Muhamarra – A Sublime Dip

Muhamarra – Walnut, Bell Pepper and Pomegranate Dip


Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Sampling local food is a highlight of traveling. On a recent trip to Egypt, I most enjoyed the small dishes placed on the table at the start of each meal. Like the mezze served when dining in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants, we were served hummus, grilled eggplant, tahini sauces and the like – all excellent.

 When I dipped a pita into a bowl of gorgeous red-colored dip I instantly knew I was sampling Muhammara, a rich blend of toasted walnuts, red bell peppers and pomegranate molasses. I recognized it from a recipe I’d clipped from a newspaper years ago but never made. Muhamarra is Arabic for “brick colored” according to Paula Wolfert in her cookbook, The Cooking of the Mediterranean, who explains that variations of it are made not just in Aleppo, Syria as some food historians claim, but also in Turkey, Lebanon and Georgia. I’m adding Egypt to the list – and my North American kitchen, where it is a new staple.

Nutrition Note: Nuts are rich in healthy fats and provide protein, fiber antioxidants and other essential nutrients. Walnuts have more alpha linolenic acid, the plant based omega 3 essential fatty acid, than any other nut. For more information on the health benefits of walnuts for cardiovascular, diabetes, cognitive function, bone health, weight loss, cancer and more, visit the Walnut Board website   With 18 grams of fat per ounce, one quarter cup of walnuts has 190 calories so it’s wise to use moderation when consuming them if you don’t want to pack in the calories.

Muhammara Dip

2 red bell peppers (about 1 pound)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For Dipping:

Za’atar Pita Chips (recipe follows) or whole wheat pita bread, cut into triangles

Fresh vegetables such as carrot or celery sticks, broccoli or cauliflower florets (raw or lightly steamed)

Halve and core bell peppers. Place pepper halves, cut side down, on baking sheet. Cut peppers into smaller pieces, if needed, so pieces lay flat. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat and turning as needed for 8 to 10 minutes or until blackened. Cover and steam for 10 minutes to loosen skins. Remove skins and discard. Coarsely chop peppers to measure 1 cup. Combine olive oil with garlic, crushed red pepper and cumin in small skillet over medium-low heat; stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Cool to warm. In bowl of food processor, combine flavored oil, peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and salt. Whirl until blended and smooth. Spoon into small bowl, cover and chill for one hour for flavors to blend. (Can be made one day ahead.) Serve with Za’atar Pita Chips or and/or fresh vegetables. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Short Cut:

Use 1 cup drained, roasted red peppers from a jar.

Za’atar Pita Chips: Cut whole wheat pita breads into triangles. Place on baking sheet. brush or spray with olive oil and sprinkle with Za’atar seasoning blend, sesame or cumin seed. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until crisp.

Ingredient Notes:

The word Za’atar may refer to: 1. Middle Eastern herbs similar to oregano or thyme and 2. A dry seasoning blend that includes herbs, dried sumac and sesame seed. In Egypt, our meals often included a blend similar to the latter that we sprinkled on our pita bread after dipping in olive oil. Look for it in markets specializing in ethnic foods, online or retail specialty spice markets. You can find recipes to make your own blend on the internet, too.

Pomegranate Molasses is concentrated pomegranate juice, commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, I found Cortas brand, imported from Lebanon at my local QFC grocery store.

Copywrite ©Lorelle S Del Matto 2011

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


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