Traditional Moroccan Food: Tagines, Couscous, and more

We recently returned from Morocco, and are already missing some of the delicious food. This breakdown of traditional Moroccan food will get your taste buds tingling. Be warned; you may find yourself booking flights to try some authentic Moroccan food for yourself.

Traditional Moroccan Food

Tagine

Tagine is a famous Moroccan stew named after the distinctive pot it’s cooked in. It is a fragrant, flavourful dish that consists of meat or fish, vegetables, fruit, and spices. Meat is usually kept on the bone to add depth and flavour to the gravy. Presentation is important too – vegetables are usually arranged in neat, symmetrical circles around the centre.

The tagine cooking pot has a circular base with low sides, and a conical lid that sits on the base during cooking. The lid traps the steam in the form of condensation, which then runs down the sides back into the dish to keep the meat succulent and juicy. It also adds an extra bit of flair when the food is served. A tagine will traditionally be slow cooked over hot charcoals, but if you’re making one at home you can also use any casserole dish. (It might not taste as good though.)

You can also get decorative tagines, painted in bright colours with intricate details. Food is usually served in the plain earthenware version of the dish though – you don’t want to get lead poisoning from any chemicals in the paint.

Traditional moroccan food tagine cooking on firePhoto from Jamie McCaffrey – we were too busy stuffing our faces to get a good picture!

Moroccan Couscous

While in Morocco, we watched a couscous cooking demonstration and were astounded at the care and effort that went into making the dish. It almost didn’t seem worth it – until we tasted some. It was light, fluffy, and delicious. An array of Moroccan spices give it a full flavour. It often contains fruit such as raisins to give it a sweet taste, and is filled out with meat and vegetables.

Making authentic Moroccan couscous is a labour of love. I can guarantee you that a packet of instant couscous soaked in boiling water for five minutes won’t taste the same. (Trust us, we tried and were very disappointed.)

Check out this article for a detailed breakdown on how to make couscous the Moroccan way.

Pastilla

Moroccan pastilla is a sweet and savoury pie. It’s eaten as a main course and customarily reserved for formal occasions such as weddings, although hungry travellers can find a restaurant that serves it in most places. The traditional filling is pigeon, although neither of us were brave enough to try that during our visit! The chicken version was tasty enough for me.

The savoury meat is mixed with roasted almonds, cinnamon, sugar, and eggs, and wrapped up in a sweet pastry. The combination of flavours is slightly unusual at first, but certainly delicious.

If you have a few pigeons in your freezer that you don’t know what to do with, here is a pigeon pastilla recipe for you.

Also worth mentioning…

Bread and olives

Every time we ate in a restaurant, they would always bring out fresh bread and olives. (Complimentary – not like Spain or Portugal where you’ll be charged if you eat the bread at the table.) And IT WAS GREAT. I need more bread and olives in my life. Fingers crossed the UK catches on.

Berber Omelette

We first experienced a Berber omelette at a homestay in the High Atlas Mountains. It’s cooked in a tagine, and can be served for either breakfast or dinner. The omelette consists of eggs in a tomato sauce with a blend of Moroccan spices. It was delicious! Kayla was sticking to vegetarian options, so she ate these a lot.

Moroccan Salad

A Moroccan salad will usually consist of lots of tomato, onion, and olive oil. They are simple, cheap, and tasty.

Harira

Harira is a Moroccan tomato-based soup that contains lentils, chickpeas, and sometimes meat. It is usually served as a starter, and is especially popular during the month of Ramadan. Don’t expect any two bowls to taste the same – each region and family will have its own recipe.

Breakfast

Every breakfast we ate in Morocco was largely the same. A combination of bread, pancakes, fruit, yoghurt, and a cheese triangle. We weren’t expecting to see Laughing Cow in Africa, but we were wrong! Sometimes the pancakes were the traditional Moroccan Msemen, thick and rich like a roti, and sometimes they were thin like a French crepe. They were always served with sweet, decadent spreads such as jam and honey.

Moroccan spices

A wide variety of spices are used in Morocco to add flavour to their food. One of the most commonly used is Ras El Hanout, for which the literal translation is ‘head of the shop’. It’s a mixture of all the best spices a shopkeeper has to offer, and is used to add flavour to many Moroccan dishes. Ras El Hanout can contain up to one hundred different spices.

Travelling in Morocco as a vegetarian

We had a couple of vegetarians in our group, and it certainly is possible to maintain a vegetarian diet while travelling in Morocco. Your meal options may seem a little unvaried at times, but you will still get to experience the authentic Moroccan flavours. Many restaurants will offer a vegetarian tagine and couscous, as well as a variety of salads.

Ready to try some authentic Moroccan food for yourself?

Here’s everything you need to know before you visit.

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