For oh-so-long, the idea of eggs with tomato sauce absolutely horrified me. You see, back in 2002, The Hartford Courant ran an article about a woman’s favorite Lenten tradition: eggs cooked (for 90 minutes?!) in a simple, tomato paste sauce. My mom cooked the accompanying recipe for us one Friday night, and, as much as it pains me to admit this publicly, it was a total miss (honestly, the only one that comes to mind). Just. Awful.

Fast forward a good number of years, and suddenly I kept seeing the zesty, Middle Eastern tomato and egg dish, Shakshouka, mentioned. First on Smitten Kitchen, then on my Facebook newsfeed (my friend, Rachel, mentioned she was making the dish). Eventually, the dish began to intrigue me as well, despite previous experiences.

Then, in mid-October 2010, my family took a short hike in the Oakland Hills — the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve trail to be exact. I’m not much of a hiker — city wandering is much more up my alley¹ — but the day was sweetened with the promise of brunch après-hike at my choice of restaurant. (Yes, it seems that I can be persuaded by the literal dangling of carrots the promise of a good meal.) Based on a good number of Yelp reviews combined with an appealing menu, I decided on Chop Bar in Oakland.

And there, that’s where all of my prejudices against tomato and egg marriages were shattered with a mere bite of a mouthful‑of‑a‑name dish — Eggs ala Cazuela with Grilled Veggie Mojo². The spicy, highly-seasoned tomato mixture coupled with runny-yolked eggs and home fries was just what I needed to thaw out and put a huge grin on my face after a drizzly, albeit brief, hike.

This recipe for shakshouka isn’t a perfect substitute for the restaurant version — theirs is far more smokey-tasting, in part because (I think) they use chipotles — but it has its own merits (super easy, quick, budget-friendly, [just as] warming, etc.). If time allows, I highly recommend serving the dish with some simple, oil-salt-pepper-roasted potatoes. Or a few slices of toasted, garlic-rubbed and oil-drizzled no-knead bread. How about both?! I absolutely love having something to dip into or sop up the tomato sauce.

Are there any foods that you’ve changed your mind about over the years? Please share in the comments!


(minimally adapted from Saveur)

Preparation Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Serves: 4


Spicy Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 ounces (57 grams, 1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 3 ounces (85 grams or 1/2 cup lightly packed or about 3 large) stemmed and seeded finely chopped jalapeños
  • 4 ounces (113 grams or about 1 medium) finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 ounce (28 grams or 2 tablespoons) garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • 4 ounces (113 grams or 1/2 cup) water
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • Za’atar³ (optional)

Poached Eggs:

  • 4 – 8 large eggs
  • Water and white vinegar to a depth of two inches (use the following ratio: 1 tablespoon vinegar for every 2 cups water)

Optional Accompaniments:


Make Tomato Sauce:

Pour olive oil into a large, non-reactive pan over medium heat. Warm oil just until shimmering. Stir in onions and peppers, cook for 10 minutes or until softened and slightly browned. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, cumin and hot paprika (stir frequently to prevent mixture from burning); cook until garlic is soft, 1 – 2 minutes.

While the garlic is cooking, pour tomatoes and their juices into a medium bowl. Using your hands, crush tomatoes into small pieces — there shouldn’t be any chunks left larger than about 1/2 inch.

Once garlic has softened, increase heat to medium and stir in crushed tomatoes and water. Cover with mesh splatter shield and bring mixture to a simmer. Continue to cook mixture over medium heat for 20 minutes (once it comes to a simmer), stirring every few minutes to ensure that it doesn’t stick.

Poach Eggs:

While sauce simmers, poach eggs. In a 4″ deep saucepan (a 2-quart saucepan is a great size for this), warm water and vinegar over medium heat until a few small bubbles start surfacing. Crack egg into the hot water, wait about 30 seconds before touching it. Using a slotted spoon, gently loosen egg from the bottom of the pan. Gently nudge the whites (still a bit clear at this point) around the yolk to form the egg into the nice poached egg shape. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes total. Remove egg with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining eggs (no need to change water unless it’s too cloudy — that means the water wasn’t quite warm enough when the egg went in).

If desired, reheat eggs just before serving. Slip them (all at once is ok) back into hot water for about 30 seconds; drain.


