how to make jachnun
Jachnun was brought to Israel many years ago from Yemen. It's now a favorite dish in both countries. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

How to make jachnun, a Yemenite-Israeli experience

It's a flaky, hot pastry bread served with spicy tomato salsa and slow roasted eggs. And it's got a wonderful backstory.

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You’re probably asking, “What is jachnun?” The answer: an Israeli-Yemenite experience (also described as thinly rolled pastry dough spread with butter and baked all night with whole eggs.)

For the record, the best part of jachnun is not pulling apart the hot, flaky dough and dipping it into spicy schug (recipe below), nor is it breaking into the slow-roasted eggs that cooked with it all night. It’s trying to pronounce the word “jachnun” with the guttural ‘ch’ sound, and then when the nearest Yemenite or Israeli corrects you, trying to imitate the sounds that just came out of their mouth. Yeah, that’s fun.

But if you can master the correct pronunciation of this word, you’ve earned the right to taste it – and it’s quite the treat. It must be the history and the story behind the dish that makes the experience of eating it so meaningful. Yemenite families traditionally prepare jachnun Friday afternoon and place it in the oven overnight to have hot food in the morning.

In Israel’s largest marketplace, Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem, they’ve even got a hugely popular restaurant called Jachnun Bar, which serves up jachnun and its close cousin, malawach, with your choice of savory and sweet toppings.

Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market (Photo: David King / Flickr)

While researching jachnun (and trying to figure out how to avoid making it from scratch), I spoke to a Yemenite man who told me that when his (non-Yemenite) new bride wanted to impress his mother, she asked him to teach her how to make jachnun. Her response? “Why would you spend all the time making it, when you can buy it in the store?!”

That was my ticket out of making this cool dish from scratch. I found pre-made jachnun dough at The Spicy Peach, a small Israeli-style grocery store near midtown Atlanta. But shortcut or not, it was still quite an experience.

Jachnun recipe

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Prep15 mins
Cook Time12 hrs
Yield6 people

Ingredients

  • 2-3 slices day-old bread
  • 6 rolls jachnun dough
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 roma or beefsteak tomatoes
  • Schug

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 225°. Press bread slices into bottom of an oven-proof pot, creating one even layer.
  • Lay a piece of parchment paper over bread slices (enough to overlap sides of the pot), and lay jachnun rolls down in two layers.
  • Cover with parchment overhang, and place raw eggs over the parchment.
  • Place in oven for 12 hours. Using gloves, lift lid, and allow steam to escape.
  • Carefully lift out the eggs using tongs and transfer to a plate. Using a spatula, lift out the jachnun rolls and transfer to a plate.
  • Use a grater to shred the tomatoes. Top with a dollop of schug, and serve with jachnun. Peel and slice eggs, and add to the serving plate.
It’ll be a lovely serving experience. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)
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