A gluten-free version of the famous Catalan tomato-and-red-pepper sauce
Romesco sauce originated in the Catalan region of northeastern Spain. No two recipes seem to be quite the same, but virtually all of them include red chile pepper (both fresh and dried), tomato, garlic, and nuts.
Traditionally, this sauce is served with seafood. It’s also terrific with grilled meat and poultry, or when used as a dip with chips or crudités. Or as a sauce on vegetables.
Versatile and delicious. Two of our faves.
Recipe: Romesco Sauce (or Dip)
Romesco sauce is traditionally made with dried ñora chile peppers, and often with piquillo peppers as well. Both can be hard to find in the US (they’re mostly available through online sources).
Fortunately, some good substitutes are commonly available. Our version of the recipe uses roasted red bell peppers and ancho chile powder, both of which can be found in almost any supermarket (see Notes for other substitutions).
Many Romesco recipes use dried breadcrumbs as a thickener. But we’ve opted to add extra nuts instead because we think they provide better flavor and texture (as a bonus, this substitution also makes the dish gluten free).
We’ve made numerous versions of this sauce and have sampled several ingredient combinations. The version we discuss here (which is heavily influenced by Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe in Mediterranean Harvest) is our favorite. It yields excellent flavor and is easy to prepare.
You can make this dish from start to finish in about 30 minutes (much of that time involves waiting for the roasted peppers to cool off enough to be handled). The sauce tastes best if you let it sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving it.
This recipe makes about 2 to 3 cups of sauce.
Leftovers keep for about a week if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1 large red bell pepper (8 or more ounces)
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
- ½ cup peeled almonds (or a mix of almonds and hazelnuts)
- 1 14-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (or another chile powder of your choice; see Notes)
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (may substitute wine vinegar)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (to taste; we prefer 4)
- First, roast the red bell pepper (you can do this in advance of making the sauce; once you’ve completed this step, just refrigerate the roasted pepper in an airtight container until you’re ready to finish the recipe): Wash and dry the red bell pepper, then place it on the highest rack under the oven broiler. Broil the pepper, turning it every few minutes, until the skin of the pepper is blistered and blackened. Then remove the pepper from the oven and place it in a bowl to cool (cover the bowl with plastic wrap). When the pepper is cool enough to handle, use a knife to scrape off the skin. Then cut the pepper in half lengthwise. Core and stem the pepper, then remove the seeds and membrane.
- Meanwhile, peel the garlic cloves and set them aside.
- After you’ve completed Step 1, add the garlic cloves and nuts to a food processor, then process until they’re finely ground. Add the roasted red bell pepper and process until the mixture is smooth. Add the tomatoes, chile powder, smoked paprika, salt, and sherry vinegar. Process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil. Taste, then adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Serve the Romesco sauce at room temperature. (As the sauce rests, its flavor will intensify.)
- We’ve made this sauce using almonds alone, hazelnuts alone, and a mix of the two. We slightly prefer the mix. Our second favorite is almonds alone.
- We generally use peeled, slivered nuts in this recipe. When using almonds, it doesn’t matter much whether the nuts are skinless. But with hazelnuts, skinless is definitely preferable.
- We don’t roast the almonds or hazelnuts, but you may prefer to do this (roasting adds some depth of flavor).
- You can also use pine nuts in this dish.
- Ancho chile powder is fairly mild, but has good flavor. You can substitute another chile powder if you prefer (we often use a medium Hatch chile powder).
- Many cooks use sweet paprika in this dish, but we prefer the flavor of smoked paprika.
- Canned fire-roasted tomatoes are usually of excellent quality. And we like their slightly smoky flavor.
- Don’t have fire-roasted tomatoes on hand? You can substitute fresh tomatoes (roast them with the red bell pepper in Step 1).
- Some recipes suggest using jarred pimento instead of roasted red bell pepper. This is easier, but the flavor of the sauce will be much diminished.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt. (The crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly.) If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Yummacious,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “Reminds me why I love Barcelona.”
“Where we won’t be going this year,” I said.
“Yeah, bummer,” said Mrs K R. “We won’t get to hear them boast about their soccer team.”
