Zaalouk (Eggplant Tomato Dip)

5 from 6 votes
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Zaalouk is a simple Moroccan eggplant salad with tomatoes (also served as a flavorful eggplant tomato dip or side dish), made with just a handful of ingredients. Perfect for serving with crusty bread!

A bowl full with zaalouk topped with parsley

I may have a slight bias thanks to my Lebanese roots, but eggplant (aubergine) may just be one of the best “dip” and “salad” ingredients ever. While it has a reputation for being difficult to cook, when mashed into dips/dishes like this zaalouk recipe, it provides this amazingly creamy consistency and subtle flavor that compliments the spices and flavors used with it (like with moutabal, ajvar, and kashke bademjan).

In this case, I’ve combined the eggplant with tomato, garlic, and a handful of Moroccan spices for a simple but flavor-packed dish you can enjoy as an appetizer, side, or snack (especially with crusty bread/khobz!) to enjoy warm or at room temperature.

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What is Zaalouk?

Zaalouk (also spelled zalouk) translates from Arabic to mean “puree” or “something soft” and can refer to dishes with several ingredients, including peppers, zucchini, and pumpkin.

In this case, it refers to a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and low-carb Moroccan eggplant and tomato salad (cooked). It’s traditionally made with cooked eggplant combined with tomatoes and then mixed with garlic and a selection of spices that are extremely popular in North Africa/Morocco – similar to baigan choka (but with less spice) and a zestier baba ganoush).

A pan with eggplant tomato dip

There are many variations of this recipe through regions and even households. While the ingredients largely remain the same, the cooking method and final consistency of the zaalouk (chunky vs. puree-smooth or anything in between) can differ. For example, some cooks prefer to grill or roast the eggplant separately (for a smokier flavor) then combine it with the other ingredients. Other versions have you boil the eggplant.

My version has kept this simple (and quick) by stewing the eggplant directly in with the tomatoes for a fuss-free one-pot meal. However, I’ve included notes if you prefer to try other methods. And if you want to try other simple, flavorful dips, you might like this muhammara, roasted carrot dip, garlic white bean dip, or creamy hummus!

The Ingredients

This Moroccan eggplant recipe requires just a few simple ingredients, including.

  • Eggplant: smaller eggplants (aubergines) tend to contain fewer seeds and be less bitter, but use whatever is available to you. Make sure to use eggplants with smooth, shiny skin that’s heavy for their size.
  • Tomatoes: use ripe, in-season tomatoes for the best results (and avoid over-firm tomatoes which won’t break down as easily).
  • Garlic: adjust the amount of garlic cloves to taste.
  • Lemon: will add brightness and depth to the Moroccan zaalouk that’s delicious.
  • Seasoning: you’ll need a combination of cumin, paprika (sweet), chili powder (or cayenne pepper – adjust amount to taste), and salt.
  • Parsley: I love using lots of fresh parsley for the best results. However, you could use dried parsley in a pinch (use half the amount). Alternatively, use a 50/50 combination of parsley and chopped cilantro or swap it out entirely for cilantro.
  • Tomato paste: this ingredient is technically optional but can be added when doing the final reduction of the Moroccan eggplant salad, for a boost in flavor. Usually best when the tomatoes aren’t at their ripest.
  • Olive oil: use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best results (and extra healthfulness thanks to the combination of cooked tomatoes and olive oil). This will help bind the eggplant and tomato and create a silky mouth-feel.
Ingredients for zaalouk

Optional Add-ins and Variations

While some options on the list below aren’t usually part of a traditional zaalouk recipe, they are experiments that I highly recommend.

  • Spice: yu can increase the spice levels in the eggplant tomato dip with some finely chopped fresh chili peppers or harissa. You could also garnish the zaalouk with a drizzle of chili oil.
  • Cinnamon: just a pinch of cinnamon tastes delicious in this Moroccan eggplant recipe.
  • Red pepper: add one finely chopped red bell pepper to soften with the other ingredients.
  • Zucchini: a small zucchini can also be added (with or without peel) to soften with the veggies for extra nutrients and flavor.
  • Ginger: ginger is a popular addition to Moroccan cuisine. If you want to experiment, I recommend first trying with a 1/2-inch piece of the root and increasing to taste. You don’t want it to overwhelm the flavors.
  • Onion: add a finely chopped onion to the pan with the tomatoes for extra aromatic flavor.
  • Sugar: though it shouldn’t be needed, I always add a sweetener as an optional ingredient for cooked tomato-based dishes like this zaalouk recipe. If you find the flavor a little too acidic, add in a small amount of either sugar or honey to balance the flavors.
  • Protein: if you want to make this into more of an eggplant and tomato stew, keep the veg quite chunky and add in a protein of your choice (tofu, tempeh, chicken, shrimp, lamb, beef, etc.)
  • Additional veggies: following on from the above, you could also add extra “hard” veggies (and leafy greens) if making it into a stew-like consistency. My favorites include broccoli, cauliflower, chickpeas, and spinach/kale.
  • Black pepper: season to taste.

