This easy ajvar recipe is a roasted eggplant and red pepper relish that you’ll find yourself putting on everything! Inspired by the flavors of the Balkans.
Nothing beats enjoying local flavors when traveling the globe, and when I visited a few Balkan countries this summer (Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina) that was no exception! Every meal I had while visiting the area seemed to be served with this delicious smoky red sauce, and I knew I would have to recreate it once I got home. So here I am, home in Denver and slathering what I now know to be ajvar sauce on everything.
This classic roasted red pepper sauce gained popularity after WWII as a way to preserve produce. Ajvar sauce takes fresh peppers and eggplant and kicks up the flavor by roasting them, then combining with garlic and other flavorful ingredients.
“Ajvar” roughly translates to “relish”, due to the vinegar in it giving this sauce some kick. Let’s cook!
Ingredients In Ajvar
Just nature’s bounty combined with a few pantry staples to tie them together.
- Red Bell Peppers: The base ingredient here is sweet bell peppers, which are enhanced by the roasting process (get our comprehensive guide to roasting bell peppers here!)
- Eggplant: You wouldn’t know it from the flavor, but there’s a whole roasted eggplant in ajvar! Eggplant helps to bulk up the sauce and create a smooth texture (similar to in baba ganoush).
- Garlic: Nice and strong here with 4 cloves!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Fat binds everything together. Use a good quality oil as the flavor is going to shine through, and lower quality brands will give you a bitter taste.
- Vinegar: This combines all the flavors and adds a quick tang.
Can I use storebought peppers?
Store bought roasted peppers are often an affordable option to roasting them yourself. Feel free to use a can of store bought roasted peppers here!
How to make Ajvar
This recipe is an easy one. Just a quick roast, peel, and blend!
Step 1: Broil
Wash produce and set on a lined baking sheet. The eggplant needs to be pricked a few times (like a potato) to let steam release. Broil, turning the peppers and eggplant often, watching carefully so they don’t burn! You want some good char but no flames.
Step 2: Steam
Transfer the roasted veggies to a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. This is the secret to easy peeling. Just 15 minutes and they will become soft, making for much easier peeling.
Step 3: Peel
After steaming, the peels should slide right off. Discard the stems and seeds of the peppers and the stem of the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into chunks.
Step 4: Blend
Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and give it a whirl. Pulse until smooth but keep in mind the texture of the eggplant means it will still be chunky.
Optional – Simmer
For a thicker, more concentrated sauce, transfer your blended ajvar to the stove and let simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent it from burning.
Charred: If you have a gas stove, you can carefully use metal tongs to roast the peppers over an open flame.
Easy Does It: Have you ever roasted peppers? The plastic wrap covered bowl is key to easy peeling. The steam makes the peels slide right off. And even though you are removing the actual charred bits, the pepper still has an amazing roasted flavor.
Relish the Flavor
Ajvar relish is a great saucy accompaniment to so many meals.
- Vegetarian Cevapi, the classic Bosnia sandwich that always comes with a side of ajvar.
- Shakshuka would be great when you substitute some of the canned tomatoes for this ajar sauce.
- Tofu Nuggets provide a perfect vehicle for dipping.
- Air Fried Zucchini are a fun way to add veggies…on veggies!
- 4 red bell peppers
- 1 eggplant
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 30 mL
- 2 Tbsp white vinegar 30 mL
- ½ tsp each salt and pepper
- Broil: Place washed bell peppers and eggplant on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Prick eggplant all over the skin with a fork. Place on the upper rack and broil, turning the peppers and eggplant often, until the skins are black and blistered, about 10 minutes.
- Steam: Immediately transfer peppers and eggplant to a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let steam for 15 minutes – this will make peeling a breeze!
- Peel: Peel the skin from each pepper and the eggplant. Remove stems and seeds from the peppers. Cut eggplant into chunks.
- Blend: Add roasted peppers and eggplant to a food processor, along with all other ingredients. Blitz until smooth.