Ajvar: Balkan Pepper Spread!

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There as many ways to make Ajvar as their are mountain valleys in Eastern Europe. Ajvar is originally a Turkish dish. This method comes from Sarajevo. It is delicious on bread, crackers and toast.

The best is to use sweet peppers, aka Cubanelle peppers, Itallian peppers or Banana peppers. The color of the peppers make no difference in taste of Ajvar, but it does make a difference in color.

I grocery bag, approximately 5 pounds of peppers, yields one pint of Ajvar.

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
Wash the peppers, dry them and put them on cookie sheets.

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Step 1: Roast the Peppers

Stick the peppers in the oven to roast.  When they start to blacken on one side (15 minutes), flip them over and let them finish roasting.  They are done when they are a bit dessicated and blackened.  Be careful not to burn them!

Step 2: Steam the Skins Off

Put the hot roasted peppers into a pot with a tight-fitting lid to steam the skins off. This can also be done with a plastic bag, but not recommended. The steam escaping from the hot peppers will make the skins come off easily. Keep covered for at least 10-15 minutes, but it makes sense to let them cool down completely, since the next step is peeling!

Step 3: Peel the Pepper Skins/Clean the Seeds

This is probably the most challenging step of the entire process. Skins and seeds need to be separated from the sweet pepper flesh. The most efficient way to do this is to take the seeds out before peeling the pepper. Open the pepper lengthwise, locate strings that seeds are attached to and pull them off. Most seeds should come off this way. Clean the rest using your fingers. Once all the seeds are cleaned off the pepper, peel the skin off. 

It takes about 45 minutes to clean 5 pounds of peppers. As you can see on the image, discards constitute almost half of the entire quantity. Drain the juice from the pepper flesh - may be used to add flavor to sauces, over mashed potatoes or in hummus.

Step 4: Discards

Put the skins, stems and seeds in your compost or worm bin, or feed them to chickens (chickens love bell pepper skins!).

Step 5: Stopping Point, If You Want

If you want to make the Ajvar later, put the peppers in a freezer bag and freeze them.  When you are ready to make Ajvar, defrost the peppers in a bowl, pouring out the excess liquid.

Step 6: Blend/Process the Peppers to a Mush

Put the peppers in the Blender/Food Processor and turn into a mush.

Step 7: Cook the Ajvar Down

Heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, and pour the pepper mush into it.  Cook slowly on a low heat, adding more oil. For 5 pounds of peppers, it takes about 2/3 of a cup of oil or more. It takes about 45 minutes to cook the peppers to make Ajvar. You will know it is done because they Ajvar parts like the Red Sea (stays separated). It also changes the color slightly - it turns lighter than original pepper mush. You may add salt, but not necessary.

Step 8: Put in a Jar and Cool

Put the Ajvar into a jar or a tub and let it cool down. Store in the fridge and eat fast. It should keep for about month.  Ajvar is enjoyed on bread, toast, and crackers! 

Making Ajvar takes time and patience. Enjoy slowly and honor hard work put into making this delightful spread!

Step 9: Optional: What Is Growing in Your Neighborhood?

For your next ambitious canning or baking adventure, check out what is growing in your neighborhood.  You may use Neighborhood Fruit to locate backyard fruit or fruit on public land.



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    11 Discussions

    Metabolic Cooking

    2 years ago

    Another thing worth mentioning is pepper varieties. Regular sweet red bell peppers are great but if you can find the sweet long red peppers, these are the more traditional choice. They seem to have a richer red color and stronger flavor.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    It is interesting the comment about it being a 'caviar' because we have the same in France but made with aubergine - egg plant. This recipe looks delicious and I like the idea of adding some home-grown chillies too! Thanks for posting and all the best form Normandie, Pavlovafowl aka Sue


    7 years ago on Introduction

    this is a recipe for a croatian ajvar i prepare every september. I have it in the freezer. Every freezer bag has 250 grams of ajvar. Just take it out and spread it on your bread sprinkle some feta and enjoy. You also can make pie and pizza filings with it.
    5 kilos red sweet peppers, 1 kilo eggplant, 750 grams sunseed oil, 5 cloves garlic, 3 tablespoons red vine vinegar, 3 teaspoons salt, a few chilly peppers if you like hot spreads.
    grill the peppers and the eggplants. peel them and put them in the food processor. Pour everything in a big pot and and simmer until the water from the evegetables evaporates and ajvar starts bubbling on the top. You will have to stir very often. Enjoy!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    ever since i spent some time in the Balkans, i've been hooked on Ajvar. i live in nyc now and there's a large serbocroatian community, but the serbian specialty markets are so expensive due to the tariffs, $7.99 or more for a small jar.

    i'm totally going to make my own now!! thanks for this instructable. i'm going to throw in a few spicy peppers....


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hi there, let me correct you a little.

    The "Ajvar" is not a Turkish dish. Ajvar origins are in Serbia and now it's tradition food in Macedonia, both former Yugoslav republics. The name has Turkish origins because of an 500 years of Turkish influence over the country's. So shortly Ajvar is an Macedonian traditional dish. And for the recipe, in tradition like in the article you can use peppers of almost any kind but you also put eggplant prepared in the same way as the peppers. Approximately in 5 pounds of pepper goes 0.5 pounds of eggplant.

    The dish goes well with mayo, pickles, cheese, olives etc.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Ajvar is Serbocroatian, but if you go anywhere in the Balkans or Eastern Europe, especially with Bohemian roots, almost everyone claims it as their own.

    the name comes from the Turkish word "Havyar", which means, "Caviar"...notice the similarities in the pronunciation.

    also note the similarities in the processing of both the Ajvar and Caviar:
    Ajvar: removing, cleaning, separating, and storing of the pepper flesh
    Caviar: removing, cleaning, separating and storing of sturgeon/fish roe

    it's basically pepper caviar! ^^


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I dont know how I missed this ible earlier ! It sounds really good, as much as I enjoy the taste of sweet and cubanell peppers, I have to agree with Lemonie that going spicey is a must for me, my mouth is watering like crazy just thinking about a jalapeno spread


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good stuff, it actually goes really well with quesadillas.