Acılı Ezme (Spicy Turkish Tomato and Pepper Salad)

Acılı Ezme is a salad you are just going to love, with its tingly and spicy flavours!

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

acili ezme, Turkish tomato and pepper salad on a small side plate, sitting on a larger plate, with bread and yoghurt
Acılı Ezme

What is Acılı Ezme?

Let’s take a look at the name first, shall we?

  • Acılı = spicy (pronounced A – ji – li, emphasis on the first syllable)
  • Ezme = crushed (pronounced Ez – may)
    This is a word that describes many other recipes that are made up of finely chopped ingredients.

The term Acılı Ezme refers to this dish of finely chopped up vegetables and herbs with a tangy, slightly minty and spicy dressing. Ezme (not spicy) is found everywhere in Turkey and you’d be hard pressed not to notice it, however short your visit is!

It reminds me very much of Monk’s salad, in its consistency.

Is ezme a salad? Yes it is. But it’s also a dip or perhaps a salsa, depending on how you’re serving it and how you view it!

The spicy ezme, which is my favourite of the lot, is more popular in the southern and eastern parts of Turkey, in cities like Gaziantep (informal, Antep). And that’s the recipe I’m sharing today, but it’s easy to make it mild, see Notes in the recipe card.

Monk's Salad (Saltat al Rahib) on a rectangular plate
Monk’s Salad (Saltat al Rahib)

Acılı Ezme Recipe

It’s a very, very easy recipe to put together.

But no two ezme recipes are the same. Every chef or home cook is going to have their preference, whether in the ratio of ingredients used or the consistency of the salad. For simplicity, some prefer to use a food chopper or blender, creating a more unform, and an almost paste-like texture.

But it’s all good!

When I make ezme at home though, I prefer a less refined texture, so don’t mind spending 20 minutes or so chopping everything up by hand. But if you’d rather, you can just place all ingredients (minus the tomatoes) in a food processor (chopper) and pulse to get everything to a fine dice.

Then, pulse the tomatoes separately. This is to ensure that your chopped tomatoes don’t end up being tomato sauce!

I make this Turkish salad pretty much how I saw it being made in a lokanta (restaurant) on my very first visit to Turkey in 1996 (97?). I chop everything up separately, then together, as you see in the video.

This is what we’ll be doing:

  1. Mix the dressing ingredients and set aside (in the video, I do this after chopping the salad ingredients).
  2. Chop the individual ingredients finely.
  3. Then, if you have a chopping board large enough (like a butcher’s block), chop them all together to get the flavours to mingle. If not, do 2-3 ingredients together, add to bowl, and continue.
  4. Add the dressing to the chopped vegetables and mix thoroughly.
acili ezme, Turkish tomato and pepper salad on a small side plate, sitting on a larger plate
nothing beats a homemade ezme

Ingredients

Ezme is a tomato, peppers and parsley salad. In fact, there are more Turkish peppers in there than tomatoes. Let’s take a look.

Salad Ingredients

Tomatoes

We want about 3 tomatoes for this salad, and they want to be fairly ripe. Any tomatoes will work in  this recipe, just use roughly the same amount in weight as what I’ve given in the recipe below.

Peppers

In Turkey, the bulk of the peppers used are the mild local variety known as kapya biber (red) and sivri biber (green). I’m fortunate to be able to find these easily where I live, with all 3 “ethnic” shops and the local greengrocer stocking them!

However, those long, pointy, Romano peppers are also perfect for this, as you see me using in the video. Regular bell peppers make great substitutes if you can’t get the long peppers.

Now if you’re making a non spicy ezme, you’d stop there. But we’re making acılı ezme, so we need some fresh chillies for this purpose too. 2-3 red chillies to add heat will suffice, more if you want your Turkish dip hotter. Or use a hotter variety. I’m using jalapeňos; yes, yes, call me a wimp.

Onion and Garlic

Brown or red onion will work. I prefer red for salads, for its sweeter flavour, and in this instance, for its colour.

Because our garlic remains raw, I tend to go for just 1 or 2 garlic cloves. You can increase that, if you like more of a garlic hit.

Flat Leaf Parsley

There’s quite a bit of fresh parsley in here, adding a wonderful aroma and flavour. If you can’t get flat, curly will do too.

Some people also add cucumber to their ezme, but I prefer it without. 

Dressing

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

What’s a salad dressing without a good quality extra virgin oil, right? Use what you usually do – spicy, herbal, floral, it doesn’t much matter.

Pomegranate Molasses

You know I’m a huge fan of this. So much that I have an old diy recipe for you guys who can’t get it where you are.

Pomegranate molasses is one of my must-have salad dressing ingredients, no matter what salad I’m making. It’s tart and sweet, like putting balsamic vinegar and honey together. I have it over ice cream and pancakes too!

When I wrote my homemade pomegranate molasses recipe about 10 years ago, it was still an elusive ingredient here in the UK, hence the recipe. These days though, all our big supermarkets stock it.

Pomegranate Molasses – a Secret Ingredient
DIY Pomegranate Molasses recipe – pomegranate juice that’s been cooked and reduced to a thick, syrup like consistency.
Get the Recipe!

Turkish Pepper Paste or Tomato Paste

In Turkey, most cooks/chefs will add a little local tomato paste (domates salçası) or/and red pepper paste (biber salçası) to add depth while also thickening the dressing slightly. The latter can be mild or spicy.

I’m using biber salçası, because mine is a hot ezme, and never bother with the tomato paste.

If you can’t find the Turkish version, regular concentrated tomato paste will work perfectly. As far as the pepper paste is concerned, just leave it out if you can’t find it, and use spicy chillies or chilli powder (cayenne powder in the US).

