Muhammara, or Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut Dip, is a versatile, savory-sweet Middle Eastern dip. Delicious spread on pita or veggies, or as sauce for kabobs, this gluten-free, vegan version is amazing!
What's the Story Behind this Recipe?
Muhammara, or Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut Dip, originated in Aleppo, Syria, and its principal ingredients traditionally include red peppers, ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, spices, and olive oil. However, this recipe - inspired by popular local pub fare - omits the bread crumbs, and instead uses roasted carrots to thicken and extend the dip.
Not only do the carrots keep this delicious savory-sweet dip gluten-free, but they give it a wonderful creaminess and earthy sweetness as well.
Inspired by Three Faces of Eve
Some years back, my sister-friend Dottie and I attended an annual Portland poetry slam together, and afterwards decided to stop for a little late night snack at the adjacent Bagdad Pub.
Dottie and I ordered something called "Three Faces of Eve," (super-fancy hummus plate) and sat down to rehash the evening, poet by poet.
Forty-five minutes later, still no hummus plate. We finally got our waitress’s attention, and she (let's call her Alice) went to check on our order, only to return frantic and apologizing all over the place. Alice said she had no idea what happened but the kitchen never got our order.
"Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?" she asked us - at least seven times. In between apologizing, she kept up a steady train of chatter, trying so hard to be accommodating that it was driving us nuts. All either Dottie or I could think was, “It’s OK, we understand. Really. Just please stop talking.”
Finally, I told Alice what would really make me happy: I wanted the recipe for their roasted red pepper walnut dip. Which I love. LOVE. As in, I have been known to go to this pub solely for the walnut-pomegranate dip. (It is my favorite of Eve’s three faces.)
“Can you get the recipe for me?” I asked, smiling my best ‘you might just be able to salvage your tip’ smile.
“I dunno, but I’ll try.” She didn’t sound very confident, but it gave her something to do besides hover over us like a needy dragonfly.
Ten minutes later, Alice emerged from the back wearing a big grin and waving little piece of white paper.
I almost got misty. This recipe had been on my wish list for years! I scanned the handwritten recipe briefly and then tucked it away, already calculating the Alice's generous tip.
It's a good thing my scanning skills are pretty tight, too; because somewhere between that Bagdad booth and my front door, Alice's little slip of paper completely disappeared.
Surprisingly, I took recipe loss in stride. In my quick perusal, I'd memorized the ingredient list, along with a general idea of the basic ratios.
In the long run, losing it wasn't entirely a bad thing. It forced me to really work each this recipe out for myself, and even take some pride in the result! I hope you enjoy our version of Muhammara as much as we do!
What Goes into this Recipe
The Secret Ingredient: Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranate molasses is the one distinct, "secret" ingredient in this recipe, and what lends to its unique, savory-sweet flavor.
Called molasses not for its origins, but for its dark, syrupy consistency, pomegranate molasses is a thick fruit syrup made from pomegranate juice.
Pomegranate molasses is a bit like a less sweet, less tangy balsamic reduction, and I find that I can use it anywhere I would use a good balsamic glaze. Until I started making muhammara at home, I'd never even heard of pomegranate molasses. Since then, I've found a number of delicious uses for it.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
★ Aleppo peppers: Named after the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, Aleppo dried pepper flakes are traditionally used in Muhammara. Aleppo pepper flakes are about half as hot as crushed red chili flakes; and according to some, they are twice as flavorful. Aleppo pepper flakes can be found in specialty markets or online.
★ Carrots: Carrots are not a traditional ingredient in muhammara; however, this recipe uses carrots in place of breadcrumbs to thicken and extend the dip. For this recipe, I chose to roast the carrots before blending them into the dip, instead of simply boiling them as my original notes indicated.
Not only do the roasted carrots pair perfectly with the walnut-pomegranate flavors to make this savory-sweet dip gluten-free, but they give it a wonderful creaminess as well.
★ Pomegranate molasses: Probably the most unusual ingredient in this recipe, pomegranate molasses is a household staple in many Middle Eastern kitchens. It has a truly unique flavor, and can be used for glazes, salad dressings, and even barbecuing.
You can find pomegranate molasses at specialty stores or online. And before you even ask: no, here is no good substitute for it.
How to Make Red Pepper & Walnut Dip
Preheat oven to 425°F | 220°C.
Cover a baking sheet pan with a Silpat mat or parchment paper and spread the prepared vegetables out in a single layer. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over vegetables and toss to coat. Season vegetables lightly with kosher salt and ground cumin.
Roast vegetable in preheated oven for 45 minutes, turning once halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once vegetables are cool, remove peel from red peppers.
Heat walnuts in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes, or until nuts are golden brown and smell toasty.
