The first time I had shakshuka was at a Turkish restaurant in Boston. It was a gray, rainy day outside, miserable and wet — but inside everything was sunshine thanks to the bright yellow egg yolks that broke and oozed around the skillet placed in front of me. As I scooped the mess of tomato, feta, and egg into my mouth with a handful of toasty pita, I felt warm from the inside out. I knew I’d found my new favorite egg dish. (Move over, benedict!)
Shakshuka is truly a comfort food, a dish meant for cooler months and dreary days. It is a simple meal made of eggs poached in a warm, rich, and often spicy tomato sauce. It’s as easy as it is cheap and beautiful as it is delicious. Popular throughout the Mediterranean countries and in the Middle East, the dish is said to have originated in Tunisia. Variations sometimes include minced lamb, creamy yogurt, or diced potatoes.
My favorite recipe for shakshuka features a spicy sauce kicked up with fresh, minced red chile pepper and a pinch of cayenne powder. Spinach jumps in the mix to add color and texture; feta gets sprinkled on top to add a final salty, tangy punch for the palate. After one bite you’ll want this for breakfast lunch and dinner, every day of the week.
Spicy Shakshuka with Feta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1/2 to 1 red chile minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper optional
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Salt and black pepper
- 3 cups fresh spinach
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup feta crumbled, for topping
- 1/4 cup minced parsley for topping
Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the onion, bell pepper, and chile and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned -- about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, and cayenne and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
Add the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring the sauce to a simmer and turn the heat down. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to the thickness you prefer.
Add spinach and cook, stirring, until completely wilted.
Crack the eggs, spacing them out evenly, over the simmering tomato sauce and cover. Cook the eggs to your preferred doneness: 5 minutes for runnier eggs, and up to 8 minutes for set eggs.
Sprinkle the eggs with feta cheese and minced parsley. Serve warm with pita or other bread for dipping and enjoy.
STEP ONE – HEAT THE OIL
Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, until it begins to shimmer. You want to use as broad of a skillet (or shallow saucepan) as you can for this recipe. Make sure you have a lid that fits it as well.
STEP TWO – BROWN THE VEGETABLES
Once the oil is hot, add the onion, bell pepper, and chile. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring every once in a while to keep the vegetables from burning. You want them to start to brown on both sides.
STEP THREE – ADD THE SPICES
Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until fragrant. You can add less cayenne or omit that ingredient completely if you prefer a more mild tomato sauce.
STEP FOUR – ADD THE TOMATOES AND SEASON
Add the crushed tomatoes and two tablespoons of tomato paste and stir to incorporate everything. Once it warms up, taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed.
STEP FIVE – ALLOW TO SIMMER
Let the sauce start to bubble, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it reaches your desired thickness. Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from burning.
STEP SIX – ADD SPINACH
Add the spinach and stir, allowing it to cook down completely. This should only take a few minutes over medium-low heat. Taste the sauce again and season as needed.
STEP SEVEN – COOK EGGS
Crack in four eggs on top of the tomato sauce, making sure to space them out adequately. Try to get them as evenly spaced as possible. Cover the skillet with a lid and set the timer for five to eight minutes depending on your preference for doneness: five minutes will make runnier eggs, while eight minutes will set the eggs with harder yolks.
STEP EIGHT – GARNISH AND SERVE
Remove the skillet from the heat and take off the lid. Sprinkle the dish with 1/3 cup of crumbled feta (or as much as you prefer) and about ¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley. Serve immediately alongside some warm pita, crusty toast, or anything else that might facilitate dipping and scooping.
If you don’t have spinach on hand (or just don’t like spinach in general), you can substitute with another leafy green like kale or arugula, or forego it completely for a more “classic” version of this dish. You can also cut back on the heat in this recipe if you’re sensitive to it: half the amounts of chile pepper and cayenne, or omit one or both. Vegans can also easily adapt this recipe by removing the feta garnish.
Though the sauce can be saved and reheated, poached eggs don’t reheat well. Avoid leftovers by only cracking in as many eggs as people at the table. Leftover sauce can be reheated and used for poaching more later.
Almost as important as the dish itself is having something to dip into it! For fear of wasting a drop of that delicious sauce or that smooth, runny yolk, be sure to serve with some pita or other type bread for scooping and sopping.
What will you dip in your shakshuka? Let us know in the comments below!