Coming from the Balkans, I have tried many different vegetable spreads and dips and I know that a tasty spread/dip can make everything tastier. Hence, it’s no surprise that I fell in love with the traditional Moroccan zaalouk recipe at first bite. In Morocco, people consider it as one of the most basic salads of Maghreb cuisine but zaalouk is so much more. In this post, we’ll share some background and history and show you how to make delicious Moroccan zaalouk at your home.
Let’s start from the beginning…
What is Zaalouk?
Similarly to taktouka, zaalouk is another delicious cooked salad in which the main ingredients are eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Zaalouk is usually served as a side dish or as a dip alongside some crusty breads. In Arabic, the word zaalouk means puree or something soft which is a rather accurate description of the texture of this dish.
The most popular version of zaalouk is prepared with eggplant as the main ingredient but there are a few different versions that use pepper, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, or even pumpkin as a substitute. This zaalouk recipe will feature the eggplant version because personally, I tried all of the above-mentioned types of zaalouk and they don’t come close to the eggplant version.
Are you a fan of Moroccan dips and spreads? Make sure to check out our Moroccan bissara recipe.
Even though a basic salad, people have hundreds of modified ways of preparing zaalouk across Morocco. The zaalouk recipe varies from region to region and the recipe that I’m sharing with you today is a slightly modified version of the zaalouk I tried in The Ruined Garden (a famous local restaurant) in Fez. It’s chunky, saucy, and full of flavors.
However, Moroccans aren’t the only people who use eggplants for making delicious spreads/dips. You’ll find some regional variations of zaalouk in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southern Europe. In the Middle East, they have baba ghanoush made of eggplants and tahini, in the Balkans, they have melitzanosalata and pindjur made by adding peppers to the mix, and you’ll also find a lot of different localized versions of the zaalouk recipe in different parts of North Africa. The most common differences of these local variations consist of a small wedge of fresh lemons, tahini, chili oil, or boiling the eggplants before making the salad.
The Idea Behind Using Eggplants in a Salad
Even though in many places, you’ll see that zaalouk is classified as a salad, this dish is not the typical raw, uncooked type. It’s a warm and creamy dish that’s also known as eggplant caviar and is famous in some other Balkan countries like Macedonia, Serbia, and Greece where similar dishes like malidzano, pindjur, and ajvar are most commonly referred to as spreads, dips, or appetizers.
So, whether you want to call it a salad or not, zaalouk is usually served at the beginning of the meal or as a side dish to meat or fish-based dishes or tagines. However, if you’re a vegan, you can have zaalouk as a light meal alongside some Moroccan breads.
Zaalouk can be served both, warm or cold. It’s customary to drizzle some olive oil at the top and garnish the dish with some pistachios. If you want to experiment, you can serve it with some tortilla chips (surprisingly tasty, trust me), pita bread, or even bruschetta. You can also top the dish with some smoked paprika that will add the dish some smokiness and make it perfect for serving alongside grilled meat or fish.
A Few Additional Tips
If you want your zaalouk to have a smoky flavor, you can grill (smoke) the eggplants on the stove instead of frying.
If you want to add some more flavor, you can experiment with adding other vegetables, such as zucchini and red peppers.
Always use fresh tomatoes and avoid canned tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are not as sweet and subtle as fresh tomatoes but usually have a more potent flavor that can ruin your zaalouk. Fresh tomatoes make a big difference.
Once ready, you can keep your zaalouk in the fridge for up to five days. Some people even say it’s tastier after spending a night or two in the fridge.
So, if you’re looking for a healthy and flavorful vegetarian dish, zaalouk is a great choice. You can eat it on its own as a light meal, serve it as a dip, as a side dish, or even use it as a spread in a quick snack. You choose.
- 2 Eggplants
- 3 Tomatoes
- 4 Cloves Garlic
- 1/2 Cup Sunflower Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 Tablespoon Paprika
- 1 Parsley
- 1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Salt
- 1/2 Tablespoon Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- Cilantro Leaves For Garnish
- Preheat your skillet and add some sunflower oil.
- Chop the vegetables and brush the eggplants with some olive oil.
- Put everything in the pan and cover it with a lid.
- Stir every five minutes.
- After 15 minutes, mash the vegetables with a potato masher and let the mix cook for another 25 minutes.
- Sprinkle some cilantro leaves for garnishing and drizzle some olive oil on the top.
- Serve and enjoy!
Serving Size:100 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 163Total Fat: 3.2gSaturated Fat: 1.2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 478mgCarbohydrates: 54gNet Carbohydrates: 54gFiber: 13gSugar: 1.2gProtein: 10.5g
How did you like our zaalouk recipe? Did you ever try zaalouk? Do you have anything to add? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
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