Traditional Zaalouk is a popular eggplant and tomato dish well known in Moroccan cuisine, seasoned with a special blend of North African herbs and spices.
Perfect as an appetizer, salad or served as a delicious dip with warm steamy homemade flatbreads.
- Eggplant(aubergine) - Use medium-sized seasonal varieties. Large and old eggplants are too watery.
- Tomatoes - It's best to use fresh, sweet summer tomatoes. If you can't find sweet tomatoes, then use good quality chopped tinned varieties like San Marzano.
- Lemon - Fresh lemon or lime. The citrus plays a key role in balancing the flavours.
- Spices - Smoked paprika and cumin. It's best to use spices kept airtight as the flavour will be more intense.
- Herbs - I used chopped parsley, but you can easily use cilantro, dill or basil too.
- Garlic - For best results, use young seasonal garlic.
- Cut a shallow cross on the smooth end of the tomatoes.
- Bring a kettle or pot of water to a boil. Lower them into the boiling water, making sure they are fully submerged. Let them boil for 10 seconds.
- Remove and dip into iced or cold running tap water until cool.
- Peel away the skin.
- Quarter them and scoop out the seeds.
- Place the seeds into a sieve. The surrounding juice is very high in naturally occurring MSG. Umami, in other words, and we want to save that. You can save this for later, freeze it for longer storage, or use it straight away in a recipe.
- Press the seeds until all the juice is out. Discard the dry seeds.
- You now have petals of tomato ready to dice.
- Dice the tomatoes into roughly equal size pieces.
- Once done, it can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days if you are not planning to use it straight away.
If you are lucky enough to have a bbq at hand then I would suggest roasting the aubergines whole on there.
Roasting it on the fire gives it extra smokiness. You could also do this in a pizza oven or tandoor if you have access to one of those.
Otherwise, we bake it in a very hot oven.
- Start by turning the oven up to 250 °C or 482 °F. Put the eggplant on a baking tray and place it into the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- They should be completely soft and cooked all the way through. Be careful when handling them as they give off quite a bit of steam.
- Cut them in half and scoop out the flesh.
- Cut up into smaller pieces. It can now be used straight away, or you can store it in the fridge for up to 4 days or 6 months in the freezer.
Making the dish
- Heat a skillet with a touch of oil. The eggplant and tomatoes are still a bit wet, and we want to condense that all into an even creamy yet chunky stew.
- Once the skillet is hot, turn the heat down to medium and add the eggplant along with the garlic.
- Next, add the tomatoes along with the juice reserved tomato juice. Let it stew for a few minutes until they break up. You can also use a potato masher to help the process along.
- Add the spices, along with the salt and sugar. Stir often and cook a few minutes longer.
- It's ready when the mix is nice and creamy, without excess water pooling in the skillet.
- Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Add lemon juice along with the chopped herbs. Let it cool down to room temperature before drizzling with plenty of olive oil, adding some more herbs and freshly cracked black pepper.
Serve with flatbread or flour tortillas along with dukkah or za'atar seasoning for the most delicious simple snack.
Zaalouk is a naturally vegan and gluten-free dish. It's super healthy as is, and it's mostly enjoyed as a starter/salad of sorts. You can modify it to include meat, fish or seafood. Even add more veggies or spice it up!
- Adding protein - Add in some chicken, shrimp, octopus, calamari or minced beef or lamb. The resulting dish will be more of a stew, and I suggest you serve it warm as a main course.
- Eggplant - You can dice the aubergine and fry it in a pan instead of roasting it in the oven. Do it skin on or skin off. The resulting texture will be more chunky, but delicious nonetheless.
- Make it even healthier - Double-up on an already healthy dish by adding chopped steamed spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, lentils or chickpeas. Make sure to cook the lentils and chickpeas before, or use tinned versions.
- Adding more spice - Some like it hot. I do too. Add some chilli or simply a bit more warmth with cinnamon or curry masala.
Zaalouk can be anything you want it to be. It's a simple dip for crusty sourdough baguettes.
It can serve as a side or garnish for proteins like baked chicken breast, salmon fillet or juicy rib eye steak.
Seal airtight and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
For longer storage, it can be frozen for up to 6 months.
