Ajvar is a versatile Serbian roasted red pepper sauce with eggplant that is used as a spread, condiment, sauce or relish, so rich with flavor. Here is the recipe.
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".
Sounds like something we all want!
Ajvar 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.
The extremely popular also roasts eggplants at the same time. Though eggplant is not required, it's such a great addition, I highly suggest including it.
Let's talk about how to make Ajvar, shall we?
- Bell Peppers. I used a variety of sweet reds and Sigaretto Cayenne types I grew in the garden this year as an alternative, though bell peppers or larger sweet peppers are great for making ajvar.
- Olive Oil. Sunflower oil is a good option as well.
- White Wine Vinegar.
- Lemon Juice.
- Chili Flakes. Optional, for a touch of heat.
- Salt and Pepper. To taste.
How to Make Ajvar - the Recipe Method
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. See the recipes NOTES on this.
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.
Grilling. 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.
Adjust for salt and pepper and serve!
Serving Suggestions for 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
- 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 degrees 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.
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.
There are few variations of ajvar, so feel free to experiment. As mentioned, traditionally it is made with only roasted red peppers and oil, though eggplant is an extremely popular addition, as is tomato.
Try Some of My Other Popular Sauce Recipes
- Chimichurri Recipe (Chimichurri Verde)
- Red Chimichurri (Chimichurri Rojo)
- Homemade Harissa
- Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- Sambal Oelek
- Peri Peri Sauce
- Romesco Sauce
- Zacusca: Romanian Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Sauce
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.
- Adjust for salt and pepper and serve!