Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Tested & Perfected Recipes

moroccan chicken tagine

Tweaked a bit from Cook’s Illustrated, this is my favorite chicken tagine, the traditional Moroccan dish of chicken pieces braised with spices, garlic, onion, olives, and preserved lemons. It’s festive and company-worthy yet also easy enough to throw together on a not-too-busy weeknight. The word tagine refers to the shallow clay vessel with a cone-shaped lid that the dish is traditionally cooked in, but you don’t need one to make it. I use a large cast-iron braiser; a wide Dutch oven or a heavy covered skillet will work, too. The recipe does not call for preserved lemons, a specialty ingredient that can be difficult to find. Instead, lemon zest and fresh lemon juice add tart brightness to the dish. While you can use a whole cut-up chicken, my preference is to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs only. They provide a good amount of meat and remain tender even if slightly overcooked, and the bones and skin add depth of flavor and richness to the sauce (though the skin is removed midway through cooking). Sometimes, I pull the meat off the bone before serving — makes it easier and more appealing for the kids to eat — but serving the chicken on the bone is traditional. Serve the chicken tagine on a platter or individual plates atop a bed of couscous.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

To begin, combine the spices in small bowl.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Mix well and set aside.

Zest the lemon. Combine 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest with 1 minced garlic clove; set aside.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Season both sides of chicken pieces with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke. Brown the chicken pieces skin side down in single layer until deep golden, about 5 minutes.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Using tongs, flip the chicken pieces over and brown the other side, about 4 minutes more. how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Transfer the chicken to a large plate; when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and add the onion.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Cook, stirring occasionally, until they have browned at the edges but still retain their shape, 5 to 7 minutes (add a few tablespoons of water if the pan gets too dark).

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Add the remaining minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spices and flour.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Stir in the broth, honey, remaining lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Add the chicken (with any accumulated juices) back in, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Add the carrots, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the carrots are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes more.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Add the olives, garlic-zest mixture, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Stir to combine and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.

how to make moroccan chicken tagine

Serve with couscous.

moroccan chicken tagine

My Recipe Videos

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 lemon
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess skin and fat (see note)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and cut into 1/4-in-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick coins
  • 1/2 cup Greek cracked green olives, pitted and halved (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Instructions

  1. Combine the spices in a small bowl and set aside. Zest the lemon. Combine 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest with 1 minced garlic clove; set aside.
  2. Season both sides of chicken pieces with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or pan over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke. Brown the chicken pieces skin side down in single layer until deep golden, about 5 minutes; using tongs, flip the chicken pieces over and brown the other side, about 4 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a large plate; when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have browned at the edges but still retain their shape, 5 to 7 minutes (add a few tablespoons of water now and then if the pan gets too dark). Add the remaining minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spices and flour and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, honey, remaining lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Add the chicken (with any accumulated juices) back in, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the carrots are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes more.
  5. Stir in the olives, reserved lemon zest-garlic mixture, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice; taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Serve with couscous.
  6. Note: Don't fret too much over trimming the chicken thighs. The skin gets removed midway through the cooking process and most of the fat will cook off and get drained. I usually just take kitchen shears and quickly snip off any excess skin or fat. Cracked green olives are olives that have been ‘cracked’ or split open before curing, allowing the brine or marinade to penetrate. You can find them in your supermarket’s olive bar, or substitute any green olive that you like.
  7. Make-Ahead: After you have completed the step of cooking the carrots, the dish can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. To serve, gently warm on the stove until the chicken is heated through, then proceed to the step where the olives and remaining ingredients are added.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 chicken thigh
  • Calories: 367
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 14 g
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 47 g
  • Sodium: 794 mg
  • Cholesterol: 215 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Reviews & Comments

  • I’ve made a lot of your recipes Jenn and really loved them. Unfortunately this one was just OK. I followed the recipe exactly and while the finished dish looked good, it lacked a depth of flavor I’ve come to appreciate in other morrocan dishes I’ve made. I won’t make this one again.

    • — Gillian on November 30, 2018
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I would love to try this but have an infant under 1 year old so honey is out. There also seems to be some contention over whether maple syrup is safe (or I would just use that). Can I substitute brown sugar, and if yes, would it be the same amount? Also, I have a Costco size jar of kalamata olives I would love to use up, can I replace the green olives with them in this recipe without altering the flavour too much?