Walnuts burn easily in a skillet, so be sure to stir constantly to ensure even toasting until the nuts turn a rich, golden brown. Remove walnuts from skillet and set aside.
In the same skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Turn off burner, add the cumin and paprika, and stir in hot oil until fragrant - just a few seconds. Allow to cool slightly.
Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
Serve with warm pita triangles, celery sticks, carrot sticks, or whatever makes you happy.
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Muhammara (Red Pepper & Walnut Dip with Pomegranate Molasses)
- 1 Blender or Food Processor
- 1 Enameled Cast Iron Skillet or heavy skillet
- 1 pound carrots peeled and cut into 2" pieces
- 1 large red pepper cored, seeded, and cut into eighths
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 cup walnuts about 4 ounces
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or sumac
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes or ½ teaspoon regular red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses plus more for garnish
- 2 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 cup warm water
- Preheat oven to 425°F | 220°C.
- Cover a baking sheet pan with a Silpat mat or parchment paper and spread the prepared vegetables out in a single layer. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over vegetables and toss to coat. Season vegetables lightly with kosher salt and ground cumin.
- Roast vegetable in preheated oven for 45 minutes, turning once halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once vegetables are cool, remove peel from red peppers.
- Heat walnuts in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes, or until nuts are golden brown and smell toasty. Walnuts burn easily in a skillet, so be sure to stir constantly to ensure even toasting until the nuts turn a rich, golden brown. Remove walnuts from skillet and set aside.
- In the same skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Turn off burner, add the cumin and paprika, and stir in hot oil until fragrant - just a few seconds. Allow to cool slightly.
Put it all together
- Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
- Serve with warm pita triangles, celery sticks, carrot sticks, or whatever makes you happy.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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Originally published June, 2013. Post has been updated with new images, content, and recipe instructions to improve reader experience.
Jenni LeBaron says
This dip sounds absolutely delicious. I can imagine its great for dipping veggies and pita chips or smothered in a wrap also!
Renée ♥ says
I just had it today for lunch with grilled eggplant on pita, and it was fabulous!
Erin @ Platings and Pairings says
The color of that dip is so vibrant! This sounds delicious Renee!
Renée ♥ says
This is such a unique pairing of flavors! I would never think to combine pomegranate with red pepper. Brilliant!
Catherine @ To & Fro Fam says
Oh my goodness, this gluten free dip looks decadent! I would probably need to devour the whole bowl all by myself. 🙂
Renée ♥ says
Seriously, Catherine - no blogger hyperbolic blogger BS here - this is so good.
This looks so good! Excited to try it. Pinned.
Indya | The Small Adventurer says
I feel for that waitress. I also work in food and it's awful when something goes wrong that isn't your fault, but you're the one that has to deliver the bad news ? Awesome that they gave you the recipe though. There are SO many restaurants whose recipes I would love to get my hands on!
Renée ♥ says
I feel the same way - I used to wait table, too. It's such a demanding job, physically and otherwise. I did appreciate the leverage the situation gave me, though!
Everything with roasted red peppers in it is amazing! I simply adore their flavour!
Renée ♥ says
I do too! They bring so much flavor to everything they touch!
Pinning for later, definitely have to give this a try. It sounds fantastic, and so much healthier than most dips.
What a happy coincidence that you lost that paper, in the end! That way you got to develop an original recipe without fear that you'd become public enemy #1 for sharing their secret recipe! A similar thing happened to me with an industrial kitchen I used to work in, where I was inspired by a recipe we used to make there, but since I did it from memory I didn't feel bad sharing it! haha
Thanks for the yummy-sounding dip recipe! I'll have to try this if I can get my hands on some of that pomegranate molasses!
Renée ♥ says
Thanks! ??? I kind of doubt publishing the recipe would have made me public enemy #1, especially because Publicity is a good thing, and most Portland eateries are pretty cool with bloggers, as long as you give them credit. Nevertheless, I think it did turn out better for the effort. You can find the pomegranate molasses at any Middle Eastern grocery store.
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
Love the extra pomegranate molasses you added!
Sue Moran says
This is one of my favorite dips, the flavors are so intense and the color is stunning!
This dip has it all going on! I love the combo of walnuts, carrots, red pepper and pomegranate and that it's gluten free. Can't wait to make it!
Renée ♥ says
Thanks, Colleen! If you do, be sure to stop back by and let us know how it turned out for you!
Anita @ Daily Cooking Quest says
Woohoo, good job getting the recipe from the source! I'm definitely bookmarking and will try to reproduce ASAP. 🙂
I always order this from my favourite lebanese place. I must try making it myself.
Renée ♥ says
It's super-easy to make, and it will last in the fridge for about a week!
Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry says
What a delicious sounding dip! Sounds so full of flavour!