Looking for a versatile condiment to add to your favorite veggies, meats, and bread? This Serbian ajvar relish features roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant, and plenty of garlic. It’s simple to make and bursting with flavor!
I love dips, condiments, spreads, and sauces. A meal just feels incomplete without them! When I first tasted ajvar relish I was hooked. It’s sweet, tangy, and will knock your socks off with its flavor.
The jury is still out on the exact origin of this condiment. Many countries in the Balkan peninsula hold claim to the recipe, including Serbia, Croatia, and Macedonia. One thing is clear — whoever created the recipe did the world a favor. It’s a delicious condiment!
I like using it as a dip for vegetables or as a spread on Armenian flatbread or pita. It makes for the perfect drizzle over the Persian chicken dish joojeh kabob, grilled steak, or any other meat or poultry. It also goes wonderfully with cevapi, a skinless sausage. Lots of chefs compare its taste to ketchup, but I think it is 10x better and it's not sweet.
With just 5 simple ingredients and a little prep work, you’ll have a unique Balkan condiment that you can use in so many ways. This recipe makes about 2 and a half cups of relish that you can keep on hand for the week!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Red Bell Peppers - The primary ingredient for this dish! It’s irreplaceable — and if you use anything else it wouldn’t be an ajvar relish. Try to opt for ripe peppers so you can take advantage of their sweetness. In the US, they’re in season at the end of the summer, making it the perfect time to whip up this recipe.
- Eggplant - The distinct flavor and heartiness of eggplant add a lot to this relish.
- Garlic - No savory recipe would be complete without the addition of garlic, am I right? You’ll need four whole cloves here.
- Olive Oil - You need to add a bit of oil to get the consistency that you’re after.
- Salt & Pepper - These basic seasonings go a long way in this recipe!
- White Vinegar - This is going to give just the tiniest zing to the flavor of this dish. You could use white wine vinegar for a slightly different taste.
Video: How to Make Roasted Red Pepper Relish
To see the process of making the Ajvar recipe from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
HOW TO MAKE AJVAR
- Grill The Veggies. Your grill is what makes this dish so special and distinctive. You can always use your oven to roast your peppers and eggplant, but you’ll lose a lot of the smoky goodness that comes from grilling. Make sure to grill the peppers and eggplant with the stems intact. Pierce the skin of your eggplant with a fork before grilling for the best results. And remember to turn the vegetables a few times for even grilling!
- Steam The Peppers. Once your red peppers are roasted, place them in a bowl and cover with a towel until cool. This will allow them to soften even further. You can skip this step for the eggplant. It usually takes them a little longer to grill anyway, so the timing usually works out perfectly.
- Blend The Ingredients. Remove the skin, seeds, and steams from the vegetables. Add the pepper and eggplant flesh and the rest of the ingredients to a food processor (or immersion blender) and blend until smooth. Feel free to play around with the texture and consistency!
- Simmer. Simmering the blended mixture for about 20 minutes allows the flavor of the white vinegar to mellow a bit. It also gives the other flavors time to meld to perfection. If you like a bit of heat in your relish, spice things up by adding a pinch of cayenne pepper. Allow it to cool a bit and enjoy!
*Keep leftovers fresh and ready to go by refrigerating them in an airtight container. They'll keep well for up to a week.
What Is Ajvar Used For?
This condiment and spread has many uses! Here are my favorites ways to enjoy it:
- As a dip with simit (Turkish bread), crackers, Georgian khachapuri bread, or raw veggies.
- As a condiment for your favorite meat or sausage.
- As an upgrade to traditional ketchup.
- As a sandwich spread with mayo and all the other fixings you enjoy.
- On top of cooked pasta, ramen, or even shrimp shumai dumplings.
Do You Refrigerate Ajvar?
Yes. If you want your relish to keep, you need to store it in an airtight container (I swear by mason jars) in the refrigerator. This recipe will last for 5-7 days. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months! Just make sure to let it thaw in the fridge overnight when you’re ready to enjoy it.
Is Ajvar Serbian Or Macedonian?
As mentioned, it’s unclear where ajvar relish originated from. It’s best to consider it Balkan, as it has been eaten in countries like Serbia, Macedonia, and Croatia for ages.
This post, originally published on Silk Road Recipes June, 2021, was updated with new content, photos and/or video in July, 2022.
Ajvar Roasted Red Pepper Relish
- 2 lbs red bell peppers (about 4-5, See Note 1)
- 1 lb eggplant (1 medium sized)
- 4 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Heat a grill to medium heat (350-400°F) and lightly oil the grates.
- Using a fork, poke holes into the eggplant skin in several areas and set it on the grill along with the red peppers.
- Grill the eggplant and peppers about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until the red pepper skins char and puff up and the eggplant softens and wrinkles all over. Remove red peppers and turn off heat. Leave eggplant for another 5 minutes on grill.
- Place peppers in a bowl and cover them with a towel to let them steam. When cooled, peel off the charred skins and remove the seeds and stems. Cut off the stem from the eggplant, slice it lengthwise and scoop out the eggplant flesh. Discard the skin and stem.
- Add the roasted peppers and eggplant to a food processor along with the garlic, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Process it to a smoothe texture.
- Scrape the mixture into a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes to cook the garlic, mellow the vinegar and to develop flavors. This is a slightly sweet, bright red pepper flavored sauce. If you'd like it spicy, add a ¼ teaspoon of ground cayenne powder at this point. Season with salt.
- Serve with grilled meats, flatbreads, croutons or crackers of choice. Great as a vegetable dip as well.
- This makes about 2 ½ cups. Store in an airtight container, lasts 5-7 days.
- The best peppers to use are the bull's horn peppers (aka red bull's horn peppers). Bull's horn peppers are curved, sweet, red peppers resembling a horn. They are known as roga in the Balkans. A substitute I use if unavailable are red bell peppers.
- This recipe makes about 2 ½ cups of relish. Refrigerate in an airtight container and use within 7-10 days. Unopened, ajvar can last up to about 4 months.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.