This bold, easy, and authentic Ajvar Recipe is one of my all time favorites! Ajvar is a versatile Serbian roasted red pepper sauce with eggplant that is used as a spread, condiment, sauce or relish.
Ajvar Recipe (Serbian Roasted Red Pepper Sauce)
If you're a fan of eggplants, Ajvar is a recipe you're definitely going to love! And even if you're not a fan of eggplants, this sauce just might sway you to change your mind.
Ajvar, pronounced "Eye Var", is a sauce or condiment made primarily with red peppers and oil, though an extremely popular variation includes eggplant (called Malidzano), which I've chosen to make here. You'll find it common in Balkan food and cuisine. In Serbia, Ajvar is called "vegetable caviar."
This easy ajvar recipe is made by roasting red peppers and eggplant, either directly over a fire or over a grill, though you can roast them in the oven. Traditionally it is made with sweeter peppers, though very commonly made with spicier peppers.
Ingredients in Ajvar
- Bell peppers
- Olive oil
- White wine vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Chili flakes
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Ajvar
Here's a quick sneak peak at how to make the best ajvar! Scroll to the bottom of this page for more detailed instructions.
Prepare your grill. First, heat a grill to medium heat and lightly oil the grates. If using wood pellets for the smoky flavor, get those ready now.
Prep the eggplant and peppers. Poke holes into the eggplant skin in several areas with a fork and set it on the grill along with the red peppers.
Grill the veggies. Grill the eggplant and peppers about 30 minutes, flipping occasionally, until the red pepper skins char and puff up and the eggplant softens all over. Check them at 10-15 minutes to make sure nothing burns.
Steam the peppers and eggplant. Remove them from the heat. Cover them in a large bowl with a towel or cover with plastic wrap to let them steam. This will help to loosen the skins.
Peel the skins. When cool enough to handle, peel away the pepper skins and toss them out. Scoop out the eggplant and discard the skin and stem.
Process the ajvar. Add the roasted peppers and eggplant to a food processor along with the garlic, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and chili flakes. Process it all to your preference, either smoother or chunkier.
Simmer. Pour the mixture into a large pan and simmer for 20 minutes to let the flavors develop even further. You can simmer longer if you'd like to develop more flavor.
How to Serve Ajvar
The recipe is usually served as a spread for bread. However, there are so many other options. Consider serving Ajvar over grilled vegetables. Serve it as a table sauce/condiment with pretty much anything.
Spoon it over sandwiches for some extra zing. Use it to punch up grilled meats and fish. I've even tried it as a pasta sauce and we loved it.
About the Chili Peppers
Most recipe will call for using bell peppers, though you can use any thicker fleshed sweeter red peppers, such as Corno di Toro peppers, Italian sweets, or Marconis. Bell peppers are great here.
I've also seen Ajvar made with large Elephant Ear chili peppers, which are about the size of bell peppers with a thicker flesh. Such great peppers to cook with.
I used a mix of bell peppers and some mid level spicy peppers I grew in my garden this year. So delicious!
In an airtight container in the fridge, ajvar will stay fresh for up to 1 week. Use a clean utensil every time you scoop some out of the container! Any new bacteria introduced to ajvar will cause it to spoil quickly.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Wood fire roasting. Wood fire roasting is pretty key in making ajvar, but if you're in a rush, you can use the grill without the wood smoke. Try using your smoker to get a good roast on them.
- Oven baked ajvar. The oven is just fine, though you won't quite get that authentic smoky element ajvar is known for. If using the oven, heat oven to 475°F and set the egg plant and peppers on a baking sheet to bake, then bake until softened.
- Hotter ajvar. Note that this is not a HOT sauce, though you CAN make it with hotter peppers. see below. You can easily heat things up with spicy flakes or powders. It may not be HOT, but it is BIG on flavor.
Try Some of My Other Popular Sauce Recipes
If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you'll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don't forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I'll be sure to share! Thanks! -- Mike H.
- 4-5 red bell peppers about 2 pounds – I used a variety of sweet reds and Sigaretto Cayenne types I grew in the garden this year as an alternative
- 1 medium-sized eggplant
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon spicy chili flakes optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a grill to medium heat and lightly oil the grates. If using wood pellets for the smoky flavor, get those ready now. See the recipes NOTES on this.
- Poke holes into the eggplant skin in several areas with a fork and set it on the grill along with the red peppers.
- Grill the eggplant and peppers about 30 minutes, flipping occasionally, until the red pepper skins char and puff up and the eggplant softens all over.
- Remove them from the heat. Cover them in a bowl with a towel to let them steam.
- When cooled, peel away the pepper skins and toss them out. Scoop out the eggplant and discard the skin and stem.
- Add the roasted peppers and eggplant to a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Process it all to your preference, either smoother or chunkier.
- Pour the mixture into a large pan and simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors develop even further. You can simmer longer if you'd like to develop more flavor.
- Adjust for salt and pepper and serve!