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Muhammara Dip

This colorful dip is sure to perk up your hors d’oeuvre table. Based on a recipe from my Grandma Alice O’Rullian and cousin Robin Nelson, Muhammara has a distinctive savory flavor enhanced by sweet and tart ingredients. This is a dip that I do not remember trying myself before now, but my cousin Robin Nelson has always loved it and finds it highly addictive.  She suggests serving it with warm pita bread or sesame crackers and that it makes a great accompaniment to hummus. I made some for the holidays and Armenians and non-Armenians alike seemed to enjoy it!

What is Muhammara?

Muhammara is a red pepper dip that gets its unique taste from pomegranate molasses and lemon juice. It appears to have originated in Aleppo, Syria. Besides spreading it on bread or crackers, you can also pair it up with cut up vegetables. 

What ingredients will I need to make Muhammara?

  • Pomegranate molasses:  I made my own using pomegranate juice, white sugar and lemon juice. You could also buy bottled Pomegranate Molasses online or at specialty grocery stores, but making your own isn't too difficult and allows you to control the level of sweetness.
  • Red bell peppers
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Saltine crackers
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice: I try to always keep fresh lemons on hand since I think freshly-squeezed lemon juice enhances this dip and other recipes. You'll need some for the syrup itself and some to add separately to the dip.
  • Spices: Cumin, a dash of cayenne pepper and salt to taste

    How do I make Muhammara?

    First make the pomegranate molasses. Over medium heat, bring 1 quart of pomegranate juice to a slow boil. Add sugar and two tablespoons of lemon juice and stir until the sugar dissolves. Continue to simmer on low until mixture turns into a syrupy consistency (approximately 60-90 minutes). Be careful not to overcook the mixture or let it get too hot, or you may turn your syrup into the makings of candy. Fortunately, I caught mine just in time.  Stirring it into my other ingredients before it completely cooled may have also helped.

    Meanwhile, mince the red bell peppers. If using a food processor, you will want to strain them afterwards. You will be surprised at how much water will drain. To do this, place paper towels in a fine sieve and scoop minced bell peppers on top of the paper towels so any residual water can drain away.

    Coarsely chop walnuts by hand or in food processor. I had trouble not over-processing my walnuts, so I recommend doing this by hand. Coarsely crush crackers by placing them in a zip lock bag and using a rolling pin to crush them.  Or place them in a food processor. You don't need to turn them into powder.  I kept all the ingredients at a nice "minced" level of coarseness unlike many other muhammara recipes that essentially turn them into a purée. I prefer a little texture, like an olive tapenade.

    Place all minced ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add olive oil, the additional lemon juice and 1/2 cup of pomegranate molasses. Add cumin, a dash of cayenne and salt to taste.

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