If you have ever had the chance to visit this area in Europe called Balkan, you most probably had the chance to try Ajvar. Ajvar is a red pepper sauce that can be used as a dip, sauce, condiment you name it. It’s versatile and most households will make enough and can it so it can last for few months.
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What is Ajvar?
Ajvar (pronounced Eye-Var) is a Red Pepper relish or sauce that can be used as a spread over pita or bread, sauce over pasta or condiment over any dish you like. Most Balkan countries not only have their variation of this sauce but they also often take credit that ajvar originated in their country.
The basics of the recipe are that you roast meaty red peppers and eggplant, peal them then blend. Slow cook for hours in olive oil and garlic, and add salt at the end.
How can such an easy recipe be controversial? Well, each household claims their way of roasting is the best or their ratio of red peppers to eggplant is the best, then someone else adds some spicy red chili to create a spicy meze and so on and so forth. Every recipe is amazing and everyone thinks their country’s recipe is the best and of course their mama’s recipe is even better:). Hope you got a quick glimpse of the Balkans with this!! 🙂
How to Make Ajvar?
To me, ajvar has to have a lot more red pepper than eggplant otherwise it tastes like an eggplant dip. Also, you have to use red peppers with a lot of meat in them, it makes the sauce taste better but also peppers are easier to peal after you cook them.
- Roasting Vegetables – Roast peppers and eggplant until their skin gets charred and air seeps in under the skin. This makes them easier to peel. You can grill the vegetables or roast them.
- Peeling Vegetables – Once peppers and eggplant are roasted, let them cool until you can handle them by hand. Peel and clean them from seeds. Place over a bowl or large plate, make sure to collect the juice from the red peppers. It helps with the sauce taste.
- Simmer Vegetables – see recipe card below for more details. You start by sauteing garlic in olive oil, then add blended red pepper and eggplant. Mix well to form a sauce, lower heat to simmer. Cover the pot and let cook for about 2 hrs in very low heat. You might want to add half cup of water if sauce is too thick when you start simmering.
- How to Serve Ajvar? – Well, the beauty of this sauce is that can be served with anything. Serve it as a dip with pita bread or celery, or pour it over your favorite pasta. I just enjoy it with some toasted bread and cheese. See one example below served with this homemade bread.
- Other ingredients – you can add a spicy red chili to make ajvar spicy. I currently make it non-spicy because of my kids. However, when I make a lot of it I split up a small pot and add the spice there so I can make at least 1 jar spicy. See below some other ingredients that are used across different regions.
- Storing – if you make 1-2 jars of ajvar, you don’t need to can it. Just pour in clean jars or containers, close them air tight and you can store them in the refrigerator for 7 days or so. However, if you’re making bigger quantities please use safe canning techniques to store ajvar properly.
Ajvar – Balkan Red Pepper Dip
- 8 red peppers
- 1 eggplant
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- salt to taste
- 0.5 cup water (optional)
- 1 small red chili pepper (optional if you like spicy ajvar)
- 0.5 cup olive oil extra virgin
- Use a baking dish that has a rack that fits. This allows for roasting the vegetables in a way that is very similar to grilling. You can grill or roast the vegetables.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 200 degrees Celsius).
- Roast peppers and eggplant for about 20 minutes or so. It's important to allow for peppers' skin to char a little and skin to separate and lift up a little.
- Remove tray from over, let peppers and eggplant cool until you can handle them by hand.
- Remove peppers' skin and seeds. Peel the eggplant. You can dice the vegetables very thin, use a mill or blend them.
- Get a large pot, add olive oil and saute minced garlic until flagrant. If you are adding spicy chili, this is the time to add it.
- Add blended red pepper & eggplant mix to the pot. mix thoroughly. If the mix is too thick already you can add a half cup of water. Usually the peppers have enough juice of their own and water is not needed but few times I have had to add a half cup.
- Lower heat to simmer, cover the pot and let everything simmer together for about 2 hrs. Just check occasionally so ajvar is not getting too thick.
- Once you turn heat off, let ajvar cool. Then pour in jars for storing.
- If you want to store this for a long time, use safe canning techniques. Usually this amount lasts my family about 7-8 days so I just store in the refrigerator.
- Use as a dip, condiment, sauce over pasta or dip with celery, carrots and pita. I love it simply with some homemade bread and cheese!! Enjoy:)
- I used a fitness app to estimate the calories per serving.
If you would like to save this recipe for later, please pin the below image to Pinterest. Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or tag me in social media if you made my recipe:). Thank you!!
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More Recipes from The Balkans
If you have been following me for a while, you know that I was born in Albania. So all my Balkan & Mediterranean recipes have the Albanian influence:).
This dip turned out perfect and everyone loved it! Simple to make and soooo good!
Love how healthful and flavorful this looks – such a beautiful color.
My family just loves any recipe with eggplant. ANd they were over the moon about this dip served with fresh veggies. The red peppers and eggplant combo is great.
This dip turned out great!! We served it with some pita and cut fresh veggies and everyone loved it!
This is a very healthy and very delicious dip that goes well with some crusty bread. I love how bright the color is too.
Thank you Anita, yes it’s definitely perfect with some bread:)