Çilbir (Turkish Eggs)

Eggs and creamy yogurt are spiced up with a chile crisp with peppery harissa in this Turkish breakfast classic.

Çilbir (Turkish Eggs)

Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 35 mins
4 servings

This dish served at Zaytinya by José Andrés is a contemporary homage to çilbir, a classic Turkish dish traditionally made with poached eggs, yogurt, and paprika butter. This version simplifies the technique by using a sunny-side-up egg while retaining the dish’s stunning visual appeal. A harissa-influenced take on the popular condiment chile crisp stands in for the paprika butter for an extra lively twist. Use the versatile leftover chile crisp from this recipe to punch up everything from eggs to fish, vegetables, and meat.


Harissa chile crips

  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • Pinch of caraway seeds

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Marash chile (see Note)

  • 1 cup crispy fried onions (such as French’s)


  • 2 cups plain whole-milk strained (Greek-style) yogurt

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • Pinch of ground white pepper

  • 1 (6-inch) pita round, torn into 1-inch pieces

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

  • 8 large eggs

  • Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac (such as Spicewalla)


Make the harissa chile crisp

  1. Heat sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium, stirring constantly, until seeds begin to pop and turn a pale blond color, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and transfer to a small bowl. Add coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds to skillet; cook over medium, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Coarsely grind spices using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Set aside.

  2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium. Add garlic and salt; cook, stirring constantly, until oil becomes fragrant, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in paprika, Marash chile, and ground spices. Using your hand, lightly crush fried onions; add to saucepan, and stir. Transfer chile crisp to a heatproof dish, and let cool to room temperature, uncovered, about 1 hour.

Make the çilbir

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and white pepper in a small bowl.

  2. Spread pita in an even layer on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and crispy, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and reduce temperature to 140°F to warm plates for serving.

  3. While plates are warming, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Crack 4 eggs into skillet, and sprinkle with additional salt to taste. Cook until egg whites are firm and yolks are runny, about 5 minutes. Transfer to warm plates. Repeat cooking process with remaining 1 tablespoon butter, remaining 4 eggs, and salt to taste.

  4. Spread yogurt mixture evenly on each of 4 plates, and top each with 2 eggs. Spoon 1 tablespoon harissa chile crisp, or more if desired, around eggs on each plate, reserving remaining chile crisp for another use. Top each serving with a few pieces of toasted pita. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and ground sumac.

To make ahead

Harissa chile crisp can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.


Marash chile, popular in Turkish cuisine, adds a fruity heat to recipes. Find it at Middle Eastern grocery stores or online at oaktownspiceshop.com. Substitute Marash chile with Aleppo pepper, Antebi pepper, or Urfa pepper if needed.

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