Zaalouk is a traditional Moroccan salad and dip where diced eggplants are cooked in a tasty sauce of tomatoes, garlic, paprika, and cumin.
It’s served as an appetizer or side dish with warm crusty bread or as a main dish with other spreads and dips.
You’ll love Zaalouk’s creamy yet chunky texture and rich, aromatic, slightly smokey, and savory taste. The recipe is easy to make in one skillet in less than 30 minutes and perfect for meal prep.
Table of Contents
Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet.
Zaalouk is a vibrant and flavorful dish representing the essence of Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine.
It’s a recipe where simple and fresh ingredients like garlic, eggplant, and tomatoes meld with fragrant spices and fresh herbs like cumin, paprika, and parsley to create a warm, rich, and aromatic dish.
As they simmer, the eggplants become beautifully tender and absorb the sweet juices of the tomatoes and the aromatic flavor of the spices.
The best way to enjoy zaalouk is slightly warm or at room temperature with a squeeze of lemon and a warm piece of khobz (Arabic bread) or pita bread.
You can make zaalouk in advance if you have guests over for dinner. Leftovers, if any, keep well in the fridge for five days.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Use globe eggplants or Italian eggplants, the big round ones with shiny dark skin.
If in season, make this with ripe vine tomatoes cut into small dice.
Substitute Roma tomatoes or whole canned peeled tomatoes for vine tomatoes.
Since supermarket tomatoes are not as tasty as tomatoes grown in Morocco, we recommend adding a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste to make up for the tomato flavor and add richness and umami to our zaalouk.
Extra virgin olive oil is best for a richer, fruitier flavor.
Substitute regular olive oil or avocado oil for extra virgin olive oil.
Fresh garlic is another essential ingredient in this Moroccan eggplant salad. It makes a rich flavor base with olive oil, tomato paste, and spices.
- Cumin: we recommend ground cumin.
- Paprika: you can use sweet paprika or smoked paprika. Smoked paprika adds a wonderful smokey aroma to help you achieve a more authentic flavor, especially if you cannot charr the eggplants.
- Red pepper flakes: substitute a thinly sliced hot chili or cayenne pepper for red pepper flakes.
We recommend sea salt or kosher salt. Black pepper is optional.
Fresh flat-leaf parsley and cilantro (fresh coriander) are traditionally used in zaalouk.
If you don’t like or can’t find cilantro, then use more fresh flat-leaf parsley. Flat-leaf parsley is more delicate and aromatic than curly parsley.
It’s sometimes sold as Italian parsley, the variety used in Mediterranean countries.
It is optional, but we like squeezing fresh lemon juice on Zaaluk before serving it.
Serves well with
- A dollop of Greek-style yogurt, non-dairy yogurt, or tzatziki sauce.
- Warm pita bread or Khobz (Arabic bread).
- Olives, feta cheese, pickles.
How to make zaalouk
US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Chop the tomatoes into small dice and discard some of their seeds.
Cut the eggplant into small dice of about 1/5-inch or 5mm. Mince or press the garlic.
Note: To make a creamier Zaalouk, blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 5 minutes, peel them, and peel one of the two eggplants.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet, preferably with a heavy bottom.
Add minced garlic, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, paprika, and ground cumin, and fry gently for two minutes.
Add chopped tomatoes and salt and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
Now, add diced eggplant and one cup of water to the pan. Stir well, cover with a lid, and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.
Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary.
Remove the lid, and stir in fresh parsley and cilantro, both chopped. Finish cooking for a few more minutes or until there’s no more water in the pan.
As a final and optional step, mash some eggplants with a fork to create a creamy texture.
Taste and adjust for salt before serving. Ideally, let the zaalouk cool down for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
Serve zaalouk warm or at room temperature. If you stored it in the fridge, take it out 15 minutes before serving and stir it well.
The most common way of serving zaalouk is to arrange it on a plate or bowl, put it at the center of the table next to other small dishes, and with plenty of crusty Moroccan bread called Khobz.
If you can’t find Khobz, try:
- Pita bread
- Homemade flatbread
- Naan bread
- No-Knead Focaccia
- Couscous: Arrange the zaalouk on the couscous and enjoy it with a dollop of yogurt and a squeeze of lemon.
The bread is dipped in the zaalouk and used instead of a fork.
Depending on how many dishes you serve it with, zaalouk can be a starter or a main dish.
Whatever you do, add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil before serving.
Make your mezze platter with zaalouk
Zaalouk is excellent as part of a meze platter or tapas night with other small Mediterranean dishes.
A meze (or mezze) is an assortment of small dishes served together on one plate or in small separate bowls put at the center of the table, and it can be served as an appetizer or as a meal.
Some recipes that you can use to make your mezze are:
- Tabouli salad or Lentil tabbouleh
- Baba Ganoush
- Olives, feta cheese, and pickled cucumbers
Zaalouk as a side dish
Make it part of a Mediterranean dinner, and serve it next to:
Smoky Zaalouk with charred eggplant
Zaalouk is best when it has a mild smokey flavor.
You can add that with smoked paprika or, to make the recipe more authentic, with one charred eggplant cooked directly on a gas stove or a grill.
Make the zaalouk as instructed in our recipe, but instead of chopping and simmering 2 eggplants, only use one eggplant.
While the zaalouk simmer, cook the second eggplant directly on your gas stove flame, turning it often, until its skin is charred and the flesh is tender – it takes about 15 minutes.
You can charr it on a barbecue or grill if you don’t have a gas stove.
When cooked, transfer it to a plate and let it cool down until you can handle it and remove its skin.
Now chop it up and add it to the pan where the tomatoes and the other eggplant are cooking.
Storage & Make Ahead
Make ahead: zaalouk keeps well for days, so you can make it ahead and use it for meal prep.
Refrigerator: keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving and stir well.
Reheat: you can reheat this Moroccan eggplant salad in the microwave for 2 minutes.
Freezer: we don’t recommend freezing this recipe. If you do so, let it cool down completely first, then transfer it to a freezer-friendly container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator over several hours.
More Eggplant Recipes
Here are some more delicious eggplant recipes:
- Sautéed eggplant (Italian recipe).
- Roasted eggplant with garlic and vinegar drizzle.
- Mutabal or eggplant and yogurt dip.
- Eggplant caponata.
- Eggplant curry.
- Or check out our list of 25+ eggplant recipes.
More Dips & Spreads
Here are some more spreads and dips for a beautiful appetizer or light dinner:
For many more side dish ideas, check out our sides category page.
Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant Dip)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 5 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika or regular paprika
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 16 ounces tomatoes chopped into small dice (3 cups)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 medium eggplants chopped into small dice
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
- 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
- 4 wedges lemon for serving
- Chop 16 ounces tomatoes and 2 medium eggplants into 1/5-inch or 5mm dice.
- Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet, preferably with a heavy bottom.Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 5 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and fry for two minutes.Add the chopped tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add diced eggplants and 1 cup water.Stir, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the eggplants are tender.Stir occasionally and add more water if the pan gets dry.
- Add 2 tablespoons parsley and 2 tablespoons cilantro, both chopped. Finish cooking uncovered for a few more minutes or until there’s no more water in the pan.Mash some of the mixture with a fork to create a creamy texture.Taste and adjust for salt. Ideally, let the zaalouk cool down for 15 minutes before serving.
- Serve zaalouk warm or at room temperature with some warm bread (Khobz or Pita bread are best) and a squeeze of lemon juice.
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