When I say the word shakshuka, people often give me a strange look… like I’ve sneezed, or something. I get excited when I see that look– it means they don’t know what the heck shakshuka is, which means they have no idea what they’re missing out on. If you aren’t familiar with shakshuka, I’m thrilled to introduce the concept to you! It’s one of my favorite dishes—a simple, go-to meal that works as a breakfast, lunch, or dinner (“brinner” might be the more appropriate word, since eggs are the star of the dish). I always have the ingredients for shakshuka on hand, and it never fails to make people say “yum!”
In Israel shakshuka is often eaten for breakfast, but I usually find myself serving it with a side salad as a light evening meal. It’s super easy and versatile. When my hubby was in the Israeli army, he and the other soldiers would sneak into the barracks kitchen late at night and cook shakshuka using whatever they could find in the pantries. It’s a vegetarian one-skillet meal that is easy to make, very healthy, and totally addicting.
I’ve enjoyed shakshuka several times in Israel, most recently at a famous restaurant called Dr. Shakshuka.
The charm of Dr. Shakshuka is evident from the moment you enter. The restaurant is housed in an aging building in the old port city of Jaffa. It’s buzzing all day long with local patrons as well as tourists, everybody eager to taste the “Tripolitanian”-style cooking. The owner Bino Gabso was born to a Libyan family that immigrated to Israel in 1949. He’s been serving shakshuka and other north-African favorites to enthusiastic restaurant patrons in Jaffa for the past 18 years.
Old kerosene stoves hang from the rafters of the place, just like the moms and bubbes cooked with when Israel first became a country.
Dr. Shakshuka is known for its Libyan-style home cooking. It’s a kosher meat restaurant with many yummy traditional dishes including couscous, hraime fish, and kosher merguez sausage. They are best known for– what else?– shakshuka. I couldn’t very well visit Dr. Shakshuka without ordering their signature dish. For a twist, I ordered it with mushrooms. I’d never tried it with mushrooms before, and I must say the idea is inspired!
The waitress served my shakshuka in a small, sizzling skillet, as is the custom with most of the local Israeli restaurants. I was surprised to find the eggs quite runny, just barely cooked. I prefer my eggs well-done, particularly when it comes to shakshuka. They were happy to accommodate my preference by cooking it a bit longer. This was some very tasty shakshuka (please excuse the cruddy photo, the lighting inside the restaurant was not great). I cleaned my skillet. After you’ve eaten the eggs, it’s customary to scoop up the remaining sauce with a piece of fluffy white bread. The bread at Dr. Shakshuka has a light, spongy consistency making it ideal for this purpose. Of course, if you’re watching your waistline, gluten intolerant, or serving for Passover, you can leave out the bread; the dish is also wonderful on its own.
I can’t very well write a blog about shakshuka without sharing my own recipe! This is a basic, simple shakshuka spiced just the way I like it. For variety, different ingredients can be added to the tomato base—jalapenos, green chilies, parsley, red pepper flakes, or anything else that sounds tasty to you. I’ve even made shakshuka with a spinach/tomato base that turned out great. Use your imagination! It’s a healthy, delicious dish that is easy to make and easy on the wallet. It’s also dairy free (pareve) and kosher for Passover, which means you can enjoy it all year long!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium green or red bell pepper, chopped
- 4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp chili powder (mild)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste-- spicy!)
- Pinch of sugar (optional, to taste)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 5-6 eggs
- 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)
- Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.
- Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.
- Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, stir till blended. Add spices and sugar, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, more sugar for a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka (be careful with the cayenne... it is extremely spicy!).
- Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. I usually place 4-5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the center. The eggs will cook "over easy" style on top of the tomato sauce.
- Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn't reduce too much, which can lead to burning.
- Some people prefer their shakshuka eggs more runny. If this is your preference, let the sauce reduce for a few minutes before cracking the eggs on top-- then, cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste.
- Garnish with the chopped parsley, if desired. Shakshuka can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For breakfast, serve with warm crusty bread or pita that can be dipped into the sauce (if you’re gluten-intolerant or celebrating Passover, skip the bread). For dinner, serve with a green side salad for a light, easy meal.