In many countries throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean, it is customary to start a meal with a variety of cold “salads.” These appetizer-style mezze dishes are often more like dips then salads. They’re served with bread, olives, and sometimes pickles. Matbucha, a salad with Moroccan and North African origins, may be better known as the base chunky sauce for shakshuka. However, matbucha can be enjoyed all on its own – and often is.
Though traditionally made in the maghreb, matbucha has become a very popular mezze salad in Israel. It’s become so popular, in fact, that it rivals hummus and baba ganoush as one of the most popular appetizers. Most families have a tub of matbucha in their refrigerator, and you’ll often find it served by restaurants before the main course. It’s now available at many kosher markets in the U.S., sold in the same section as hummus. It hasn’t become quite as popular as hummus, but I have a feeling it will catch on at some point. It’s seriously tasty stuff, and so good for you too.
My husband’s niece Sharone is the queen of Moroccan appetizer salads. When we have Shabbat dinner at her house, her table is literally covered with salads and dips. They are so tempting, it’s difficult to resist filling up on them. By the time the main course comes, we’re already full!
The first time I made matbucha, I used Sharone’s recipe. Her family calls it Salade Cuite– the French name for matbucha. Sharone calls this the “mother of all Moroccan salads,” and I can see why– it’s so yummy! Over time I changed her recipe up a bit, adding jalapeno for heat and roasting the bell peppers for smokiness (to learn how to roast bell peppers, click here). Sharone’s matbucha is quite sweet, which I happen to like. If you’d prefer a less sweet salad, start with 2 tsp sugar and add additional sugar to taste.
Matbucha is sort of like the Moroccan version of salsa… you can adjust the heat by adding more jalapeno or chili pepper flakes. As written, the matbucha here is quite mild. Feel free to spice it up.
Serve this matbucha cold with crusty bread or warm, fresh pita. Or, if you’re gluten free, eat it by the spoonful. I like to keep a tub of it in the refrigerator and snack on it during the day. I’ve also used it as a topping/sauce for a variety of dishes. It’s really delicious and full of heart-healthy goodness. Your body will thank you!
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- 3/4 lb green bell peppers (2 peppers)
- 1 medium jalapeno (or more to taste)
- 56 oz diced tomatoes, or 8 large tomatoes peeled and diced (2 large cans)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp sugar (or to taste-- some people prefer it less sweet)
- 1 tsp chili pepper flakes (or more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp paprika
- Roast the bell peppers. Seed the peppers and peel off the charred skin. For instructions on how to roast bell peppers, click here. Chop the roasted skinned pepper flesh.
- Seed the jalapeno, then mince it. If you have sensitive skin, use gloves for this step. You can add more jalapenos for more heat if you like a spicy matbucha. As written, the recipe has a little kick, but it's not overly spicy.
- In a medium saucepan, combine diced tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, minced jalapeno, garlic, sugar, chili pepper flakes, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
- Reduce heat to around medium low, till the matbucha is cooking at a medium and constant simmer. Monitor the temperature of the matbucha, stirring every ten minutes to make sure it doesn't start to stick to the bottom of the pan. Let the mixture cook for 65-75 minutes till most of the liquid has reduced and cooked down.
- When most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is quite thick, you are ready to add your oil.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and paprika.
- Pour the seasoned oil into the pan and stir.
- Let the matbucha cook for about 30 minutes more, stirring every 5 minutes. Towards the end of cooking, taste the mixture and adjust seasoning as desired-- more sugar for sweetness, chili pepper flakes for spice, and salt if needed.
- Remove the matbucha from heat and allow to cool completely. The salad is best served at room temperature or chilled.