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A Regional Approach to Moroccan Cooking

A Regional Approach to Moroccan Cooking

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What comes to mind when one thinks of Moroccan cuisine? Certainly the heady aroma of spices and spice blends, some of which are now household names — cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin, nutmeg, saffron, and turmeric — and some of which are not, but soon will be because of the continuing diversification of American cooking — mace, mastic, nigella seeds, and ras el hanout, just to name a few examples. But Moroccan cooking is about more than just a laundry list of exotic (and sometimes obscure) herbs, spices, and pantry ingredients. It's about taking these ingredients and carefully combining them to create a purposeful marriage of sweet and savory.

The recipes in Jeff Koehler's latest cookbook, simply titled Morocco, exemplify this type of cooking. Koehler draws upon his extensive travel and culinary experiences in this fabled and romanticized land to bring readers recipes from all of its regions, from the markets of Marrakech to the coasts of Asilah.

Recipes like the richly colored beet soup pictured above sure look inviting, and so do many of the other recipes, thanks to the alluring photographs in this cookbook, taken by Koehler himself. They reveal another important factor in Moroccan cooking — the equal status of taste with presentation and aesthetics. Moroccan cooks often go to great lengths to make sure that the dishes they prepare are as appealing to the eye as they are to the taste buds. Koehler says, "I have seen cooks not just add a piece of preserved lemon peel to a chicken tagine, but quarter it, trim the edges into a decorative shape — a serrated leaf, a flower blossom — and then lay it on top with the delicacy of a gold flake." Take this same level of passion into the kitchen, and cooking is bound to become exciting once again.

In his book, Koehler also offers a brief overview of each region in Morocco, illustrating its landscape, its culinary history, and its regional specialties. Koehler also offers a fairly thorough overview of the pantry staples needed for Moroccan cooking, including herbs, spices, and special equipment, along with acceptable substitutions, which should be helpful for readers new to Moroccan cuisine.

So for anyone who is curious about Moroccan cuisine, Koehler's latest is a definite must.

Beet Soup with Ginger
This beautiful soup is on the cover, so we just had to feature it.

Couscous with Caramelized Onion and Raisin Tfaya
No roundup of Moroccan recipes would be complete without couscous.

Perhaps the most iconic Moroccan dish, this version has a truly historical pedigree.

Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.

Cooking Styles and Sauces in Moroccan Cuisine

There are four primary cooking styles in Moroccan cuisine. The codification for each determines not only the spices used, but the final color of the dish and its accompanying sauce.

Chicken cooked m'qualli style and finished in the oven as m'hammar. Photo: Nada Kiffa | Taste of Maroc.

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Like most other cuisines, Moroccan cooking uses common culinary methods such as stewing meats and vegetables in thick broths or sauces (marqa or marka), boiling (maslouq), steaming (m&rsquobakh·khar), grilling (mechoui), baking (fel ferran), roasting (m&rsquohammar), and cooking between two fires (binnarine).

The cooking of the old Moroccan imperial cities follows a codification which defines the guidelines for preparing everyday dishes and some cooked salads. Traditional recipes calling for a broth or sauce are usually divided into one of several distinct Moroccan cooking styles. The codification for each cooking style helped keep traditional recipes consistent throughout time and eased the process of transmission from one generation to another.

Recipes of Traditional Food from Braised Beef to Lamb Kebabs

Bring Morocco home! Try these recipes at home, light some candles and let your imagination run free as you taste the flavors of Moroccan cuisine.

Moroccan Braised Beef

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (separately)

2.5lbs beef (cut into quarter inch cubes)

2 cups of onions, chopped 3 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon garam masala (chopped)

half teaspoon cayenne pepper

a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes in juice

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a big pot. Whilst the oil is heating up, sprinkle your meat with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, put your meat into the pot and sauté until brown. This should take about 5 minutes. Put the meat into a bowl and then put another spoon of olive oil into your pot. Sauté your onions until brown. Then add the garlic, masala, paprika, cumin, turmeric and pepper. Stir this mixture for about a minute or so. Add the wine and sherry and boil until a light glaze. Stir in the tomatoes and juice, broth and raisin. Add the beef to this mixture. Reduce the heat and boil for about an hour uncovered until the mixture is thick, stirring occasionally.

