adzhika recipe history culture origin

Adzhika is a spicy sauce. It is sometimes a thick red or green paste and sometimes more of a salsa or ketchup-like substance. Generally, thicker versions will be hotter and often considered more authentic.

Adzhika: The Hot Relish of the Caucasus

Published: July 20, 2018

Adzhika (Аджика) is a spicy sauce. It is sometimes a thick red or green paste and sometimes more of a salsa or ketchup-like substance. Generally, thicker versions will be hotter and often considered more authentic.

Adzhika is an aromatic and spicy sauce native to the Caucasus that is popular throughout Russia and the former USSR. The basic ingredients of adzhika are hot red peppers, garlic, salt and some mixture of spices; beyond that, it’s hard to generalize.

Some purists insist that a proper adzhika is made only from ground herbs and spices (such as coriander, dill, blue fenugreek, garlic, or the Georgian mixture called хмели-сунели) and water or vinegar. Other versions, especially commercial ones, can be more liquid thanks to pureed tomato or plum; some varieties are coarser, drier pastes with a texture similar to Italian pesto. Some types include carrots, onions, apples, or herbs like “тархун” (tarragon), coriander, or parsley. Many incarnations have walnuts as an ingredient. Adzhika is typically red in color, but there are also green varieties.

In fact, there seem to be as many variations of adzhika as there are putative origins of the spread. Depending whom you ask, adzhika is either a specifically Abkhazian, Armenian, or Dagestani creation, native to Georgia or to the entire Caucasus region, or even Turkish in origin. Local cooks tend to vary the basic recipe to make the best use of local spices, herbs, and vegetables and to cater for personal tastes – so, strictly speaking, there may be as many different versions as there are individual cooks.

How It Earned Its Name

(Почему aджика носит такое название?)

The word “adzhika” is most likely a corruption of an Abkhazian term: “апырпыл-джика,” or, literally, “peppery salt.” Abkhazia is currently a disputed territory internationally recognized as part of Georgia, but de-facto independent.

According to one version of adzhika’s creation myth, it was invented by Abkhazian shepherds whose diet was comprised primarily of meat and dairy, the products their herds could provide. Bread was scarce in the mountains, and salt even scarcer – so much so, in fact, that the shepherds would steal salt from villagers to make their food more appealing. The green or red mixture of herbs and spices that we now know as adzhika was both more delicious than salt alone and aided in hiding one’s guilt.

How to Eat Adzhika

(Как правильно есть aджику?)

Adzhika is remarkably versatile. Depending upon the specific ingredients used, it can complement meat, fish, poultry, or vegetable dishes. It can be used as a marinade or rub, incorporated into soups, eaten as a dip for meats, veggies, or bread, or added at the table like salsa or sriracha to add an extra “kick.” It’s great with “шашлык” (kebab).

How to Prepare Adzhika

(Как правильно готовить aджику?)

adzhika recipe history culture origin
Commercially produced adzhika is common throughout the former USSR. It’s also available on Amazon.

It’s really easy. Apart from the ingredients themselves and a knife, all you really need is a food processor/meat grinder/sturdy blender/some other good way to crush nuts and greens into a paste. Adzhika will keep for a few days, so if you plan to eat it all relatively soon it can sit in a food storage container in your fridge. But if you make a larger amount (as in the second recipe), you will need to put it in sealed sterile jars so that it doesn’t grow bacteria or mold. Check out this tutorial, which explains how to preserve food safely in jars.

Adzhika Recipes

(Давай приготовим!)

See below for a free recipe for adzhika. See also the free videos online. If you are interested in cooking from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and other places in Eurasia, make sure to see our other resources! You might also be interested in the following specialized cookbooks we’ve enjoyed:

51VdCeEResL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_ 51pPDQoexcL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_ Georgian Feast 41Y8R0wcVBL

 

Абхазская зеленая аджика с грецким орехом Abkhazian Adzhika with Walnuts
Ингредиенты
  • 1 средний пучок свежей петрушки
  • Горсть листиков свежей мяты
  • Тархун (свежий) ‒ 100 г
  • Очищенные грецкие орехи ‒ 2,5 стакана
  • Острый жгучий зеленый перец
  • Крупная соль
  • Чеснок ‒ 1 крупная головка

