What is mutabal, moutabal or muttabal?
Mutabal is not baba ganoush, at least not in it’s homeland of Syria, Lebanon, Armenia and surrounding areas. It is roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic and lemon seasoned with salt and olive oil. Mutabal seems most common in these countries. Other regions seem to use the terms baba ganoush and mutabal interchangeably without as much regard for their differences. To many, these differences may seem subtle however to those in the know, these two dips are different.
What’s the difference between mutabal and baba ganoush?
Mutabal is the more earthy of the two with it’s reliance on heavily charred eggplant, tahini and lots of garlic. Moutabal uses lemon to lighten and compliment the richness. It may include just one or two spices like cumin or paprika but not more. Baba ganoush or baba ganouj is the more fragrant cousin of mutabal with more ingredients. Often it is made as or referred to as a salad with the addition of onion, tomato and cucumber mixed in. Additionally it tends to use more spices and usually includes pomegranate molasses.
Their are arguments as to whether baba ganouj should include tahini or not but mutabal definitely includes tahini. Both can contain yogurt but their are many variations of each without. Baba ganoush varies regionally with some adding walnuts and pomegranate while others add hot pepper, cumin, lemon, onion and tomato and even some other variations.
I’ve made a little table to help illustrate their differences. (Try my version of Baba Ganoush without tahini here.)
How To Make It
Moutabal is a very simple, the time to roast the eggplant is the longest part. Traditional recipes fire roast the eggplant until it is charred on the outside, soft and collapsing on the inside. If you don’t have access to a cooking fire, use your grill or broiler.
It is important to roast it close to the heat source until the skin is mostly black and getting deeply wrinkled or crackly looking all over. This will take anywhere from 15-25 minutes depending how hot your fire/grill is. Poking a few holes in your eggplant will prevent any vegetable explosions as well as letting out some of the water to help keep your dip thick.
Once you’ve roasted your eggplant, let it cool enough to handle. While it’s cooling, grind your garlic and salt together, then add the tahini and mix. Scoop the eggplant pulp out of it’s skin and add to your mixture along with lemon juice. Mix it with a fork, mortar and pestle or your food processor/Vitamix, season with salt and pepper and that’s it!
What To Serve With This
Mutabal is often part of a mezze/meze platter-an Arabic (or Mediterranean) dinner platter consisting of lots of small dishes and flavors. Traditional accompaniments include flatbread or pitta and veggies along with hummus, yogurt, olives, feta, nuts and more. It is also a common condiment or side dish with grilled meat or kebab.
What to drink with this recipe
Middle Eastern classic drinks are black tea, fresh mint tea, or cardamom scented coffee. These are enjoyed with pretty much any food. For something a little stronger try Arak, an anise flavored and strong alcoholic beverage popular in the area. Did you know that tea and coffee are often served in tall glass cups in these Eastern countries? I love the elegant look of tea in a glass. (We carry Moroccan glasses in our shop.)
Is Mutabal Vegan?
Mutabal often contains yogurt which is the only non-vegan ingredient. I have made this recipe vegan multiple times by simply omitting the yogurt. It is every bit as delicious and I highly recommend this vegan version of the dip.
Mutabal-A Traditional Eggplant Dip
- 2 Eggplants (Medium-Large size)
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 1/3 c Tahini (Sesame paste)
- 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
- Salt and Pepper to taste (I used 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper)
- Optional: Olive oil, cumin, paprika, chopped parsley.
- Preheat your fire, broiler or grill to highest heat. Once preheated, pierce your eggplants 5 or 6 times each and place whole eggplants on or under the heat source. Turn every 5 minutes or so until the whole outside is charred and the eggplants are soft inside. This will take approximately 20 minutes. Remove and let cool until you can handle it.
- Puree your garlic with the salt with a mortar and pestle, (add 1/4 tsp cumin at this point if you are using it) in a bowl with a fork or in your food processor. Then add tahini and mix well.
- Remove eggplant pulp from it's skin and add to your tahini mixture. Add lemon juice and start mashing or mixing until you reach the texture you like. This can be chunky and rustic, smooth and silky or anywhere in between. Season with salt (1/2-1 tsp) and pepper to taste and serve with pita bread or other foods to dip in it.
- Optional garnishes: Drizzle with olive oil or sprinkle with paprika or parsley.