Emily Watson makes Roasted Red Pepper and Pomegranate Dip with her two daughters. Photo courtesy of Emily Watson

I am writing this just a few short weeks after I hosted a 4th birthday party for our daughter. Ask her, and the highlight of the menu was the chocolate chip brownie ice cream sandwiches that took me two days to make. Second place would be the take-out Hawaiian pizza with extra-extra pineapple.

Ask the adults, however, and it was a tie between the ice cream sandwiches and…a roasted red pepper and pomegranate dip that took me just five minutes to make.

As a frequent hostess of parents of little ones, I am always thinking of snacks that will keep the parents satiated and sane throughout playdates. I also like to keep the snacks healthy-ish because parents deserve good-for-you food.

So when I was thinking about the menu for the birthday party, I immediately thought of a dip bar. I’m a huge fan of mezze platters because there’s pretty much something for everyone. Also, dips are low-commitment. They can be made ahead of time, only get better with time as the flavors meld, and almost always involve merely throwing things into a food processor and pressing ‘ON.’

On the final menu was a beautiful bubble gum pink beet hummus that’s equally delicious as it is show-stopping, a bright and herby tzatziki (it’s eat-with-a-spoon tasty), and this nutty, tad-tart red pepper dip that I could slather on just about everything. No less than a dozen parents agreed they could and would too.

It is actually the offspring of two dips that come from different cultures with equally rich food histories. From Spain, you have romesco, a smoky red pepper dip that uses hazelnuts or buttery Marcona almonds and smoked paprika, and is often thickened with stale bread. The other dip, muhammara, hails from Syria and Turkey and is a red pepper and walnut dip slightly sweetened by the tart, tangy pomegranate molasses.


If you haven’t tasted pomegranate molasses, you are in for a real treat. It adds tremendous brightness and nuance to anything it graces. It’s that secret ingredient that people won’t be able to quite put their finger on. I bought mine from Whole Foods, but you can get it online or at Middle Eastern stores. There are even recipes out there to make your own with pomegranate juice and sugar, but a bottle of it will serve you well.

Red peppers are quite abundant now, which means you can roast your own in the oven and peel them for a real seasonal treat. Or, if you’re like me and only have afternoon naptime to get in any real cooking, you buy already roasted red peppers in a jar, drain and rinse them and proceed with the recipe.

Use this as a dip, sandwich spread, bruschetta topper, sauce for whatever protein you’re having for dinner. It’s so versatile. It also tastes just as great a few days after you make it, which means it’s perfect for entertaining. Plus, my kids love it — when it comes to getting their veggies in, that’s a huge win.

Roasted Red Pepper and Pomegranate Dip. Photo by Emily Watson

Roasted Red Pepper and Pomegranate Dip

You can make the dip ahead of time and refrigerate it. For a nut-free version, use 3/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds in place of the nuts. 

1 (10 to 12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained (or roast and peel 2 large red bell peppers yourself)
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/4 cup toasted, peeled hazelnuts
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 garlic clove, minced
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1½ tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for sprinkling
Toasted bread, pita, or vegetables for serving

Combine red peppers, nuts, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt in a food processor or blender. Blend until mostly smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Spoon into a bowl, sprinkle with parsley and serve. Store up to 5 days in the refrigerator.


I am a very new Mainer, having moved to South Portland in August. My husband has been in medical training for over a decade so we have moved around the Northeast quite a bit, but we are very excited to be in Portland with our two girls (21 months and 4). I work part-time for the maternal mental health company, Canopie, which is reimagining the delivery of maternal mental health care through a prevention-first approach. I love to cook and think it is such an important part of a healthy family life. I involve the girls as much as I can in the kitchen. Messes are welcome! Plus, it’s a great opportunity to teach them about the importance of cleaning up the messes we make.

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