“Which is the best in the world!” I said. “As they always helpfully point out to us.”
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” said Mrs K R. “Though I’d brag about Romesco instead. And their wonderful Crema Catalana.”
Priorities, you know.
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Yum, nothing better than Romesco sauce- and it goes with just about everything. Funny, piquillo peppers are readily found in Australian supermarkets, but hard to find in US ones.
Hi Fran, I can always find jarred piquillo pepper online, but only sometimes in a local specialty market. Alas. Easier just to substitute. Anyway, isn't Romesco wonderful? We use it on so many different things! Thanks for the comment.
Cool that you even roast your own bell peppers. I usually just got a jar from the store....shame on me. The dip must be particularly fresh and flavourful. Thanks for sharing the recipe, John.
This is such a great idea for a topping for so many things. Your recipe is just packed with flavor. Love how you wrote 2-4 cloves or to taste... We always say the best social distancing and cold and flu preventer is a head of garlic. Wishing you a super week ahead.
Hi Angie, roasting your own gives you somewhat better flavor, and the aroma! SO wonderful. It's worth doing for the aroma alone. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, we're in the more camp when it comes to garlic. It's a wonder we have any friends. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yum! I've never thought of using Romesco sauce as a dip! Genius!! Good excuse to make a double batch!
Hi Liz, it works quite well as a dip, although we use it as a sauce more often. Or sometimes we just eat it by the spoonful. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Your flavor combination really sounds good. I didn't know this sauce was of Spanish origin!
be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
John, you know how sometimes when you read a recipe, your mouth starts to water? This is one of those times. And I love using cucumber slices for dipping. Besides seafood, I could also see this working spooned over grilled chicken.
Hi Mae, Romesco is wonderful stuff -- and you're right about the flavor combo. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Terry, this is great with grilled chicken! Ask us how we know. :-) Thanks for the comment.
HI R, it's really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I want to faceplant into this dip!
Hi Ashley, you'd love it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Love using ancho chile in this. What a great recipe. Can’t wait to try it! Still have Barcelona on the bucket list. Hope it’s not there too long!
I just finished my Romesco sauce on my sandwich. I make it all the time. Your recipe is a little different from mine, I have to give yours a try.
Hi Abbe, Barcelona is terrific -- neat city. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Gerlinde, there are so many different versions of this dish. Haven't had a bad one, ever. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Romesco is one of my favorites. I'll have to compare our recipes, just to see what you did differently. I remember seeing a recipe on The Garum Factory years ago for grilled spring onions with romesco, and one day i will make that combination. I've actually never used it as a dip!
Hi Mimi, grilled spring onions and Romesco sounds wonderful! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Romesco is wonderful! I love introducing it to people that never heard of it before. It goes well with everything doesn't it?
Hi Dahn, Romesco is terrific stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Seafod, meat or vegetables, that sauce is all purpose and I love it
Hi Raymund, it really is all purpose. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Going to try this very soon!
Oh yum, my kind of flavours, I will definitely try it!
I love the colour of this, I bet it's packed wit flavour. I've never seen tinned fire roasted tomatoes for sale over here! I'd better look out for some.
I was inspired to try this after I saw Anthony Bourdain (RIP) dine on roasted spring onions and romesco in Spain. I've also used it with fried wild onions and as a sauce for an heirloom bean burrito. BUT, I have not made it in a while. Thanks for the reminder!
Hi Anne, you'll like. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've heard of romesco, but I've never had it. It sounds interesting and versatile.
Hi Natalia, you'll love how versatile it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolilne, in my grocery stores they usually carry only one or two brands, and usually just diced and puree. The main reason to use them is they have a nice smoky flavor. You could just roast regular tomatoes, though, and get the same effect. Just easier using a tin. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Debra, I definitely have to try Romesco with roasted spring onions -- sounds so good. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jeff, once you try this, I'll bet you'll start looking for excuses to use it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've never made romesco sauce and I think that needs to change. It looks delicious.
Romesco sauce is a favourite at my place too. Our recipes are very similar except that I use toasted almond meal and I blend it until it's very smooth. I make enough to freeze in an ice cube tray and transfer the little cubes to a ziplock bag when frozen. That way I can customize the amount when I need some. It’s wonderful on grilled or crispy fried calamari.
