Zaalouk is an eggplant appetizer of aubergine, tomatoes and Moroccan spices. Make this recipe to serve as a tasty eggplant dip or side dish.
Eggplant dip can be made many different ways. The veggie can be boiled, grilled, or charred, as it is in Palestinian mutabal. Baba ghanoush is a very popular Lebanese roasted eggplant dip.
Those recipes are great ways to use eggplant, but just wait until you try zaalouk! It's a favorite eggplant appetizer of mine, and I have a feeling that it'll become a favorite of yours, too.
Cuisine: Moroccan / North African
In Moroccan cuisine, the eggplant is more commonly known as an aubergine. You can find it in a wide variety of African dishes, from eggplant stews and tagines, to soups, salads, and cooked appetizers like zaalouk.
Zalouk, aubergine or eggplant salad, eggplant dip
English pronunciation of Zaalouk: ZAY-lah-k
Grilled, roasted, boiled, or simmered
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Moroccan-spiced, cooked tomato and eggplant appetizer or salad side dish.
There are several variations of zaalouk. For the most part, the recipes call for the same ingredients; it's the cooking process that differs.
Some cooks prefer to grill or boil the eggplant separately first. Others prefer a roasted eggplant dip. Oven roasting the veggie is definitely a great option for zaalouk, but it takes quite a bit longer to make.
To keep things quick and simple, my zaalouk is made by stewing the eggplant and tomatoes together at the same time.
Similar to making ratatouille, the vegetables are stewed with spices. After they're cooked and soft, they're mashed and simmered again, until the excess liquid evaporates. This results in a thick and creamy, irresistibly delicious eggplant dip.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Eggplant (aubergine)- This veggie is very versatile, but it needs a good amount of seasoning to bring out its incredible flavor.
After it cooks, it becomes thick and a bit gelatinous, which helps to thicken the tomato mixture. It also adds a rich flavor.
- Fresh tomatoes- No shortcuts here; fresh tomatoes are a must for this eggplant appetizer. Canned tomatoes, regardless of the brand or quality, have a much higher acidity than fresh, and that acid will diminish the flavor of the eggplant.
- Garlic- I use six cloves of minced garlic in my zaalouk. This may sound like a lot, but it's just enough for the flavor to break through the acids in the tomatoes and lemon juice.
- Cayenne powder- Just a pinch of ground cayenne adds a punch of heat to the eggplant dip. Feel free to adjust the amount to increase or decrease the spiciness.
What to serve with Zaalouk
What you serve with the eggplant appetizer truly depends on how you intend to serve it.
As a dip, it's fantastic with warm pita (try my recipe for whole wheat khubz!), zaatar bread, or naan.
If you're serving it as a side dish, the flavors of zaalouk pair well with grilled meats or fish. Try it with lamb koobideh kabob or chicken tikka kebab.
Zaalouk (Eggplant Appetizer)
- 2 lbs eggplant peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes (See Note 1)
- 4 medium tomatoes peeled and chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoon parsley chopped
- 2 tablespoon cilantro chopped
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 lemon (2-3 tablespoon juice)
- In a Dutch oven or deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin, salt, cayenne, and ⅓ cup of water. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, or until the eggplant and tomatoes are soft enough to mash.
- Stir in lemon juice and continue cooking uncovered over low heat to reduce liquid, stirring frequently; occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan. Adjust the heat if necessary to avoid contents from scorching.
- When the zaalouk is reduced to desired consistency, taste, then adjust seasoning with salt if needed. Serve warm or cold with pita or other bread of choice.
- If desired, boil, grill or roast eggplant first, then drain water and strain out as many seeds as possible. Add cooked eggplant pulp in step 2, after tomatoes have cooked.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.