Bold and spicy, this shakshuka is a cozy, satisfying, and flavor-packed dish perfect for breakfast or brunch!
What is Shakshuka?
Shakshuka, as most of us know it today, is eggs poached in a spiced, tomato-based stew served with some type of bread for dipping. Shakshuka is thought to have originated in the Ottoman Empire (most likely in what is now Tunisia or Libya) where it was made with minced meat and vegetables. While it is difficult to pin down exactly where shakshuka comes from, what is clear is how the dish garnered popularity across North Africa and the Middle East, with different versions popping up across regions and populations. You can read more about the history of shakshuka here.
The shakshuka commonly found on brunch menus today features tomatoes, cumin, paprika, garlic, peppers, onion, and eggs with rich, runny yolks. Additions like feta, chorizo, and eggplant are also common. It is a humble, nutritious, and super comforting dish that continues to gain popularity around the world.
Making shakshuka is very easy, meaning you reap major rewards in taste for little effort. The whole thing is made in one pan in about 25 minutes. In my version, I use both fresh and canned tomatoes. Summer means the best tomatoes are available, so it is a great time to take advantage and use some fresh ones in this dish. The canned tomatoes, on the other hand, add a richer and more deep tomato flavor to the dish. The contrast is lovely!
While harissa, zhug, and good ole’ crushed red pepper flakes are common ways to make shakshuka spicy, I opted for the non-traditional addition of jalapeño. I like using jalapeño here because they are an accessible ingredient that I seem to always have on hand. Also, you can customize the heat level by adjusting how much seeds and veins you add. I also love how the flavor the jalapeño pairs with the bell pepper. Because I wanted this shakshuka to be heat forward – there is also a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes included.
To me, a generously seasoned shakshuka is the only way to shakshuka. The spices make it exciting! And using a base of tomatoes, onions, and peppers means the dish can handle a lot of flavor. This recipe uses a lot of garlic, paprika, cumin, and coriander. I also add cinnamon powder – which I highly recommend! I have used it prior in savory Moroccan recipes and it really is a revelation. The cinnamon compliments and enhances the natural sweetness of the tomatoes, but adds a lot of warmth to the flavors of this shakshuka. While not traditional, I recommend giving the bit of cinnamon a try! And don’t worry, there is just a touch so it does not overwhelm or dominate the other flavors.
One of the delightful things about shakshuka is you can prep the tomato stew ahead of time. It will keep refrigerated for 3 days and can be frozen for longer-term storage. The recipe below is for 2 servings but it can also be halved to make a single serving. I have definitely made plenty of single servings of this shakshuka – even on busy mornings as it is so do-able and so damn satisfying!
Spicy Feta Shakshuka
Time: 25 minutes
- 14 ounce can of good quality diced tomatoes
- 6 ounces of fresh tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2/3 cup of diced onion
- 2/3 cup of diced red bell pepper
- 1 large or 2 small jalapeño diced, about 1/4 cup (leave seeds and veins in if you want it hot)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated on a microplane
- 1.5 tsp. smoked paprika (or sweet, if you prefer)
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. of salt (or to taste)
- cooking oil
- toast or pita for serving
- Start by heating the sauté pan or skillet over medium. Add some oil and the diced onion. Cook until starting to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and jalapeño and cook until softened and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir often to keep from browning.
- Add the minced garlic and all spices to the onion and peppers. Stir constantly and cook for 1 minute. This blooms the spices and tames the garlic bite.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and the canned diced tomatoes. Stir and scrape all browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer steadily, uncovered, until thickened and liquid has cooked off to desired thickness, about 10-20 minutes.
- When stew is thickened to your liking, make four ‘wells’ for your eggs. Crack each egg into its own well. Gently stir the whites into the stew without disturbing the yolk, to help them cook faster. Sprinkle feta around the eggs. Cover the pan and cook until whites are set but yolks are still runny, about 7-9 minutes.
- I like a thick shakshuka base with little liquid, so I cook it down for 20 minutes before adding the eggs. Be sure to adjust the time your shakshuka reduces to how you like it. Remember the eggs take additional time to cook, so you will want it to be almost as reduced as you like before adding the eggs. It will finish thickening up as the eggs cook.
- The tomato base can be made ahead of time: it will keep refrigerated for 3 days and can be frozen for longer-term storage. I suggest leaving it a bit under-reduced if you are prepping it, so you can finish reducing when making the final dish.
- This recipe can be halved to make the perfect single serving shakshuka – just be sure to cook it in a 7-8 inch skillet.
- Check the eggs towards the end of the cooking time to ensure the yolks are still runny. They should giggle when you shake the pan. You can also broil the shakshuka to finish cooking the tops of the eggs after 5 minutes of cooking, covered, on the stovetop.