Romesco sauce is a creamy, nutty, flavorful, and healthy sauce from Catalonia, Spain. It’s excellent for anything grilled, as a dip or spread, and even as a pasta sauce.
Our recipe is easy to make with simple ingredients. Using tomato, peppers, almonds, olive oil, and a hint of vinegar captures the essence of Mediterranean cooking.
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According to Melissa Clark, prolific food writer, and cookbook author, there isn’t one correct recipe for Romesco, and the ingredients change slightly as you travel from town to town in Catalonia.
What’s agreed upon, however, is that Romesco is a rich, creamy, and wholesome recipe made with a combination of peppers, tomatoes, and nuts.
Of course, like in most Mediterranean recipes, the sauce is held together by a generous drizzle of good-quality olive oil and a splash of vinegar.
In this blog post, we’ll show you how to make a quick romesco sauce at home with simple pantry staples that you can find in most supermarkets.
Also, we make it with a food processor, although the traditional Romesco sauces are made with a mortar and pestle.
In the variations chapter, we make a more authentic and traditional version for the more adventurous.
We hope you enjoy this delicious, wholesome, and healthy roasted red pepper sauce from the hills and shores of the Mediterranean.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Find the complete recipe with ingredients and instructions in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Roasted red peppers
You can use homemade roasted peppers or store-bought jarred red peppers, drained well from their marinating liquid.
In the original Romesco recipe, Ñora peppers are used, but because they are hard to find outside of Spdon’twe don’t use them in our recipe.
Instead, we replace them with roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and red pepper flakes to recreate their flavor.
Choose sun-dried tomatoes in oil, and drain them well before use. They are packed with flavor and umami, giving the Romesco depth and richness.
We use unsalted almonds and hazelnuts. Raw or toasted is indifferent.
However, you can use only almonds if you prefer. Other nuts that work well in Romesco sauce are walnuts and pinenuts.
Fresh garlic is preferable. We would avoid garlic powder in this recipe. A small clove is enough. shouldn’thouldn’t be overly garlicky.
Red pepper flakes
They add a touch of heat. Substitute chili powder, chopped chili pepper, or cayenne powder for red pepper flakes.
Pimentón, or Spanish paprika, is best thanks to its smokey, mildly spicy flavor.
If you can’t find pimentón settle for standard smoked or sweet paprika.
We recommend extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor and nutrition profile. Regular olive oil is also ok.
We use red wine vinegar. You can also use white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar. We do not recommend lemon juice for this recipe.
Sea salt or kosher salt is best. Salt is necessary to add flavor.
How to make Romesco sauce
Find the complete recipe with ingredients and instructions in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Cut the garlic in half lengthwise, remove its core (if any), and add the clove to a food processor with all the ingredients: almonds, hazelnuts, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, and olive oil.
Blend for a minute or two until you have a creamy but slightly coarse sauce.
There isn’t a standard consistency for Romesco. It depends on your preference. So, if you like a thinner sauce, add more oil or cold water until you reach your desired consistency.
Taste and adjust for salt, heat, and acidity before serving as a dip, sauce, or spread.
45-minute Romesco sauce
This one’s a more elaborated but also more authentic version of Romesco. If you have the time, we recommend it. To make it you’ll; you’ll need.
- 2 large red bell peppers
- 2 vine tomatoes or 10 cherry tomatoes
- 1 slice of crusty bread (about 3 ounces or 80 grams)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts
- 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Roast the vegetables
Preheat the oven to 400°F or 200°C. Cut the red bell peppers in half, remove seeds and stems, and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.
Cut the tomatoes in tomatoes in half, crush a clove of garlic, and add them to the baking tray.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the peppers are soft and charred.
Transfer bell peppers to a bowl and cover with a plate. Let cool for 15 minutes. Set tomatoes and garlic aside.
After 15 minutes, when the bell peppers have cooled down a little, but are not completely cold, peel them. Try not to use water here, as the water would wash off the flavor from the peppers.
Pan-fry the bread
Cut the bread into dice. Add the diced bread, half of the olive oil, a crushed clove of garlic, paprika, and red pepper flake to a skillet.
Fry the bread on medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes until slightly toasted. Stir often, and don’t burn the spices and the garlic.
Add all ingredients to a food processor, including the roasted garlic and the pan-fried garlic (discard peel).
Blend until you get a creamy and rustic romesco sauce.
Taste and adjust for salt, heat, and acidity. This version might need an extra tablespoon of vinegar than the quick version. Adjust based on your preference.
