If you are not familiar with shakshuka, I am thrilled to introduce the concept to you! Shakshuka is a North African dish that is now popular throughout the Middle East. This easy and healthy egg dish is vegetarian, gluten free, and incredibly delicious. Shakshuka is one of the first recipes I ever blogged about, and has become one of the most popular posts on my site—a simple vegetarian meal that works as a breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or “brinner.”
The shakshuka concept is very simple. A dish of eggs soft cooked atop a bed of thick reduced spicy tomato sauce with peppers. In the maghreb, this chunky sauce is known as matbucha. Similar preparations are made throughout the world, including a popular Italian dish known as “eggs in purgatory.” Shakshuka is somewhat different than the Italian dish; it’s generally spicier, and has the addition of peppers.
Shakshuka is very popular in Israel, where it is often eaten for breakfast. I usually find myself serving it with a side salad as a light evening meal. It’s a versatile vegetarian one-skillet meal that is easy to make, healthy, and addicting.
In Israel, the most famous place to eat shakshuka is a restaurant known as 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 traditional tripolitanian-style dishes including couscous, chraime fish, and kosher merguez sausage.
Of course, 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.
The waitress served my shakshuka in a small, sizzling skillet, as is the custom with most of the local Israeli restaurants. Delicious! 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. If you’re looking for variations on flavor, different ingredients can be added to the tomato base—jalapeños, green chilies, parsley, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, additional vegetables or anything else that sounds tasty to you. I’ve even made it with a spinach/tomato base that turned out great. Use your imagination!
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Video by Entice Films
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon mild chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper, or more to taste (careful, it's spicy!)
- Pinch of sugar (optional, to taste - omit for low carb)
- kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 large eggs
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley or cilantro (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 diced bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.
- Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, stir until blended. Add spices and sugar, stir, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until 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 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 with a lid. 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 with more runny yolks. 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, making sure the egg whites are set before serving. Garnish with the chopped parsley or cilantro, if desired. A sprinkle of feta cheese on top is also nice!