Kid-friendly Middle Eastern Shakshuka Poached Eggs Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Middle Eastern Shakshuka Poached Eggs

Recipe: Middle Eastern Shakshuka Poached Eggs

Middle Eastern Shakshuka Poached Eggs

by Erin Fletter
Photo by Tatiana Bralnina/
prep time
40 minutes
cook time
25 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Middle Eastern Shakshuka Poached Eggs

"Shakshuka" (pronounced "shahk-SHOO-kah") essentially means "all mixed up." Popular in North Africa and the Middle East, the dish consists of eggs cooked in a thick spicy sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and seasonings. Because eggs are one of the main ingredients, it's often found on breakfast menus, but it is also a popular evening meal in Israel. It is a staple of Libyan, Egyptian, Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan cuisines, traditionally served in a cast-iron skillet with bread to mop up the sauce. There are many variations of the sauce with differences in the spices and flavorings used. Our shakshuka includes paprika, cumin, lemon juice, and other seasonings, and we're serving it with homemade Pronto Pita Bread. If your kids have never seen or eaten poached eggs, they'll be impressed with how the eggs cook and look nestled in the bright tomato sauce.

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • knead :

    to work dough by pushing, pulling, and folding it by hand or with a stand mixer.

  • poach :

    to gently cook a food, like fish or an egg (without its shell), submerged in simmering (not boiling) liquid.

  • rest (dough) :

    to let bread or pastry dough relax, allowing the dough to absorb more liquid and become more pliable before shaping it.

  • simmer :

    to cook a food gently, usually in a liquid, until softened.

Equipment Checklist

  • Skillet + matching lid
  • Small mixing bowls (2)
  • Cutting board
  • Kid-safe knife
  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden spoon


Middle Eastern Shakshuka Poached Eggs

  • 1/2 bunch green onions
  • 1 green or red bell pepper
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 2 tsp sugar or honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 T lemon juice or vinegar
  • 6 eggs **(for EGG ALLERGY sub 1 15-oz can garbanzo beans)**
  • small bunch fresh parsley, optional
  • 1/2 C feta cheese, optional **(Omit for DAIRY ALLERGY)**

Food Allergen Substitutions

Middle Eastern Shakshuka Poached Eggs

  • Egg: For 6 eggs, substitute 1 15-oz can garbanzo beans.
  • Dairy: Omit optional feta cheese.


Middle Eastern Shakshuka Poached Eggs

chop + soften

Have your kids chop up 1/2 bunch green onions, 1 green or red bell pepper, 4 large tomatoes, and 2 garlic cloves, and put each in their own bowl. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on your stovetop over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and green onions, along with 2 teaspoons paprika and 1/2 teaspoon cumin, stirring until the onion has softened in the oil, about 3 minutes.

add + simmer

Next, add the chopped bell pepper and cook for about 3 minutes, or until soft, followed by the chopped tomatoes, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 pinch of black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir well and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce becomes thick.

crack + slip + poach

One by one, crack 6 eggs into a small bowl, slipping each into the tomato sauce in the skillet before cracking the next egg. Cover the skillet with a lid and poach the eggs until the whites are firm and the yolks have thickened but are not too hard, about 5 minutes.

crumble + sprinkle

Crumble 1/2 cup of feta cheese (if using) and sprinkle some parsley leaves (if using) on top. If the tomato sauce has become too dry, add a few tablespoons of water. Serve with Pronto Pita Bread!

Surprise Ingredient: Tomato!

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Photo by Zaitsava Olga/

Hi! I’m Tomato!

"I'm a beautiful, juicy red Tomato. Do you pronounce my name: "tuh-may-tow" or "tuh-mah-tow?" Either way you slice it (or say it), we tomatoes are wonderfully adaptable. You'll find us fresh or cooked on sandwiches, in salads, tacos, soups, stews, sauces, and much more." 

History & Etymology

  • The tomatoes we have now descended from the pea-size fruit of wild plants that grew in western South America. Mesoamericans were the first to domesticate the tomato plant sometime before 500 BCE. 
  • Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, may have brought tomatoes back to Europe in the 16th century after conquering the Aztec city, Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). 
  • Tomatoes cultivated in North American colonies in the early 1700s may have been introduced from the Caribbean. Thomas Jefferson also brought tomato seeds back from France. Before tomatoes were used in cooking, the plants were used ornamentally due to some people's beliefs that they were poisonous. One reason for this error was that tomatoes come from the nightshade family, including the belladonna plant (or deadly nightshade), which has highly toxic leaves and berries. Another reason may be that the pewter plates they used back then adversely reacted to the acid in tomato juice. 
  • China is by far the largest producer of tomatoes in the world. In the United States, California and Florida produce the most tomatoes.
  • The American and British pronunciations of "tomato" were made famous by an Ira and George Gershwin song from 1937 called "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Americans pronounce the word "tuh-may-tow," and the British say "tuh-mah-tow."
  • The word "tomato" comes from the Spanish, French, or Portuguese "tomate," from the Nahuatl "tomatl."


