Moroccan dishes are influenced by Berber, Jewish, Arab, and French cultures. We’ve put together foods we think is worth trying while visiting Morocco.
If you’ve bought a tagine for the first time and are wondering what to make in it, or you simply want an introduction to Moroccan main dishes, this list will give you the start you need. All are classic Moroccan recipes that are tried and true favorites, and you’ll find them easy to prepare in either traditional clay tagines or conventional cookware.
Remember, clay cookware needs to be seasoned before its first use. And if tagine cooking is new to you, do take time to read.
Chicken With Preserved Lemon and Olives
A classic dish, this Moroccan chicken recipe uses preserved lemons, olives, and onions. It can be cooked in an authentic tagine or roasted in the oven, depending on your preference. Either way, you’ll enjoy a delicious meal that is sure to please everyone at the dinner table.
• 1 to 2 preserved lemons (quartered and seeds removed)
• 1 whole chicken (skin removed, cut into pieces)
• 2 large onions (white or yellow, finely chopped)
• 2 to 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped or pressed)
• 1 small handful fresh cilantro (chopped)
• 1 small handful fresh parsley (chopped)
• 2 teaspoons ginger
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt (or less, to taste)
• Optional: 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (crumbled)
• Optional: 1 teaspoon smen
• Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 2 handfuls olives (green or red, or mixed)
• 1/4 cup water (approximately)
Steps to Make It
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this Moroccan chicken dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
Marinate the Chicken
1. Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon and chop the flesh finely. Add the lemon to a bowl along with the chicken, onion, garlic, cilantro, parsley, ginger, pepper, turmeric, and salt. If using, add the saffron, Ras el Hanout, and smen. Mix well.
2. If time allows, let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
3. Cook in either a tagine or in the oven.
Cooking in a Tagine
1. Add enough of the olive oil to the tagine to coat the bottom.
2. Arrange the marinated chicken in the tagine, flesh-side down, and distribute the onions all around.
3. Add the olives and preserved lemon quarters, and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the chicken.
4. Add the water to the tagine, cover, and place on a heat diffuser over medium-low heat.
5. Give the tagine time to reach a simmer without peaking. If you don’t hear the tagine simmering within 20 minutes, slightly increase the heat, and then use the lowest heat setting required for maintaining a gentle—not rapid—simmer.
6. Allow the chicken to cook undisturbed for 80 to 90 minutes, and then turn the chicken over so it’s flesh side up. Cover the tagine again, and allow the chicken to finish cooking until very tender (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
7. Turn off the heat, and let the tagine cool for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Cooking in the Oven
1. Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). Add enough olive oil to a large baking dish so it coats the bottom.
2. Add the sliced onions and garlic from the marinade.
3. Then place the marinated chicken on top.
4. Add the olives and lemon on top and drizzle the chicken with the remaining olive oil.
5. Bake the chicken uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the chicken is light golden brown, basting occasionally.
6. Reduce the heat to 350 F (180 C) and continue baking for another 30 minutes or longer. The chicken should be deeply browned, the juices should run clear, and the leg joints should move easily.
7. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
• For either method, you can cut a whole chicken into either halves or individual pieces prior to marinating. The pieces may fit better in a tagine; the halves are easier to handle in the oven and can be cut after cooking.
• Instead of chopping, you can tie the parsley and cilantro together into a bouquet and place it on top of the chicken during cooking.
• You’ll get more flavor if you start marinating the chicken with the Moroccan spices the night before.
• The cooking times may vary depending on the size of your chicken. In the tagine, 2 1/2 hours allows the tagine to be brought to a slow simmer so it doesn’t dry out.
• The time for the oven-roasted chicken is based on the average 3- to 4-pound roaster. With either, check that the internal temperature is between 165 and 175 F.
• Pitted olives are recommended for this recipe. If you choose to use olives with pits, warn your diners that they will need to remove their own pits.
Lamb or Beef Tagine With Prunes
Beef or lamb with prunes is a classic sweet and savory Moroccan dish that combines dried prunes and meat with the fragrant spices of ginger, saffron, cinnamon, and pepper. It’s popular as a traditional offering at holiday gatherings, weddings, and other special occasions.
Of course, no special occasion is needed in order for a tagine of lamb with prunes to appear on the table. Prep work is minimal, making it a perfect choice for casual family meals. Although the use of a Moroccan clay or ceramic tagine is most traditional, most Moroccan cooks prepare this dish in a pressure cooker as it speeds things up. Tender cuts of meat (some pieces on the bone) will give the best results.
