Cooking Chicken, Olive and Preserved Lemon Tagine in Marrakech

On a recent trip to Morocco, we stayed at the wonderful boutique hotel, Dar Les Cigognes in Marrakech. This lovely, traditional hotel was featured on the fabulous TV series, Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast. The big draw of staying here was the opportunity afforded all guests of taking a private traditional Moroccan foods cooking class in the small kitchen.  The Berber chef I spent the afternoon with, Fouzia, learned to cook at the heels of her mother and grandmother.


One of the (many) dishes I requested to cook was djej m’qualli, a traditional Chicken, Preserved Lemon and Olive Tagine.  Working side-by-side with this amazing cook, she taught me the proper way to prepare couscous which we then used to make Seven Vegetable Couscous.  I also asked to be taught how to make the flaky. filo-like dough warkha / ouarqa (just two of the numerous spellings).  We later used this to make b’stila bel hmame (spiced pigeon, egg and almonds encased in pastry) as well as a sweet dish of fried paper-thin warkha dough sheets layered with homemade milk custard and sugared almonds.  Those recipes will come later.  Below is Fouzia’s step-by-step instructions for making Chicken, Preserved Lemon and Olive Tagine.  No recipe was given but I took notes and a printable recipe can be found at the end of the step-by-step instructions.

Begin by dicing onions and placing them in the bottom of a tagine (or heavy pot) that is both stovetop and oven safe.

P1100940Chop garlic and add to the tagine.

P1100948Combine cumin, ginger, tumeric, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl.


Chop fresh cilantro (coriander) and parsley.

P1100923Add the herbs to the bowl with the spices.


Add water and dredge the pieces of chicken.  (If time allows, marinate the chicken pieces overnight before beginning assembly.)


Place dredged pieces in a single layer over the diced onion and garlic base in the tagine.


Pour remaining liquid over and around the chicken.


Add slices of preserved lemon and drizzle with oil.  Preserved lemons are available in many specialty shops.  While very easy to make, they need to sit for about at least a month.  Slices of fresh lemon produce an entirely different flavor so should not be substituted.  If you haven’t time to properly age the lemons and are unable to purchase them, here is a quick How To guide for making a substitute for preserved lemons that can be used immediately.  (At the time of posting, preserved lemons are also available at Williams-Sonoma through mail order and at some store locations.)

P1100959Set the tagine on the stove and turn the heat up to medium-high.

P1100965Pop on the lid.  The tagine lid is pointed so steam rises and moisture drips back down producing a constant basting effect.


Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes then remove the lid, turn the chicken pieces over and give the mixture a stir.


Replace the lid and continue cooking,  Turn the chicken one or two more times.  Add a touch more water, if necessary.


When the chicken is almost done cooking, add the olives.


Check after a total cooking time of about 30 to 45 minutes to see if the chicken is tender and cooked through.


P1110126When our meal was done, we retired to the rooftop to dine on our efforts accompanied by Moroccan Domaine de Sahari wine with storks nesting nearby and flying overhead.



Absolutely delicious.




(I also tried this recipe with pieces of firm, white fish upon my return home and it was wonderful).

Chicken, Olive and Preserved Lemon Tagine
Djej m’qualli is a traditional, Moroccan stew-like dish cooked in a clay, dome-topped tagine.
  • 1 whole chicken, quartered
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried, ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried, ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried, ground tumeric
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/8 cup fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsely, chopped
  • 1 small preserved lemon, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 to 1 cup olives
  1. Place diced onions and garlic evenly over the base of a tagine or a heavy pot with a lid.
  2. Mix spices, salt, pepper, parsley, cilantro and water in a bowl.
  3. Dredge chicken pieces in the liquid, coating all sides and place on top of the onions and garlic. (Note: If time allows, marinate the chicken overnight before beginning to assemble the tagine.)
  4. Pour the remaining liquid over and around the chicken.
  5. Add the preserved lemon slices and drizzle the chicken with oil.
  6. Set the tagine on the stove over medium to medium-high heat. Place the lid on the tagine and begin simmering.
  7. After about 10 to 15 minutes, turn the pieces over.
  8. Replace the lid and continue simmering.
  9. Turn the chicken one or two more times.
  10. After about 30 minutes of cooking, add the olives and replace the lid.
  11. Total cooking time with be around 45 minutes.
  12. Before removing from the heat, be sure to check the chicken for doneness. It should be cooked through and tender.
  13. Serve in the tagine when it is done cooking.




