Shakshuka is an incredibly versatile – and delicious – recipe. It consists of eggs poached in a flavorful tomato-based sauce, and my version of course adds bacon. It’s a great way to use up leftover veggies and greens, so feel free to play with it based on what’s in your fridge. I usually enjoy it for a weekend breakfast, but it’s hearty enough to eat for dinner as well. It also reheats wonderfully, so if I’m lucky enough to have leftovers it comes to work for lunch the next day. Give it a try!Jump to Recipe Print Recipe
What is Shakshuka?
Shakshuka (also spelled shakshouka or chakchouka) is a dish, usually consisting of eggs cooked in or served over a spiced (but not typically spicy) tomato sauce. It probably originated in Yemen or Tunisia, but sources vary as versions are popular across North Africa and the Middle East. It can contain other vegetables, and the eggs can be cooked in a variety of ways, but tomato is usually the common denominator.
Italy has its own version, known there as eggs in purgatory (ouvo in purgatorio), which tends to rely more heavily on red pepper flakes and garlic, and shakshuka has been growing in popularity in the US. There are as many variations as there are chefs, and if you read on I’ll show you several ways you can tweak it to make it your own.
Meat for Shakshuka
Many people make shakshuka as a meatless recipe, but this is a bacon blog. The bacon, obviously, is my contribution. You can absolutely make shakshuka without it (and it will likely be more authentic), it just won’t be quuuuiiiiiite as delicious. Some people use lamb, beef, sausage, or even fish in their versions, but if you’re on my site, start by chopping up some bacon. This is a great time to use some homemade bacon if you’ve tried your hand at it!
Start with about 6 slices – maybe 8 if they’re really thin. Toss the bacon bits into your largest pan – cast-iron is good, as long as it’s well-seasoned, as is a rounded bottom pan like a wok, or a flat-bottomed stainless steel or nonstick pan. You want big, this is a one-pot meal and you’ll be cooking a large volume of tomatoes. Turn the pan on to medium heat – you always want to add bacon to a cold pan – and cook for about 15 minutes or until it begins to crisp. Pour off half of the bacon fat and reserve for another use.
Vegetables for Shakshuka
Dice up some bell pepper (one whole, or 1/2 of two colors) and a medium onion. Add to the bacon bits in the pan. Sauté about 3 minutes or until they begin to get tender. If you’re adding any other vegetables, now is the time. I often add diced eggplant or zucchini if I have them on hand – they add depth and flavor to the shakshuka, but even the eggplant-hater in my family can’t tell that they’re there. This recipe calls for tender spinach or arugula to be added towards the end, but if you’d rather use a sturdier green like kale or collards, add it now as well.
Spices and Seasonings for Shakshuka
To one pot of shakshuka, I add a healthy pinch of salt, several turns of cracked black pepper, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 tsp ground harissa. I also add three large cloves of minced garlic about a minute before the tomatoes go in. What are all of these, and can you substitute? Of course you can. Cumin is an important flavor in this recipe, so I would try to find a way to get that in, but if you don’t have all of the rest add a bit more of one of the others. It’s a forgiving recipe, remember?
Cumin seeds come from the Cuminum cyneum plant, If you don’t have whole seeds, but you do have ground cumin powder, just substitute that. If you have neither, caraway seed is a decent substitute. The flavor will be a little different, however – caraway is used to season rye bread. You can also use additional garam masala, or substitute taco seasoning, curry powder, or chili powder. Add a little at a time if you’re using the last three and taste as you go – you will be adding flavors that weren’t all meant to be in the recipe.
Garam masala is a Indian spice blend. Contents can vary a little, but it usually consists of peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, curry leaf, cumin, and coriander. My regular supermarket carries it, and it’s super handy to have on hand for anything from this dish to curries to seasoning sweet potatoes or pork chops. You can make your own from ground spices, or get fancy and grind your own. Otherwise, just add equal parts ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves to the recipe.
Turmeric is gaining popularity as a nutritional supplement, and has a subtle but delicious flavor on its own. You can substitute some ground ginger or a bit of curry powder if you’d like, or just leave it out. You can also grind fresh turmeric root if you have that available. I include it more for the punch of color that it adds and because it never hurts to find ways to include more in your diet. I often add it to recipes that call for cumin or garam masala.