Moroccan Lamb Kebabs

three quarter cup of olive oil

two thirds cup of lemon juice

6 finely copped garlic cloves

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

4 teaspoons grated lemon peel

2 teaspoons black pepper (ground)

2 teaspoons coriander (ground)

4lbs lamb (leg) cut into 2in cubes

16 skewers 32 dried apricots (whole) boiled in water for 15 min

4 red onions cut into 8 pieces

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mint, salt, lemon, pepper, coriander and cumin together until blended. Set aside half a cup of this mixture in the fridge to use later to baste the kebabs. Put the kebabs in this mixture for 2 hours at room temperature. Ensure they they’re well coated by the marinade. Prepare your barbecue. Thread 3 lamb cubes onto 1 skewer. Then thread 3 apricots and 3 onion chunks alternately on the next skewer. Baste everything with the reserved marinade. Grill the apricot/onion skewers until onions soft & brown. Grill lamb to your preference, basting continuously.

Chicken with Preserved Lemons

2 lbs of chicken, whole or in pieces

7-8 threads of saffron (soaked for 10 minutes in hot water)

skin of one preserved lemon cut in four pieces

Brown the chicken with the olive oil in a saucepan, add the salt, butter, ginger, onions, garlic, saffron (and saffron soaking water) and a further 1.5 cups of water. Bring the water to boil and turn the chicken, stir the mixture and reduce the heat to medium simmer. Add more water if necessary, to prevent the sauce from reducing completely. Remove the onion from the pot when it is cooked. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot, rub it with butter and put it in the oven at 350 degrees, for 10 – 15 minutes or until the skin is brown. Put the chicken back into the pot, add the olives and the preserved lemon, and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes. Place the chicken olives and lemon on a platter, let the sauce thicken and reduce and pour it over the chicken before serving.

Ghoriba with Almonds or Macaroons

Ingredients for 60 to 70 macaroons:

250 g of granulated sugar

1 sachet of chemical yeast

1 kg of hulled and chopped almonds

Beat the eggs. Mix the eggs, sugar, yeast, and the lemon zest. Add the chopped almonds and the semolina. Mix and kneed mixture until it forms a soft dough. Dampen your hands with the water of orange blossom. Roll the dough into small balls, flatten the balls, and roll it into the icing sugar. Arrange them in an oiled baking pan. Bake in middle of oven on 356 ‘F (180’C) for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Salad Zalouk (Egg Plant Salad)

black olives and preserved slice lemon

Cut the egg plant into big pieces and cook for 30 minutes in salty water. Cut tomatoes into pieces, and fry in shallow frying pan, together with the red pepper, cumin, garlic, salt and lemon juice for 5 minutes. When the egg plant is almost done, drain all the water, and add to the tomato mix. Mix everything together and simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve cool.

Couscous Tfaya (couscous and chicken)

2 lbs chicken in parts or lamb

2 lbs onions, thinly sliced

1 lb couscous (not instant)

1 1/2 C chickpeas soaked overnight (or one can)

Soak the couscous for a half an hour with 1- 1.5 cups of water, rubbing it between your hands to remove any lumps. Place the couscous in the top part of a couscoussier and fill the bottom with water, bring the water to boil and steam the couscous while you prepare the chicken. Fry chicken, half of the onions, in olive until brown, when brown, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add all the spices, the rest of the onions, the raisons, and 1.5 cups of water, (except the cinnamon), simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the cinnamon and the chickpeas continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked. When chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pot, and continue to simmer the chickpeas, onions and raisins. Add more cinnamon to taste and add water to prevent the mixture from burning. After about 10 minutes, add the sugar or honey and let it dissolve, add more water if necessary, simmer until mixture starts caramelizing. Add chicken to warm up. To serve put couscous in a large plate forming a hole in the middle. Put chicken in the whole forming a pyramid pour the chickpeas, raisins, and onions over the pyramid.

Harira (Lamb, Lentil and Chickpea Soup)

Harira is the traditional meal eaten to break the fast during Ramadan it is usually served with dates, figs and special sweets called chabakiya. A Moroccan proverb says that if someone tells you the Harira is cold, tell him to put his hand in it.

1 lb of lamb cut in large pieces

1/4 head of cabbage cut in largish pieces

1 C chickpeas soaked overnight (or from a can)

1/3 C fresh parsley, minced

6-7 strands of saffron (soaked in a few tablespoons of hot water)

1 cube of chicken bouillon

Cook the lentils in slated water, when soft drain the water, and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them.