It can be reheated in a microwave or on the stove once defrosted.
Frequently asked questions
Zaalouk varies in texture from chunky to smooth. The choice is yours, and there is no right or wrong texture. For best results, keep the texture slightly coarse but not too chunky and not too smooth.
Not recommended for this recipe, but you can boil, steam or poach eggplant for other recipes where it requires a secondary cooking like glazing, grilling or frying.
Make sure to roast the eggplant at maximum heat or dry roast it in a skillet for a natural smokey eggplant flavour. Otherwise, use good quality smoked paprika or add a touch of natural smoke liquid.
Useful equipment for this recipe
Cast Iron Skillet
Wooden Chopping Board
Electronic Kitchen Scales
Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife
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Zaalouk - Moroccan Roasted Eggplant And Tomato Salad/Dip
- 2 (2) eggplants - note 3
- 5 (5) sweet tomatoes - medium sized - note 4
- 4 g (1 teaspoon) cumin powder - note 5
- 4 g (1 teaspoon) smoked paprika - note 5
- 20 g (2 ½ tablespoon) garlic - chopped or minced - note 6
- 80 g (⅜ cups) olive oil - extra virgin
- 10 g (2 ½ tablespoon) parsley - chopped - note 7
- 5 g (1 tablespoon) mint - chopped - note 7
- 6 g (1 teaspoon) salt
- 6 g (1 ½ teaspoon) sugar - note 8
- juice of 1 lemon
For the eggplant
- Roast in the oven at 250°C or 482°F until soft. Takes about 20 minutes. If it needs longer, give it longer. the eggplant needs to be fuly cooked and soft.
- When cooked remove the flesh and roughly chop it up. Set aside until needed.
For the tomatoes(optional step. You can also chop the tomatoes whole seeds and all. It's just more rustic.)
- Blanch, peel and deseed the tomatoes. Press the juice from the seeds by rubbing through a sieve. Dice into large pieces and set aside along with the juice.
Cooking the zaalouk
- Heat a skillet with oil until it just starts to smoke. The aubergine and tomatoes are still watery and we want to condense that all into a homogenous creamy chunky stew.
- Once the skillet is hot, turn the heat to medium and add the eggplant along with the garlic. Cook and stir for a few minutes taking care not to burn it.
- Next, add the tomatoes along with the juice if you used fresh tomatoes. Let it stew for a few minutes until they start breaking up a bit.
- Add the spices along with the salt and sugar. Cook a bit longer.
- When it's ready it's should not be wet but nice and creamy. You'll know when it's ready.
- Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning if you want. Add the lemon juice little by little according to your taste along with the chopped herbs. Let it cool down to room temperature.
- Put into a bowl or keep in the pan before drizzling with plenty of olive oil, adding some more herbs and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with flatbread or flour tortillas along with optional dukkah or za'atar seasoning.
- Storage instructions - Once made you can store it airtight in the fridge for up to 4 days or for up to 6 months in the freezer. To reheat simply do so in a pot, pan or microwave.
- Tip - These types of dishes are always better eaten the next day.
- Tomatoes - You can use tinned tomatoes but sweet seasonal varieties work best. Make sure to adjust the acidity by adding sugar to your taste.
- Eggplant - Use firm good quality eggplants. Oversized hollow feeling eggplant will lose a lot of water and not add much flavour.
- Spices - For best results toast your own cumin and grind in a spice grinder. Smoked paprika is not traditionally used but it does make the dish better. Highly recommended.
- Garlic - You can leave out the garlic or replace it with roasted garlic instead.
- Herbs - You can use whatever herbs you want. Try tarragon, chervil, dill and chicves.
- Sugar - The taste needs to be balanced as the tomatoes will give acidity. Use whatever sweetener you prefer. Sugar, honey, stevia all work.
This is almost taste same as one my family make. Only eggplant we cut before it cook. Very great recipe! Good taste!
Karim, I am glad you liked it! I do like it when the eggplant is cut and roasted in a pot over the fire but also this creamier version. Hard to choose a favourite)
This is amazing. I only had one eggplant so I used the same amount of steamed cauliflower to replace it. OMG, sooooo good!! Topped with fresh mint and parsley. And the lemon takes it to another dimension. Thank you!