Moroccan CuisineMorocco is world-famous for its richly spiced cuisine based on fresh vegetables, olive oil, wheat, legumes, meats, seafood, and seasonal fruit. It is reflective in many ways of the typical North African-style Mediterranean diet, but it also has strong Arabic influence. Many regions of the country still bear the mark of Spanish and French presence, too – croissants, Spanish tortilla, and baguettes are popular. Keep an eye out for these classic and most popular dishes as you travel Morocco.
Tajine or Tagine refers to both the dish and the circular ceramic vessel with a cone-shaped top used to cook it. Tajines are some of the most popular dishes throughout the country and can be made with almost anything – vegetables, chicken, fish, shrimp, beef, sheep, or camel. The main ingredient is placed in the dish, along with some oil, a little water, spices, and vegetables. Meat and chicken are also often accompanied by olives, almonds, apricots, or prunes. The dish is covered and baked until the ingredients are tender, fragrant, and piping hot.
Couscous is probably the dish for which Morocco is best known. It is traditionally eaten on Fridays with the whole family present, after the weekly sermon at the mosques has finished. Correct preparation often takes the full morning, as one must prepare a stewed chicken, vegetables, or meat with broth, make a sweet, spiced sauce made of onions and raisins, and carefully steam the cous cous. In restaurants, it is often served with lben, a tangy fermented milk much like kefir. It goes well with the rich flavors of couscous.
Harira may be one of the most important dishes in Morocco because of it’s role during Ramadan – it is made in households across the country to be eaten as part of the breaking the fast meal. During the Muslim holy month, you’ll see giant kettles simmering in every restaurant, and smell its inviting aroma wafting from every home. Made of a light tomato broth with various add-ins – noodles, lentils, chickpeas, – and a little bit of mutton or chicken for flavor, harira is the perfect thing to eat after a long day of fasting. It’s also great as a quick snack to warm up on chilly winter evenings.
Seafood is hugely popular along Morocco’s long coastline. Fishermen bring in a daily catch that includes a wide variety of fish, shrimp, and squid. A popular seafood dish is fritura, a big platter with a mix of deep-fried fishes, shrimp, and calamari rings. Other popular dishes are chouwaya d lhout, simple and delicious barbecued fish, and tajine d lhout, fish cooked in a tajine with potatoes, peas, red peppers, and spices.
Bisara is a thick, creamy soup made from just one main ingredient: fava beans. It is flavored with onion, garlic, and olive oil, and served with cumin and more olive oil drizzled on top. It is particularly popular in the Tangier and Tetouan region, and is one of the cheapest meals available. For 50¢ to $1, you can get a bubbling bowl of the soup, along with a round loaf of bread and sometimes a scoop of olives.
Morocco boasts a stunning range of traditional breads, which, to add to the complexity, differ by region, bakery, and even household! There’s the classic hobz, yeasted, oven-baked rounds about an inch thick most commonly used for eating with meals.
You’ll see ghrifa, a square-shaped, griddle-cooked flat bread that is perfect for breakfast when spread with honey and butter (there are delicious savory versions too, made with chicken fat and onions!).
Harcha, a small, circular bread made from semolina is nice for a small sandwich with honey and butter, or savory fillings like jben arabi, traditional fresh cheese. And then there’s baghrir, a stunning masterpiece of bread engineering. It’s like a thick, yeasted crepe, but dotted with dozens of tiny holes that make it perfect for soaking up amlou, a honey-sweetened almond butter.You can find all these types in a range of different sizes, in addition to many other types of bread made with whole wheat, barley, spices, and more.
Sweet baked goods in Morocco are a marvelous product of mixing between traditional Moroccan, French, and Spanish pastry styles. You can find dainty tea cakes with layers of cream and jam, custard-filled croissants, and pieces of crispy deep-fried dough soaked in an orange flower water syrup and sprinkled with almonds. Not to be missed are the classic helewiet (little sweets), dozens of types of small rich cookies made with ground almonds, walnuts, or peanuts and served on special occasions.
Fruit is Morocco is abundant and cheap, in the range of 25¢ to $1 a pound for strawberries, oranges, peaches, figs, avocados, apples, pears, grapes, and more. One of the most delicious ways to eat the seasonal fruit is in a smoothie, known in Morocco as assir or jus (French for juice).
Stop by one of the many milbanat, snack shops often advertised by large bunches of fruit hanging outside. They’ll blend whatever fruit they have with milk, orange juice, nuts, or dates, as per your request.
Dates are one of the most symbolic foods throughout the Muslim world, since they are mentioned many times in the Quran and used to break the fast during Ramadan. They are also presented to wedding guests along with a small glass of milk, as a sign of hospitality. In the markets, you can buy dates from Morocco as well as dozens of types from other countries including Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iraq.
Each type of date has a slightly different color, size, texture, flavor, and moisture content, and every Moroccan has a favorite. Vendors will usually let you taste before buying, so you can find your favorite, too