Who knew poaching eggs in a savory tomato sauce would be all the rage? Sure, shakshuka (also shakshouka, chakchouka, or choukchouka) is a fun word to say, but this one-skillet meal is now considered an obsession and a comfort food to many around the world.
Its origins are believed to be from North Africa—Tunisia, to be exact, but there are many countries and cultures around the world that have laid claimed to their versions of shakshuka. In Israel, for example, the word shakshuka is synonymous with breakfast and there’s even a famous Israeli restaurant named Dr. Shakshuka. In Morocco, a cooked salad of tomatoes and peppers called taktouka is very similar, except that it is of thicker consistency and contains no eggs.
Vibrant, flavorful and an ideal meal for brunch, lunch or dinner. There are many variations to shakshuka. With sauces varying in peppers, spices, sweetness, smokiness, and sharpness, some add preserved lemons, harissa paste, salty cheese, olives or meat. For the most part, the basics of cooking shakshuka are the same. You make the sauce, then you gently crack and nestle eggs into the slightly spicy sauce that can be made in advance and warmed up at your convenience. If you use eggs, however, timing is key. You want to make sure the eggs are set before serving. Some cooks move the pan to the oven for the eggs to braise there. It’s up to you. There are about as many variations of shakshuka as there are chefs and home cooks who have made it.
Even I make variations to spices and ingredients almost every time I make shakshuka. I’ve made vegan and non vegan versions; served it with a nice chunk of bread; or over grains such as brown rice or farro—kind of like Korean bibimbap. Some consider bread “a must”, but I say, why not explore other possibilities? Most recently I decided to take my shakshuka in a completely different direction and turned it into a rustically elegant, free-form galette. I loved the result!
I made two, slightly different vegan and gluten free crusts. I liked both, and they turned out better than I expected, but the recipe for my favorite of the two (photo above) is listed below. One galette is fully vegan and gluten free, while the other (above) includes eggs in the shakshuka.
Easy, delicious, comforting and satisfying, if you haven’t tried shakshuka yet, I hope this post inspires you to do so now. Shakshuka is not only great to say it’s also delicious and healthy to eat! Try it. Have fun making it your own. That’s what good food is all about, isn’t it?
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 teaspoons harissa paste (see note)
2 bell peppers, sliced (I prefer to use yellow and red)
4-6 ripe tomatoes, chopped (if you don’t have fresh juicy tomatoes, use a can of plum tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cane sugar (I used sucanat), plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoked, according to preference)
freshly ground black pepper
3-4 eggs, optional
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped and loosely packed, for garnish
1/4 cup parsley chopped and loosely packed, for garnish
In a large pan over medium heat, dry roast the cumin seeds until fragrant. Add oil and cook until translucent. Add garlic and sauté a couple of minutes. Add harissa paste and stir well. Add bell peppers and cook until slightly softened, about 7-10 minutes.
Add tomatoes, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, cane sugar, coriander, paprika and black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes have thickened, about 20 minutes. If necessary, add a little water to thin out the tomato sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove bay leaf.
At this point, you can eat it as is, a vegetarian version of shakshuka, or you can crack the eggs inside the sauce and eat it with bread. Or, you can make it into a beautiful galette.
If using eggs, make small indentations into the sauce and gently crack one egg into each of the indentations in the skillet. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until eggs are set. Or, transfer skillet to a preheated oven (375 F) and bake until eggs are set, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and parsley and serve.
To make a shakshuka galette: On a large piece of parchment paper, roll the chilled pie dough (recipe below) onto a lightly floured work surface, into a large, about 11-inch circle. Go slowly and if it cracks just press the pieces together. Dust with flour as needed and keep the circle as even as you can, but don’t worry about rough edges. Spread the tomato-pepper mixture in the center of the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border.
Fold the dough over the filling in 2-or 3-inch sections. The dough may crack as you fold it, but that’s fine. Transfer the galette, parchment and all, onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle crust with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Trim off overhanging parchment. Bake until crust is golden, 10-15 minutes. If using eggs, like on the stove top, make a few indentations in the sauce and gently place eggs in the sauce, before baking.
Vegan and Gluten Free Pie Crust
Makes one 8-or 9-inch round galette, tart or pie
2/3 cup / 100 grams brown rice flour
1/2 cup / 80 grams millet flour
1/2 cup / 60 grams tapioca flour/starch
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to garnish
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to garnish
8 tablespoons / 1/2 cup coconut oil, chilled
6-8 tablespoons or more, ice water
In a large bowl, whisk the flours and salt together. Break or cut the coconut oil into chunks, and add it to the dry ingredients. Using a food processor or pastry cutter, cut the oil into flour until you have a mixture resembling coarse sand. Drizzle in the ice water a tablespoon at a time and stir gently with a wooden spoon. Squeeze the dough together: If it crumbles, add more water, a little bit at a time, until the dough holds together. Gather the dough together with your hands and shape it into a flat disk. If your dough is full of cracks and looks dry, you can always add a little more water. What is nice about working with gluten-free dough is that there’s no fear of overworking the dough. After you’ve formed a disk, wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove your dough from fridge and line a work surface with a large piece of parchment paper. Lightly flour parchment, place the dough on top, and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out dough to about an 11- or 12-inch circle. For galette, and filling and shape the crust as recipe above directs.
Notes: Harissa is a Tunisian hot sauce available at some grocery stores or online grocers. As harissa comes in varying levels of spicy heat, be sure to add a little at first, taste and then add more, if you like.
If you can’t find harissa paste, then I’d suggest using a teaspoon of caraway seeds with the cumin seeds; a 1/2 or more chile pepper (depends on your level of heat tolerance) after you add the garlic; and a couple of teaspoons of tomato paste when you add the tomatoes. When done cooking, taste and adjust heat, salt and spices as necessary.
If you’d like to take things in a slightly different direction, make a shakshuka tart or pie, it’s also a great alternative! If so, grease a pie pan and line pan with dough accordingly. Fill pan with shakshuka as recipe above directs.
The recipe listed above for shakshuka (sauce) should provide enough sauce for two 8- or 9-inch galettes. You would need to make the recipe for the pie crust twice. if you wanted two galettes.