Zaâlouk of eggplants, tomatoes and peppers

Zaalouk (or zaalouka) is a Moroccan salad, which is also known throughout the Maghreb. In fact, Zaalouk means "purée" or "something soft“, and this is why the eggplant zaalouk is often compared to, and named, the Moroccan baba ganoush (or mtabal), although there are key differences between those two, in terms of ingredients, cooking and texture.
As it is very frequently the case in Morocco (and elsewhere), there are many variations, adaptations, versions… of zaalouk. This is due to the way culinary recipes have been transmitted over the time, orally, through the “dadas”. The dadas are those very gifted cooks, descendants of slaves from Sudan who were serving rich families in the past. Every family of notables had at least one dada, who assumed several functions, being at the same time the cook, the nanny, the housekeeper, the confidante and the guardian of all family secrets. This is how the Moroccan very fine art of cooking and recipes such as Zaalouk were passed from mother to daughter during generations…

Thus, if Zaalouk is often prepared with eggplant, there are several adaptations with other vegetables: pepper, cauliflower, pumpkin... The Moroccan version of this eggplant salad or side dish is prepared with the “usual” Moroccan spices, cumin, paprika, garlic, cilantro… but, depending on the recipe, some grill the eggplant while some other fry it, or some steam it first (as here). Some cook the ingredients separately before merging them, while others cook all at the same time (well, same debate as for the ratatouille!). Some remove the eggplant, others don’t, while a third category (my case) do it fifty/fifty (one stripe out of two). In Fas-Meknas area, for example, dadas grilled red pepper and diced it before adding it at the end of the cooking. Elsewhere, black olives will be added., or raisins, pine nuts… Also, zaalouk can be served warm, lukewarm or cold, as a salad, with flatbread, or as a side with grilled meat or fish. At the dada’s convenience!

Here, my zaalouk involved eggplant, tomato, and bell pepper, based on a reciped by my “dada”, i.e. my friend Choumicha, a TV cooking show host and blogger in Morocco.

And like its cousin the ratatouille, it is even better after 1 or 2 days in the fridge, which gives all the time for the ingredients and the spices to infuse together. A delight!

Levels of difficulty

30 minutes
15 minutes to 2 days!
30 minutes

Ingredients 4 servings
(as a starter or a side dish) 
§  2 medium size eggplants
§  2 big tomatoes
§  1 bell pepper,
§  3-4 tbsp. of olive oil
§  3 garlic cloves, minced
§  1 tsp cumin
§  1 tsp paprika
§  ½ tsp cayenne
§  cilantro and/or parsley
§  salt

§  Peel the eggplants one stripe out of two and dice them into medium dice. Put them in the top of a couscoussier or a strainer and steam them,
§  Wash the tomatoes, peel and seed them and chop them,
§  Burn the bell pepper skin with a culinary torch (it is not only for crème brûlée), keep them for 30 minutes in a freezing bag or the like, tightly closed, then pass them under the tap while brushing the skin away. Cut them into thin strips lengthwise, chop them, except 8 strips per serving that you will keep intact for the decoration,
§  Pour the oil into a frying pan and add the eggplant pieces. Brown them over low heat, stirring until their water evaporates. Remove the eggplants from the pan and crush them roughly with a (Mezzaluna) knife, but not with a blender, as you don’t want a purée or a baba ganoush. Add the tomatoes and minced garlic and let it simmer until the water from the tomatoes evaporates,
§  Then add the spices, salt, the herbs (except a few leaves for the decoration) and the chopped pepper strips. Cook for 5 minutes,
§  Place in a round bottomless mold, dispose the pepper strips on top with the remaining herb leaves, and serve it warm, lukewarm or cold.



  1. So simple, but the flavors and textures sound delicious.


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