Spoon tomato sauce into bowls, top with poached egg or two. Serve immediately with bread and potatoes (if desired).

slicing as to not disturb seeds
avoiding the seeds
prepped peppers
pepper julienne
pepper brunoise

root "hair" trimmed (do not slice off)
top sliced off
halve through root

peeling off skin (really nice onion)
a few parallel slices
perpendicular slices
chopped onion

garlic cloves
bottoms sliced off
smashing! (knife method)
smashing! (heel of the palm method)
peel easily removed
naked garlic
roughly chopped garlic
minced garlic


¹ I still have fond memories of an epic San Francisco walk that David and I took several years ago. We convinced ourselves that walking from our apartment to the Golden Gate bridge wasn’t that far. Well, let’s just say, it’s much further than it appears. Five-point-two-miles to be exact. One way. We made there and (most of the way, thank goodness for MUNI!) back on foot, utilizing the slightly creepy pedestrian subways and all. Those sort of “hikes” are fun for me. As for practically-in-the-middle-of-nowhere ones, I’m slowly developing an appreciation.

² As always, I highly recommend confirming the gluten-free status of restaurant dishes I talk about if you go.

³ I’m not sure this is a terribly authentic addition, but I love a finishing sprinkle of this spice combo on top (oregano-tomato always works for me).

Please note that consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.

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  • Reply
    Kiri W.
    March 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Wow, I have never heard of this dish, but it sounds fantastic. Bookmarked.

  • Reply
    heather sage
    March 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks, Kiri! I suspect the amount of oil could be reduced by about half to make it a bit healthier and it’d still be quite tasty.

  • Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 5:31 am

    This looks fantastic and I love your photos, very helpful. I can make this, I bet it tastes wonderfully spicy. Congrats on the Top 9.

  • Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Your photography is so helpful & instructive! This recipe sounds so lovely. Fabulous work!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Our chickens are producing a plethora of eggs these days – this dish looks like an answer to prayer. Thanks!

  • Reply
    heather sage
    March 7, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Suzi: Thank you! I’m so happy the photos are useful! It does have a good amount of heat (sweet, instead of hot, paprika can knock down the spice level a bit if needed). I just picked up more jalapeños so I can make it again!

    Ally: Thank you for the thoughtful words! It’s now certainly worth having a camera with some heat to it for a few days :).

    Erin: What kind of chickens do you have? (I am in love with the idea of raising them — the promise of super-fresh eggs, their benefit to a garden , etc. — perhaps some day.) The recipes here may be of use to you, too!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 7:52 am

    I love this dish for brunch at the weekends. I also didn’t realise how good tomatoes and eggs could be until about a year ago.

  • Reply
    heather sage
    March 7, 2012 at 8:00 am

    It’s such a nice shift from the more standard brunch fare, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love waffles, pancakes, eggs benedict and more, but it’s nice having more vibrant options (especially naturally gluten-free ones) on the menu.

    (Also, I literally just realized that I’ve actually liked one egg and tomato combination for decades — that being scrambled eggs with ketchup. For whatever reason, I tend to forget that ketchup=tomato product. Whoops!)

  • Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I’ve never heard of this dish before, but it sounds amazing! Your pictures look great, too!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 8:11 am

    To be perfectly honest, it’s this dish that still scares me. 🙂 Once I did make the basic tomato sauce and bake the eggs in it. Didn’t like it, but I think it was mainly the sauce – it was nothing exciting. Whereas your sauce, and all of its spiciness, looks perfect, plus I love the way you pouched the egg outside of the sauce. That makes SO much more sense! I might just have to give it another try! Congrats on making the Top 9! Great recipe!

  • Reply
    heather sage
    March 7, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Nicola: I love the name, makes it sound so much more exciting! I love that it’s really approachable, though. Thanks!

    mjskit: Hehe, I completely understand. Baked eggs and I still don’t get along so well — they tend to turn too rubbery for my texture-tastes (I fully admit that I may be doing something wrong). I tried and failed to poach the eggs in the sauce once, ended up with egg white streaks running throughout and, frankly, gave up. I like that poaching them separately gives you more control, and if you mess up one egg the whole dish doesn’t suffer — plus: multitasking! Also, since it’s only my husband and I, I typically make the full batch of sauce and freeze half — then I only need to poach some eggs, defrost the sauce and I have a meal ready in a snap. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Awesome and helpful pictures! I think my eyes even watered looking at those onions!

    Looks good and I look forward to giving it a whirl.

    Well done.

  • Reply
    heather sage
    March 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Thanks, Brad! See, the onions don’t bother me (usually) — it’s whenever I fail to wear gloves when chopping hot peppers that I run into issues whilst removing my contacts. Then there will be tears!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I, too, was a slow convert to the idea of combining egg and tomato, being somewhat of a purist when it comes to my eggs. This is a wonderful rendition of the dish and your photos documenting all the steps are phonemenal! If you’re interested, I recently posted my own take on this dish, using chouchouka, a Moroccan condiment, as the base:

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