Приготовление

  1. Зелень помыть, встряхнуть от лишней влаги и порубить ножом.
  2. Перец очистить от семян, чеснок очистить. Все перекрутить (вместе с орехами) в мясорубке.
  3. Хорошо вымешать, приправить солью (и молотым перцем) и ещё раз перемешать.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium-sized bunch of fresh parsley
  • One handful of fresh mint leaves
  • Tarragon (fresh) – 100 g
  • Peeled walnuts – 2.5 c
  • One spicy green pepper (such as jalapeño or habanero)
  • Coarse salt
  • Garlic – one large head

Preparation

  1. Wash the greens, remove any extra moisture, and chop.
  2. Remove the seeds from the pepper and peel the garlic. Grind everything (including the nuts) in a meat grinder. (You could also use a food processor or blender.)
  3. Mix well, add salt (and ground pepper) and mix thoroughly a second time

 

Кавказская аджика Caucasian Adzhika
Ингредиенты
  • перец жгучий красный ‒ 500 г
  • чеснок ‒ 220 г
  • кинза свежая ‒ 250 г
  • грецкие орехи ‒ 100 г
  • хмели-сунели ‒ 30 г
  • тимьян сухой ‒ 3 ч. л.
  • соль крупного помола ‒ 170 г

Приготовление

  1. У красного острого стручкового перца обрезать хвостики, нарезать его колечками.
  2. Чеснок почистить, нарезать пластинками. Измельчить с помощью процессора до пастообразного состояния. Убрать в отдельную ёмкость, в которой будете смешивать все подготовленные ингредиенты.
  3. Кинзу промыть, удалить нижнюю часть стебельков, нарезать и затем измельчить в процессоре, добавить к перцу и чесноку.
  4. Грецкие орехи измельчить так же с помощью процессора до состояния муки, добавить к уже измельчённым перцу, чесноку и кинзе.
  5. Добавить сухой тимьян, хмели-сунели, соль и хорошо перемешать до однородной смеси.
  6. Расфасовать по баночкам, закрыть крышками и убрать в прохладное место или в холодильник. Дать настояться несколько дней, и можно употреблять по мере надобности как приправу к мясным и рыбным блюдам, для приготовления мясных рулетов, запекания мяса, для засолки сала в небольших количествах и т. д.
Ingredients
  • Hot red pepper – 500 g
  • Garlic – 220 g
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro) – 250 g
  • Walnuts – 100 g
  • Khmeli-suneli – 30 g http://amzn.to/1PokPwE
  • Dried thyme – 3 t
  • Coarse salt – 170 g

Preparation

  1. Cut off the ends of the hot red pepper and slice into ringlets.
  2. Peel the garlic and slice thinly. With the help of a food processor, crush into a paste-like consistency. Transfer into the same container you will use to mix all the ingredients.
  3. Wash the coriander, remove the lower portion of the stems, slice, and, after crushing in the food processor, add to the pepper and garlic.
  4. Likewise, use the food processor to crush the walnuts into a flour and add to the already-crushed pepper, garlic, and coriander mixture.
  5. Add the dried thyme, khmeli-suneli, and salt, and combine well into a uniform mixture.
  6. Place the mixture in jars, close the covers, and move to a cool place or the refrigerator. Allow to sit for several days. Then it can be used as desired as a seasoning for meat and fish dishes, for the preparation of рулеты (roulades), for roasting meat, in small amounts for salting сало (lard), etc.

Our Favorite Adzhika Videos

This video shows you how to make one of the more liquid-y versions of adzhika – unlike the recipes above, it contains tomatoes, carrots, and apples. An advantage for language learners is that the host reads the list of ingredients on the screen – you can practice your reading and pronunciation along with her.

This recipe is very similar to the second one above. The chef in the video uses some of the same cooking vocabulary (useful for reviewing). It’s also helpful for seeing how big the slices of pepper are supposed to be. This is a really hot adzhika – she doesn’t remove the seeds before processing! Also, there are cute goats on the wall calendar behind her.

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About the author

Mae Liou

Mae Liou earned a BA in philosophy at Boston University and ABD status in philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. An alt-academic and humanities omnivore, she now teaches English, philosophy, film studies, and foreign languages at a school for gifted teenagers. She is currently a SRAS translation intern in St. Petersburg, and she hopes to translate essays and literary prose in the future.

View all posts by: Mae Liou