Croatian Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Spread: Ajvar

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Roasted red pepper and eggplant spread, known as ajvar in Croatia, has a rich, smoky flavor. It is extremely versatile. My favorite way to eat it is with bread, cheese, and olives as a mezza dip. It takes sandwiches to a new level, surpassing mustard or mayo every time!

Ajvar (EYE-var) is a roasted red pepper and eggplant spread that is popular in the Balkans. It is so popular that it is nicknamed ‘Balkin Caviar’ (that always makes me smile!). Another name is winter food. That is because it is jarred in the fall and enjoyed in the winter.

There can be slight ingredient differences from region to region. Some recipes use only red peppers; others add eggplant or chili pepper. However, they all share one ingredient: the deep flavor of roasted red peppers!

I first had ajvar after months of backpacking through Central Europe. As a vegetarian, I struggled to find food and ended up eating a lot of Pringles! Soon after crossing Croatia, I had ajvar. One bite and I felt the sunshine of the Mediterranean.

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do!

Avjar in a mason jar with a spoon in the jar.

Ajvar Cliff Notes

EASE: Easy
CUISINE: Croatia/Balkans
COURSE: All Day
TIME: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Ingredients

Ingredients used in making the recipe.
  • Red Bell Peppers: They’ll form the primary flavor and color base, offering sweetness and a vibrant red hue to the ajvar.
  • Eggplant: Adds a smoky flavor and creates a creamy texture.
  • Olive oil: Combines the ingredients into a smooth texture and adds flavor.
  • Garlic cloves: Adds flavor depth
  • White vinegar: Balances the flavors and adds a tangy note.
  • Salt and Pepper: Add salt and pepper to your desired taste.

Instructions

A red pepper that has been roasted and charred.
The number 1 with a circle around it.

Prepare the Vegetables

  1. Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 425°F (215°C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Roast Vegetables: Place the red peppers and eggplant on the prepared tray. Roast in the oven at 425°F for 40-60 minutes or until the pepper skins are significantly charred.
  3. Cool and Steam: Transfer the baked eggplant and peppers to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap to trap steam. Let them cool for 20-30 minutes. This step makes removing the skins easier.
  4. Peel Skins: Remove the plastic wrap and peel the skins from the eggplant and peppers. They should peel off easily with your hands or a small paring knife. Discard the skins, cores, and seeds.

Alternative Cooking Method: Traditional ajvar is made by wood-firing peppers and eggplants. To mimic that same smokey flavor, cook ajvar on an outdoor grill.

Roasted red peppers and roasted eggplant in a food processor pre and post processed.
The number 2 with a circle around it.

Process the Ingredients

  1. Place the peeled eggplant, peppers, garlic, olive oil, white vinegar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
Anjar in a saucepan about to be simmered.
The number 3 with a circle around it.

Simmer and Serve

  1. Simmer: Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 30-60 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened.
  2. Serve: Remove from heat. Ajvar is served at room temperature or cold. See notes for serving ideas.
Ajvar in a jar with two pieces of toast with cheese and avjar next to itl

Variations

Various versions of ajvar exist across the Balkans. Zacusca and Lutenitsa are two well-known variations. Add these ingredients to make the variations.

  • Zacusca (Romanian) – Tomatoes, onions, and carrots are added to the roasted red peppers and eggplant.
  • Lutenitsa (Bulgarian) – Pimento peppers (chile peppers) and tomato sauce are added to the roasted red peppers and eggplant.
  • Red Pepper Only Ajvar – Another popular version of this recipe is one without eggplant.
Avjar in a mason jar with a spoon in the jar.

Croatian Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Spread: Ajvar

Roasted red pepper and eggplant spread, known as ajvar in Croatia. It is a spread bursting with a rich, deep, smoky flavor. Versatile for any time of day, ajvar is perfect with bread, cheese, and olives as a mezza dip or condiment.
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Course: All Day
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 2 cups
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized red bell peppers
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant
  • 3 tablesppons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 425°F (215°C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Roast Vegetables: Place the red peppers and eggplant on the prepared tray. Oven roast at 425°F for 40-60 minutes, or until the pepper skins are significantly charred.
  • Cool and Steam: Transfer the baked eggplant and peppers to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap to trap steam. Let them cool for 20-30 minutes. This step makes removing the skins easier.
  • Peel Skins: Remove the plastic wrap and peel the skins from the eggplant and peppers. They should peel off easily with your hands or a small paring knife. Discard the skins, cores, and seeds.
  • Process Ingredients: Place the peeled eggplant, peppers, garlic, olive oil, white vinegar, and salt into a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
  • Simmer: Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 30-60 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened.
  • Serve: Remove from heat. Ajvar is served at room temperature or cold. See notes for serving ideas.

Notes

Notes

  • Storage: Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
  • Serving Suggestions:
    • Serve with crusty bread, toast, or crackers. Add feta or goat cheese for extra flavor.
    • Use it as a dip and serve with fresh vegetables.
    • Serve ajvar on a mezze platter alongside other Mediterranean dips, such as hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, olives, feta cheese, and pita bread.
    • Spread ajvar on sandwiches or wraps instead of mayo, mustard, or pesto.
    • Use ajvar as a salad dressing, either mixed directly into the salad or drizzled on top for a unique and flavorful twist.
    • Use as a sauce on pizza or pasta.
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