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Lutenitsa Recipe (Red Pepper-Tomato Spread from the Balkans with Love)

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Bring more than a generous spread of Balkans-inspired sweetness and heat to your spread or dinner party with our lutenitsa recipe, and enjoy this flavorsome relish in so many different ways.

Lutenitsa topped with fresh parsley.

Lutenitsa Recipe

Whether you dip it, spread it, or dollop it, lutenitsa (also spelled as lyutenitsa, ljutenica, or lutenica) is a spread or relish that delivers a beautifully balanced sweet and heated or spicy flavor, while its rich red color makes for a gorgeous-looking dish at any gathering or feast you serve it.

Lutenitsa topped with fresh parsley.

What is Lutenitsa?

Lutenitsa can be classed as a spread, chutney, or relish, and is a hugely popular dish throughout the Balkans, especially in Bulgarian cuisine, Serbian cuisine, and North Macedonian cuisine.

While many variations exist, lutenitsa traditionally is a vegetable spread, commonly made with bell peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes, among other vegetables and seasonings.

Texturally it can be smoother or chunkier, depending on the region, as is the case with its flavor, with can be milder or hotter, again depending on where you try it. However, lutenitsa is commonly served cold.

Ingredients

To make lutenitsa, you first need to assemble the following ingredients:

Lutenitsa recipe ingredients on a wooden board.
  • Bell Peppers – 5 large red bell peppers
  • Tomatoes – 4 large tomatoes (~ 500 grams)
  • Eggplant – 2 large eggplants/aubergines
  • Garlic – 4 garlic cloves
  • Olive Oil – 4 tbsp (~ 60 ml)
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Black Pepper – 1/2 tsp
  • Parsley – a handful
  • Chili Flakes – 1/3 tsp or a pinch (depending on how spicy you want the spread/relish to be)

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1 – Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Halve the eggplants and the bell peppers, cleaning the seeds off the bell peppers. Pierce the eggplants with a fork. Place the eggplants and the peppers on a baking tray in the oven for about 35 minutes.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (veggies on the baking tray).

Step 2 – While the eggplants and peppers are in the oven, prep the tomatoes. First, score the tomatoes (as shown below).

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (scoring the tomatoes).

Put the tomatoes in a pot or a large heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Wait 10 minutes.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (pouring boiling water over the tomatoes).

Rinse the tomatoes in cold water.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (chilling the tomatoes in cold water).

And then peel the skin and remove the stem.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (peeling the tomatoes).
Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (peeled and cored tomatoes).

Step 3 – Put the tomatoes in a food processor or a blender and mix.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (tomatoes in the food processor).

Step 4 – Then, put the mixed tomatoes into a small pot or pan over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the liquid halves, for about 25 minutes.

Before cooking the liquid out:

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (blended tomatoes in a small pot).

After reducing the liquid in half (after 25 minutes).

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (tomatoes after cooking them).

Step 5 – Once the peppers and the aubergines are done roasting in the oven, take them out and let them cool for about 10 minutes.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (veggies after roasting them).

You can cover them with cling film/saran wrap to make them easier to peel.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (covering roasted veggies with saran wrap).

Step 6 – Scoop out the eggplant flesh and put it in a strainer over a bowl, so that the bitter liquid from them drains. Leave them to drain for about 5-10 minutes.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (draining the eggplants).

Step 7 – Peel the peppers.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (peeled peppers).

Step 8 – In a food processor or in a blender, add the peeled peppers, eggplants, parsley, and minced garlic and blend.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (peppers, eggplants, minced garlic, and parsley in a food processor).

Blend until you have a slightly chunky consistency. Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can cut them into very small cubes.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (peppers, eggplants, minced garlic, and parsley after blending in a food processor).

Step 9 – Add the peppers and eggplant mix to the pot with the reduced tomatoes along with the sugar, oil, salt, black pepper, and chili flakes, and cook everything over low heat for 30 minutes.

Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (adding the blended peppers, eggplants, minced garlic, and parsley to the pot of cooked tomatoes).
Lutenitsa recipe step-by-step (after the lutenitsa has been cooked out).

What to Serve with Lutenitsa

Cold – Lutenitsa is traditionally served cold, although this step is entirely up to you, so once cooked spoon the lutenitsa onto a plate or into a bowl, and let it rest until you’re ready.

Lutenitsa on a small serving plate.

Garnish – We garnished our lutenitsa with a little parsley, both for flavor and decoration, before serving.

Lutenitsa topped with fresh parsley.

You can enoy it with a wide range of foods, including:

Bread – Get some fresh, crusty bread for your guests to dip in.

Vegetables – Grilled vegetables, especially on a skewer, can benefit for a hefty dollop of chilled lutenitsa.

Grilled Pork or Chicken – In fact, any grilled meat can be paired with lutenitsa. If you’re having a barbecue, have a bowl of this on the side for your guests to serve themselves.

Eggs – Want it for breakfast? Have it with sunny side or boiled eggs for breakfast, which is a popular way for some people to eat lutenitsa.

However you try it, one thing is for sure: more than a little Balkans magic is coming its way to your next gathering or dinner party when you serve up this sweet and delicious relish!

Lutenitsa topped with fresh parsley.

Lutenitsa Recipe Card

Lutenitsa

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Additional Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Author: Nomad Paradise
Course: Appetizers

Ingredients

  • 5 large red bell peppers
  • 4 large tomatoes ~ 500 grams
  • 2 large eggplants/aubergines
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp ~ 60 ml of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper
  • a handful of parsley
  • 1/3 tsp or a pinch of chili flakes depending on how spicy you want the spread/relish to be

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Halve the eggplants and the bell peppers, cleaning the seeds off the bell peppers. Pierce the eggplants with a fork. Place the eggplants and the peppers on a baking tray in the oven for about 35 minutes.
  • While the eggplants and peppers are in the oven, prep the tomatoes. First, score the tomatoes (as shown below). Put the tomatoes in a pot or a large heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Wait 10 minutes. Rinse the tomatoes in cold water. And then peel the skin and remove the stem.
  • Put the tomatoes in a food processor or a blender and mix.
  • Then, put the mixed tomatoes into a small pot or pan over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the liquid halves, for about 25 minutes.
    Before cooking the liquid out: After reducing the liquid in half (after 25 minutes).
  • Once the peppers and the aubergines are done roasting in the oven, take them out and let them cool for about 10 minutes. You can cover them with cling film/saran wrap to make them easier to peel.
  • Scoop out the eggplant flesh and put it in a strainer over a bowl, so that the bitter liquid from them drains. Leave them to drain for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Peel the peppers.
  • In a food processor or in a blender, add the peeled peppers, eggplants, parsley, and minced garlic and blend until you have a slightly chunky consistency. Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can cut them into very small cubes.
  • Add the peppers and eggplant mix to the pot with the reduced tomatoes along with the sugar, oil, salt, black pepper, and chili flakes, and cook everything over low heat for 30 minutes.
  • Lutenitsa is traditionally served cold, although this step is entirely up to you, so once cooked spoon the lutenitsa onto a plate or into a bowl, and let it rest until you’re ready.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nomadparadisefood or tag #nomadparadisefood!

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Contributor: Efimia is a Moldovan teacher and passionate home cook, with over four decades of experience cooking classic Eastern European and Balkans dishes for her friends and family.

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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