    Thanks in advance, love the site!

    • — Bry on November 27, 2018
    • Reply
    • Sure, Bry – brown sugar (same amount) would be a perfect substitute. And it’s fine to use any kind of olive you like. Please let me know how it turns out. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 27, 2018
      • Reply
  • My wife and l loved this dish. It was delicious! It was a little labor intensive for an amateur with no skills (me) but it’ll be easier next time and there will definitely be a next time. Thank you for a great, hearty meal.

    • — Jerry T on November 18, 2018
    • Reply
  • Hello Jenn I love your blog! I was searching for a recipe to knock off Zoe’s Moroccan chicken and found you instead. I’m going to try this but was wondering – can I sub chicken breasts for the thighs? Would that require increasing cook time? What do you think? ( I’m already checking out more of your recipes!)
    Thank you, Holly

    • — Holly Gordon on November 15, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Holly, glad you happened to find the blog! Although I think this is best and more moist with thighs, yes, you can use chicken breasts on the bone (cut the breasts in half before cooking). When you add the chicken back to the pan, I’d reduce the cooking time by about 5 minutes. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 16, 2018
      • Reply
      • Thank you Jenn!

        • — Holly on November 17, 2018
        • Reply
  • I just made this!!! It’s so delicious thank you

    • — Lily on November 15, 2018
    • Reply
  • This is a very different mix of flavors, and I was not sure what I would think. Nobody in my family is particularly fond of sweet undertones in our meals, so I was a little skeptical. I also couldn’t quite reconcile the honey/cinnamon with the cayenne and green olives/cilantro prior to making this. As I always do, I made it (almost) exactly as written, except I doubled the carrots. I made it with Jenn’s Perfect Couscous. This is extremely tasty and my most sweet-intolerant child seemed to love it the most. It is a beautiful dish with complex flavors, and the sauce is really delicious on the couscous. I think it tasted even better the next day as leftovers. I am happy to have something a little different to add to my repertoire. I would recommend having every ingredient measured out ahead of time, except for the honey, as it will really help once you get going. Jenn, I often wonder what we would eat with out you. Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents. I am grateful for you many times a week.

    • — Mary M. on November 12, 2018
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it, Mary! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2018
      • Reply
  • Awesome. I have zero cooking skills but I just followed the instructions and voila, delicious flavorful meal.

    • — YK on November 10, 2018
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! What a wonderful aromatic meal – in both taste, texture, and smells. My home took on a magical quality of fragrance and smells. Made the dish exactly as suggested – didn’t change a thing. Superb!

    • — Renee Orozco on November 8, 2018
    • Reply
  • Made this last night for dinner and it was fantastic! I adapted the recipe so it would cook in the slow cooker. (Basically browned the chicken and made the gravy, then transferred it and cooked on low. Finished with a splash of lemon juice and garnish of coriander). The house smelled amazing and will make again! Thanks for another great meal!

    • — Jennifer on November 5, 2018
    • Reply
  • I thought this was a little too sweet, but I’ve never had chicken tagine before, so maybe that’s just part of the tradition. I’ll try it with half the honey honey next time though. It certainly made the kitchen smell fantastic.

    • — Kate on November 5, 2018
    • Reply
  • Quite stunning. The broth is so deliciously unctuous that serving in a bowl to maximize flavors is a must. Loved this one, the spice rub has such a deep and floral quality with the coriander.

    • — Josh on November 5, 2018
    • Reply
  • May I use skinless, boneless chicken thighs? My guess would be it would be okay since it seems several people have used breasts and still loved it!

    • — Sally Brogan on November 3, 2018
    • Reply
    • Sure, Sally. I’d cut down on the searing time though; 1 to 2 minutes on each side should do it.

      • — Jenn on November 4, 2018
      • Reply
  • This recipe is a winner (as Jenn’s usually are). The flavors are wonderful!

    • — Mary on November 3, 2018
    • Reply
  • I apologize for being a little late to the party; I just discovered your wonderful blog and this recipe!

    I’d love to try this recipe; I just wish you’d included instructions for preparing in an actual tagine. I realize tagines fall into the category of “specialized cookware” and you want to ensure your recipes are accessible to the majority of your readers, but perhaps a note at the end of the recipe detailing the changes in technique one would need to make if one has and wants to use the type of equipment (in this case, a clay tagine) would be helpful to those of us who have it, and in which this type of recipe would traditionally be prepared.

