Portuguese Red Pepper Paste

Image of Portuguese Red Pepper PasteThis recipe comes with a health warning … massa de pimentão, or Portuguese red pepper paste, is culinary crack. Once you’ve sampled it, there’s no going back.

The taste is hard to describe: it’s sweet and intensely peppery (red peppery, not hot peppery), it’s salty but not overly so, it’s quite creamy in texture. It’s a real flavour bomb.

My Portuguese friend Teresa tells me it’s traditionally used as a marinade, mostly for pork. It is used as both marinade and sauce in the classic Portuguese dish of pork with clams, Porco Alentejana, of which more later in the week. But there are myriad other uses: as a flavour hit in soups, stews and sauces and although it sounds a bit fusion-y (horrible word) I think it would be good stirred through pasta, perhaps with a few olives and capers and some tomato for acidity.

Ignore anyone who says it’s a faff to make. It’s easy if you’ve got a food processor, but you do need to start it the day before. And yes, I did think about short-cutting the method by using a jar of roasted peppers, but it simply wouldn’t taste the same. The salting process is a large part of what gives massa de pimentão its unique flavour.

Portuguese Red Pepper Paste

  • Servings: makes 1-2 small jars
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6 large red peppers

About 3 tbsp sea salt

2 fat cloves of garlic

Olive oil

Image of salted peppers


De-seed the red peppers and cut them into thick strips. Put them in a bowl with the sea salt, toss well to mix, cover and leave overnight.

Next day, drain off and discard the salty juices and pat the peppers dry with kitchen paper. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Scatter the peppers in a single layer in a large roasting tin and cook for about 30 minutes, until just beginning to char at the edges.

Image of roasted peppers

Scoop into a clean bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes. Then peel off the skins and put the peppers into a food processor with two crushed cloves of garlic. Pulse, add just enough olive oil to make a thick, smooth paste and whizz until blended.

Decant into sterilised jars and store in the fridge. It will keep for a couple of weeks.

Image of Portuguese Red Pepper Paste

16 thoughts on “Portuguese Red Pepper Paste

  1. I really need to make this. It’s almost like romesco, but what a great base for flavor! I buy a lot of paprika creme, because it’s made with Hungarian peppers, and it’s like crack as well! I can go through a jar quickly, pouring it over an omelet, adding it to dressing, sschmearing it over pork tenderloin, mixing it into white bean dip….

    • It is, I’d say, more delicate than romesco, with a lingering depth of flavour. I tried some on pasta the other night and the texture was good but it needed the acidity of tomato too. I haven’t come across paprika creme, is that an American thing? It sounds delicious and I want some already. 🙂

      • I would love to compare red bell peppers and actual Hungarian red bell peppers that are used for paprika. I really wonder how they differ in taste!

      • I suspect quite a lot. I know when I was making ajvar, the (former) Yugoslavian paste made of red peppers and aubergines, my Serbian friend instructed me to use the pointy peppers, not the fat ones. Varieties – and sunshine – make such a big difference.

      • It’s on Mrs P under cevapcici and ajvar. It’s good too but I like the mellowness of the Portuguese paste and that lick of salt.

  2. Yum, yum, yum, I love anything that uses red peppers and I have warm fuzzy feeling when I remember eating my way around Portugal many years ago. Sweet red peppers are at their best right now, both quality and price so I’ll definitely will make a batch of this. Thanks Linda for sharing this one and I’m on standby for pork and clams…

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