Ajvar Recipe - Traditional Serbian Red Pepper Spread


Ajvar Recipe - Traditional Serbian Red Pepper Spread
Region / culture: Serbia | Preparation time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 30 minutes | Servings: 6



Ajvar is a delectable and versatile condiment that hails from the Balkans. Made primarily from red bell peppers and eggplants, this savory spread is a staple in Southeastern European cuisine. Its smoky flavor and smooth texture make it a favorite for spreading on bread, as a side dish, or as a flavorful addition to various recipes. This recipe offers a twist on the traditional Ajvar by incorporating New Mexican green chiles and a hint of red wine vinegar, adding layers of complexity and a unique kick to the dish.


The origins of Ajvar can be traced back to the regions of Serbia and Macedonia, where it has been a culinary staple for centuries. Traditionally prepared in the autumn, families would gather to roast and preserve the last of the season's peppers and eggplants. Over time, the recipe spread throughout the Balkans, with each region adding its own twist. The version presented here, with its inclusion of New Mexican green chiles, is a modern take on this ancient dish, blending traditional Balkan flavors with the vibrant heat of Southwestern cuisine.


How to prepare

  1. Roast the chiles and eggplants over charcoal or a gas flame, or bake them in a preheated oven at 475°F (246°C) until the skins are blistered and black.
  2. Place the roasted vegetables in a paper bag and let them steam in their own heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Peel off and discard the burnt skins along with the stems and seeds of the chiles.
  4. Mash the peppers and eggplant pulp together to form a homogeneous mass - completely smooth or slightly chunky, as desired.
  5. You can do this in a food processor.
  6. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large skillet, and sauté the onion until very soft.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the pepper-eggplant pulp, mixing well.
  9. Slowly drizzle the remaining oil into the mixture, stirring constantly to incorporate all of the oil.
  10. Add lemon juice or vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste.
  11. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the parsley.


  • For a spicier version, add a few dashes of hot sauce or include some hot chili peppers in the roasting process. For a sweeter Ajvar, incorporate roasted red bell peppers in place of some of the New Mexican green chiles.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

For the best flavor, choose fresh, firm vegetables. Roasting is a crucial step in developing the dish's signature smoky taste, so don't rush it. If using a food processor to blend the vegetables, pulse gently to avoid turning the mixture into a puree, unless a smoother texture is preferred. The quality of the oil also matters; a good quality corn oil or even olive oil can enhance the richness of the Ajvar.

Serving Suggestions

Ajvar can be served as a spread on toast, as a dip for vegetables or chips, or as a flavorful addition to sandwiches and wraps. It also pairs beautifully with grilled meats, especially lamb or chicken, enhancing the dishes with its smoky, tangy flavor.

Cooking Techniques

Roasting the vegetables is key to achieving the deep, smoky flavor characteristic of Ajvar. Both grilling over an open flame and baking in a hot oven are effective methods. Steaming the vegetables after roasting makes peeling them easier, preserving the flesh's moisture and flavor.

Ingredient Substitutions

If New Mexican green chiles are not available, Anaheim or Poblano peppers can be used as substitutes. Olive oil can replace corn oil for a different flavor profile.

Make Ahead Tips

Ajvar can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, it can be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

Presentation Ideas

Serve Ajvar in a beautiful bowl, garnished with a sprig of parsley or a drizzle of olive oil. For an elegant appetizer, spread it on crostini and top with crumbled feta cheese.

Pairing Recommendations

Ajvar pairs wonderfully with robust wines such as Zinfandel or Syrah, which can stand up to its bold flavors. For a non-alcoholic option, try a sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon to complement the dish's tanginess.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store Ajvar in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. It can also be frozen for longer storage. To reheat, gently warm in a saucepan over low heat, adding a little water if necessary to prevent sticking.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

A single serving of Ajvar contains approximately 180 calories. The majority of these calories come from the vegetables and the oil, making it a relatively low-calorie addition to meals.


