Mmm-outabal… This deliciousness happens when you have one seriously burnt eggplant on hand. This creamy nutty zingy dip is eggplant at its best. Just a little roast or grill and that simple eggplant becomes addictive and irresistible.
Yes… I bet ya… you will keep on dunking into this bowlful. No wonder it has its undisputed place on any Levantine mezze platter and is beloved in many Arabic speaking countries. Move over hummus, moutabal is on its way!!
Don’t you agree that many times appetizers are the best part of the meal? A platter of kebabs, arrays of salads or different dips. All over the world, they are devoured surrounded by the company of loved ones.
Most of the Middle Eastern region is known for its famous dips and mezze platters, which adorn any typical restaurant table at the start of the meal. They include small plates of dips like muhammara, hummus, baba ganoush and moutabal. These are accompanied by roasted veggies, tabouleh, falafel and pitas. Believe me, it can’t get better than this sight.
My first encounter with these beautiful appetizer arrays of dips was my maiden visit to Egypt, back in 2005. Egypt was and is very special to me, as it’s the first country that I visited when I started escorting international tours in my gypsying career. I ended up doing at least a couple of dozen tours there from 2005 to 2008.
I moved on to other countries and destinations, but this beautiful country, its people and their food have a special place in my heart. This moutabal just relives all the beautiful memories and experiences.
What is Moutabal?
Moutabal is a classic eggplant dip with indeterminate Mediterranean origin, as it is loved from Turkey to Syria and all the regions in between. Levant is probably as specific as you can get. Of course it pops up under a variety of names. One name moutabal can be known as, or confused with, is baba ganoush. Some people might say they are just the same eggplant dip with two different names.
After doing some reading on the matter, moutabal is slightly different from baba ganoush, even though they have lots of similarities. Traditionally, both of them start by charring the eggplant, mostly directly on the gas flame. This results in the charry smokiness. In absence of a direct flame, or in case you don’t want to end up with a messy gas hob, you have the option to char it on the grill or even roast it in the oven (which I chose to do, and still ended up with some great tasting results).
Once charred, the flesh is scooped out and mashed. What happens later is slightly different. In the case of moutabal, it’s generally mixed with a dash of lemon juice, a hint of garlic, plenty of tahini and sometimes some yogurt. That’s it.
Baba ganoush, on the other hand, includes more veggies like chopped onions, tomatoes and parsley. It rarely includes tahini. Both of them end with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and are nicely decorated with pomegranate arils.
Let’s make this creamy deliciousness popular here, this is what you need
- Eggplant – The secret to great results is excellent produce. Good eggplants make good moutabal. Be sure to check out my collection of the best Eggplant Recipes.
- Lemon juice – Freshly squeezed, of course.
- Garlic – Just a little, as we use it raw.
- Yogurt – Regular or Greek.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sumac (optional) – It’s a tangy Middle Eastern spice.
- Parsley and pomegranate arils – For garnish.
How to whip up a cracking moutabal
As mentioned above, you have the option of charring the eggplant on an open flame, but just be ready for clean up later.
If you want a little less mess and effort, you can roast the eggplant in your oven. In this case, cut the eggplant in half, brush it with olive oil and place the halves flat side down on a parchment paper or foil lined sheet. Then just bake in a preheated oven.
Once baked, let it cool down a bit then scoop out the flesh, discarding the skin. Mash it on a cutting board with a knife till you get your desired coarseness. I like it a little chunkier, but some prefer smooth.
Transfer the eggplant pulp to a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients. The beauty of this dish lies in the delicate balance of flavors. Use too much of one strong ingredient, like garlic, tahini or lemon juice and you will upset it. That being said, making moutabal is about personal taste and preference. Always taste and adjust. Whip all this into a creamy dip and that’s it.
Serve it with a generous drizzling of more extra virgin oil. You can decorate it by first making wells with a spoon for the oil. Here we made a flower pattern, but you can be creative. Garnish with a few pinches of sumac, if you have any on hand, parsley and pomegranate seeds. They really go great with this eggplant mixture.
- Try different spices in this mix. Just a few pinches of chili powder or cumin can alter it a bit.
- Mint and coriander are other herbs commonly used instead of parsley.
- Turn it into baba ganoush by adding chopped onions and tomatoes. 🙂
What to serve moutabal with?
It’s a dip, it’s a snack, it’s a meal… so many ways to enjoy…
- Make it a part of a small or more elaborate mezze platter.
- All kinds of flat breads are great to dunk into this dip. Its almost addictive. Get those pitas and get dipping.
- Any of your favorite regular dunking veggies go great with this dip.
- It goes great as a dressing for your favorite bowl meals.
Moutabal… Maybe it’s new… it’s unknown… it might not yet have fans around the world like hummus. SO what?? Let’s start that fan base right now with this bowlful of creamy eggplant decadentness. Try it yourself. It’s easy once you have that seriously burnt eggplant on hand. 🙂 Remember this great appetizer next time you entertain. All you need is an unlimited supply of pitas to keep those guests happy!!
Moutabal, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
Round out your appetizer spread with these other great recipes:
German Sauerkraut Balls
Chicken Tikka Kebabs
Guasacaca (Venezuelan Guacamole)
Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers
Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp)
Shrimp Remoulade Lettuce Cups
Chicken Chapli Kebabs
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 garlic, minced
- 4 Tbsp yogurt
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin oil
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp sumac (optional) to garnish
- 1/4 cup pomegranate arils to garnish
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Cut the eggplant in half. Brush it all over with olive oil and place it flat side down on a foil or parchment pepper lined sheet. Bake it for 30-40 minutes. (see note 1 for open flame instructions.
- Once cooled, scope out the flesh of the eggplant and place on cutting board, discarding the skin. With the help of a knife or fork, smash it to desired consistency. Transfer to bowl.
- Mix all the ingredients, except the garnishings, with the eggplant pulp. Whirl it into creamy dip.
- Garnish with sumac, pomegranate arils and parsley.
- Make a well or create a pattern with the back of spoon and drizzle additional extra virgin olive oil.
- Refrigerate with cling wrap until served.
- The more traditional method involves cooking the eggplant, whole, over an open flame. To do this, set the flame to medium and place the eggplant directly on the flame. Rotate ever 3-4 minutes with tongs until eggplant is fully softened and skin is charred, about 15-20 minutes.
- You can adjust amounts of garlic, lemon juice and tahini according to your taste and preference. Always taste and adjust.
- Serve it with pita or any other flat breads, on a mezze platter, or with vegetables like celery, carrots and cucumber.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container 3-4 days.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 188Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 1mgSodium 164mgCarbohydrates 20gFiber 5gSugar 8gProtein 4g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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