shakshouka (or shakshuka)

If a truly perfect dish exists, it just might be shakshouka. Easy to make, totally flexible, both comforting and exciting to eat, healthy, inexpensive, and composed of ingredients you likely regularly have on hand, it checks all the boxes for an ideal meal—plus, it’s fit for breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner. As long as you like eggs and tomatoes, you’ll love this one-pan marvel, but even if you don’t do one or another of those ingredients, you can still make a version that appeals to you (there’s that aforementioned flexibility coming into play).

Shakshouka (also spelled shakshuka), in it simplest form, is a warmly spiced vegetarian dish of saucy tomatoes, often with peppers or onions, with eggs cracked right into the mix, usually left whole and simmered to desired doneness. The dish as we know it is North African in origin, although it may have descended from the Ottoman Empire’s saksuka, which did not include tomatoes but did feature meat; today, shakshouka is most strongly associated with Israel, where it was introduced by Jewish immigrants from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya. It’s always been an affordable, filling, and undemanding meal, so it’s no wonder it’s only kept gaining in popularity all over the world. Its inclusion in renowned Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s 2011 cookbook “Plenty” helped spread the word, and nowadays, Instagram is a steady source of tantalizing shakshouka shots.

While they have no direct connection to each other, Mexican huevos rancheros, Italian eggs in purgatory, and Turkish menemen (in which the eggs are scrambled) are all similar to shakshouka, proving that the combo of eggs and tomatoes is universally appealing, although all you need to do is taste it to know that.

You’re apt to find shakshouka on even the fanciest brunch menus these days, but while some places may have the nerve to sell it for $20 and up, there’s zero pretension when it comes to the dish. The name means, roughly, “shaken” or “mixed up,” which is reflective of shakshouka’s casual composition. You’re basically just nudging things around a pan (a cast iron skillet is the most common vessel, but whatever works). There are no theatrics, no tricks to master, no pitfalls except maybe potentially burning things, but moderate heat and occasional stirring easily prevent that. You can buy it in meal kit form, but you really don’t need to. You barely need a recipe, and then only the first time you make it.

If you want, whether it’s your first or fiftieth time cooking shakshouka, you can alter the basic dish by adding almost anything that appeals, like more vegetables, from chopped eggplant, peppers, potatoes, artichokes, and squash, to kale, spinach, chard, and other hearty greens. If you want to keep it vegetarian but add more substance, stir in beans, chickpeas, or lentils. And if you want meat, add that too—sausages like merguez or chorizo; ground beef, lamb, or chicken; whole pieces of poultry or meat; even fish or shellfish; anything goes. Season it with your favorite spices. Then sprinkle on as much cheese as you please, or leave it off entirely. Same goes for labneh (thickened yogurt), harissa or other hot sauce, and any garnishes, like olives, fresh herbs, fried shallots, preserved lemon… The choices are many, and they’re all yours.

You can even subtract and substitute for the main components, although it will no longer be traditional (and maybe not technically shakshouka)—but everywhere it’s enjoyed, there are countless variations offered, and personal spins on shakshouka are part of its beauty. In your own kitchen, the most important thing is that you’re making something you want to eat, anyway. So feel free to go with a green sauce based on leafy vegetables and/or herbs if you’re not feeling tomatoes, or swap in silken tofu for the eggs for a vegan version that still feels a lot like the real thing.

Once you’re done tinkering with—or just following—the basic formula, simply add pita, challah, or slices of any rustic bread for sopping up the sauce. You’ll be totally satisfied, and certain to come back for more.

Basic Shakshuka

basic shakshuka or shakshouka

Moment Mag

This is a pretty classic version of the dish, streamlined and simple, with diced tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, and paprika, plus eggs of course. You can leave the yolks as runny as you like, or cook until they’re set. Get the recipe.

Shakshuka with Zhug

shakshuka with zhug

Chowhound

Our slightly more involved take on shakshouka amps up the garlic, adds Anaheim chiles and feta cheese to the tomato sauce, and tops everything off with zhug, which is sort of like a spicy Yemeni pesto, made from cilantro, parsley, more garlic, and za’atar. Get our Shakshuka with Zhug recipe.

Green Tomatillo Shakshuka

green tomatillo shakshuka

Love and Olive Oil

There are many ways to make green shakshouka: nestle the eggs in a mess of collard greens and kale; blend peas and lots of bright green herbs for the sauce; even use shaved brussels sprouts, spinach, and zucchini. But this version is more like a Mexican interpretation, with a sprightly green tomatillo sauce. When they’re in season, you could try substituting green tomatoes for some or all of the tomatillos. Get the recipe.

Eggplant, Chickpea, and Chard Shakshuka

eggplant, chickpea, and chard shakshuka

The Roasted Root

This one demonstrates how easy (and delicious) it is to add extras to your shakshouka, like eggplants, leafy greens, and chickpeas. Check your fridge for any languishing produce that would be good to toss in; the dish will be happy to embrace it. Get the recipe.

Vegan Shakshuka with Tofu Dumplings Over Kasha

vegan shakshuka with silken tofu dumplings

Purple Carrot

Shakshouka without eggs is really just a sauce, or maybe a tagine. But if you can’t or won’t eat them, try simmering soft dumplings of silken tofu in the tomatoes instead—for the protein, sure, but also to evoke the tender texture and floating-islands look of the poached eggs in the original. And no matter what kind you make, if you don’t mind cleaning two pans afterward, you can cook grains like kasha, couscous, quinoa, or rice and ladle the shakshouka over top. Get the recipe.

Spicy Chorizo Shakshuka

spicy chorizo shakshuka

Always Order Dessert

If you’re craving meat, you can add something as basic as ground beef to shakshouka, but spicy chorizo is especially good with the warming tomato sauce and gentle eggs. Get the recipe.

Fish Shakshuka

fish shakshuka (fish fillets in tomato sauce)

The Mediterranean Dish

If you want to think of shakshouka as a method rather than a specific dish, you can get even more creative. Scour the web and you’ll find suggestions as novel as leftover chili baked shakshouka, but cooking fish in a more traditional rendition of the sauce (whether instead of or in addition to the eggs) makes for a great weeknight dinner. Get the recipe.

Jen is an associate content producer at Chowhound and hails from Baltimore, Maryland, but has lived in Portland (Oregon) for so long it feels like home. She enjoys the rain, reads, writes, eats, and cooks voraciously, and stops to pet every stray cat she sees. Continually working on building her Gourmet magazine collection, she will never get over its cancellation.
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