How To Make Croatian Ajvar: This Is An Easy To Make Ajvar Recipe (2024)

September 26, 2023November 10, 2023 | SJ

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How To Make Croatian Ajvar: This Is An Easy To Make Ajvar Recipe (1)

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

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Is ajvar a sauce, or is it a dip? Either way here is how to make Croatian ajvar. This really is an easy-to-make ajvar recipe anyone can try!

How To Make Croatian Ajvar: This Is An Easy To Make Ajvar Recipe (2)

So, why do you need to incorporate Ajvar into your kitchen? It’s always good to be on the lookout for new and delicious dishes from around the world.

The problem is, a lot of them require ingredients that aren’t that easy to source in every country, and somehow, they never really taste the same!

Thankfully, some are easy to make and have an incredible range of taste sensations to enjoy. One of those dishes is ajvar.

Ajvar is popular in the BalkansSerbia, Croatia, and Macedonia all use it. It’s even a must-try food in Romania! I am still not so sure who ‘owns it.’ All I know is I love it.

It is part dip, part sauce, part spread, and occasionally considered to be a relish. The jury is out on what it can be defined as, but it’s delicious all the same!

Ajvar is a blend of the freshest red bell peppers and eggplant. The beauty of this dish is that it is so versatile, and you can enjoy it as part of many meals, such as pasta and meat dishes, and even as a snack with some fresh bread.

How To Make Croatian Ajvar: This Is An Easy To Make Ajvar Recipe (3)

The best time to make and enjoy ajvar is when the red bell peppers are harvested and, therefore, at their very freshest, around Autumn time.

You’ll quickly see people carrying huge bagfuls of them around when the harvest is complete, and you can bet that a massive amount of them are destined to be mixed up as ajvar.

My favorite way to enjoy ajvar is with cevapi. Please try this ajvar recipe and then tell me how you like to eat yours.

How To Make Croatian Ajvar: This Is An Easy To Make Ajvar Recipe (4)

Ajvar Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Is ajvar a sauce, is it a dip? Either way here is how to make ajvar. This really is an easy to make ajvar recipe anyone can try!


  • 4 medium-sized red bell peppers
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant (optional)
  • Olive oil, around 1/3 cup
  • 2 (or more!) garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, the amount depends on your personal taste
  • See the notes section for optional extras


  1. Preheat your oven to 240°C (470°F)
  2. Take a medium-sized baking tray and cover it with baking/parchment paper
  3. Cut the eggplant into large pieces and arrange on the baking tray
  4. Cut the red peppers into halves and arrange them on the baking tray
  5. Cook in the oven for around half an hour, ensuring that the peppers have gone a rather attractive shade of black!
  6. Take the eggplant and peppers from the tray and place them into a large bowl. Cover the bowl (I use a plastic shopping bag to help them steam) and set aside for around 20 minutes
  7. Once cooled, remove the skin from the eggplant – you don’t need the skin, so it can be thrown away
  8. Peel the peppers, remove the core and the seeds – again, you don’t need these bits, toss them
  9. Transfer the remaining pepper and eggplant into a food processor, add the garlic
  10. Add the oil and vinegar to the food processor and add as much salt and pepper as you like
  11. Pulse the contents of the food processor until a smooth consistency is achieved
  12. Take a medium-sized saucepan and empty the contents of the food processor inside the pan
  13. Over a low heat, simmer the contents for around half an hour, ensuring that you stir constantly. The sauce should become thick as it simmers
  14. If you think it needs more salt and pepper, add a little at this point and stir to combine
  15. Remove from the heat and allow to cool
  16. Enjoy on your čevapi


1. We do need to address the eggplant side of things because not everyone enjoys this ingredient. If that is the case, you can omit it entirely and simply make the ajvar with the peppers only.

2. Also, if you want to make it spicier, you can add in a few roasted chilis, for a real kick!

3. If you'd like a stronger more smokey flavor, first grill the peppers on an open flame (like your gas stove!) so the skin goes black.

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How To Store Ajvar

How To Make Croatian Ajvar: This Is An Easy To Make Ajvar Recipe (5)

You can store the ajvar in a container that has a lid and is airtight for anything up to two weeks, but if you want to keep it for longer, you should can it. In order to do this, you need to mix up the recipe method just a little.

If you are planning to preserve your ajvar, do the following:

  • Do not add garlic to the recipe, as it doesn’t tend to maintain very well
  • Use sunflower oil instead of olive oil
  • Use small jars and ensure they are washed well and sterilized before you add the ajvar
  • When you are simmering the sauce, you should do this for an hour
  • When filling up the jars, fill it to the top, leaving around a 1 cm (0.3 inches) free
  • Once filled, put the jars in the oven and leave them there for around 10 minutes on a low heat (about 100°C/210F)
  • Once the 10 minutes are up, add sunflower oil to each jar to fill it up to the top
  • Please make sure the lids are on well, and place them somewhere dark and cool, covered over with a cloth, for around 48 hours
  • You can enjoy your preserved ajvar this way for about six months.

