Ultimate Guide to Shakshuka
Everything you need to know about the versatile, beloved Israeli egg dish in spicy sauce, with our 16 best shakshuka recipes
Shakshuka by Chef Richard Blais. Photo by Olga Ivanova.
My first husband — I like to call him my starter husband, since the marriage fizzled so quickly — was Israeli. One of the highlights of our brief time together happened during a trip to Israel to meet my future in-laws. Specifically, it appeared at breakfast one morning. I can barely remember what those lovely people looked like, but I’ll never forget that first bite of shakshuka, eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.
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What is shakshuka?
In the last decade or so, shakshuka has conquered the world as both a breakfast and a dinner dish. An Israeli favorite with roots in North Africa and the Middle East, it has now spread far beyond the Mediterranean region. The word “shakshuka” derives from Tunisian Arabic dialect — it means “mixture” or “shaken.” Whether you’re eating a version from Israel, Tunisia, or somewhere further afield, this pantry-friendly dish consists of poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce, though some varieties use other vegetables.
Thanks to all those veggies, hearty-healthy olive oil, and eggs, shakshuka abounds in nutrients. Each serving is relatively low in calories but high in fiber, potassium, and both vitamin C and vitamin A. Shakshuka is also a good source of protein, and it’s naturally gluten-free.
How to make shakshuka
One reason shakshuka has become so popular: It creates some pretty exciting flavors from a handful of humble ingredients. To make it, put a cast-iron skillet (or another ovenproof large skillet) on the stove over medium heat. Warm some olive oil and saute sliced onion and a few cloves of garlic. Add warm spices like cumin and ground coriander, plus a little heat from paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, or harissa, the North African chile paste.
Next add canned or fresh tomatoes or perhaps tomato paste, bell peppers or another vegetable, and maybe some fresh parsley or cilantro. Once those flavors have blended, use a spoon to create a small well for each egg.
Crack large eggs directly into the pan, sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper, and slide the pan into the oven — or top with a lid and leave it on the stove for a few minutes.
You’ll know the shakshuka is ready when the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Garnish with crumbled feta cheese, if you like, and serve right from the skillet.
What to serve with shakshuka
Between the spicy sauce and the protein-packed eggs, you don’t need much more than crusty bread or pita bread for dunking. Beyond that, sides depend on when you’re serving it. For brunch, you might set out a bowl of cooling yogurt or sliced avocado. For a quick weeknight supper, I’d add an Israeli salad of chopped cucumber, tomatoes, onion, and parsley tossed in olive oil and lemon juice.
Classic shakshuka recipes
Because shakshuka has evolved over centuries and across countries, there is no one “right” way to make it. Each of these recipes, though, hits the key notes.
Crushed tomatoes; yellow and red bell pepper; plenty of red pepper flakes, ground cumin, and garlic; eggs; crumbled feta cheese — this recipe features everything you’d expect from shakshuka. But one extra step elevates the whole endeavor. Before slicing the onion, you give it a good char by placing it directly over the flame of a gas burner. That simple tweak adds tons of smoky depth, a hint of mystery I find irresistible.
Small variations, even in your choice of canned tomatoes, can make a big difference in the finished dish. Here, you use diced tomatoes and chopped, rather than sliced, red bell pepper — and the requisite heat comes from fresh jalapeño rather than dried spices. Seasoning with a teaspoon ground cumin and another of paprika adds warmth and complexity.
With just eight ingredients and no oven time required, this may be the simplest shakshuka recipe around — but it still manages to deliver everything you’d expect. The chef who created this recipe even includes some tips like pre-prepping your garlic and onion to streamline the process further.
Used across North Africa, harissa is a paste made from several types of mild-to-hot dried chile peppers, olive oil, and toasted spices. I keep a tube in my fridge at all times, right next to the tube of tomato paste. When you stir a spoonful into your shakshuka mixture, as in this recipe, it instantly provides all the warm, savory flavor you need — you can skip measuring from a half-dozen spice jars.
Traditional shakshukas have a tomato base, but it’s a big world out there. Why not go green? The names of these recipes may be similar or even identical, but with varied vegetables providing the color, the results are deliciously different.
Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes wrapped in a papery husk, which makes them a pretty perfect ingredient for shakshuka. But the flavor? It’s markedly different, tangy and bright, almost citrusy. With jalapeños, mint, honey, and Aleppo pepper, this tomatillo shakshuka offers layer upon layer of intrigue.
The mild flavor of spinach works beautifully with jalapeño and harissa, making a vibrant green bed for poached eggs. The recipe calls for pureeing the spinach mixture, but I like to leave it chunky. It tastes just as good with fewer dishes to wash! Pro tip: Keep some frozen chopped spinach in the freezer, and you can have this on the table in a flash.
As if shakshuka weren’t already a nutritional smorgasbord, this recipe ups the ante with an assortment of power greens like brussels sprouts, kale, and baby spinach. If you don’t have one or more of those on hand, never fear. Just swap in an equivalent amount of whatever greens you do have. Swiss chard, collards, beet or turnip greens…
I think this might be the prettiest shakshuka in all the land. It gets its color from an abundance of green veggies, including zucchini, green tomatoes, kale, spinach, and an entire bunch of parsley. The dish has a little more heft than most shakshukas, too, thanks to some cooked lentils. A garnish of sliced avocado and pomegranate arils contributes to the beauty of the skillet, but the toppings also add textural and taste contrast.
Extra-easy shakshuka recipes
If it isn’t already obvious, making shakshuka isn’t exactly hard. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be even easier, even faster. The total time you’ll need to make the following recipes — including prep time — never exceeds 30 minutes.
You’ll be eating in just 15 minutes with this simple recipe. Because it spends less time simmering, the result is a sauce that’s got a little more bite, a little less melt-in-your-mouthness, and there’s not a thing wrong with that.
I know, I said eggs were a necessary part of shakshuka. Let’s bend those rules a bit. For this vegan shakshuka, vegan cheese — either cream cheese or cashew ricotta — takes the place of jiggly yolks, while canned beans bump up the protein and fiber. The aroma of smoked paprika adds a lovely depth to the dish.
You only need seven ingredients and 20 minutes to cook this outrageously good version that leans toward Mexico. Prepared enchilada sauce does a lot of the heavy lifting, so make sure to choose a good one. Feeling spicy? Swap Mexican chorizo for some or all of the ground beef called for.
I work from home, which means I eat lunch at home almost every day. A single serving of shakshuka, made in the microwave from prepared marinara sauce, canned chickpeas, red pepper flakes, and an egg, fills me up. Five minutes after I leave my desk, I’m dunking crusty bread into tomatoey ambrosia — and I stay satisfied for hours.
Here’s another way to get shakshuka on the table in a jiffy: Prepare the sauce part ahead of time. Pop it in the fridge, and when you walk into the kitchen exhausted from your busy day, all you’ll need to do is warm it up, crack in some eggs, and bake briefly.
It doesn’t take long to get the hang of making shakshuka, and once you do you’ll want to broaden your horizons. Let’s see where the basic concept can take you.
With a jar of marinara sauce as the base, this is about as far from authentic as you can get, but when it tastes this good I don’t care. The jarred stuff gets doctored with sauteed onion and bell pepper, and then my favorite ingredient, canned artichokes. Did I mention that thanks to the saucy shortcut, it’s on the table in half an hour?
Whenever I make ratatouille, the French Provencal stewed vegetable dish, I seem to have gallons leftover. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use it up. Is it possible for a concept to be genius and also a no-brainer? Because both apply to the idea of transforming a ready-to-go mixture of eggplant, bell pepper, zucchini, and tomatoes into shakshuka.
It only takes a few ingredient tweaks to take a recipe in a completely new direction. Here, jarred pimientos take the place of bell peppers, smoked paprika and saffron join cumin and paprika, and manchego cheese replaces feta. It looks just like traditional shakshuka, but the flavor sweeps you off to Spain.
While some other recipes add Middle Eastern flavors to prepared pasta sauce, this version of shakshuka fully embraces the sauce’s Italian roots. Fresh basil, garlic, and roasted tomatoes ramp up the intensity, and the garlic-rubbed toast for dipping is spectacular. I like to sprinkle a little grated Parmesan into the skillet, too.
Always a hit: eggs for dinner
Israel isn't the only country to embrace the convenience and versatility of a supper built around eggs, as you'll discover in these next articles.