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Middle Eastern Shakshuka
Shakshuka is a hugely popular Middle Eastern dish which is literally on everyone’s lips nowadays. Shakshuka is a very simple dish: it’s basically poached eggs in tomato sauce.
This popular breakfast is quick and easy to prepare, yet it’s very rich in flavors. Home to North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, Shakshuka is increasingly popular across the globe.
Once you know how to make Shakshuka, you’ll make it on repeat! Let me show you how to make Shakshuka at home. I’ll also share with you some tips and insights to make sure your Shakshuka will be a success.
What is Shakshuka?
Shakshuka is a delicious yet simple dish made of a savory tomato sauce and eggs. It’s basically poached eggs in tomato sauce. It’s traditionally served for breakfast, but can also be eaten for lunch.
The origin of Shakshuka is believed to be in Tunisia. Today, the dish is an integral part of North African (Maghrebi) as well as Middle Eastern cuisine. Besides, it’s increasingly popular beyond the Arab countries.
The basic Shakshuka recipe consists of two main components: a tomato base sauce and eggs.
To create the Shakshuka sauce, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Tomatoes: Freshly chopped or canned chopped tomatoes. It’s easier and quicker to use canned tomatoes. It takes more time to make a sauce when using fresh tomatoes.
- Red bell peppers: Most people will add red bell peppers, but you can leave them out if you don’t like them.
- Onion: The basic ingredient to most Middle Eastern sauce bases.
- Tomato paste: Concentrated tomato paste gives your Shakshuka a more intense flavor and color.
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is the best choice.
- Garlic: Use fresh garlic cloves.
- Chili: Red chili or chili powder (both work well). In North Africa, Harissa (chili paste) is most commonly used.
- Seasonings: Ground cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. You can also add other herbs such as oregano or basil.
Besides the ingredients for the sauce, you’ll need:
- Eggs: The key ingredient for Shakshuka. These will be cooked in the tomato sauce.
- Parsley: Chopped parsley is traditionally used for garnish.
- Feta cheese (optional): Not part of the classic recipe, but I love to add some crumbled feta on top. It really levels up the recipe. Feel free to omit it if you don’t like feta cheese.
In North Africa (Tunisia, Libya etc), Shakshuka is often enjoyed spicy (add fresh chili or harissa paste with the garlic and onions). In the Levantine region (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan), most people add little to no chili. That’s because people generally eat a lot milder than in the Maghreb. Compared to the North African version, the Middle Eastern Shakshuka recipe is rather mild (people usually add some chili, but not a lot). Feel free to adapt the spice according to your personal taste.
Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.
How to Make Shakshuka
Ready to make Shakshuka? Let’s get started!
Step 1: Prepare the vegetables
First, we’re going to prepare the vegetables. Place the vegetables on a cutting board on your countertop. Peel the onion and finely chop. Peel a garlic clove, trim off the ends, crush or finely chop. Deseed the bell pepper and finely chop.
Step 2: Fry garlic and onions
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Once the oil is heated, add the crushed garlic and the chopped onions and fry on high until golden brown. Stir occasionally. This takes about 2-3 minutes.
Step 3: Add bell peppers
Add the chopped bell peppers to the pan. Fry briefly for 1-2 minutes.
Step 4: Add tomatoes and seasonings
Reduce the stove to medium heat. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings (cumin, paprika, chili, salt and pepper) to the pan. Stir well and cook on medium for about 2 minutes. This is to get the tomato sauce to reach the same temperature as the remaining ingredients. Once it starts to boil, reduce your stove to low heat. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
During this time, a thick tomato sauce will start to form. That’s one of the secrets to great Shakshuka. You should aim for a thick and flavorful gravy sauce before adding the eggs.
Step 5: Add the eggs
Use a spoon or a spatula to make holes between the gravy. It’s important to place the eggs into those holes, and NOT on top of the tomato gravy. The eggs need to touch the base of the pan in order to cook all the way through.
It’s easiest to add the eggs one by one. Once you created the first hole, crack the first egg and place it in the space between the tomato gravy. Repeat with the other eggs.
Step 6: Let simmer
Cover the pan and fry the eggs (still on low heat) for another 10 minutes. Don’t flip them around! Garnish with chopped parsley and serve warm. You can also sprinkle some feta cheese on top to make Shakshuka with feta cheese.
How to Serve Shakshuka
If you’re familiar with Middle Eastern food culture, you’ll surely know that eating is all about sharing and having a good time. Food is commonly placed in the middle of the table and shared by everyone. To eat Shakshuka the Middle Eastern way: just place the pan on the table (use a coaster to protect your table) and share with your family.