The cooking time listed below is for the pressure cooker method. Double or triple this time if using a conventional pot or tagine. Note that the onion preparation is different for the tagine method.
• 2 pounds tender beef or lamb (cut into three-inch pieces)
• 2 medium onions (grated or very finely chopped)
• 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped or pressed)
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon pepper
• 1 teaspoon ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (crumbled)
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
• One or two 3-inch to 4-inch pieces of cinnamon stick
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups water
• 1/2 pound prunes
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• Handful of cilantro sprigs (tied together)
• Optional: 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
• Optional: Handful of fried almonds
Steps to Make It
Cook the Meat
Pressure Cooker or Conventional Pot Methods
1. In a bowl, mix the meat with the onions, garlic, and spices. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat and brown the meat for a few minutes until a crust forms.
2. If using a pressure cooker, place the meat mixture in the pressure cooker and add 2 1/2 cups of water and the cilantro. Over high heat, bring the meat and liquids to a simmer.
3. Cover tightly and continue heating until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook with pressure for 45 to 50 minutes. (Note: About halfway through cooking, remove 1/2 cup of the liquid and reserve.) After the meat has cooked, release the pressure and reduce the sauce, uncovered, until it is mostly oil and onion.
4. If using a conventional pot, add the meat mixture to the pot along with the 2 1/2 cups water and cilantro. Cover and simmer the meat over medium heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender and breaks away easily from the bone. (Note: About halfway through cooking, remove 1/2 cup of the liquid and reserve.) If necessary, add a small amount of water during cooking to prevent the meat from scorching. When the meat has cooked, reduce the sauce until it is mostly oil and onions.
Clay or Ceramic Tagine Method
1. Slice one of the onions instead of grating it, and layer the onion rings on the bottom of the tagine.
2. Mix the meat with the grated onion, garlic, oil, butter and spices, and place on the sliced onion. Add 2 1/2 cups water, cover, and place the tagine on a diffuser over medium heat. Allow the tagine to reach a simmer (this may take a long time), and then reduce the heat to the lowest temperature necessary to maintain the simmer.
3. Allow the tagine to cook for 3 hours or longer until the meat is very tender and the liquids are reduced. (Note: About 2 hours into the cooking, remove 1/2 cup of the liquid and reserve.)
Cook the Prunes
1. While the meat is cooking, put the prunes in a small pot and cover with water. Simmer over medium heat, partially covered, until the prunes are tender enough to easily pinch off the pit or pinch in half. (The amount of time this takes can vary greatly depending on the prunes, but the average is 15 to 30 minutes.)
2. Drain the prunes, then add the 1/2 cup of reserved liquid from the meat. Stir in the honey, and cinnamon, and simmer the prunes for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are sitting in a thick syrup.
1. Arrange the meat on a large serving platter and spoon the prunes and syrup on top. If you’ve cooked in a tagine, it doubles as a serving dish.
2. If desired, garnish with sesame seeds and/or fried almonds. Moroccan tradition is to gather around the table and eat from this communal plate, using Moroccan bread to scoop up the meat and sauce.
Chickpeas and carrots are stewed with piquant, aromatic seasonings including ginger, cinnamon and the exotically flavored ras el hanout. A touch of honey adds complementary sweetness.
When a recipe calls for chickpeas, the vast majority of Moroccans prefer to start with dried chickpeas rather than canned. If you want to follow suit, allow additional time for soaking the chickpeas overnight, then cooking until tender. This may be done well in advance, as it’s perfectly fine to freeze cooked chickpeas until needed.
You have plenty of flexibility as to how to season the tagine. To add heat, throw in a chili pepper or two. For a sweeter presentation, increase the honey and include the optional raisins. Using half broth instead of all water will add depth of flavor, but be sure to watch the salt.
Although tagines are typically served with Moroccan bread for scooping everything up like a dip, you can break tradition and serve the chickpeas and carrots over a bed of rice or couscous.
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
• 1 teaspoon ginger
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon Ras el hanout, or more to taste (optional)
• 2 or 3 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
• 4 or 5 peeled carrots cut into 1/4-inch thick sticks
• 1 cup water (half vegetable or chicken broth, if desired)
• 2 to 3 teaspoons honey (or to taste)
• 1 to 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
• 1 or 2 small chili peppers (optional)
• 1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
• Additional parsley or cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Steps to Make It
1. In the base of a tagine or in a large skillet with a lid, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat for several minutes.
