Can You Create a Spiced Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives?

April 5, 2024


The aroma of spices wafting from a simmering tagine, the tangy bite of preserved lemons, and the salty richness of olives—these are the hallmarks of a classic Moroccan Chicken Tagine. A cornerstone of Moroccan cuisine, this dish is a symphony of flavors that seems complex but is surprisingly easy to make at home. This article will guide you through the steps of cooking this dish, introducing you to the ingredients and techniques required. With this guide, you’ll be able to create a taste of Morocco right in your own kitchen.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

The secret to a flavorful Moroccan Chicken Tagine lies in the quality of its ingredients. This dish is not just about its main components—chicken, preserved lemons, and olives—but also about the spices that give it its unique flavor.

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The chicken should be fresh, ideally free-range for a more authentic taste. For the preserved lemons, you can either buy them from a store or make your own. Preserving lemons at home is a simple process that requires just lemons, salt, and time.

The olives used in this dish are usually green olives, briny and firm. If you have access to Moroccan olives, use them for a more authentic flavor. If not, any good quality green olives will do.

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The spices needed for this dish are what give it its distinctive flavor. Moroccan cuisine is known for its use of a mix of spices, and the Moroccan Chicken Tagine is no exception. The key spices you’ll need are ginger, saffron, turmeric, and cinnamon. These spices not only give the dish its vibrant color but also its warm, aromatic flavor.

Preparing the Chicken

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, it’s time to prepare the chicken. Moroccan Chicken Tagine is typically made with chicken thighs because they remain juicy and flavorful even after slow cooking. However, you can use any cut of chicken that you prefer.

First, you’ll need to marinate the chicken. The marinade is a combination of garlic, spices, lemon juice, and olive oil. Mix these together and rub the mixture all over the chicken pieces. Let them marinate for at least two hours, or even better, overnight in the refrigerator.

Cooking the Tagine

The next step is cooking your Moroccan Chicken Tagine. Traditionally, this dish is cooked in a tagine pot—a type of earthenware pot with a conical lid that allows for slow, even cooking. However, if you don’t have a tagine, a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven will work just as well.

Start by heating some olive oil in your pot. Add the marinated chicken pieces and sear them until they’re golden brown. Remove the chicken and set it aside. In the same pot, add chopped onions and cook until they’re soft and translucent. Add the remaining spices and cook until they’re fragrant.

Next, add the preserved lemons and olives to the pot. Cook these for a few minutes, then add the chicken pieces back in. Pour in enough water to almost cover the chicken, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer.

Finishing the Dish

The final step in creating your Moroccan Chicken Tagine is to let it simmer slowly until the chicken is tender and the flavors have melded together. This could take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half.

While the chicken is simmering, you can prepare the garnish. Traditional garnishes include fresh coriander and parsley, chopped finely. Some recipes also include slivered almonds or sesame seeds for added crunch.

Once the chicken is cooked to your liking, remove the pot from the heat. Sprinkle the fresh herbs over the tagine just before serving. The heat from the dish will wilt the herbs slightly, releasing their aroma.

And there you have it! Your very own Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives. This dish will serve you well as a meal for a cozy family dinner or as a stunning main for a dinner party. The combination of tangy, salty, and warm flavors is sure to transport you and your guests straight to the bustling markets and warm kitchens of Morocco.

Serving Suggestions and Potential Variations

To fully experience the flavors of your Moroccan Chicken Tagine, it is best served with couscous, rice, or fresh bread. These accompaniments will soak up the flavorful sauce and add to the overall satisfaction of the meal. If you prefer, you can also serve it with a simple salad.

As for beverages, a glass of Moroccan mint tea or a robust red wine pairs beautifully with this dish.

If you want to add a personal touch or vary the recipe, there are many possibilities. While chickpeas are not traditionally used in this dish, you can add them for an extra protein boost. Alternatively, you might want to try adding dried apricots or raisins for a touch of sweetness.

You can also experiment with different spices. Ras el hanout, a blend of 27 spices, is a classic Moroccan spice mix that you could use instead of the individual spices. Or you could add harissa paste for a spicier version.

If you’re vegetarian, you can replace the chicken with a hearty vegetable like eggplant or butternut squash. Just remember, the key to this dish is the slow cooking that allows the flavors to meld together.


Creating a Spiced Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives in your own kitchen is a delightful culinary adventure. With the right ingredients, a bit of preparation, and patience, you can bring the exotic flavors of Morocco to your dining table.

The dish is not just a meal, but an experience. The slow cooking process fills your kitchen with an enticing aroma, the vibrant colors dazzle your eyes, and the symphony of tangy, salty, and warm flavors excites your palate. Every bite takes you on a journey to Morocco, from the comfort of your home.

So, be it a family dinner or a dinner party, dare to try something new. Impress your guests, or simply treat yourself with this flavorful, comforting Moroccan Chicken Tagine. After all, exploring new flavors and cuisines is one of the great pleasures of cooking. Bon appétit!