I have made versions of this North-African style shakshuka many, many, many times! I first shared a recipe for it back in 2015 and made a horrendously bad YouTube video. That video now has over 4.4M views, 88K thumbs up, over 5.2K comments views, and is the third most viewed Shakshuka video on the platform (not counting the Shakshuka song). I think part of its popularity was due to the fact that I used a very dull and awkward skinning knife to chop onions and tomatoes. This seems to upset people.
Where Does Shakshuka Come From?
Shakshuka is believed to have originated in North Africa, most likely Tunisia, and can be loosely translated to “mixture” or “mishmash” in certain dialects. It is extremely popular throughout Israel and the Middle East, as well as many other parts of the world where entirely different names are assigned to the dish. It’s even become increasingly popular in North America.
In various parts of India, eggs are hard-boiled, poached in a tomato sauce and called Egg Curry. In Italy, an almost identical version of North-African Shakshuka is called Uova in Purgatorio (Eggs in Purgatory). In Mexico, fried eggs are served with tomato salsa and called Huevos Rancheros. In Turkey, things get a small, but significant, twist in that they are are scrambled in the tomato sauce and called Menemen. As far as I’m told, Turkish shakshuka never has eggs and is actually closer to a traditional Ratatouille in that it involves stewing various vegetables together.
How is Shakshuka Made?
Onions, peppers, garlic and spices are sautéed in oil before tomatoes are added to the pan. You can use canned whole tomatoes, canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste mixed with water, jarred tomato passata, or even fresh, chopped tomatoes. Each iteration brings its own special qualities to the dish.
The eggs are then cracked directly into the tomato sauce and poached until cooked to your desired doneness. The eggs can be cooked on the stovetop or finished in the oven. Once the shakshuka is ready, it is commonly garnished with fresh herbs and cheese.
But here’s what I’ve learned over the years: shakshuka has no singular definition and is one of the most polarizing dishes on the face of the earth. It is hyper regional, extremely personal, and just about everyone has an opinion on it. And these things are exactly what makes shakshuka so incredibly special! The fact that it varies so much from country to country and family to family allows for new and interesting flavours and combinations to arise.
Now, more than ever before, recipes that lend themselves well to substitutions are the name of the game. With the entire world on lockdown due to COVID-19, and people finding themselves self-isolating for two weeks at a time or longer, it is extremely important to make use of what you have. This is especially true when it comes to making use of fresh produce.
Can I Make My Own Version of Shakshuka?
Shakshuka can be extremely basic, using nothing more than tomatoes, onions, garlic, paprika, and eggs. This is actually how I prefer it, personally.
Or, it can get fairly elaborate and incorporate just about anything you have in your fridge or pantry. It’s entirely up to you what goes in your shakshuka. You’re the boss, applesauce!
In this shakshuka recipe, I used jarred tomato passata and made use of some things that needed to get used up before they go bad: eggplant, sausage, peppers, onions, fresh herbs and, of course, eggs.
Shakshuka Ideas and Substitutions
You may not have these ingredients in your fridge or pantry, so I made this list of substitutions and ideas below. This is just to get the ball rolling for you. Feel free to pick and choose whatever combo you want or have. Most of the suggestions are Whole30 and Paleo-friendly, but I’ve also listed others that are not for those who are not necessarily following any specific protocol.
Canned whole tomatoes
Canned crushed tomatoes
Canned tomato paste mixed with water
Jarred tomato passata
Eggplant (any variety)
Bell peppers (any variety)
Chili peppers (any variety)
Zucchini (green or yellow)
Rapini (broccoli rabe)
Olives (any variety)
Chipotle chili powder
Ancho chili powder
Raw Sausage (any variety)
Ground meat or poultry (any type)
Cured Meats (salami, prosciutto, pancetta, chorizo,)
Spicy Eggpant, Sausage and Pepper Shakshuka - Whole30, Paleo
- ½ medium Italian eggplant cubed
- Kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil plus extra, if needed
- 1 sweet Italian sausage casings removed
- 1/2 medium onion diced
- ½ red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño finely chopped (cored and seeded for mild spice)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic finely chopped
- 500 ml jarred passata
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 6-8 large eggs
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley roughly chopped
- 8-10 kalamata olives pitted and roughly chopped for garnish
- Season the eggplant cubes with a pinch of salt and massage to coat. Place them on a plate lined with paper towel and set aside for 15-30 minutes to drain moisture.
- Preheat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add sausage and cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon or spatula, until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the sausage to a bowl and set aside.
- Add the onions, bell peppers and jalapeño to the pan. Season with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Check the oil level in the pan and, if necessary, add more olive oil so that there is a total of 2 tablespoons. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until the eggplant has slightly softened, around 8 minutes. Add the garlic and smoked paprika and cook, stirring to coat, 1 minute.
- Add the passata and return the sausage to the pan and stir to combine. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the tomato sauce thickens, around 5 minutes. Add ½ cup water and stir through to loosen the sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt as desired.
- One at a time, use a spoon or spatula to create a small hole in the sauce and crack each egg into the hole you’ve created. This will help the egg to cook in the sauce, rather than on top of it. Repeat until all eggs are in the pan.
- Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the whites are firm, but the yolks are still runny, 5 to 6 minutes. Depending on personal preference, cook the eggs more or less.
- Garnish the shakshuka with cilantro and olives and serve immediately.