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Ajvar (Serbian Roasted Red Pepper Relish)

Get ready to fall in love with grill-roasted red peppers. One bite of Ajvar, and you will want to put this Serbian red pepper relish on everything from bread to meat and even veggies! 

Get ready to fall in love with grill-roasted red peppers. One bite of Ajvar, and you will want to put this Serbian red pepper relish on everything from bread to meat and even veggies!| www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Ajvar (pronounced AYE-var) is a bright and robust red pepper relish that originates from the Balkans region of southeastern Europe.

Ajvar could be considered a sauce similar to ketchup in its tangy, slightly sweet flavor and its most common use, as a topping for cevapi sausages.

Like ketchup, its uses go far beyond a simple sausage topper. It can be used as a condiment for grilled fish and meats, as a sandwich spread, or simply spread on bread or a cracker for a nice snack.

Ajvar: A taste of summer all winter long

In Serbia and other Balkan countries like Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Macedonia, ajvar is the traditional way to preserve sweet, red peppers from the summer’s harvest.

Bushels of red peppers are roasted and pureed (along with eggplant in some regions) to create enough ajvar to last through the winter. It is then jarred and processed, much the same way we would turn our garden’s tomatoes into salsa for canning.

Traditionally, making ajvar is a family event. Since you’re taking care of the season’s harvest in one go, it’s nice to have all hands on deck!

We just made a small batch, but as we stood around the grill roasting our peppers and eggplant, we could just imagine gathering with family and friends at the peak of pepper season for an ajvar making party.

Since ajvar is so steeped in family life, it’s no surprise that every family has their own way of making this red pepper spread.

Some make it sweet and cook it down to intensify the flavor. Some go heavy on the vinegar for a tangy sauce that is pureed smooth. Still others make it spicy and chunky.

Which way would you prefer?

Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your ajvar and find out! Adjust the seasonings to suit your taste and don’t be afraid to add a little hot sauce or a chili pepper if you like things hot!

Get ready to fall in love with grill-roasted red peppers. One bite of Ajvar, and you will want to put this Serbian red pepper relish on everything from bread to meat and even veggies!| www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Making our Ajvar Recipe

The key to making a good ajvar is to roast the red pepper and eggplant on a grill. You can roast them in the oven in a pinch, but you will loose all that delicious, smoky goodness that the grill imparts.

Once the vegetables are soft and charred, then it is time to peel and seed them. Finally, the roasted flesh goes into the food processor with some raw garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

A good pulsing in the food processor gets the relish to the perfect consistency.

Ours was thick enough to our liking after just the time in the food processor. But, if yours is a bit too watery or you want an even deeper flavor, don’t be afraid to transfer it to a skillet or sauce pan and cook it down a bit, uncovered, over low heat, until it reaches a consistency you like.

Simple ingredients, Big flavor

It is a simple recipe, but the sweetness of the roasted red pepper and the deep smokiness from the grill mingle with the sharp raw garlic and the bright vinegar for a sauce that will blow your mind.

We served the ajvar as is most traditionally eaten, with some Serbian bread, called lepinja, and cevapi grilled sausages. While this meal is most commonly eaten as street food, we found it to be the perfect, relaxing summer meal.

Surprisingly, we had some ajvar leftover after the sausages, so we were able to continue enjoying the ajvar, spread on soft bread as an appetizer, and for breakfast, along with some fried eggs.

Get ready to fall in love with grill-roasted red peppers. One bite of Ajvar, and you will want to put this Serbian red pepper relish on everything from bread to meat and even veggies!| www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Get ready to fall in love with grill-roasted red peppers. One bite of Ajvar, and you will want to put this Serbian red pepper relish on everything from bread to meat and even veggies!| www.CuriousCuisiniere.com
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4.55 from 11 votes

Ajvar (Serbian Roasted Red Pepper Relish)

Yield: 1 1/2 c of ajvar
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Eastern European
Servings: 6 people
Author: Sarah | Curious Cuisiniere

Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the grill to medium high heat, roughly 450⁰F. (You should be able to hold your hand a few inches above the cooking grate for 4-6 seconds.)
  • Pierce the skin of the eggplant all over with a fork. Place the eggplant over a cooler section of the grill (350-400⁰F) and let it roast, turning occasionally, until the skin darkens and the eggplant is soft, 30 minutes.
  • While the eggplant is roasting, place the red peppers over the hottest part of the grill. Rotate the peppers as the skin blackens, until the peppers are soft and you have achieved a nice char on all sides.
  • Place the charred red peppers in a paper bag or in a glass bowl covered with a tea towel to let them steam for 10 minutes.
  • After steaming, the skin on the peppers should have loosened. Remove the stem and core of the peppers and peel off the skin. Place the remaining flesh into the bowl of your food processor.
  • Once the eggplant is soft, remove it from the grill. Let it cool until it is easy to handle. Cut the eggplant in half. Scoop out the flesh and place it in the food processor with the red peppers.
  • Add the raw garlic clove to the food processor and pulse until the mixture is well chopped.
  • Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper, and pulse until combined.*
  • Taste your ajvar and adjust the salt and pepper as desired.
  • Use your ajvar immediately or keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • It is a wonderful sauce to serve as an appetizer with bread. And, it also pairs beautifully with cevapi, Eastern European grilled sausages.

Notes

*Alternately, for an ajvar that is a bit thicker, heat the oil in a saute pan and lightly saute the pureed mixture. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper to the mixture in the skillet. Saute until desired consistency is reached. 

 

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Cevapi are easy to make, grilled sausages from Southeastern Europe that burst with smoky flavor and are perfect for serving with flatbread and sliced onions. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com
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Cevapi (Grilled Serbian Sausages)
Lepinja, or Somun, is a soft and fluffy bread from the Balkans in Southeastern Europe that makes the perfect accompaniment to any meal. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com
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Recipe Rating




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marija

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

I have to tell you that in Serbia ajvar is prepared a little differently... after roasting and cleaning, the peppers are left to drain overnight, and then they are usually ground in a meat grinder (to leave small pieces of peppers), and then fried in little oil... The amount of oil depends on the taste. Before the end of frying, maybe 10-15 min, add chopped or mashed garlic, salt, vinegar - to taste (recipes are different, some people add sugar). The length of frying depends on how much the peppers has drained. Sorry about my English, I hope you understand me...

Sarah Ozimek

Wednesday 5th of August 2020

Thanks for sharing Marija!

Jelena

Monday 1st of July 2019

This is such a great recipe. Thank you for sharing!

Sarah Ozimek

Wednesday 3rd of July 2019

Glad you enjoyed it!

Adi

Wednesday 8th of May 2019

It is so wrong on many levels to call Ajvar Serbian. I realize now I sound like a typical Balkanian but that's not what I'm trying to do. Ajvar is spread all over Balkan and if anyone is to be associated with Ajvar, it's Macedonia. Absolutely the sam goes for Cevapi and Bosnia, everything else is a streatch!! P.S. Lepina may be Yugo but Somun is not, Somun is Bosnian btw it screams Sarajevo. (there is a slight difference between Somun and clasic Lepina.

Sarah Ozimek

Wednesday 8th of May 2019

Hi Adi. Thanks for sharing your perspective on ajvar and these other Balkan dishes. These dishes from the Balkans seem to have quite a bit of contention around them! We may never know 100% where these long standing dishes originated or how they came to be, but opinions all seem to differ based on where you're from and what you know. We do always appreciate hearing different perspectives from locals! At least we can all agree that these are quite tasty dishes that must be tried!

Gayle Jones

Sunday 5th of May 2019

I just discovered Ajvar and immediately searched for a recipe. I enjoy it late at night standing by the fridge with celery. In other words...it doesn't matter WHAT you eat with it.

Thank you for this recipe!

Sarah Ozimek

Monday 6th of May 2019

Yes! It is SO good with whatever you want to eat it with! Enjoy!

Alexy

Monday 24th of December 2018

Hi .Thank you to write Recipe.

Sarah Ozimek

Friday 28th of December 2018

You're welcome! Enjoy!

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