Şakşuka is a traditional Turkish dish with sauteed vegetables in a thick garlicky tomato sauce.
Saksuka can be served hot or cold, making it a great versatile side dish or a prepare ahead part of a meze or buffet. And this rich vegetable ragout recipe is so easy to make at home!
The vegetables added can vary region to region, but eggplants, zucchini, onion, and peppers are the most common. You can make this spicy by using a hot pepper or keep it mild with just bell peppers.
What is Şakşuka?
It is a dish of fried eggplants and zucchinis and green peppers in a thick garlic tomato sauce.
It is often served as part of a meze or as a Turkish side dish.
How to say Şakşuka
- The eggplant is salted before it is cooked. This helps to remove water, so it will crisp up nicely when fried. (See below for more info on this)
- The vegetables are fried in of olive oil, so be sure to drain them on kitchen paper before you add them to the tomato sauce mixture.
- Chop the eggplant and the zucchini into roughly the same size pieces, this way they will cook at the same rate.
- The thick tomato sauce has garlic, parsley, chili pepper, salt, and sugar in it. Not all canned tomatoes are the same, so, once cooked, give the sauce a taste and adjust the sweetness to your liking. It should have no acidic notes with a sweet mellow tomato flavor.
This used to be something our grandmothers did to remove the bitter taste of eggplant/aubergine.
BUT these days, the bitter taste of the eggplant has been bred out of them. Now we only salt an eggplant if we are worried about the water content.
The water content will stop the eggplant crisping up or can ruin a recipe, like moussaka, by making the finished dish too wet.
To salt eggplant, cut it up into chunks (or whatever your recipe calls for) and place it in a colander over the sink. Sprinkle over salt (I use kosher salt/table salt) and leave it for up to an hour.
You want to use about ½ tablespoon per pound (450g) of eggplant. I find that a tablespoon of salt is enough for an average-sized eggplant.
Once the eggplant has been salted, it needs to be rinsed well (to remove the salt) and then patted dry with paper towel, or a clean tea-towel.
- The red chili is optional. In the recipe, it is cooked down with the tomato sauce, but you can add a sprinkling of raw chopped chili at the end or leave it in a bowl for everyone to add their own.
- Although the recipe calls for red onions, brown or white onions will work just as well.
- Traditionally Saksuka is made with green bell peppers, but we love the additional sweetness of red bell peppers. Use whatever color you have available.
Feel free to add any vegetables you have to this recipe, every region of Turkey adds their own spin to it, so add yours too.
Other vegetables that will work well include:
- Green beans
- Fava beans
Ensure they are all cooked before you add them to the tomato sauce.
The versitility of Saksuka
The food in Turkey is so diverse! It is always fresh and full of flavor, there are plenty of vegetables, and nothing has to be served piping hot! That makes it great for families as dishes can be prepared in advance and kept at room temperature.
Saksuka can be served as an appetizer, side dish or as part of a meze.
As an appetizer or starter
You could serve it with some lavash bread or Turkish bread as a starter or a dip, so good! Especially when served with cold yogurt spiced with fresh garlic.
As a side dish
As part of a Meze
We love to eat meze style, lots of plates of delicious goodies where everyone can serve themselves a little of what they like! And this Turkish eggplant recipe is perfect for that!
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Şakşuka - A Turkish Recipe
- 1 eggplant
- 1 tbsp salt - will be washed off
- 1 red onion
- 2 zucchini
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 5 cloves garlic
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 1 can tomatoes - 14.5oz/400g can
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Cut the eggplant into bite-sized chunks.
- Sprinkle the eggplant chunks with salt and place in a colander or strainer.
1 tbsp salt
- Leave the eggplant to sit for 15-30 minutes.
- Wash the eggplant thoroughly in cold water, then drain it well and pat it dry with paper towel. Set the eggplant on a fresh piece of paper towel, while you chop the remaining veg.
- Peel and roughly chop the red onion. Then cut the peppers and zucchini into large chunks.
1 red onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
- Peel and thinly slice the garlic.
5 cloves garlic
- In a large high sided skillet, use half of the olive oil to fry the eggplant and zucchini chunks until they are golden. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan and drain them off on paper towels.
3 tbsp olive oil
chopped, salted and rinsed eggplant
2 chopped zucchinis
- Use the remaining olive oil to fry the peppers and onions for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened.
3 tbsp olive oil
chopped red onion
chopped bell peppers
- Add the garlic to the pan and stir until aromatic (20-30 seconds)
thinly sliced garlic
- Then add in the canned tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper.
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp sugar mustard
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
- Simmer rapidly for 5 minutes until thickened.
- Add the eggplant, and zucchini back into the tomato sauce and stir together well.
- Serve warm or allow to cool.