Romesco sauce is versatile. In Spain, the most common way of serving it is as a dip with grilled calçots, a type of green onion grown in Valls, a city near Tarragona in Catalonia.
As an appetizer or main meal
Dig in with warm pita bread, and you are in for a treat.
With roasted, grilled, or air-fried veggies
Try it on air-fried, oven-roasted, or grilled vegetables.
Not to mention oven-roasted or air-fried potatoes.
Grilled or roasted meat, fish, or tofu
All the Mediterranean flavors come together in this Spanish-Italian-inspired dish.
As a pasta sauce
Romesco sauce is delicious on pasta too. It behaves like pesto, and it coats the pasta perfectly.
All you have to do is thin the sauce with some pasta cooking water, then toss the pasta in, and you are done.
Make ahead: Romesco is an excellent recipe to make ahead because it keeps well for days, and you can even freeze it. So go ahead and add it to your meal prep rotation.
Refrigerator: Transfer sauce into an airtight container like a mason jar and keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Freezer: Transfer it into a freezer-friendly container; it can be a jar or ice-cube-trays, and freeze for up to 3 months.
Defrost: Thawing depends on how you want to use it. To use as a dip or spread, thaw in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. To use with pasta, melt the frozen romesco with pasta cooking water. Avoid freezing multiple times.
Romesco sauce is a rich and creamy red pepper sauce from Catalonia, Spain. It’s similar to pesto, and it’s made with peppers, tomatoes, nuts, garlic, oil, and vinegar.
Romesco was first created around the 1890s in the “el Serrallo” neighborhood in Tarragona, a port city in northeastern Spain’s Catalonia region, between Barcelona and Valencia.
The fisherman from Tarragona came up with the first version of this sauce. They experimented with what they had on board: stale bread, nuts, garlic, dried peppers, stale wine, and sometimes fish broth.
Quickly, the sauce started to spread on the mainland, where it was refined to be less bold.
Tomatoes, olive oil, and vinegar were added. This was the first rendition of Romesco as we know it today.
Romesco tastes similar to a red pepper pesto without parmesan It’sse. It’s creamy, rustic, nutty, slightly smokey, and spicy.
And although people that come from different areas in Catalonia claim that their recipe is original, there is no standardized recipe for romesco.
This means that romesco tastes different in different cities, neighborhoods, and families in the same town.
Take the use of fried bread, for example. Some like to add it to the sauce, and some don’t.
Or the nuts. Some add almonds, some hazelnuts, and some add both. Others don’t put nuts at all. And the variations go on for other ingredients such as chili, onions, parsley, sherry vinegar, and more.
An ingredient almost always mentioned in authentic Romesco recipes is Ñora pepper.
Ñora is a small, round, earthy, sweet-fleshed red pepper that is used dry. It’s the pepper often used in paella, chorizo, and other Spanish stews and soups.
The challenge with ñora peppers is that they are hard to find outside of Spain and tricky to handle. And so, we do not use them in our romesco sauce recipe.
The best way to replace ñora peppers is with a combination of roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Or roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, paprika, and red pepper flakes.
We tested many recipes of romesco sauce, and we settled on two. One is a quick romesco sauce you can make in 5 minutes in a food processor with ready-made, jarred roasted bell peppers and sun-dried tomatoes in oil.
The other is more similar to the original Catalonian romesco sauce. We make it with pan-fried bread in olive oil, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic roasted in the oven.
More spreads and dips
- Tzatziki sauce
- Yogurt tahini sauce
- Tahini sauce
- Vegan basil pesto
- Red pepper pesto
- Sun-dried tomato pesto
- Green goddess dressing
- Chipotle sauce
- Vegan mayo
For more condiment ideas, check out our dressing and sauces category page.
- Food processor or blender
- 1 cup roasted bell peppers jarred or home-roasted
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil drained
- 1 clove garlic
- ⅓ cup almonds
- ¼ cup hazelnuts or more almonds
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon paprika smoked
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
- To a food processor, add all ingredients: 1 cup roasted bell peppers, ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drained), 1 clove garlic (chopped), ⅓ cup almonds, ¼ cup hazelnuts, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Blend for a minute or two until you have a creamy but slightly coarse sauce.
- If you like a thinner sauce, add more oil or cold water until you reach your desired consistency.Taste and adjust for salt, heat, and acidity before serving as a dip, sauce, or spread.
- Nico's serving tip: spread it on a plate, add air-fried zucchini in the center, and drizzle with tahini sauce, a pinch of smoked paprika, and toasted shaved almonds. Dig in with warm pita bread, and you are in for a treat.