To Garnish the Eggplant Tomato Dip

  • Pistachios: chopped, unsalted.
  • Black olives: finely chopped, add pockets of salty tang to the eggplant tomato dip. However, they could also be used as a garnish.
  • Chermoula: a popular Moroccan relish.
  • Additional Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

How to Make Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant Tomato Salad)?

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

First, prepare the vegetables: rinse and finely chop (or grate) the tomatoes and dice the eggplant into 1-inch pieces. At the same time, mince the garlic.

I peel the eggplant first for an even smoother dip, but this is 100% unnecessary and can be done either way. If you want some extra color in the dip, leave a few strips of peel on the eggplant.

You can also optionally blanch and peel the tomatoes if preferred.

Steps for preparing veggies for zaalouk

Step 2: Cook the Eggplant and Tomato Mixture

Then, heat the oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add the garlic, and allow it to sauté, stirring often, for a minute. Then add all the ingredients (except the lemon juice, ½ the cumin, and tomato paste).

For a deeper, smokier flavor, you can grill or roast the eggplant separately (in halves, slices, or cubes), then add it to the cooked tomatoes at the end.

Mix well and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (I used around 1/4 cup). Then cover and cook over medium-low heat for around 30 minutes.

Steps for cooking zaalouk

If it starts to look dry at any point, quickly open the lid to add an extra splash of water.

Step 3: Mash the Eggplant and Tomatoes

Remove the lid and check that the chopped tomatoes and eggplant are tender, then use a potato masher to gently mash the eggplant and tomatoes.

You can mash the eggplant tomato dip to your desired consistency. Some prefer it as a smooth puree, and others prefer a chunkier consistency. I gently mash it so it still has a bit of texture.

Steps for making zaalouk

At this point, add the remaining cumin and lemon juice. You can also optionally add some tomato paste (for extra depth).

If the mixture is too watery, continue to cook it over medium-high heat, stirring often, until it thickens and reduces to a paste-like “dip” consistency.

Then serve the Moroccan eggplant salad topped with some additional parsley and optionally, a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Cooking zaaloum in a pan

How to Serve Zaalouk?

  • Bread: traditionally, zaalouk is served as a salad with crusty bread, khobz, or other flatbread like pita (or even some homemade pita chips). You can also use it as a spread over toast (even better with labneh, too), in sandwiches, and wraps (like this eggplant halloumi wrap).
  • Grains: Serve it as a side to your favorite grain, like brown rice or quinoa.
  • Protein: you can serve the Moroccan eggplant salad as a side or topping for grilled and baked chicken, beef, fish, and even tofu/tempeh.
  • Pastry: you can use this Moroccan eggplant recipe as a simple pastry filler/topper, for example, with this tarte soleil.
  • Eggs: use it as a base and top with a fried egg or poached egg, then serve with bread. Delicious!
A sponful of zaalouk

How to Make Ahead and Store?

Make ahead: this eggplant tomato dip/salad tastes even better on day two, so I highly recommend making it a day in advance (or at least making enough for leftovers).

Store: Store any leftovers of this eggplant tomato recipe in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Freeze: allow it to cool and then store in airtight containers of Ziplock bags (with a little headspace) for 2-3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight before enjoying/reheating.

Reheating: while you don’t HAVE to reheat zaalouk, upon thawing, it could be slightly more liquidy, so feel free to reheat it on the stovetop to reduce and re-warm. The freezing/thawing process could also affect the flavor, so taste and adjust any of the seasonings before serving.

A bowl of zaalouk

FAQs

How to make eggplant less bitter?

I’ve never found this necessary for this dish. However, if you often have bitter eggplant, you can reduce this by salting it before cooking. To do so, follow the salting method as outlined in this blog post.

All I have is smoked paprika. Can I use it?

While it’s not traditional, you can experiment if that’s all you have. It will also help to infuse the eggplant tomato dip with some smoky flavor if you aren’t grilling/roasting the eggplant.

Can I use canned tomatoes?

I would advise against it, when possible, as canned tomatoes are naturally more acidic and can throw off the balance of flavor. If you need to use canned tomatoes, use a high-quality option (like San Marzano), and add a pinch of sugar or drizzle of honey if necessary. You also won’t need to add any additional tomato paste.