Cook the rest of the ingredients, in a soup pot over a low heat for 50- 60 minutes until the chickpeas and meat is cooked.

Additional ingredients:

1/4 C angel hair pasta, broken up

2 lbs crushed tomatoes (in cans)

1/3 C fresh coriander, minced

Add the tomatoes to the broth and cook for 10 minutes. Mix the flour with a little water to form a paste, add to the soup, and stir continuously to avoid lumps. Bring the soup to a boil, add the pasta, rice, coriander and salt, simmer for a further 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lentils, cook for further 5 minutes.

Related Page


How's the weather? Read below to check what kind of climate you can expect during your visit to Morocco.

Zalagh Parc Palace

Few places in Morocco are more beautiful than Fez. Situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains near Mount Tghat, the city enjoys breathtaking scenery. Striking peaks, green forests and refreshing Andalusian gardens are all a part of staying at the Zalagh Parc Palace. The hotel is located in one the city’s biggest palaces in the heart of the city, just minutes from the medina and other great .

Seasoning a Tagine Pot

Seasoning tagine pots also called curing a tagine pot, is a PRIMORDIAL step in tagine preparation. Unfortunately, many overlook this step, resulting in fragile tagine pots that can easily crack and break.

Seasoning a tagine pot consists of preparing your tagine base and lid for future uses by sealing and strengthening their structure. This is done ONCE, before the very first use, through a series of simple steps which include soaking the tagine pot, brushing it with oil, and cooking it in a low-heated oven for a couple of hours.

Seasoning is important, and most cooking tagine pots in the market are sold unseasoned. If you haven’t seasoned your tagine pot yet, make sure you check my tagine pot seasoning and cure guide.

Ras el hanout (also spelled rass el hanout) is a blend of aromatic ground spices that is easy to prepare and is used extensively in specialty Moroccan cuisine, sometimes rubbed on meat or fish or stirred into couscous or rice, but typically not used for everyday cooking.

The name's literal translation from Arabic is “head of the shop," an expression which actually means "the best offering of the shop." Recipes for ras el hanout vary, but they frequently include cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, various peppers, and turmeric, but a total of 30 or more ingredients might be used in some recipes.

Due to its liberal use in mrouzia, a lamb and honey dish with intense seasoning, ras el hanout also is sometimes called mrouzia spice.

You'd be hard-pressed to find the same version of this spice blend in two different families with slight flavor variations from household to household being the norm. When purchasing premade ras el hanout, it's a good idea to sample some to make sure it's the type you like.

Types of M&rsquohammar

In Sephardic cooking, m&rsquohammar refers to a thick fritatta or tortilla with vegetables called meguina. It looks like a savory cake dotted with chopped vegetables. Although it looks easy to make, it requires a skillful cook to get it right. This recipe stands out from typical Moroccan usage of the term m&rsquohammar.

Apart from this exception, m&rsquohammar dishes across Morocco will call for meat or chicken and come in the following variations:

  • A regional m&rsquohammar or am&rsquohammar that does not call for onions. It calls for a generous amount of olive oil which will be used to start the dish and in the end to &ldquofry&rdquo it (a bit like the other versions). Chili, paprika, ginger and garlic are the main spices used.
  • A rather interesting m&rsquohammar brings the Muslim and Sephardic versions together as the chicken cooks in a tagine rather than in a deep cooking pot. The spices used are cumin, paprika and garlic. After the chicken has cooked to a dark amber color in a generous amount of smen and olive oil, the cook finishes the dish by cracking a few high quality free range &ldquobeldi&rdquo eggs on top. Preserved lemons may be served as condiments on the side guests use them to complement the dish at their discretion.
  • Rbatis (people from Rabat) call m&rsquohammar dishes &ldquotagines with paprika&rdquo and they have a whole category of their own.
  • Some m&rsquohammar dishes will only have fried potatoes served on top or on the side, although the general rule is to have no vegetables at all. The absence of vegetables is the reason why these dishes are served with a variety of raw and cooked salads.
  • The Fassi m&rsquohammar follows a strict recipe and it is usually topped with fried almonds and hard boiled eggs before serving.

Whichever recipe of m&rsquohammar you have on hand, give it time and love when making it. It is one of the most unforgettable ways of serving a lamb or a chicken and it may become your show-stopper. I serve it as Sunday roast every now and then and it never fails to impress.