2. Add the salt, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne pepper, ras el hanout, parsley or cilantro, carrots and the water.
3. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then continue cooking, covered, until the carrots are nearly cooked to desired tenderness. In a skillet, this may take up to 25 minutes, in a tagine a bit longer.
4. Stir in the honey and add the chickpeas and optional chili peppers and raisins. Continue simmering until the chickpeas are heated through and the sauce is reduced and thick.
5. Taste, adjust seasoning if desired, and serve garnished with parsley or cilantro.
• If cooking in a clay or ceramic tagineover a heat source other than gas, you’ll need to use a diffuser between the burner and tagine.
• Instead of cutting the carrots into sticks or planks, they may be sliced on the diagonal or into rounds. Be sure to remove the core if it’s dry and woody.
• A tagine will double as your serving dish. When adding the carrots, arrange them in a pattern for a prettier presentation.
• Harissa may be offered on the side as a condiment. Or, you can stir a little bit into the tagine in lieu of adding a chili pepper or cayenne pepper.
Lamb or Beef Tagine With Peas and Artichokes Recipe
This delicious Moroccan taqine recipe can be prepared in a pressure cooker, conventional pot or traditional clay tagine. Directions are included for all methods. Fragrant with ginger and saffron, it’s a personal favorite of mine. Goat meat may be substituted for the lamb or beef.
• 1 lb. (about 1/2 kg) lamb or beef, cut into 2″ to 3″ pieces
• 1 medium onion, chopped (plus one more onion, sliced if cooking in a tagine)
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 teaspoons ginger
• 1 teaspoon pepper
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 lb. (about 1/2 kg) peas
• 1 lb. (about 1/2 kg) artichoke bottoms
• 1 preserved lemon, optional
Steps to Make It
Pressure Cooker or Conventional Pot Method
1. Combine the meat, onions, garlic, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, and spices (except for the saffron) in a pressure cooker or wide, heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring several times to turn the meat and brown it on all sides.
2. Add about three cups of water, cover, and increase the heat to high until pressure is achieved or the liquids boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook with pressure for 25 minutes (or simmer conventionally for 40 to 60 minutes).
3. Add the peas, artichoke bottoms and saffron. If the liquids are not level with the vegetables, add a little more water. Cover, bring back to pressure and cook for 12 to 15 minutes (or simmer for 25 to 30 minutes) until the vegetables are tender. Check the seasoning and If necessary, reduce the liquids until a rich sauce has formed.
4. Serve with Moroccan bread for scooping up the meat and vegetables.
Clay or Ceramic Tagine Method
1. If using freshly shelled peas, parboil them for several minutes; drain, and set aside.
2. Coat the base of your tagine with a little oIive oil. Slice an additional onion into rings and distribute the rings on the bottom of the tagine.
3. In a bowl, mix the meat with the remaining olive oil, chopped onion, garlic, spices and chopped cilantro and place over the sliced onions. Add the mixture to the tagine, taking care to arrange the meat in the middle.
4. Surround the meat with the peas, then arrange the artichoke bottoms all around.
5. Swirl about 2 1/2 cups of water in the bowl used for the meat to “rinse” the spices from the side of the bowl, and add this water to the tagine. Add a little more water if necessary to barely cover the peas.
6. Close the tagine and place over medium-low heat. (A diffuser is necessary if cooking over an electric burner and recommended for other heat sources as well.) Stay patient while the tagine reaches a simmer — it could take some time. Once the liquids have reached a simmer, continue cooking the tagine for about 3 hours, checking the liquids once or twice in the last hour of cooking and adding a little bit more water only if you feel it’s necessary.
7. The tagine is done when you can easily break the meat apart with your fingers. If necessary, continue simmering uncovered to reduce the sauce.
8. Garnish as desired with strips of preserved lemon. Serve the dish directly from the tagine with Moroccan bread on the side for scooping up the meat and veggies.
•The recipe calls for artichoke bottoms. If you plan to use fresh artichokes—which is preferred in Morocco—they need to be cleaned. Frozen artichoke bottoms may also be used.
•The cooking time reflects a Moroccan preference for peas stewed until very tender. It allows the peas to absorb the flavorful sauce fully. Double the cooking times indicated if using a Dutch oven or pot, and allow even more time if slow-cooking in a tagine.