Authentic Egyptian Moutabel Recipe

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egyptian moutabel recipe

What’s Up, Hungry People

Last summer, I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to Egypt. My husband often travels to fascinating locales ranging from Central America to the Middle East and even as far as going Indonesia – and occasionally I get to tag along for the trip.

When we found out he had an upcoming trip to Egypt for a project, I practically forbade him from visiting the Pyramids of Giza without me (and fortunately, he said “that’s fair” and booked me a plane ticket to join him).

the starving chef at the pyramids

On our trip to Egypt, we first flew from Cairo to Luxor where we boarded a luxury ship for a cruise down the Nile River. It was honestly one of the most magical experiences of my entire life – sailing past ancient temples and immersing ourselves in a culture that has flourished for millennia was genuinely awe-inspiring.

the historia cruise ship on the nile river

Aboard the Historia, we savored freshly prepared meals by a professional chef who also hosted an intimate cooking class for a few of us. It was there that I learned to make moutabel and a delightful lentil soup, making this recipe truly authentic and a cherished souvenir from our travels.

So to say that this is an authentic Egyptian recipe is truly an understatement – I learned so much during the class!

chef mamoud nabil historia cruise

Making Moutabel

It’s been over a year since that memorable trip, and I find myself frequently reminiscing about our Nile cruise adventures. However, my most treasured memento is undoubtedly the moutabel recipe I brought back. While moutabel is similar to baba ghanouj, particularly in the U.S. where the terms are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two.

Both dishes are made primarily from eggplant, which is roasted to bring out its natural sweetness and smoky flavor. However, their seasonings and textures set them apart.

Moutabel is generally smoother and creamier, often made with tahini (sesame paste), yogurt, and sometimes mayonnaise, blended into the roasted eggplant to create a rich, creamy dip. It’s usually seasoned with garlic and lemon juice, and sometimes a touch of cumin, which adds depth to its flavor.

Baba Ghanouj also starts with roasted eggplant, but it typically has a chunkier texture. It includes tahini, like Moutabel, but usually skips the yogurt or mayonnaise, focusing instead on the robust flavors of added ingredients like tomatoes, onions, and various herbs, which can include parsley or mint. Garlic and lemon juice are also common in Baba Ghanouj, providing a vibrant tartness.

In essence, while both dips celebrate the smoky sweetness of roasted eggplant, Moutabel leans towards a creamier, more dip-like consistency with a smooth texture, whereas Baba Ghanouj offers a more complex, chunky dip with a richer variety of textures and flavors from additional vegetables and herbs.

middle eastern moutabel recipe

Here’s What You Need

  • Eggplant: Provides the base texture and smoky flavor.
  • Garlic: Adds a pungent kick to deepen the dip’s savory profile.
  • Tahini: Offers a creamy, nutty element to the mixture.
  • Lemon juice: Brings brightness and acidity, balancing the richness.
  • Cumin: Gives a warm, earthy note to enhance complexity.
  • Coriander: Contributes a slightly citrusy, sweet flavor.
  • Chili powder: Introduces a mild heat and additional depth.
  • Greek yogurt: Creates a creamy, smooth texture and tangy taste.
  • Olive oil: Used for roasting and as a finishing touch for richness.
  • Red pepper flakes: Provides a spicy accent for garnishing.
  • Fresh parsley: Adds a burst of color and fresh flavor as garnish.
moutabel from the middle east

Let’s Cook

First things first, preheat your oven to 400°F. While that’s warming up, take your eggplant and slice it in half lengthwise. Lay these halves skin-side up on a baking sheet. Now, grab your garlic—whether it’s a whole head or several loose cloves, keep them wrapped in their skins. Toss them on the baking sheet with the eggplant.

Time to Roast

Drizzle the eggplant and garlic generously with olive oil. This not only helps them cook but also infuses a rich flavor. Pop the tray into the oven and let them roast for about 30 minutes. You’re looking for the eggplant to soften and start to collapse, and the garlic to become sweet and tender.