What to Serve with Shakshuka
Shakshuka is traditionally served for breakfast. It also makes a great brunch or lunch. It’s commonly served with bread. Homemade pita bread is the best choice. If you’re short in time, you can just buy Middle Eastern flat bread in the grocery store.
Shakshuka pairs well with many other mezze.
Serving for breakfast:
- Pita bread
- White cheese (add feta cheese onto your Shakshuka, or just serve it as a side dish)
- Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers
- Pickles (pickled cucumbers)
Serving for lunch/dinner:
- Any type of salad, e.g. a simple Arab salad, Tabbouleh, Fattoush or any other green salad
- Chickpea dishes such as roasted chickpeas or fattet chickpeas
If you’re preparing it for a larger group, you can even serve it as part of a large mezze platter.
Tips for the Best Shakshuka
- Use a large flat frying pan. Don’t use a wok style pan, nor a saucepan.
- Don’t just put the eggs over the tomatoes. Instead, make holes in the tomato gravy and place the eggs in between, as outlined above. If you just pour them over the tomatoes, they will not cook properly! This is probably the most important tip for Shakshuka, as that’s what many people do wrong.
- In North Africa, Shakshuka is traditionally spicy. In the Levant (Lebanon, Jordan, Syria…) Shakshuka is rather mild. You can adapt the spice to your likings. Add finely chopped chili to the pan with the garlic to get the best flavor. When using chili powder, add to the gravy when adding the other seasonings. Harissa (chili paste) is commonly used in North Africa.
Make Ahead & Storage
What’s great about Shakshuka is the fact that the tomato base can be perfectly prepared ahead of time. You can perfectly prepare it on a Friday evening to use it over the weekend. Tomato base is also a great candidate for freezing.
Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Add a little water when warming up, as the gravy might become too thick when stored in the fridge.
While Shakshuka is a relatively simple dish, there are several ways to level it up, according to your liking. My family likes to keep it simple, as outlined in this recipe. That’s because Shakshuka is already super delicious and rich in flavors.
Here are a few variations to try:
- Shakshuka with minced meat (minced beef meat is mixed to the tomato sauce)
- Galayat Bandora (a simple dish originating in Jordan, which makes a great vegan Shakshuka)
- Green Shakshuka (A modern twist to traditional Shakshuka. Green Shakshuka consists of a selection of vegetables instead of tomato sauce)
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
Shakshuka (Middle Eastern)
Shakshuka is a hugely popular Arabic dish consisting of poached eggs in tomato sauce. Originally from North Africa, it has become a popular dish for breakfast or lunch across the globe.
- 6 eggs medium
- 2 cans chopped tomatoes (1 small can = 400 g or 14.5 oz)
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 onion medium, yellow
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp chili powder optional
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 0.25 tsp paprika powder
- 0.5 tsp salt
- Pinch pepper
- Parsley for garnish
- Start by preparing the vegetables. Finely chop the onion. Peel a clove of garlic, cut off the ends, crush. Deseed and finely chop the bell pepper.
- Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Once it’s heated, add the crushed garlic and onions until golden brown. If using fresh chili, add it with the garlic and onion. This takes about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the bell peppers and briefly fry for another 1-2 minutes.
- Reduce the stove to medium heat. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings (cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper). Once it starts to boil, reduce to low heat and let simmer until the tomato sauce has thickened. Allow about 10 minutes for this to create a slightly thick sauce.
- First, use a tablespoon or spatula to create holes in the sauce. Make sure the holes are large enough to fit the eggs. Crack the eggs and place them in the holes between the tomato sauce.
- Cover the pan and let the eggs cook (still on low heat) for about 10 minutes. Don’t flip them around!
- Remove the pan from the stove. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve warm.
- You can use fresh tomatoes for this recipe, but it will require a lot of tomatoes and a lot more time to create the sauce. That’s why I usually take canned diced tomatoes. These are affordable and don’t usually contain any unwanted ingredients. For 4 servings, you’ll need 2 small cans. 1 small can is about 400 g or 14.5 oz.
- Use a large flat frying pan to make Shakshuka. A wok style pan won’t work.
- Don’t place the eggs on top of the tomato sauce, but dig holes instead. Be sure to read my tips above, as this is crucial to make your Shakshuka work.
- Spicy Shakshuka? In North Africa (Tunisia, Morocco…) people eat spicier food when compared to the Middle East. Tunisians add Harissa (a spicy paste) to their Shakshuka. If you don’t have Harissa, you can use chili powder or fresh chilis instead. If you don’t like spicy food, just leave out the chili.
- The nutrition facts are rough estimates and can vary according to the exact weight, brand and type of ingredients used.
Calories: 232kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 11gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 246mgSodium: 871mgPotassium: 621mgFiber: 3gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 916IUVitamin C: 27mgCalcium: 119mgIron: 4mg
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