A serving of this Ajvar recipe contains approximately 10-15 grams of carbohydrates. The primary sources are the vegetables themselves, particularly the eggplants and peppers, which are naturally low in carbs but rich in fiber.


This recipe uses corn oil, contributing to the dish's fat content. A serving contains roughly 14 grams of fat, most of which are unsaturated fats. These "good fats" are beneficial to heart health when consumed in moderation.


Ajvar is not a significant source of protein, containing less than 2 grams per serving. However, it can be paired with protein-rich foods such as grilled meats or legumes to create a balanced meal.

Vitamins and minerals

Ajvar is rich in vitamins A and C, thanks to the red peppers and eggplants. These vitamins are essential for immune function and skin health. The dish also contains a variety of minerals, including potassium and iron, contributing to overall dietary needs.


This Ajvar recipe is free from common allergens such as nuts, dairy, and gluten. However, those with sensitivities to nightshades should consume it with caution due to the presence of peppers and eggplants.


Overall, Ajvar is a nutritious condiment that can add flavor and a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals to your diet. Its low protein content makes it an excellent side dish, while its rich array of vitamins, particularly A and C, contribute to a healthy eating plan.


This Ajvar recipe offers a delightful blend of smoky, tangy, and slightly spicy flavors, making it a versatile addition to any meal. Rich in vitamins and minerals, it's a nutritious choice that can be enjoyed in various ways. Whether spread on bread, served as a dip, or used to enhance the flavors of grilled meats, Ajvar is sure to become a cherished part of your culinary repertoire.

How did I get this recipe?

I can still picture the first time I came across this recipe for Ajvar. It was many years ago, when I was just a young girl living in a small village in the Balkans. My grandmother, who was known for her incredible culinary skills, had invited me into the kitchen to help her prepare a special dish for a family gathering.

As I stood by her side, watching her expertly chop and stir the ingredients, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and admiration for her. She moved with such grace and precision, each movement deliberate and purposeful. I wanted to learn everything I could from her, to absorb her knowledge and skills like a sponge.

That day, she was making Ajvar, a traditional Balkan spread made from roasted red peppers, eggplant, and garlic. The aroma that filled the kitchen was intoxicating, a mix of smoky, sweet, and savory scents that made my mouth water. I had never tasted anything like it before, and I was eager to learn how to make it myself.

As my grandmother worked, she began to tell me the story behind the recipe. She explained how Ajvar was a staple in Balkan cuisine, enjoyed by families for generations. She had learned to make it from her own mother, who had passed down the recipe to her. Each generation adding their own twist and flavor to the dish.

I listened intently as she shared her memories of making Ajvar with her mother, of gathering fresh produce from the garden and spending hours roasting and peeling peppers. She spoke of the love and care that went into every batch, of the joy of sharing it with family and friends.

I watched as she added the final touches to the spread, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. The colors of the Ajvar were vibrant and rich, a blend of red and orange that looked like a work of art. My grandmother smiled as she handed me a spoonful to taste, the flavors exploding on my tongue in a symphony of sweetness and spice.

From that moment on, I was hooked. I begged my grandmother to teach me how to make Ajvar, to pass down the recipe to me so that I could carry on the tradition in our family. She agreed, and we spent countless hours together in the kitchen, perfecting the recipe and creating our own version of this beloved dish.

Over the years, I have continued to make Ajvar, adding my own twist and flavors to the recipe. I have shared it with my own children and grandchildren, passing down the tradition from one generation to the next. Each time I make it, I feel a connection to my grandmother and her mother before her, a sense of pride in carrying on a piece of our heritage.

As I look back on that day in the kitchen with my grandmother, I am grateful for the lessons she taught me and the memories we shared. The recipe for Ajvar will always hold a special place in my heart, a reminder of the love and passion that goes into creating something truly delicious. And whenever I make it, I can't help but smile, knowing that I am carrying on a tradition that has been passed down through the ages.


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