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Ajvar Recipe (Sweet and Creamy Roasted Pepper and Eggplant Relish from the Balkans)

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Look no further than our ajvar recipe to add a delightfully rich and sweet spread or side dish to your next dinner party, and take everyone’s palate on a sun-kissed adventure through the fields and villages of Southeast Europe.

Ajvar topped with parsley.

Ajvar Recipe

Few spreads, relishes, or side dishes can match ajvar when it comes to delivering bold yet sweet flavors rushing through such a creamy and sumptuously soft texture.

Whether you spread it on a piece of grilled pork or a slice of crusty white bread, ajvar can wow your dinner or party guests with its sweetness and smoothness, giving them a glorious taste of the Mediterranean and Balkans regions of Europe.

Ajvar topped with parsley 
(photo from above).

What is Ajvar?

Put simply, ajvar is a spread or relish made primarily from cooked bell peppers, with the addition of other ingredients and seasonings.

With its name deriving from the Turkish and Persian words for ‘caviar’, ajvar as we know it today become popular in Yugoslavia, and particularly Belgrade, throughout the 1900s as a red pepper salad substitute for caviar, due to its waning production.

While found throughout the Balkans and the Mediterranean in various forms, some sweeter and some hotter, ajvar is especially prominent in both Serbian cuisine and North Macedonian cuisine.

Recipe Ingredients

To make our ajvar recipe, you’ll first need the following ingredients:

Ajvar recipe ingredients.
  • Bell Peppers – 6 red bell peppers
  • Eggplant – 1
  • Garlic – 3 cloves, minced
  • Sunflower Oil (or a neutral-tasting oil) – 2 tbsp or 30ml
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – 3 tbsp or 45ml
  • White Wine Vinegar – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Black Pepper – 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Chili Flakes (optional) – 1/2 tsp

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1 – Preheat the oven to 200°C (390° F).

Step 2 – Cut the peppers in half and clean the seeds out. Cut the eggplant in half. Place the vegetables on a baking sheet facing down, and top them all with 1 tbsp of sunflower oil.

Ajvar recipe step-by-step (vegetables on a roasting tray on baking paper).

Step 3 – Place the tray in the oven for about 40 minutes. Both your peppers and eggplant should have a charred skin, as shown below:

Ajvar recipe step-by-step (charred veggies on the roasting tray).

Step 4 – Place both the peppers and eggplant in a colander to drain and cool for about 5 minutes and then peel the peppers and scoop the flesh of the eggplant.

Ajvar recipe step-by-step (peeled vegetables in a colander).

Step 6 – Chop them up finely with a knife or a food processor. We opted to place them in a food processor and blend them.

Ajvar recipe step-by-step (peppers and eggplant in the food processor).

Step 7 – In a small pot, over low heat, add 1 tbsp sunflower oil and add the bell peppers, eggplant, and garlic. Cook over low heat until the liquid evaporates (about 30 minutes).

Ajvar recipe step-by-step (peppers and eggplant in the pot).

Step 8 – Add salt, sugar, black pepper, vinegar, and chili flakes (optional) and cook for an additional 10 minutes over low heat.

Ajvar recipe step-by-step (peppers and eggplant in the pot with salt, sugar, black pepper, vinegar, and chili flakes).

Step 9 – Add the olive oil and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Check that you have the creamy consistency of the ajvar by running a spoon through the middle and seeing if the ajvar stays parted like that.

Ajvar recipe step-by-step (parting it in the pot with a spoon).

What to Serve with Ajvar

If your ajvar stays parted, it’s ready to serve! Scoop it into a bowl or on a plate, and let your dinner guests enjoy it on a range of meats, breads, and roasted vegetables.

Garnish – We topped our ajvar with a few sprigs of parsley, both for presentation and flavor.

Fresh Bread – As with pretty much any spread, bread is a given. Try both soft and grilled bread.

Salami and Cooked Meats – The sweetness of ajvar balances the richness and smokiness of salami, chorizo, and other cooked meats really well.

Wrap/Sandwich Filling – Not necessarily traditional, but you can use ajvar as a base spread for sandwiches and wraps, then fill them with meats and vegetables.

Ajvar on a small plate, topped with parsley.

Avjar is sweet, slightly tart, and rich, while its roaring red color will draw eyes and spoons like moths to a flame. It’s a wonderful side dish that’s simple to prepare yet loaded with flavor.

Ajvar on a small plate, topped with parsley.

We really hope you enjoy this Serbian, North Macedonian, and Balkans favorite. It’s a perfect relish for your grilled meat, roasted vegetables, or freshly cooked bread on a hot summer’s day, sat out on the patio with a glass of ice-cold rosé.

Ajvar on a small plate, topped with parsley.

Ajvar Recipe Card

Ajvar

Ajvar
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 red bell peppers
  • 1 eggplant/aubergine
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) sunflower oil (or a neutral-tasting oil)
  • 3 tbsp (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390° F).
  2. Cut the peppers in half and clean the seeds out. Cut the eggplant in half. Place the vegetables on a baking sheet facing down, and top them all with 1 tbsp of sunflower oil.
  3. Place the tray in the oven for about 40 minutes. Both your peppers and eggplant should have charred skin.
  4. Place both the peppers and eggplant in a colander to drain and cool for about 5 minutes and then peel the peppers and scoop the flesh of the eggplant.
  5. Chop them up finely with a knife or a food processor. We opted to place them in a food processor and blend them.
  6. In a small pot, over low heat, add 1 tbsp sunflower oil and add the bell peppers, eggplant, and garlic. Cook over low heat until the liquid evaporates (about 30 minutes).
  7. Add salt, sugar, black pepper, vinegar, and chili flakes (optional) and cook for an additional 10 minutes over low heat.
  8. Add the olive oil and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  9. Check that you have the creamy consistency of the ajvar by running a spoon through the middle and seeing if the ajvar stays parted. If your ajvar stays parted, it’s ready to serve! Scoop it into a bowl or on a plate, and let your dinner guests enjoy it on a range of meats, breads, and roasted vegetables. We topped our ajvar with a few sprigs of parsley, both for presentation and flavor.

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Ajvar topped with parsley 
(photo from above).

Contributor: Efimia is a passionate home cook and teacher, highly knowledgable of Eastern European and Balkans cuisine, who has been bringing smiles to family and friends with her humble and joyous home cooking for over forty years and counting.

Author

  • Hey there! We are Dale and Doina, the founders of Nomad Paradise. We traveled full-time for over three years, and while we now have a home base in the U.K., continue to take trips abroad to visit new places and try new cuisines and foods. Our food guides are curated with the guidance of local foodies, and their contribution is indicated under each article. We also cook the foods we try abroad, and you can discover how to make them in our 'recipes from around the world' category.

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