If you’re looking for new ways to jazz up breakfast, you need to try Shakshuka. This incredibly flavorful dish is popular in North Africa, Israel, and various Middle Eastern countries, and you may already have most or all of the ingredients to make it. The combination of simmering tomatoes, onions, garlic, poached eggs, spices and feta will make your kitchen smell amazing.
Poached eggs are a thing of beauty by themselves. Eggs that have been poached in a spiced tomato sauce and topped with feta cheese? Pure bliss. This, my friends, is shakshuka. It’s wonderful for breakfast and brunch, but I also love serving it for dinner.
What is Shakshuka?
Shakshuka (also spelled shakshouka and chakchouka), is a dish consisting of eggs poached in an aromatic tomato sauce. According to Wikipedia, the exact origin of the dish is disputed (I’ve actually seen online arguments about this). Some claim North African origins, some insist it’s an Israeli dish, and others claim it originated in Morocco. Recipes will vary by region.
Can Shakshuka Be Reheated?
The tomato sauce can be easily reheated, but I’d recommend using fresh eggs when reheating, since the poached eggs will lose their amazing custardy texture if overcooked. I recommend scooping out any leftover eggs and then bringing the tomato sauce to a gentle simmer in a saucepan or skillet. Poach new eggs in the sauce by following the same steps from the recipe. You could also cook up some eggs separately and serve them with the warm sauce.
How Spicy is Shakshuka?
The spice level of the shakshuka will vary depending on the ingredients used. Harissa will vary in spiciness, and some recipes also include hot peppers and/or crushed red peppers for additional heat. If you’re sensitive to spice, you can omit these ingredients.
What is Harissa?
Harissa is a spicy, aromatic chili paste (that’s also sometimes sold as a powder), that’s often used in North African and and Middle Eastern cuisine. Recipes will vary by country and region, but typically include chili peppers (smoked or regular), olive oil, garlic, and assorted spices. The spice blend might include coriander, cumin, caraway, mint, and sometimes tomatoes and/or rose petals.
Harissa can vary quite a bit in heat level, so be sure to test a bit before adding it to a recipe!
- Shakshuka is often traditionally prepared in a cast iron skillet. You can use cast iron, but make sure it’s very well seasoned, otherwise the acidity of the tomatoes can create issues. Highly acidic ingredients will strip the seasoning from cast iron, cause discoloration, and potentially result in metallic-tasting food.
- You can find harissa in the international or spice aisles of many grocery stores. International markets will likely have the best options. You can also order harissa online. The recipe will still work without the harissa, but I highly recommend using it. It adds a ton of depth and flavor. If you omit the harissa, I recommend increasing the paprika and cumin to taste to make up for the missing spice. You could also use a mix of smoked and Hungarian (sweet) paprika.
- I recommend using a good quality block of feta that’s sold in brine as opposed to pre-crumbled cheese. Crumble it over the ingredients by hand right before serving.
- I’ve listed the egg cooking time as 10 minutes, but this will likely vary based on whether you have a gas or electric stovetop, as well as what type of pan you’re cooking the dish in. I check for visual cues to see when the eggs are done. As soon as the egg whites are opaque (or mostly opaque), I consider them done. I like a runny yolk! You can cook them for longer to solidify the yolk, if that’s your preference. If you’re concerned about food safety, I recommend buying pasteurized eggs, which have been heat-processed to kill harmful bacteria.
More Breakfast and Brunch Recipes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced or sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Hungarian or smoked paprika, I used Hungarian
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (do not drain)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons harissa paste or powder, or to taste (see notes)
- 1 - 2 cups Swiss chard or baby spinach, coarsely chopped
- 6 - 8 large eggs
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, plus more as needed for serving (see notes)
- 1/4 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (cilantro adds more flavor, parsley is more for color)
- Optional: crusty bread for serving
- Set a large skillet over medium-low heat (see notes). Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil and swirl it around. Add the onions along and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, sugar and red pepper flakes. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes while stirring constantly.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, harissa. Use a potato masher to carefully break up the tomatoes. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste the sauce and add additional seasonings, if desired. Stir in the greens.
- Turn off the heat. Using a spoon, make 6-8 wells (depending on how many eggs you're using) that are evenly spaced out. Crack an egg into each indentation, then spoon some of the sauce over the whites, being careful not to disturb the yolks. Adding some sauce over the whites will help them set faster than the yolks, which should ideally still be runny at the end.
- Turn the heat back on to bring the sauce to a gentle simmer (low or medium-low), cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked to your preferred doneness.
- Remove from the heat and sprinkle with feta cheese and cilantro. Serve with crusty bread for soaking up the sauce.
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