Hi Pam, that does need to change, because yes, it's delicious. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Eva, I've read about freezing Romesco, except I usually use it so quickly I've never had the chance! :-) Thanks for the comment.
love the colour of this and the flavours sound fantastic! i love roasted capsicums, and chillies and paprika... Yummo
Um, in all fairness, you had me at sauce. I'm all about the sauces ... in fact, a guest once commented, "Oh, a two sauce meal" when I presented them with a Dijon-white wine sauce for their fish and hollandaise for their asparagus. :) Romesco is so versatile and your recipe looks fabulous!
Hi Sherry, the color is terrific! And the flavor really is fantastic. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Judy, we always knew you were saucy! :D We've done a few two sauce meals, too. Thanks for the comment.
I love Romesco sauce, John - but have never thought of it for a dip. Great idea! And great idea to make it GF for those who cannot have the bread.
Hi David, isn't it good? I assume you either skip the garlic, or maybe substitute shallots for it. And although we're fine with gluten, this is one of those instance where we think the GF version is preferably for everyone. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It is absolutely fascinating that nuts are the thickener, and flavor enhancer, in this recipe. Love that you went all the way and made it gluten free.
Hi Laura, we've made it a bunch of time with bread, but we never thought it added all that much (other than thickener). The all-nut version has much better flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Great recipe John. Great idea to use the ancho chile powder, as finding good dried peppers is problematic here. I also love the idea of using the sauce as a dip. I think the cucumbers would work great to balance the heat.
Hi Ron, we probably use this as a sauce more than a dip, but it really does make a terrific dip. Or dinner. :-) Thanks for the comment.
The flavors here are making my mouth water, just used ancho chili powder and smoked paprika in my corn salad.Yum!
Hi Balvinder, isn't smoked paprika wonderful? We love the stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I miss going to Barcelona this year too. We had an amazing experience of watching the traditional Catalonia dance and enjoyed some fresh tomato basil pasta and the sunshine. Beautiful! Of course we missed going inside the erotic museum, next time maybe. 🤣 But your dip is definitely worth trying with roasted bell peppers sounds a treat and I like some almonds going into my dip interesting. Thanks for yet another lovely kitchen adventure.
Hi Hasin, in the whole scheme of things it's pretty minor and kinda petty, but we really do miss travel. But we can travel through our food! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I am always looking for a good sauce recipe and this romesco sauce looks full of flavors. Loved the smokey and nutty flavors in it. Thanks for sharing the recipe John
Hi Rahul, this is such a great sauce! Tons of flavor. Tons. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Romesco is such a versatile sauce. I love it on turkey and pork burgers, too. It pays to make a big batch. ;)
Hi Carolyn, haven't tried it on a burger of any description -- gotta do that! :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, you've created some real sauce happiness here, what a fun way to dress up a chicken breast. And your tip for using extra nuts to thicken the sauce is brilliant!
Hi Heidi, this is such a wonderful dish -- the flavor of this is terrific. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Sounds very delicious John. The addition of almonds is something we like a lot.
Hi Priya, almonds are terrific in this! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm addicted to dip with cucumber slices! And, I love the idea of using extra nuts instead of breadcrumbs.
Hi Lisa, we're cuke fans too, and they pair so nicely with Romesco. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I have never heard of this sauce before. It sounds so yummy. I can just imagine the flavor of it.
Hi Dawn, this is really worth trying -- you can use it on SO many things. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I don't think I ever had this sauce...sounds amazing, roasted bell pepper and almond/hazelnuts...I would love to try it. Thanks for the recipe John!
Hi Juliana, you really owe it to yourself to try this -- incredibly good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I can get piquillo peppers in LA, but I've never heard of ñora! The world of peppers is fascinating. GREG
Hi Greg, peppers are so much fun! And tasty. :-) Such variety! Thanks for the comment.
I have an affinity for almost any recipe stemming from Spain. I've had a few different versions of this, and look forward to trying this one. Perfect for my GF son. Thank you! :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, there are a lot of different versions of this, and of course although some are better than others, they're all worth having. At least in our experience. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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