Traditional Moroccan Chicken Tagine Recipe

Cecile Treal and Jean-Michel Ruiz/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
  • 2 hrs 45 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings Moroccan tagine
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This Moroccan recipe explains how to make classic chicken with preserved lemons and olives in an authentic tagine. Marinating the chicken for a few hours or overnight is optional.

The cooking time of 2 1/2 hours allows for bringing the tagine slowly to a simmer. Large chickens may require additional time.

Recipes for chicken with preserved lemon and olives also can be made using a conventional stove top preparation and slow roasting method.

What You'll Need

  • 1 or 2 preserved lemons, quartered and seeds removed
  • 1 whole chicken, skin removed, cut into pieces
  • 2 large white or yellow onions, very finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 small handful fresh cilantro, chopped (see the Note below)
  • 1 small handful fresh parsley, chopped (see the Note below)
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon smen ​Moroccan preserved butter (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 handfuls green or red olives, or mixed
  • 1/4 cup water, approximately

How to Make It

Note: Instead of chopping, you can tie the parsley and cilantro together into a bouquet and place on top of the chicken during cooking.

Prepare the Chicken

  1. Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon and finely chop it. Add the chopped lemon flesh to a bowl along with the chicken, onion, garlic, cilantro, parsley, ginger, pepper, turmeric, salt, saffron, and smen, and mix well.
  2. If time allows, let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or even overnight.

    Cook the Chicken

    1. Add enough of the olive oil to the tagine to coat the bottom. Arrange the chicken in the tagine (flesh-side down), and distribute the onions all around.
    2. Add the olives and preserved lemon quarters, and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the chicken. Add the water to the tagine, cover, and place on a diffuser over a medium-low heat.
    3. 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 maintain the lowest heat setting required for maintaining a gentle, not rapid, simmer.
    4. Allow the chicken to cook undisturbed for 80 to 90 minutes, and then turn the chicken over so that it's flesh side up. Cover the tagine again, and allow the chicken to finish cooking until very tender.
    5. Turn off the heat, and let the tagine cool for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Moroccan tradition is to eat directly from the tagine, using Moroccan bread to scoop up the chicken and sauce. French fries are frequently served with this dish, and even can be placed on top of the chicken.