Vegan Tapas! Catalonian Romesco Sauce Recipe

Romesco sauce atop crusty bread and topped with spicy baby arugula. Simple summer dinner!

When we were in Barcelona, we had a very late and delightful dinner with friends (hello, midnight!) and were encouraged by our more experienced tapas-partakers that romesco sauce is "very tasty." Taking their word for it, we ordered escalivada drizzled with a romesco sauce. It is a red pepper, tomato, nut, and bread based sauce used for everything from coating bread to dipping long, Spanish onions in before consuming them whole. I fell in love at first bite and decided I had to try to recreate it at home.

The key ingredient, I was told, is a dried, small sweet pepper called a ñora. Though not readily available in the United States, you can find them online easily.

Red pepper, roasted over and open flame and then "sweated" in a paper bag. The skin comes right off.

I wanted to recreate the smoky flavor of the first romesco we had--and we had several--for it was the most flavorful. Most of the ingredients in my recipe were thoroughly roasted, and I even added a bit of smoked paprika and smoked sea salt (both available at Trader Joe's. Use the regular versions if you can't find them.) I also tried using various nuts to capture the flavor of the model sauce. A combination of hazlenuts and almonds seemed to capture it.

There are tons of recipes out there and all use the same basic principals, so experiment with the flavors (like I didn't use garlic or onions in my sauce because I don't like them, but I will include garlic in the recipe below since I know most people do like it!). Use the romesco sauce recipe below as a starting point and make it your own!

Toasting a combination of almond and hazelnuts for the sauce.

Note for my GF friends: If you want to make the sauce gluten-free, either use gluten-free bread, or just add a few extra nuts. The bread is more about texture; the sauce has a great flavor without it. You can even leave out the bread and use the romesco, chilled of course, as a salad dressing or dip. It will last several days in the refrigerator.

Catalonian Romesco Sauce Recipe (vegan)
makes about 2.5-3 cups


  • 3 dried ñora peppers (or in the UK, order here)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating pan (Use Spanish if you can find it!) 
  • 1 red bell pepper 
  • 4 juicy, red tomatoes (about 2 cups if chopped), quartered
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and thinly sliced  
  • 1/4 of a sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/8 cup almonds
  • 1/8 cup hazelnuts 
  • 1 slice of crusty bread (Use more if you want a thicker sauce, leave out if you want a thin one.)
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar 
  • 2-3 tsp smoked sea salt (Available at Trader Joe's)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (Available at Trader Joe's)
  • dash of freshly crushed black pepper
  • dash red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Soak noras (or other sweet dried pepper) in water for at least 30 minutes or over night. When done, remove seeds.
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Drizzle a baking dish with olive oil, add tomatoes, garlic and onions. Bake for about 45 minutes. Remove when done and let cool.
  4. While the tomatoes are cooking, roast the red pepper, using tongs over an open gas flame. BE CAREFUL! Don't burn your kitchen down or hurt yourself, kay? When the pepper is blackened, toss into a paper bag and let it sweat. Once cooled, the skin will peel off easily. Remove seeds and chop into pieces. (If you don't want to do this, use the jared kind or throw a chopped red pepper in with the tomatoes.)
  5. While your pepper is sweating in the bag, roast hazelnuts in a pan over low-medium hear for a few minutes, then add almonds until both nuts are toasted (about 5-10 minutes/or when they start to become lightly browned and fragrant). Set aside to cool.
  6. When the tomatoes are done, and all ingredients are cooled off, add all ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until everything is combined, and then keep on until the ingredients are pureed. If it seems dry, add a bit of olive oil. If it seems too thin, add another slice of bread. Serve over roasted veggies, on crusty grilled bread, over penne pasta, or leave it thin, chill it, and use as a salad dressing.


  1. Is there anything I can substitute for the Nora peppers?


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