Broil for the Perfect Finish

After those 30 minutes, take out the garlic (careful, it’s hot!) but leave the eggplant in. Switch your oven to broil and give the eggplant another 5-10 minutes. What you want is for the skin to get a nice char and puff up – it adds that essential smoky flavor.

egyptian baba ghanouj

Peeling and Prepping

Once the eggplant is broiled to perfection, take it out and let it cool until you can handle it without burning your fingers. Peeling the eggplant is pretty straightforward: just pin the skin down with one hand and use your knife to pull it back with the other. Try to get rid of as many seeds as you can while you’re at it to avoid any bitterness in your dip.

Blend It Up

Grab your food processor and throw in the peeled eggplant along with the spices—cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the tahini. Hit that blend button and watch as it all comes together into a creamy mix. After it’s looking good and smooth, add the Greek yogurt and blend again until everything is perfectly combined.

Ready to Serve

Spoon your freshly made moutabel into a serving dish. Create a swirl on top with some olive oil and sprinkle over some red pepper flakes for a bit of heat and fresh parsley for color. Grab some warm pita bread and dig in.

pita served with moutabel

Expert Tips for Perfect Moutabel

  • Choose the right eggplant: Look for eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. These are usually fresher and have fewer seeds, which can sometimes contribute bitterness to the dish.
  • Roasting is key: Ensure your oven is preheated to 400°F before roasting the eggplant. Roasting it until it’s well-charred will not only be easier to peel but also maximizes the smoky flavor essential to authentic moutabel.
  • Adjust garlic and lemon juice to taste: While the recipe provides a starting point, adjust the amount of garlic and lemon juice based on your preference. Some might prefer a brighter, tangier dip, while others might lean towards a more pronounced garlic flavor.
  • Smooth or chunky: The texture of moutabel can vary based on personal preference. For a smoother texture, blend the ingredients longer. For a bit of texture, pulse the blender a few times to leave some chunks.
  • Serving suggestions: Moutabel is traditionally served with warm pita bread but also goes well with raw vegetables like carrots and cucumbers, making it a versatile dip for any table.
moutabel for dipping

Reflecting on the journey that brought this moutabel recipe into my kitchen is almost as delightful as the dish itself. From the bustling streets of Cairo to the serene flows of the Nile aboard the Historia, each bite of this creamy, smoky dip takes me back to that sunlit journey through Egypt. It’s more than just a recipe; it’s a culinary keepsake that captures the essence of the adventures my husband and I shared.

Whether served at a casual family gathering or as a sophisticated starter at a dinner party, this moutabel is always a hit. And while it’s a breeze to whip up, its exotic flavors promise to transport you and your guests straight to the heart of Egypt with every spoonful.

Authentic Egyptian Moutabel Recipe

The Starving Chef
Enjoy this creamy and smoky moutabel, an authentic Egyptian dip made with roasted eggplant and spices.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dips, International, Snack
Cuisine Egypt, International, Middle East
Servings 4

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise and place it flesh side down on a baking sheet. Add a head of garlic or 6-8 cloves still wrapped in their skin.
  • Drizzle everything with olive oil. Place into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves then turn the oven to broil and continue broiling the eggplant for another 5-10 minutes or until the skin is charred and puffed up.
  • Peel the garlic cloves while the eggplant finishes cooking.
  • Let the eggplant cool to a temperature that it can be handled. Then, using a knife, secure the ends of the skin between your thumb and the side of the knife and use the knife to peel back the skin, leaving only the flesh.
  • Use a spoon to scrape out as many of the seeds from the flesh as you can; the seeds can add a bitter flavor if too many are left in.
  • Transfer the eggplant to a food processor. Add the cumin, coriander, and chili powder along with the lemon juice and tahini. Blend until smooth. Then add the yogurt and continue to blend until a creamy dip is formed.
  • Serve the moutabel topped with a swirl of olive oil, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and fresh parsley. Serve alongside warm pita bread. Enjoy!
Keyword coriander, cumin, eggplant, garlic, yogurt
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