Harissa is a Tunisian spice blend, so it makes sense to include it in a recipe that likely originated in Tunisia. Feel free to use the jarred paste or the powdered version in this recipe, or to make your own. It mainly consists of dried chiles, cumin, coriander, caraway, and garlic in either form, so you can substitute more of those spices or use chili powder, garam masala, or curry powder in its stead. It adds some red coloring and a bit of heat, so you may want to add a pinch of cayenne and/or paprika it you’re leaving it out of the shakshuka recipe.
Tomatoes for Shakshuka
As soon as the garlic begins to soften, add tomatoes. I use two large cans if I’m making shakshuka for 4-6 people, and one large can if the recipe is for 2-3. Fresh tomatoes make wonderful shakshuka if you have a garden full – you’ll need at least a half pound per person. If you’re limited to supermarket tomatoes, in most cases you’re better off sticking with canned. Tomatoes don’t ship well, and canned usually have better flavor. I tend to use one can of crushed and one of whole peeled for textural purposes, but if you only have one or the other (or diced) the taste will be the same.
Let the tomatoes cook down, stirring occasionally, over medium to medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes (or longer – more time time won’t hurt it). I add a squirt of double concentrated tomato paste as well. When stirring, take a wooden spoon and smash any whole tomatoes up against the side of the pan – this will help them to break down. Taste it, and adjust salt and heat if necessary. If you’ve tinkered with the seasonings above, or find it at all bland, add more cumin, harissa, or garam masala now.
Finish the Shakshuka with Greens, Cheese, and Eggs
Preheat your oven to 350. Stir in about a cup of fresh tender greens, like spinach or arugula. Frozen spinach will work too. Then crumble in 4 oz of feta. Make 4-6 wells in the tomato sauce, one at at time, with a wooden spoon. Crack an egg into each well (1-2 per person), and spoon a bit of tomato sauce over the whites. Whites cook slower than yolks, so this will help the eggs to cook evenly. Place the whole pan into the oven for about 5 minutes for runny yolks (7 minutes to cook the yolks through). Top the shakshuka with fresh cilantro and a bit more feta.
What to Serve with Shakshuka
Shakshuka is truly a one-pot recipe, and it is very filling on its own, but it does go nicely with a starch to soak up the tomato sauce. It can be served over white rice (even leftover from last night), or with pita bread, naan, good quality toast (bacon bread!), or Indian papadums. If you’re serving shakshuka for dinner and want something more, try some hummus or babaganoush on the side, or mix up a salad with the rest of your spinach or arugula.
What to do with Leftover Shakshuka
Leftover tomato sauce from shakshuka should never be discarded. I usually make 1-2 eggs per person who will actually be eating, but I make the whole rest of the recipe even if it’s only my husband and I. If I know I’ll have leftovers, I hard-boil a few eggs and bring them to work with me. Reheat the shakshuka, peel an egg and add it to the warmed sauce, and scoop it up with whatever kind of bread I can find. Alternatively, serve it over potatoes or pasta the next day, or use it to simmer sausage or boneless skinless chicken thighs. You can also freeze the leftover shakshuka, and reuse it next time you’re craving this recipe!
As always, please let me know in the comments if you’ve tried the recipe. Don’t forget to pin it for later, and to share it with your friends!
Shakshuka Recipe with Bacon and Feta
- 1/3 lb bacon diced
- 1 onion medium, dIced
- 1 bell pepper diced – or two different colored half peppers
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds may substitute ground
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp Harissa powder may substitute paste
- 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes canned
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes canned
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste double concentrated
- 1 cup arugula may substitute spinach
- 4 oz feta
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup cilantro fresh
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Add diced bacon to cold frying pan. Place over medium heat. Cook about 15 min or until beginning to crisp.
- Add diced onion and bell pepper with a pinch of salt and a few turns of black pepper. Add cumin, garam masala, turmeric, and Harissa. Cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook one more minute.
- Add canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well to combine. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer 15-20 min (longer is OK – turn down to low if needed), stirring occasionally with wooden spoon. When stirring, use back of spoon to crush whole tomatoes against side of pan.
- Stir in arugula (or spinach) and 3 oz feta (reserve 1 oz for last step). Cook 1 min. Taste and adjust salt.
- Make 6 wells, one at a time, and crack an egg into each. Spoon tomato sauce over white of egg, leaving yolk visible. Place into 350 oven for 5 min for runny yolks or 7 min for yolks cooked through.
- Remove from oven. Sprinkle pan with cilantro and remaining feta. Serve with rice, bread, pita, naan, or papadums.