  1. This looks absolutely delicious! Slow-cooking a tagine is one of my favorite ways to bring the essence of Morocco into my own kitchen. Will have to give Fouzia’s preparation a try.

    • Anita, thanks so much for posting a comment. I will post more recipes later. I also spent time in the kitchen of a young, professionally-trained Arab Moroccan chef in Fes. She taught me to make a fabulously delicious lamb dish often served at weddings. By the way, I tried squirting a tablespoonful of tomato concentrate into this dish and it added a nice depth to it.

  2. Cathy Nadkarni says:

    This is a great trip that you are doing. I especially love the recipe you added above. Do you also have the recipe of the 7 vegetable couscous.? I would love to know how they do it in Morocco. What kind of meat do they use in that latter recipe?

    • Thanks, Kathy. I will write up and do a posting on the Seven Vegetable Couscous, including the prep method of the couscous, when I get a chance. A bit involved. Totally vegetarian. Pumpkin, turnip, carrot, zucchini, cabbage, fava bean and garbanzo beans.

  3. Amy, your trip sounds amazing. I adores preserve lemon, and thanks for the quick version. This recipe is definitely going in my recipe box. My mother has lost most of her sense of taste, but she can taste lemon, so I’ll be making this for her! Hugs!

  4. I was organizing my Twitter account, and out of curiosity solely from the name of your site, and stopped by. This recipe looks amazing, and I can’t wait to try it out! We were in Marrakesh a couple years ago, and had a delicious meal similar to this, and I have been hankering for it ever since. Can’t wait to try this out and will let you know how it goes! Also, I am doing something similar to you in that I am from Texas and live in Spain. I cook (and post) lots of Southern fare as well as quintessential Spanish plates. I’ll be back!

  5. Just bought a tagine, this will be the first recipe I try! Can’t wait to see the lamb recipe! Thanks for sharing!

    • Great! I made it yesterday. I tried browning the chicken in the tagine after marinating, removing it then sautéing the onions a few minutes before returning the chicken to tagine and continuing on with the recipe. I also added a spoonful of tomato paste before returning the chicken. I thought it was the best batch yet. It is OK to add a bit more water. Before serving, take the lid off to reduce the liquid to a nice, thick sauce.

  6. can’t wait to do this, Amy! And made some citrons confits about a month ago that’ll be just coming good, yum

    • Preserving lemons was the first thing I did when we moved into our new house. Used them a few days ago. We are having a big Moroccan feast here mid-February and I plan to make loads of dishes. BTW, a guy I know uses his preserved lemons diced fine with smoked salmon and capers. Sounds pretty delicious to me! What else do you do with yours?

  7. Hi, Amy, I gave our new Grandson a WS complete tangine set for Christmas.
    Just sent Erin a link to you. I have made seven veg with lamb and chicken. Did you ever publish the perfect way to prepare couscous ?

  8. No yet. It was fascinating to watch. Couscous is mixed with a bit of water and flour and rolled on a large, flat surface to coat each piece. Steamed and removed part way through to re-roll. I need to buy a couscouserie pot. My steamer does not work well enough.

  9. thank you for this recipe , I’m Moroccan just moved to USA and was looking for tips to cook this tagine on crock pot . This recipe is like what I’m cooking back home you can use the tagine or any non sticking pan . Personally I use olive oil only and don’t put any water and leave it cocking on low heat for 50 to an hour and it’s ready and the sauce is consistent delicious . You can add potatoes as well it’s delicious . I’m wondering if any body made it in crock pot ? Small tip wash your olives many times to remove the salt or do not use salt in the beginning . Bon appetit


  1. […] chef.  Quite a different background from the Berber chef I was with in Marrakech (see previous Chicken, Olive, Preserved Lemon Tagine post).  I took notes as we worked to get the ingredient ratio correct.  The quantity we produced […]

  2. […] be substituted and used to deliver results that are just as delicious. Try out this recipe from Crawfish & Caramel and tell us what you think of chicken tagine in the comments […]

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