Give me eggs any time of day because they’re the ultimate comfort food.
In this one-skillet dish eggs and colorful red and yellow peppers simmer on the stovetop in a spicy tomato sauce infused with cumin and smoked paprika. A sprinkling of salty feta and pitted olives perk up the dish
Shakshuka is a healthy, hearty meal that works for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s an all-purpose kind of fast dish that’s guaranteed to brighten a chilly morning or ease the mad dash on a weeknight.
What is Shakshuka?
Shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce, has its origins in North Africa, but it has migrated to the Middle East and is now pretty much known all over the world, especially in Israel, where it is practically a national specialty.
While many versions (like this one) have a tomato and pepper base, there are plenty of variations. Add harissa to the sauce and serve it with a dollop of yogurt or labne (labneh) a strained, thickened yogurt.
Make a minty tomato sauce with jalapeno for a change or skip the tomatoes and make a green shakshuka with herbs, greens, and cream. You could also make it with fresh summer vegetables and pesto like this one. Other additions might include artichokes, greens, cannellini beans, chickpeas, or even diced potatoes. The concept is open to improvisation, so go for it!
Best Tomatoes for Shakshuka
I prefer to use whole canned tomatoes rather than diced ones for this sauce, especially San Marzano tomatoes. They are usually bathed in a thick puree and break down easily when you crush them. Here you are looking for a thick sauce with a soft texture and whole tomatoes will get you there.
Diced tomatoes are packed in calcium chloride and thinner tomato juice, which helps them hold their shape. You can use them if that's what you have on hand, but if you're shopping specifically for this recipe, pick up a can of whole tomatoes for the best outcome.
Fresh tomatoes are an option but be prepared to peel them and cook them for much longer.
When it Comes to Eggs: Skip the Oven!
The goal is to cook the egg, but leave the yolk runny. Many recipes advise popping the skillet in the oven, but I find that the eggs are too easy to overcook using that approach. I cook the eggs on top of the stove, not in the oven.
On the stovetop, you can check them without affecting the heat too much by cracking open the lid. Pull them off the heat at just the right moment and you’re golden.
If you're adverse to runny yolks you can just keep the lid on the skillet longer and cook the yolks all the way through.
How Do You Serve Shakshuka?
The best way to serve the eggs is to bring the skillet right to the table. Be sure to have plenty of crusty bread or pita on hand to scoop up the juices.
For lunch or supper, make a simple green salad. I once ate it on a deck with an ocean view when I visited my Turkish friend on Martha’s Vineyard. Now that was memorable!
More Delicious Egg Dishes!
Shakshuka with Feta, Olives, and Peppers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon Maras or Aleppo pepper flakes, or 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata or other olives in brine
- 4 large eggs
- For garnish:
- 1/4 bunch cilantro, leaves coarsely chopped (for garnish)
Cook the onion and peppers:
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the paprika, cumin, and pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds to a minute to bloom the spices.
Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper, and yellow pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.
Crush the tomatoes and simmer them with the peppers:
In a bowl, break up the tomatoes with your hands. Add them to the skillet with the salt and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if you prefer.
Cook the eggs:
With the back of a spoon or a ladle, make 4 indentations in the sauce.
Break an egg into a cup and carefully pour it into and indentation, being careful not to break the yolk. Repeat with the remaining eggs. (You can crack the egg directly into the sauce and skip the cup, but it’s easier to get a an errant egg shell or protect the dish from a bad egg if you use the cup method.)
Sprinkle the feta and olives around the eggs. Cover the pan and simmer over medium heat for 8 minutes, or until the whites are set and the yolks are still soft. (If you like your eggs well done, cook for a minute or two longer.)
Garnish with cilantro leaves and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Bring to the table and serve from the pan.