    The trouble is, I use my tagine so infrequently I tend to forget which steps in a recipe I can and cannot do in it (i.e., can I brown the chicken in it on the stove top, or do I need to do that in a separate skillet & then transfer the chicken to the tagine?)

    Providing that information in tagine recipes would encourage me to use my tagine more frequently. She’s sad. And lonely…

    • — Twirly Girly on November 2, 2018
    • Reply
    • I have to admit that I don’t know if a tagine can be used on the stove-top so, to be safe, I’d recommend sticking with the pan for this (sorry that your tagine will remain sad and lonely)… 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • Hi jenn I just finished making this and my house smells amazing. I plan to serve it tonight. We are just two people. I made the full recipe to try before making it for a dinner party. Can I freeze half the chicken and sauce for a future meal for just us. Would I reheat it in the oven. Thanks.
    Lynn

    • — Lynn Weinstein on November 2, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Lynn, Yes, you can definitely freeze half. You can reheat in the oven or on the stovetop over low heat. Add a little water or chicken broth to thin the sauce if necessary. Enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • Wonderful, wonderful dish! I served your perfect couscous on the side. My husband could not stop raving. Thank you Jenn!

    • — Belinda on November 2, 2018
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, LOVE your cookbook and your recipes, thanks so much for sharing! I have preserved lemons, would you please tell me how to incorporate them in this recipe? Thanks again!

    • — MichelleA on November 2, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Michelle, I wouldn’t recommend the preserved lemons here. Preserved lemons contain some salt and because I didn’t test the recipe using them, I’m not sure how it would impact the amount of salt you’d need to add. I think you’ll love this version of it, though!

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • I made this tonight and it was delicious! My husband doesn’t care for chicken thighs so I used breasts instead and they too were delicious. I also added preserved lemon for some extra citrus. I noticed that the written recipe at the end didn’t reflect the lemon juice or zest in the ingredients. It was a little confusing when it came time to finish the dish but it didn’t matter. It turned out really well. Have your spoon ready to scoop up the “gravy”. It’s so tasty! Thanks for a great dish!

    • — Jenny on November 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Jenny, So glad you enjoyed it! Adding the reserved zest-garlic mixture in the last step — I have updated the instructions to make it more clear. Sorry for any confusion!

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • This looks delicious. I am on a strict low sodium diet. What can I use in place of the olives?

    • — Luisa on November 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Luisa, You can just leave them out…or you could add more carrots or some dried apricots if you like.

      • — Jenn on November 1, 2018
      • Reply
  • I burnt the heck out of my dutch oven. What can I do differently?

    • — whitley on November 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Whitley, At what stage during the cooking process did the pan burn?

      • — Jenn on November 1, 2018
      • Reply
  • Can I use fresh ginger instead of ground ginger?

    • — Karen on November 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Sure, but you’ll need more – about 1.5 tsp. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • Can u use chicken breast instead of thighs.

    • — Felice on November 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Felice, Although I think this is best and more moist with thighs, yes, you can use chicken breasts on the bone (cut the breasts in half before cooking). When you add the chicken back to the pan, I’d reduce the cooking time by about 5 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • My family does not like dark meat chicken. Can you substitute with white meat? What adjustments would need to be made?

    • — Paula on November 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Although I think this is best and more moist with dark meat, yes, you could. I’d recommend chicken breasts on the bone (cut the breasts in half before cooking). When you add the chicken back to the pan, I’d reduce the cooking time by about 5 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • What is the purpose of removing the skin?

    • — C on November 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi C – You don’t have to remove the skin, but it doesn’t stay crisp when braised so I find it unappealing. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on November 1, 2018
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenny,
    This looks great – I would like to try out this recipe however one of my guests is gluten intolerant, what do you recommend i substitute the plain flour with, kindly also confirm the measure with the substitution you recommend.
    many thanks,
    Nadia

    • — Nadia Borg on November 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Nadia, I would add a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of cold water at the end, right before you add the olives (and simmer it for a minute to thicken the sauce). You could also just omit the flour — the sauce will be more like a broth but still delicious.

      • — Jenn on November 1, 2018
      • Reply

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