More Balkan Food Recipes

  • Pita Zeljanica (Savory Pie With Spinach)
How To Make Croatian Ajvar: This Is An Easy To Make Ajvar Recipe (2024)


What is ajvar in Croatia? ›

Ajvar (pronounced: /ˈaɪvɑːr/; Cyrillic script: Ajвар, Aйвар) is a condiment made principally from sweet bell peppers and eggplants. The relish became a popular side dish throughout Yugoslavia after World War II and remains popular in Southeast Europe. Ajvar. Ajvar with bread, garlic, pepper and salami.

What is ajvar sauce made of? ›

Ajvar is commonly prepared in the fall, making use of the abundant harvest of red bell peppers, which are charred over a fire, peeled, and combined with roasted eggplant, garlic, oil, and vinegar, for a sauce that can be canned and eaten throughout the rest of the year.

What is a substitute for ajvar? ›

If you cant find ajvar, a substitute can be made by pureeing a seven-ounce can of drained roasted bell peppers with two tablespoons of tomato paste and two tablespoons of purchased chili-garlic sauce, which is available at most supermarkets.

What does ajvar mean in English? ›

Noun. ajvar (uncountable) A relish made principally out of red bell peppers, sometimes with eggplant, garlic and chili pepper, predominantly popular in the Western Balkans.

Which country makes the best ajvar? ›

North Macedonia is well known for its incredible, still mostly organic and sustainable produce, especially when it comes to red peppers and aubergines for Macedonian ajvar. As is the Leskovac region in Serbia, which produces a particular type of red pepper perfect for Leskovac ajvar.

What is Croatia signature dish? ›

Strukli. As the ultimate Croatian comfort food, it's no surprise that strukli is a signature northern dish, widely consumed in the Zagreb and Hrvatsko Zagorje regions. Inducted into the list of the country's intangible cultural heritage, it's the perfect choice for a cold, winter day but enjoyable anytime.

How healthy is ajvar? ›

Generally speaking, ajvar is considered to be healthy. The ingredients that go in are all-natural and don't contain any negative parts that can damage your health. If you want to make ajvar even more beneficial, we suggest that you ditch the salt and make it without it. In most cases, extra salt can be bad.

What country did ajvar originate from? ›

Ajvar is both Macedonian and Serbian national dish and that will stay forever. Origin of ajvar is Serbian. It emerged at late 19th century in Belgrade restaurants as a substitute of Danube sturgeon caviar.

Is ajvar the same as harissa? ›

Harissa sauce substitutes. If you are missing ingredients a fast substitute with a similar flavour is ajvar. Take one jar of ajvar and add chilli to give it the same spicy kick as harissa.

Is ajvar Serbian or Macedonian? ›

In the first known published ajvar recipe, found in the Great Serbian Cookbook from the 19th Century, author Katarina Popović mentions both peppers and aubergine. Yet, Serbians usually make ajvar only from red peppers, while citizens of North Macedonia are typically the ones who also use aubergine.

Is ajvar eaten hot or cold? ›

You can eat it cold or warm, as a side dish with grilled meat or just on bread or as an ingredient in marinades. Even if you know nothing about Balkan cuisine, you may have come across or heard someone mention, ajvar (pronounced “AY-vahr”).

What is the tradition of ajvar? ›

One of the most popular culinary staples in the Balkans, ajvar (can be spelled aivar in English) is a traditional appetizer that dates back over a thousand years. The consistency is one of chutney or relish, and it is made of roasted red peppers and garlic.

Does ajvar go bad? ›

How long does ajvar last? Unopened ajvar in a jar can last for up to about 4 months. Once the jar is opened, it needs to be refrigerated and consumed within 7-10 days.

How long is ajvar good for? ›

Wherever your ajvar inspiration takes you, store it in the fridge once you've opened a jar. Ajvar lacks the brine or salt concentration of pickles to keep it fresh after exposure to air, so try to eat through your jar within a week or two.

How do you eat ajvar sauce? ›

Spread ajvar liberally on crusty bread, alongside roasted or barbecued vegetables and meats, or blend it with yoghurt and olive oil to make a dip.

What does ajvar taste like? ›

Ajvar can taste mild and fruity or sharp and spicy. It might get a dose of chopped tomatoes or roast eggplant or even curds of farmer cheese. Though it's made with oil, it's mostly vegetable by mass, as healthy as a condiment could hope to be. But it's also brilliant with meaty kebabs.

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