  • The tomato is a berry from the tomato plant (Solanum Lycopersicum), a perennial vine. It is part of the Solanaceae family, like the potato, pepper, eggplant, and petunia. Since it is a berry, it is a fruit, although mainly used as a vegetable. 
  • A tomato's color is usually red but can also be yellow, orange, green, or purple. Tomatoes can be spherical, oval, or pear-shaped. Their flesh is pulpy with cavities, called locules, that hold the seeds. 
  • There are more than 10,000 tomato varieties. Some are hybrids, and some are heirlooms. An heirloom tomato is a variety that has been grown for generations on a family farm rather than commercially. Unfortunately, in the past 40 years, many heirloom varieties have been lost, along with the smaller family farms that grew them. However, hundreds of heirloom tomato varieties are still available. 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • If you are growing your own tomatoes, pick them from the vine while still firm, with a slight give, and before their ripe color (usually red) deepens too much. While holding the fruit, twist it off the stem until it snaps off. The leaf on top of the tomato (the calyx) and part of the stem will come with it. You can also snip it off using garden scissors.
  • When you choose tomatoes at the store, pick fruit that has smooth, brightly colored skin with no cracks or bruises, is firm but gives with slight pressure, is heavy for its size, and has a pleasant, aromatic smell. Avoid tomatoes with pale or dark spots.  
  • Store tomatoes at room temperature, as their flavor will decrease in a refrigerator's cold temperature. Wait to wash them until you are ready to use them.
  • If you plan to make a tomato sauce or soup using fresh, raw tomatoes, you will want to peel them first. This can be difficult without some preparation: First, put a pot of water on the stove to boil and fill a large bowl with cold or icy water. Next, after washing the tomatoes, use your knife to cut a shallow 'X' through the skin at the top or bottom of each one. Then use a slotted spoon to place the tomatoes into the boiling water until the skin begins to loosen and peel back at the incision, about 30 to 60 seconds. Finally, immediately dunk them into the ice water. The skin should peel easily now. You can also remove the seeds by cutting the peeled tomatoes in half and scooping the seeds out with a spoon.  
  • Tomatoes are versatile vegetables for cooking. Ripe tomatoes can be prepared fresh, stuffed, baked, boiled, or stewed, and they are the base for many sauces. You can also pickle green, unripe tomatoes, add them to salsa or bread and fry them.


  • Tomatoes are a moderate source of vitamin C, and cooked tomatoes are high in lycopene, an antioxidant, which may help protect your body's cells from damage, strengthen your immune system, and prevent some diseases.


History of Shakshuka!

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich
  • Shakshuka is a main dish, typically served for breakfast, consisting of poached eggs sitting in a sauce of tomatoes, red peppers, onion, garlic, and olive oil. It was born in the Maghreb or Northwest Africa. The countries that make up the Maghreb are Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. It was probably created sometime after the 16th century when Spanish explorers returning from the New World introduced tomatoes and peppers to Africa, Asia, and Europe. 
  • Across North Africa, different regional variations have flourished. Some varieties are spicier than others, some include a wider range of vegetables, and some are served over bread. Part of shakshuka's appeal is its affordability, with a meal of eggs, tomatoes, vegetables, and bread being an easy option.

Let's Learn About the Middle East!

Photo by Shutterstock
  • The Middle Eastern region sits in Western Asia and includes the following countries: Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. 
  • Several bodies of water border some of the countries, including the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, and the Red Sea. 
  • People have lived in the Middle East for thousands of years, and they may speak one of the six major languages: Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Kurdish, Persian, or Turkish. In addition, there are about 20 minority languages in the region. It is common for Middle Eastern people to speak more than one language.
  • The total area is 2,782,860 square miles, and the population is over 371 million. Saudi Arabia is the biggest in size, but Egypt has the most people.
  • The climate is hot and dry, with little available water beyond several rivers, like the Nile and its delta and the watersheds of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 
  • Family is very important to the people of the Middle East. Food culture is rich and varied, with many recipes and methods overlapping. 
  • Middle Eastern art forms are stunning. Think handmade carpets, henna, marbling, glazed tile works, pottery, motifs, and embroidery. 
  • A typical meal in the Middle East is meat, fish, or stew, and various vegetable dishes or salads. Meals are served with bread or rice and often start with a salad, appetizers, dip-like spreads such as hummus or baba ganoush, pickles, and bowls of olives, dates, and nuts. Middle Eastern meals are feasts!

The Yolk's On You

Why did the tomato blush? 

Because he saw the salad dressing!

THYME for a Laugh

How do you fix a broken tomato? 

Tomato paste!

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