan with foil and drizzle some olive oil.2 tablespoon olive oil
- Coat the red pepper halves with oil, place them cut side down on the pan, and roast in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, making sure to check and flip halfway.
- Once roasted, remove them from the oven immediately cover them, and let them cool until manageable.
Walnut and Breadcrumb Blend
- In a food processor, combine the walnuts and breadcrumbs. Coarsely grind them together, then remove and set aside.½ cup walnuts, ⅓ cup breadcrumbs
Prepare the dip:
- Carefully peel off the skin from the cooled roasted capsicum and add to the same food processor. Process until it forms a smooth paste.
- Now, to the pepper paste in the food processor, add the remaining ingredients. Process the mixture until all the ingredients are well mixed.1 teaspoon chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon red chilli powder, ½ teaspoon cumin powder, 2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, salt to taste
- Add the coarsely ground walnut and breadcrumb blend back into the food processor. Process until everything is thoroughly mixed and you achieve a creamy, flavourful Mhammara.
- Transfer the dip to a serving bowl, and drizzle with a bit more extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with some chopped walnuts and pomegranate arils.chopped walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, Pomegranate arils
Grab those peppers, fire up the food processor, and let the bold flavours of Mhammara become a part of your culinary repertoire.