Muhammara – Walnut and Aleppo Pepper Dip


28 May Muhammara – Walnut and Aleppo Pepper Dip

Muhammara spread on flatbread -

Muhammara (pronounced moo-hahm-MRAH) is a classic Mediterranean dish. It’s a dip. It’s a spread. It’s addictive. You have been warned.

Pitas are the authentic accompaniment, but I’ve been gobbling muhammara on homemade piadinas to no ill effect. Don’t let the simplicity of the dish fool you. It’s as versatile as it is habit-forming. The nutty-hot flavour makes an unusual and fiery sandwich spread. Think ham or chicken or roasted eggplant. It’s garlic-free, so you don’t need to worry about offending co-workers. You can start your day with a heaping spoonful (or two) on your otherwise ho-hum morning eggs. Hold the breath mint. More combinations occur to me as I nibble. I’m now thinking pizza or fish. Or couscous.

This new obsession is all Jennifer Bain‘s fault. If her name’s familiar, she’s the food editor for the Toronto Star and the author of  Toronto Star Cookbook. If it’s not, it should be. Her Cumin Carrots with Cilantro Vinaigrette changed my mind about newspaper recipes. I spent Sunday with her and 50 food lovers touring Bain’s favourite Toronto shops and restaurants on the first ever Toronto Star Food Safari. During this day-long tour, she introduced me to the concept of muhammara and Aleppo peppers. And many other foods along the way.

My autographed coppy of Toronto Star Cookbook -

The first stop was Arz Fine Foods, a bakery/grocery store specializing in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. Unable to include their muhammara recipe in her book, Bain spread the word about the dish to the Food Safari attendees. Arz makes two versions in store, one with tahini, one without. Both use Aleppo pepper powder, a coarsely crushed, sun-dried Syrian chili. Because of the political situation in Syria, Arz no longer has enough to sell. Instead, they reserve their limited supply for their finished dishes.

With a good six hours to go on the tour, I didn’t want to buy pre-made food. I quietly gave up on the quest for muhammara and focused on za’atar and sumac. But Toronto Star’s intrepid food editor wasn’t so easily put off. Bain not only found an alternative (hot scaled peppers), she hunted me down and handed me a jar as I stood in line clutching other hard-to-find ingredients — pomegranate molasses, za’atar, sumac and harissa.

Good thing I bought the pomegranate molasses. They’re key to muhammara, too. The za’atar and sumac will just have to wait their turn. Harissa? Oh, I’ll get to you yet, my pretty.

Once home, I hit the kitchen. Even with chopping the nuts, muhammara took less than 10 minutes to make. I misread the instructions and put in the pepper powder and paprika. It’s still wonderful. And addictive.

The recipe says to adjust the spicing to suit your tastes. It doesn’t say anything about sharing.

Muhammara served on flatbread - TheMessyBaker

Got a favourite Mediterranean / Middle Eastern spice? Share your thoughts or recipe links. I’ve got a huge jar of peppers, lots of pomegranate molasses and the whole summer to experiment.

Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep / inactive time: 
Total time: 
Serves: about 2 cups
Muhammara, a classic Mediterranean dish, can be served as a dip with pita or as a spread in sandwiches and wraps. Adjust the spicing to suit your tastes.
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup small walnut pieces
  • ½ cup fine dried bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup Aleppo pepper powder (OR 1 teaspoon paprika. See note.)
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine oil. walnuts, breadcrumbs, Aleppo powder or paprika, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and salt. Stir well; taste. Adjust if needed.
  2. Refrigerate in a covered container.
I got this recipe from Jennifer Bain, Food Editor at the Toronto Star. It's orgininally from Arz Fine Foods in Toronto.

At the time of posting, Aleppo pepper powder, which is from Syria, is almost impossible to find in Canada because of the political situation. Arz suggested hot scaled peppers as a suitable substitute. If you can't find this pepper powder, or find it too hot, use paprika.

Pomegranate molasses can be found at most  Middle Eastern grocery stores. This thick syrup is reduced pomegranat juice. It's sour with a tangy-sweet edge.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Disclosure: I attended the Food Safari as a guest of the Toronto Star. I am under no obligation to write about the tour or any of the stops along the way. All ingredients used in the muhammara recipe were purchased by me. [/box]

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  • Amy Proulx
    Posted at 22:44h, 28 May Reply

    Uses for pomegranate molasses… How about fesenjun, a braise of chicken in a pomegranate molasses and walnut sauce. Traditionally made with pheasant or duck. Rich, and heady, with a slick of walnut oil on the top. Or zeitoun parvardeh, olives stuffed with garlic and walnuts, marinated in pomegranate molasses. I could go on. Other great shops in the Toronto area would include Super Khorak at Yonge, south of Steeles, Adonis, in Mississauga, Eglinton and Creditview. I can usually find pomegranate molasses in most urban No Frills as well.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 00:36h, 29 May Reply

      Oh, I’m drooling just thinking about poulty with pomegranate molasses and walnut sauce. I’ll have to dig into my cookbook collection for recipes. And the olives? They sound beyond wonderful.

      Thanks for the tips on where to get pomegranate molasses. Our No Frills doesn’t have any, but that might be changing. I’ll keep my eye out. It’s going to be a pantry staple at my house.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:33h, 29 May Reply

      I just found a recipe for fesenjan. I am so making it! Thanks for the heads up.

  • Akansha's Recipes
    Posted at 11:54h, 30 May Reply

    Looks so yummy! Very well described too! Definitely gonna try this!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:19h, 31 May Reply

      Hope you like it! I love how easy it is to make. The only difficult thing about this recipe is exercising portion control.

  • A Canadian Foodie
    Posted at 21:06h, 03 June Reply

    Honestly, never heard of this combination of flavours – but it looks absolutely divine with the mighty tasty ingredient combination…

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:36h, 04 June Reply

      It was new to me too. I’ve had a version made with roasted red peppers and walnuts, but never dried peppers. I think a combination of the two would be divine. Endless possibilities!

  • Marlene
    Posted at 16:53h, 27 November Reply

    I just saw this on Gastropost, and will be making it for a holiday party. I’ve been looking for great appetizers options that just happen to be, ahem, easy. No offence to my guests, but if I can serve them great tasting food without working myself to the bone, that sounds like a good plan!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:49h, 30 November Reply

      This is a perfect recipe for easy yet delicious. If you work yourself to the bone, you can’t be a good host — or enjoy the company of your friends. Love the way you think!

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