Lemon Juice and Sumac

They both add tartness to our ezme. You could use just lemon juice but, as you may know, I love sumac and it adds a little more depth of flavour to the dressing.

Pul Biber or Chilli Flakes (Red Pepper Flakes)

Pul biber simply means chilli pepper. Many people associate this with Aleppo pepper which is a mild variety and a common misconception is that pul biber is a type of mild pepper. It’s not. If you head to a spice market in Turkey, you’re going to find pul biber of varying heat levels.

Here in the UK, you can find pul biber in our larger supermarkets. The one by Waitrose has a hint of heat.

But if truth be told, regular chilli powder (cayenne powder in the US – nothing added) is your best option if you can’t find “pul biber”. Chilli flakes tend to be full of seeds, so a second best option.

Get hot chilli powder if you want spicy ezme, mild, otherwise.

And finally, we have a little salt, and some optional freshly ground black pepper.

acili ezme, Turkish tomato and pepper salad on a small side plate
the bite of each vegetable enhances this salad

How to Serve Ezme

You can serve Turkish ezme salad pretty much as you please:

  • as a main or side salad. In the summer, on really hot days, I have it just as it is, with nothing else. It’s filling and satisfies all my cravings
  • as a cold starter (appetiser) with some fresh bread (Turkish pide, pita bread, baguette, Italian bread, it’s all good)
  • it makes a great accompaniment to grilled and barbecued food, whether kebabs, chicken or seafood
  • ezme is naturally perfect on the mezze or tapa table
  • it goes especially well with the traditional yoghurt dish, Haydari, they balance each other out (recipe soon) and Çılbır, poached eggs in yoghurt.

How long does it last?

To me, ezme is best served immediately or within a few hours of being made. In Turkey, restaurants will have huge fridges full of cold mezedes (plural of mezze) just waiting to be served. So if you need it at dinner time, you could make it just after midday, cover it and store in the fridge. This will also ensure that it’s super cold when served.

Leftovers can be kept overnight. Personally though, I don’t think ezme should be kept for more than a day. These are fresh ingredients remember? Despite the lemon juice, they will oxidise and the salad won’t be as vibrant nor as delicious. But you’ll love Turkish ezme so much, you’ll find there won’t be much left over!

And now, shall we get our aprons on?

If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating!😘

If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor and hashtag it #linsfood.

Lin xx

acili ezme, Turkish tomato and pepper salad on a small side plate, sitting on a larger plate, with bread

Acılı Ezme (Spicy Turkish Salad)

Acılı Ezme is a very traditional and spicy (or not) Turkish salad with tomatoes, peppers and parsley. It is perfect on any mezze or tapa table.
5 from 11 votes
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Course: Mezze, Salad, Starter
Cuisine: Turkish
Keyword: Acılı, chili peppers, ezme, spicy
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 118kcal
Author: Azlin Bloor

Equipment

  • Knife
  • Chopping board
  • large salad bowl
  • small bowl
  • spoons as needed

Ingredients

  • 200 g ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion (abput 150g/5 oz pre peeled weight)
  • 2 long mild green Turkish chillies or ½ green bell pepper
  • 2 long mild red Turkish peppers or Romano peppers or 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 red jalapeño or any similar sized medium chilli
  • 1 handful flat leaf parsley (about 30g/1 oz)

Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp EV olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 Tbsp hot Turkish pepper paste OR 1 Tbsp hot red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp pul biber or chilli powder (cayenne powder in US)
  • ½ tsp sumac omit if unavailable
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • freshly ground black pepper optional

Instructions

Dressing

  • Mix 2 Tbsp of the lemon juice and all the other dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Chop By Hand

  • If you have an extra large chopping board, you can chop everything up one by one, then together. If not, use 2 boards, as I do in the video. The traditional method is to chop each ingredient individually, then chop them up altogether.
    Peel and finely chop the red onion and push to the side. Chop the peppers and chillies and add to the onion pile.
    Chop this up, mixing the 3 vegetables together and chopping. Push to the side if your chopping board is large enough, and continue with the other ingredients.
  • Chop up the parsley finely and add to the pile of chopped up ingredients.
  • Chop the tomatoes up finely, then add to everything that's already been chopped up.
    Continue chopping everything up for a minute, mixing it all up. When done, tip into a large salad bowl.

Mix Everything

  • Pour the dressing all over and mix well to incorporate all the flavours. Taste and add more salt or sumac/lemon juice if you want it saltier and tangier.
    Finish off with some freshly ground black pepper.
    Serve immediately as suggested.

In a Food Processor

  • Place all the salad ingredients (except the tomatoes) in your chopper and pulse to get a small dice.
    Tip out into the salad bowl
  • Now add the tomatoes to the chopper and dice by pulsing. Tip into the salad bowl.
  • Pour the dressing all over and mix well to incorporate all the flavours. Taste and add more salt or sumac/lemon juice if you want it saltier and tangier.
    Finish off with some freshly ground black pepper.
    Serve immediately as suggested.

Video

Notes

To make your ezme mild, leave out the chillies and substitute the pepper paste with simple tomato paste, Turkish or otherwise.
Specialist Ingredients/Tools used (affiliate links)
Pomegranate Molasses
Biber Salçası (Turkish Pepper Paste)
Domates Salçası (Turkish Tomato Paste)
Sumac
Lemon Squeezer

Nutrition

Calories: 118kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 216mg | Potassium: 369mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1665IU | Vitamin C: 77mg | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Mention @azlinbloor and tag #linsfood!
Made it? Upload your photosMention @azlinbloor and tag #linsfood!

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2 thoughts on “Acılı Ezme (Spicy Turkish Tomato and Pepper Salad)”

  1. We have an Asian store not too far away and found the peppers and the paste! Flatmates and I are making this tomorrow for lunch.

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