I researched and made this recipe as a base for an Algerian Kefta (meatball) recipe that I wanted to try. Since no ras-el-hanout recipe is supposedly the same, and per the recommendations of users on a few other sites, I saw no harm in omitting the salt and adding a few more ground spices that I had on hand: anise, cardamon, nutmeg, turmeric and paprika. Can’t tell you if this was authentically Moroccan, but the spice blend is unbelievable! I definitely plan on experimenting with it in my stews and roasted meats.

Applied to cous cous with raisins as a salad mix. Thank you for sharing.

I made up this blend with the suggestion to add tumeric, garlic powder and paprika. I had some garlic oil and blended this mixture into a whole chicken. It was delicious! I am going to try it over roasted potatoes next time. This will remain a staple in my cupboard!

Terrific! BTW it goes GREAT on blended butternut squash. I steam the squash in a pressure cooker, blend it, and add this Moroccan Spice. No need to add anything else. It is AWESOME for inflammation, and so low in calories. Seriously EASY!

Delish!! Mix 1 c plain yogurt, small bits of red onion left over from shish kabobs, 6 garlic cloves, all the Moroccan Spice. Cube 2 chicken breast & marinate 30 minutes, then skewer, alternating with 1 large red bell pepper, cubed and 1/2 red onion cubed, reserving small pieces for marinate. Serve with a spinach orzo salad.

I bought a Moroccan spice blend while abroad that I've wanted to replicate ever since I ran out, and this version comes very close. It's great on fish, chicken, anything.

I use this with olive oil on small roasted potatoes accompanied with a yogurt, cucumber, mint sauce to dip. The yogurt cuts the spice. Gets rave reviews. Also a great marinade for grilled vegetables. I love it! I make a large batch and keep it on hand for lots of things.

One of the best versions of this classic blend that I've found. Yes, it works for rice, but is best as a rub or for a couscous. Will definitely use it often. Yes, I also would add some turmeric.

1 tsp cardamon, 1/2 tsp turmeric and a good dose of paprika are good additions to the mix. Garlic powder is also a good addition.

I reviewed this in May of 2007, and it's still a big fave. It has evolved over time, the spices change ratios and others work their way in, but the one constant is that I now make it without salt. Makes an incredible salt free seasoning for EVERYTHING!

I make large amounts of this blend, because it's one of my favourites. I use it on lamb steaks, in a mix of lamb, eggplant, mushrooms, and tomatoes over rice, etc. Delicious and versatile.

I love this blend and I make it in larger batches to save time - I use it at least twice a month. Great on the grill or in a skillet.

Does anyone have any advice about how to use this spice mix with rice? Would you recommend mixing it with yogurt and then blending with cooked rice or adding the spice mix to uncooked rice?

I think this blend is outstanding. I use it for a vegetarian stew with chickpeas and prunes that people go nuts over. Tip - When cooking with it, add it to whatever is being sauteed or cooked in even the smallest amount of oil - it allows the spices to bloom and you get the most depth of flavor out of them. I now make it in big batches, sometimes without cayenne, and use it in everything.

I made this recipe as instructed with the exception of cayenne pepper which I omitted. It was very good and mild. I tried it for the first time on my scrambled eggs in the morning. Very yummy. I will probably try it on fish and tofu soon.

I dip salmon fillets into this dry rub then sear the spiced side in clarfied butter or olive oil before flipping the fish and finishing in a hot oven. Serve simply or in a puddle of saffron cream sauce for an incomparable dinner.

Combined this with yogurt and marinated boneless skinless chicken filets in it then baked them (with plenty of the marinade) in foil packets for about 25 mins at 450. Came out super juicy and flavorful. Great spice blend!

I used this spice blend to make lentils with lamb and sausage. I used a double batch of the spice and probably should have used a single. It was absolutely delicious as it was, but could have been a little less hot and aromatic. I served it inside of acorn squash and my husband who was skeptical when he first smelled it litkd it a lot. It was definitely spicy but I think cutting back to a single batch would cut the heat sufficiently and I wouldn't adjust the pepper blend.

Great on its own, or mix with yogurt and marinade chicken in it . delicious.

This was delicious on sirloin steaks. Definitely spicy, but not overwhelming.

