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Zaâlouk | North African Aubergine & Tomato Salad

An utterly delicious rustic North African vegetarian "caviar" that's prefect on warmed crusty bread or your favorite flatbread.

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
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While people elsewhere are bundling up in warm sweaters and raking up leaves in their yard, summer  is very lazily hanging around here in Algeria. Luckily, the weather has taken a slight dip. It's not so miseribly hot and humid. The calmer weather has allowed me to explore the markets more often. And I found them all brimming with super-cheap late summer vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. The opportune time to make tomato sauces and dersa (recipe coming up very soon!) to put away. And also to whip a myriade of yummy tasties using these late summer vegetables. Aubergines (eggplants, garden eggs) are one such late summer vegetable that I've only come to love while here in Algeria. In the past, I was very intimidated by aubergines and only in recent years did I give them a try. Looking back, I'm not sure why they're quite soft, tender and have an amazing texture once treated with tendernes which allows them to be fried, sautéed, braised, and even chargrilled.

Aubergines are called  badendjen (باذنجان) in most regions in Algeria but are referred to as braniya in the West or even dandjal in the Sahara. The name probably stems from Byzantine Greek word for this food "bāḏinjān" meaning "black". Aubergines are in the nightshade family, which is the same family as peppers and tomatoes. You can find the varities known as globe, Italian and Indian here in Algeria.  It is both beautiful and delicious! Here is a fun round-up of different eggplant varieties and what to do with them.

Aubergines have long been a misunderstood as non-nourishing food. The name of aubergine in Hindi is "baignan" which means "without merit". But this humble fruit that is commonly mistaken for a vegetable is native to the subcontinent of India. And it was brought around to the Middle East and North African around in the Middle Ages. Eggplants contain certain essential phyto nutrients which improve blood circulation and nourish the brain. But remember—these nutrients are concentrated in the skin of the eggplant, so use it when possible. 

One of the best and easiest ways I like to enjoy aubergines (eggplant) is by whipping this North African salad called Zaâlouk. Zaâlouk is a deliciously refreshing cooked salad with aubergines (eggplants), tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and some spcies. Some call this dish a "vegetarian caviar" as it's spooned onto bread or crackers very much like caviar. It's generally eaten cold or at room temperature as a side dish to meat or fish. Zaâlouk is utterly delicious eaten on warm Matlouh bread or KesraZaâlouk is one of those dishes which only get better with time. It's often made a day or two ahead of serving so that the flavors meld together.

Zaâlouk is prefect eatan along side grilled meat so if you have some aubergine around this coming Eid al Adha be sure to make this dish to accompany your grilled meats!

North African Aubergine & Tomato Salad

An utterly delicious rustic North African vegetarian "caviar" that's prefect on warmed crusty bread or your favorite flatbread.





  • 2 large Italian aubergines (eggplants)
  • generous amount of salt
  • 3 large vine ripe tomatoes, grated or chopped small
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp  sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp ground cumin 
  • Harissa or cayenne pepper, to taste
  • pinch of sugar or drizzle of honey (if tomatoes are very acidic)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • juice of half lemon (about 1 TBS)
generous drizzling of olive oil and olives

    Slice the aubergine into thick slices. Salt generously and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes. This will remove most of the bitterness. 

    My preferred way is chargrilling the aubergine right on my stovetop. To do this, turn on the burner on your stove or the grill to high. Pierce each aubergine a few times with a knife or skewer. Slowly cook the aubergine until blackened all over, about 5 minutes. 

    Optionally, an easier method is roasting the aubergine in the oven. Just preheat the oven and set the rack on the second highest rack. Place the aubergine on a foiled-lined baking sheet and roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

    Allow the aubergine cool slightly, enough to be able to handle. Cut the aubergine into small cubes and set aside.

    Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick or cast iron frying pan set over a moderate heat. Add the sliced onions. Cook stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes until golden. Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, spices and about ½ tsp salt. Don't be tempted to add more salt than this, as you've already generously salted the aubergines before. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes until reduced,  thickened yet still very juicy. Check for seasoning. Reseason if needed. Transfer into your serving bowl and fold in the lemon juice. Cool or chill overnight before serving.

    This salad keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days. 

     CATEGORIES:  HEALTHY, summer, salad, vegan, vegetarian


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      This salad goes beautifully with ripe marinated olives and some warmed crusty bread such as Matlouh bread or Kesra.

          how do you like to use up these "black beauties"? 


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          1. As-Salaamu Alaykum Heni,
            Nice recipe! We love aubergines and it's funny as i'd never even knew they existed before i got married

          2. Aawrwb sis, at what point do you mix in the cubed eggplant to the tomato mixture? I reread the recipe several times but can't seem to find that instruction. JazakAllahu khir!


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