Shakshuka! Ever had it? Shakshuka has more than a few things going for it. It’s fun to say, fun to make and fun to eat. The word shakshuka comes from Arabic, meaning, “a haphazard mixture” or “all mixed up.”
Shakshuka features poached eggs in a hearty, spiced tomato and pepper sauce. I top mine with tangy feta cheese and fresh cilantro or parsley.
Sometimes you’ll find artichoke or olives in shakshuka, but I left those out in this version. The spices vary somewhat as well. I settled on a combination of garlic, cumin and smoked paprika.
Shakshuka is a popular Middle Eastern and North African dish that may date back all the way to the Ottoman Empire. You’ll find it in Libya and Tunisia, and it’s become a staple dish in Israel. If you’ve ever had Italian “eggs in purgatory” or Turkish menemen, the dishes are all quite similar.
You can’t go wrong serving shakshuka for breakfast or brunch. It’s also great for lunch and dinner. Shakshuka is a simple one-pan meal that makes a statement, and it’s a great recipe to keep in your back pocket. Want to learn how to make it?
How to Make the Best Shakshuka
Maybe don’t use your cast iron pan.
You’ll often see shakshuka cooked in cast iron pans. If your pan isn’t seasoned very well, I don’t recommend it. The acidic tomato mixture can eat away at the seasoning, at which point the iron pan can impart some tinny flavor. (Speaking from experience here.) I used my stainless steel skillet instead.
Choose your canned tomatoes carefully.
I love this shakshuka made with crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes. They’re the perfectly saucy and lightly textured. The fire-roasted flavor adds some welcome smoky notes. I recommend Muir Glen brand. You’ll need one big can.
Add tomato paste.
Tomato paste offers deep and intense tomato flavor. It makes the finished dish taste like it’s been simmering on the stove far longer than it really has.
Cook the eggs in the oven.
Most recipes suggest covering the skillet and cooking until the eggs are done. I didn’t have good luck with this method—a lot of condensation dripped back into the skillet, leaving it watery on top, and the whites took forever to set. That’s why I recommend baking the skillet (which offers more even heat), uncovered, until the eggs are just about done.
When making shakshuka, the only tricky part is knowing when your eggs are done cooking. The eggs continue to cook from the residual heat, so you don’t want to let them cook for too long. Look for whites that are mostly opaque, and yolks that have risen a bit. The eggs should jiggle a bit if you shimmy the pan.
Maybe you like your eggs really runny, in which case your eggs will be done sooner. If you prefer your yolks mostly cooked through, in which case they’ll need a little longer. Keep in mind that under-cooked yolks can carry salmonella, and no one wants that.
If you don’t love poached eggs or runny eggs in general, don’t give up on shakshuka! While untraditional, the saucy base would be great with eggs cooked any which way. Maybe you prefer your eggs fried in olive oil or simply scrambled. Just cook the sauce for a few extra minutes on the stove and top with your favorite eggs.
Considerations for Leftovers
Shakshuka is best served immediately. It’s not a great candidate for leftovers, since soft eggs will continue to cook if you reheat them.
So, I’d say make this shakshuka for a group of three or four, or cut the recipe in half to serve two people. Simply use a small onion, half of a bell pepper, and a small can (14.5 ounces) of tomatoes. Cook the mixture in a medium-sized pan. Easy!
Please let me know how this recipe turns out for you in the comments!
Foolproof ShakshukaCourse: MainCuisine: Middle Easteren
Learn how to make the best shakshuka with this foolproof recipe! Shakshuka is a popular Middle Eastern dish featuring poached eggs in a hearty tomato and pepper sauce. Recipe yields 4 to 6 servings.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, reduce or omit if sensitive to spice
1 large can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, plus addition cilantro or parsley leaves for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 to 6 large eggs
½ cup crumbled feta
Crusty bread or pita, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm the oil in a large, oven-safe skillet (preferably stainless steel) over medium heat. Once shimmering, add the onion, bell pepper, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and turning translucent, about 4 to 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin, paprika and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until nice and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour in the crushed tomatoes with their juices and add the cilantro. Stir, and let the mixture come to a simmer. Reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for 5 minutes to give the flavors time to meld.
- Turn off the heat. Taste (careful, it’s hot), and add salt and pepper as necessary. Use the back of a spoon to make a well near the perimeter and crack the egg directly into it. Gently spoon a bit of the tomato mixture over the whites to help contain the egg. Repeat with the remaining 4 to 5 eggs, depending on how many you can fit. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the eggs.
- Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven (it’s heavy) and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, checking often once you reach 8 minutes. They’re done when the egg whites are an opaque white and the yolks have risen a bit but are still soft. They should still jiggle in the centers when you shimmy the pan. (Keep in mind that they’ll continue cooking after you pull the dish out of the oven.)
- Using oven mitts (both hands!), transfer the hot skillet to a heat-safe surface like the stove. Top with the crumbled feta, fresh cilantro leaves, and more red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve in bowls with crusty bread on the side.
- MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Omit the feta. To replace its salty punch, top the shakshuka with halved and pitted Kalamata olives.
- MAKE IT VEGAN: While untraditional, I think this would be great with chickpeas (1 can, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas) stirred in with the crushed tomatoes. Omit the feta. To replace its salty punch, top the shakshuka with halved and pitted Kalamata olives.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: The shakshuka itself is gluten free. Choose gluten-free bread or omit it altogether.