Moroccan aubergine salad: Zaalouk


Aubergines are heavily present in most of the Mediterranean Cuisines. Zaalouk has many cousins around the Med with slightly different presentation and more or less ingredients: ratatouille, Imam bayildi, caviar d’aubergine…

Zaalook is a vegetarian/vegan Moroccan salad that even meat lovers eat it with great pleasure. You might even serve it as a side garnish to grilled meat and you have a complete meal..

Zaalouk is a seriously old recipe. The basic version of it featured aubergine, salt, pepper, coriander, thyme, saffron and a condiment similar to soy sauce in taste. This recipes appears in the 13th Andalucian cookbook, which is a compilation of many old cookbooks about Arab and North African cookery..

I make zaalouk every single week. This cooked salad/entree is a staple in many Moroccan tables for a few reasons:

  • It calls for cheap ingredients and some commonly used spices accross the country (regardless of regional differences).
  • It’s easy to make ahead and store in the fridge, to be served when needed.
  • You spread it in a baguette and you have a filling snack/sandwich, You can serve it as a dip if mashed finely. You can even stuff mini-batbout and serve it as an appetizer..


My different zaalouks

Zaalouk is prepared differently throughout the year and accross the country. I make zaalouk 5 ways (at least) with more or less vegetables. The methods of handling the aubergines have been roughly explained in my previous post about this cooked salad; it’s fryed, oven-roasted, chargrilled, steamed, boiled or a cross combination of all these.

Whichever way you make zaalouk, you will always need aubergines along with the standard cumin, garlic and coriander to lift it up. Oh and a good olive oil of course.

In Morocco, when we refer to something as “mza’lak”, it means it seems mushy or messy…So make sure you mush the aubergines manually and do not by tempted to puree them. I like to keep some bits there especially when I use peppers and courgettes.

Zaalouk can also refer to other mushy salads such as zaalouk of cauliflower or zaalouk of cabbage..

Zaalouk with green and  sweet red pepper 

Serves 12 persons (if served as a salad)
Prep: 45 min

For a basic zaalouk

  • 1 kg of good eggplants
  • 200-400 g fresh tomatoes or nice whole tinned plum tomatoes (add a pinch of sugar in this case)
  • 4-5  cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 5 tbsp of Olive Oil 
  • 1 heaped tbsp of sweet paprika 
  • 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika (optional)
  • 3 heaped tbsp of chopped coriander or/and parsley and some for garnishing
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin 
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste if the tomatoes are not in season and not proper red.
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: chili 
  • A squeeze of lemon (optional)

For a zaalouk with green and sweet red pepper

  • All ingredients mentioned above
  • 2 to 3 fried or oven-roasted peppers (not the hot ones), then peeled off
  • 1 medium-size courgette, diced or sliced then fried or oven-roasted (optional)


Zaalook with green, red and yellow pepper (optional). I have used
a bit of tomato paste for the colour but no tomatoes


General notes on handling the aubergines/eggplants

Remove 3 or 4 strips of skin from top to bottom while leaving the rest of it in between each strip (on strip of skin on, one strip off). 

Steam the eggplants: Dice the eggplants and sprinkple some salt. Steam them using a double boiler or place them in a bowl, cover with a film and microwave them for a few munites. Press to get rid of excess water.

Boil the eggplants: Dice the eggplants and boil them in salted water for 20 min. Drain and press to get rid of excess water. I do prefer steaming over boiling if I have to choose.

Roast the eggplants : Preheat the oven on 200 degrees C. Brush the slices of eggplant that you would have cut lengthwise, (I cut about 4) in an greased baking sheet for 20 min. Knock off the oven, cover them with foil and leave them to sweat for another 15 min. Dice or chop them them when ready. This option is the one I usually follow.

Chargrill the eggplants: Grill the whole eggplant (pricked) on a BBQ grill (make sure to grease the grill with olive oil) just like you would do for baba ghanouj. Get rid of half of the skin (spoon the meaty part from the skin but keep some of it). Mash or finely chop. 

Fry the eggplants : Fry big chunks (or slices) of eggplants. Drain excess oil and press them between  2 pieces of absorbing kitchen paper. Roughly chop them when ready. Although it’s not the healthiest version, It still delivers the best zaalouk.

When the eggplant is ALMOST ready and cooked all the way through (not whitish anymore), make sure you drain and press them when needed to get rid of excess water/oil .

Making basic zaalouk

Chop the onion and fry over the pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil until transparent (5 min). 

Dice peeled tomatoes. Add herbs and spices (leave cumin until the end of cooking) and cook for 15 min while you are preparing the aubergine.

When aubergines are ready, cut small or mash and add to the cooking tomatoes. Add the oil and stir. 

Keep cooking (15-20 mintues) and mashing with a hand masher until all water has evaporated and of water. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice and mix (optional). 

Serve warm or cooled after at least 1 hour.

This zaalook is without tomatoes, just steamed aubergines then fried in olive oil with garlic, cumin and salt. I added lemon juice after zaalouk has cooled.

Making zaalouk with red and sweet red peppers

Roast (brush with oil) or fry the vegetables together. Peel off the skin of the peppers and get rid of the seeds. Finely chop them.

Chop the onion and fry over the pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil until transparent (5 min). Add the garlic.

Add the peppers, the aubergine and the courgette to the frying pan before adding the tomatoes. The reason why we do it now is that we want them to infuse in this garlic oil first.

Add the tomatoes, a bit of cumin, 2/3 of the chopped herbs, paprika and tomato paste if using it. If you need to add a couple spoons of water please do..Stir and let simmer for a few minutes.

Once the liquid start drying out, add the rest of the cumin. Always over the heat, roughly mush the vegetables for a couple of minutes.

Off the heat, drizzle some olive oil and mix in the rest of the coriander.

Note: you could process this recipe differently by mashing and frying the aubergines in the garlic-onion mix before adding the other vegetables for a final texture that won’t be excessively mushy.

Serving zaalouk

Drizzle olive oil while serving.

This is salad or a dip that is more likely to be eaten cold or at room temperature.

If you have Moroccan preserved lemon, you might add some on top before serving.


Some families in Fes add a pinch of cinnamon to a large batch of zaalouk such as this one..The first time I heard about it I didn’t quiet like the idea, but it’s actually very tasty..So when I feel like giving my zaalouk a serious twist, I add that pinch.

2 thoughts on “Moroccan aubergine salad: Zaalouk

  1. Dear Nada, your contribution to our event is more than precious and I just can say that I can't wait to try at least one of your 5 ways to make zaalouk!! Well done 🙂


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