Eggplant tomato dip over a slice of bread

Recipe Tips and Notes

  • Don’t skip the lemon juice: ot helps lift and enhance the flavor of the eggplant tomato recipe before serving.
  • Adjust the amount of seasoning: as usual, there is lots of wiggle room for playing around to find your desired level of seasoning. So adjust it to taste.
  • Adjust the texture: mash the zaalouk to your desired consistency (smooth and puree-like vs. chunky).
  • Experiment with ratio: by experimenting with how much tomato you use per eggplant, you can easily change the balance of flavors in this simple Moroccan eggplant recipe. Though, this recipe uses my desired (and recommended) amounts.
  • Allow it to marinate: zaalouk tastes even better on day two, so I highly recommend making enough for leftovers.

More Delicious Eggplant Recipes

If you try this Moroccan zaalouk recipe (eggplant tomato salad), I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Zaalouk (Eggplant Tomato Dip)

5 from 6 votes
By: Samira
Zaalouk is a simple Moroccan eggplant salad with tomatoes (also served as a flavorful eggplant tomato dip or side dish), made with just a handful of ingredients. Perfect for serving with crusty bread.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 eggplant large (or 3 medium)
  • 4 tomatoes medium, ripe in-season
  • 3 cloves garlic adjust amount to taste
  • 1 lemon large, 3-4 Tbsp juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp paprika sweet
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 handful parsley or 50/50 parsley and cilantro
  • 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste optional
  • water adjust amount as needed

Check the blog post for optional add-ins and recipe variations!

Instructions 

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

  • Rinse and finely chop (or grate) the tomatoes and dice the eggplant into 1-inch pieces. Mince the garlic.
    I peel the eggplant first for an even smoother dip, but this is 100% unnecessary and can be done either way. If you want some extra color in the dip, leave a few strips of peel on the eggplant.
    You can also optionally blanch and peel the tomatoes if preferred.

Step 2: Cook the Eggplant and Tomato Mixture

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add the garlic, and allow it to sauté, stirring often, for a minute. Then add all the ingredients (except the lemon juice, ½ the cumin, and tomato paste).
    For a deeper, smokier flavor, you can grill or roast the eggplant separately (in halves, slices, or cubes), then add it to the cooked tomatoes at the end.
  • Mix well and add in some water to make sure the bottom of the pan isn't dry (1/4 cup is a good amount but adjust as needed). Then cover and cook over medium-low heat for around 30 minutes.
    If it starts to look dry at any point, quickly open the lid to add an extra splash of water.

Step 3: Mash the Eggplant and Tomatoes

  • Remove the lid and check that the chopped tomatoes and eggplant are all tender, then use a potato masher to gently mash the eggplant and tomatoes.
    You can mash the eggplant tomato dip to your desired consistency. Some prefer it as a smooth puree, and others prefer a chunkier consistency. I gently mash it so it still has a bit of texture.
  • At this point, add the remaining cumin and lemon juice. You can also optionally add some tomato paste (for extra depth).
  • If the mixture is too watery, continue to cook it over medium-high heat, stirring often, until it thickens and reduces to a paste-like "dip" consistency.
  • Serve the Moroccan eggplant salad topped with some additional parsley and optionally, a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

How to Make Ahead and Store?

  • Make ahead: this eggplant tomato dip/salad tastes even better on day two, so I highly recommend making it a day in advance (or at least making enough for leftovers).
    Store: store any leftovers of this eggplant tomato recipe in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
    Freeze: allow it to cool and then store in airtight containers of Ziplock bags (with a little headspace) for 2-3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight before enjoying/reheating.
    Reheating: while you don’t HAVE to reheat zaalouk, upon thawing, it could be slightly more liquidy, so feel free to reheat it on the stovetop to reduce and re-warm. The freezing/thawing process could also affect the flavor, so taste and adjust any of the seasonings before serving.

Notes

  • Don’t skip the lemon juice: it helps lift and enhance the flavor of the eggplant tomato recipe before serving.
  • Adjust the amount of seasoning: as usual, there is lots of wiggle room for playing around to find your desired level of seasoning. So adjust it to taste.
  • Adjust the texture: mash the zaalouk to your desired consistency (smooth and puree-like vs. chunky).
  • Experiment with ratio: by experimenting with how many tomatoes you use per eggplant, you can easily change the balance of flavors in this simple Moroccan eggplant recipe. Though, this recipe uses my desired (and recommended) amounts.
  • Allow it to marinate: zaalouk tastes even better on day two, so I highly recommend making enough for leftovers.
Check the blog post for optional add-ins, serving suggestions, and answers to top FAQs!
Course: Appetizer, Main, Salad, Side
Cuisine: African, Moroccan
Freezer friendly: 2-3 Months
Shelf life: 4-5 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 158kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Sodium: 615mg, Potassium: 913mg, Fiber: 10g, Sugar: 12g, Vitamin A: 1525IU, Vitamin C: 39mg, Calcium: 53mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

5 from 6 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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