Best darn passover dish I've ever tasted, and I don't even like lamb. My husband loved it last Passover, and has been asking me to make it ever since. It will be a Passover tradition in our house (for second night supper) from now on! I'm a food columnist for our newspaper, and I've never cooked a recipe I didn't fiddle with or adjust, until this one. It was perfect as is.

this was great. we rubbed it on hangar steak today (i'm a culinary school student) and grilled it. DELICIOUS!

I do a lot of Moroccan cooking using this palette of spices, and thought this would be a good mixture to prepare in larger quantity and keep on hand. However, after making a double batch just now, and scaling back on both the black pepper and the cayenne, I think it would be prohibitively hot with the proportion of pepper as written.

Moroccan recipes

Exotic North African dishes that are big on flavour, aroma and spice. Try an easy chicken tagine, or roll up some Speedy Moroccan meatballs.

Guinea fowl tagine with chickpeas, squash & apricots

This game bird is a lot like chicken, so can be cooked in the same way - give it a whirl in this fragrant Moroccan-spiced casserole

Moroccan chicken stew

This hearty stew, full of vibrant veg and warming spices, is a Hemsley sister favourite. Serve with a side of cauliflower tabbouleh as a light accompaniment

Recipe Summary

  • 2 1/2 ounces sliced almonds (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (3 ounces)
  • 1 pound moist pitted dates, chopped
  • 4 pitted kalamata or dry-cured Moroccan olives, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange flower water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the sliced almonds on a baking sheet and toast for about 4 minutes, until golden. Let the almonds cool completely.

In a food processor, grind the pistachios to a coarse powder. Transfer the pistachio powder to a plate. Add the toasted almonds to the processor and grind to a coarse powder. Add the walnuts, dates, olives, ginger, honey, orange zest, cinnamon, cardamom, orange flower water and salt and process to a paste.

Scoop up scant tablespoons of the date mixture and roll into balls. Roll the balls in the pistachio powder to coat them completely and serve.

Delicious Moroccan Food

Moroccan cuisine has been enriched by the many aspects of its long and eventful history and over the centuries has been refined into a fascinating blend of Arab, Berber, Middle Eastern, Moorish, Iberian, Mediterranean, African and Jewish influences which is uniquely Moroccan.

Spices hold pride of place in any Moroccan kitchen and are used skillfully to create a variety of distinctive flavors to tempt any palate. Common spices include cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, paprika, aniseed, pepper, coriander, sesame seeds, saffron and mint. Couscous plays an important role in Moroccan cuisine and is gaining popularity world-wide.

Traditionally the main meal is enjoyed at midday, with the holy month of Ramadan being the exception. Bread is offered at every meal and it is common for Moroccans to eat with the fingers of one hand while bread in the other hand is used as a utensil. A meal may start with salads that are followed by a traditional Moroccan tagine. Mint tea will be served either with the meal or at the end. Seasonal fruit may complete a meal, or on special occasions a pastry stuffed with almond paste and dusted with sugar known as kaab el ghzal (gazelles horns) may be served. Halwa shebekai, a pretzel shaped piece of deep fried dough, dipped in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds, is also popular.

Visiting a foreign country is always exciting, and enjoying the food of the local people you meet during your travels completes the experience, so be sure to try out the many flavor-filled aspects of Moroccan cuisine.

The variety of Moroccan dishes seems endless, but they all have something in common – they are all delicious. So when you are in Morocco, be sure to try out traditional favorites such as the triple-layered savory pastry known as Bisteeya, or Mechoui slow-roasted lamb. Not to be missed is a Morocco tagine, a savory dish of chicken, fish, beef or lamb and vegetables which is slow-cooked to perfection in a unique pottery container.

Tempt your senses with delicious Moroccan Cuisine and Recipes. Moroccans have always been praised for their unique spice combinations resulting in incredible taste sensations. Get some recipes here and try them out yourself.

Whilst in Morocco, eat like a Moroccan! Have a look at this list of Moroccan Restaurants and choose where to eat tonight!

Related Page


Most people living in Morocco live west of the Atlas Mountains, a 2,400-kilometer range of mountains, which start off in northwest Africa and go through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The city of Tangier is a major port and is where many go to if they want to go to Spain. Casablanca is also a leading port in Morocco and is the center of Moroccan industry and commerce. Marrakech is the tourist .

Discover Morocco

There is so much to know and find out about Morocco. Whether traveling or simply wishing to know more, the following page links can help you to gather more information about this destination.

Watch the video: Marokkanische Spezialität - Pastilla (August 2022).