Ajvar – Pepper Spread

Ajvar is traditionally from Serbia, but it expanded throughout the Balkan region after WWII, when the region was known as Yugoslavia. Unlike cevapi, which has many regional variations, ajvar appears to be more standardized, with less variances between recipes. For many Macedonians, ajvar is a legendary dish. So much so that many people are continuing the ritual of making it, no matter how long it takes.

Ajvar is a roasted red pepper, paprika, and eggplant pepper spread. These components are combined, blended, then slowly cooked for several hours in salt and oil. A full day is required to prepare homemade ajvar. However, if you try it with some cheese and toast, you'll find it's well worth the effort. Macedonians have it for breakfast, as a spread, or as a dip. Many people who experience this classic pepper spread are blown away by its exceptional flavor and creamy texture. Macedonian families meet to create tens of kilos of ajvar, which is then stored in jars for the winter.


  • 2 pounds red bell peppers (about 5 medium peppers), 1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound), 5 teaspoons freshly minced garlic (about 5 medium cloves), 1/4 cup sunflower or olive oil, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste, freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place peppers on hot side of grill and cook until blackened all over, 10-15 minutes. Transfer pepper to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Remove charred skin, seeds, and cores from peppers.
  • While the peppers are cooling, pierce skin of eggplant with a fork all over. Place eggplant on cool side of grill. Cover and cook until skin darkens and wrinkles and eggplant is uniformly soft when pressed with tongs, about 30 minutes, turning halfway through for even cooking. Remove eggplant from grill and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Trim top off eggplant and split lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out flesh of eggplant; discard skin.
  • Place roasted red peppers, eggplant pulp, and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add in oil, vinegar, and salt and pulse until incorporated and peppers are finely chopped.
  • Transfer sauce to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature then use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks

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