Morocco is the crossroads of Africa and Europe, which is reflected in its culture, architecture, and mentality. It is a country that perfectly combines the cozy national cities of central Morocco and the stunning, bustling, modern metropolises in the west.
Most Popular Moroccan Dishes
Moroccan cuisine is an incredible melting pot of influences from Arabic, Berber, Jewish and Mediterranean cultures. Walking through markets in any Moroccan city you will find a huge array of colorful spices, herbs, street food stalls and aromas.
Many typical Moroccan dishes combine spicy and sweet, sour and salty. Sugar or sweet fruits (quince, dates, prunes) are often added to meat dishes and local spices, seasonings and aromatic herbs give the traditional dishes its distinctive flavor.
Most people know Moroccan food for its heavy reliance on delicious spices such as saffron, turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, paprika, ginger and fennel just to name a few. There are also striking similarities with the Mediterranean diet in terms of the meats, fish, fruits and vegetables used in cooking.
Some typical Moroccan dishes are much more well known than others and those are the ones you will very likely recognize. So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Morocco along with recipes for you to try yourself.
Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup that is made up of tomato, chickpeas, lentils and meat (beef, lamb or chicken). Of course, as with most traditional dishes, there are endless variations on the recipe and the specific ingredients used. It is typically eaten as a starter or a hearty lunch and is most commonly associated with being eaten to break the Ramadan fast.
Harira is a beautifully fragrant soup dish that has warming qualities and typically Arabian flavors from the saffron, turmeric and ginger. It’s most often served with a hard boiled egg to add a cooling, earthy taste.
Mechoui, also known as Meshwi, is a Moroccan holiday dish consisting of roasted mutton or lamb and requires a little longer preparation. The dish is prepared in a specially made oven that is filled with wood. As soon as the oven is hot enough, the whole lamb is hung up and cooked for several hours. For those who love lamb and traditional Moroccan foods, mechoui is a must-try dish.
Tagine (maraq or marqa)
When people think of Moroccan cuisine, tagine is one of the first dishes that springs to mind. So closely associated is tagine with Morocco that it has become somewhat synonymous with any mention of Moroccan cuisine! In fact, tagine actually gets its name from the clay pot that the dish is cooked in, rather than the food itself.
In a nutshell, tagine is a slow cooked stew of meat, often lamb and chicken with a variety of fresh fruity ingredients such as apples, apricots, pears, raisins, quinces, olives, dates and prunes as well as vegetables. Typical spices include ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, cumin and paprika, and additional flavors such as honey and nuts are also typically added.
Slowly cooking the dish in the earthenware tagine pot causes the flavors to blend together and sleep right through to the meat which falls easily off the bone. The mixture of spices along with the fruit makes the taste so uniquely North African and packs a flavor that is both hearty and fresh.
Baghrir are tender, spongy flatbreads resembling small pancakes and consist of a simple breadstick. They are preferably eaten for breakfast or as a dessert with honey and butter. The many small holes on the surface have the advantage that they can absorb the honey particularly well. Moroccan people eat Baghris during Ramadan for breaking the fast or pre-dawn but you can try it at any time of the year.
Stuffed fried sardines are a fantastic Moroccan street food served by vendors at markets and throughout cities such as the capital Marrakesh. Typically sardines were seen as a food of the poor due to the association of fishermen being from less wealthy backgrounds. Of course, Moroccan cuisine not only has many notable Mediterranean influences, it also has a great coastline for fishing!
Stuffed sardines are quite simply made by filling with chermoula paste before covering in flour and frying.
Briwat, or briouat, are scrumptiously sweet, stuffed, triangle-shaped pastry turnovers that have been deep-fried. Stuffed with meat and cheese with some simple seasonings, they’re then dipped in warm honey before eating.
Briwat are quite popular in Ramadan and are usually served as finger food or appetizer. There is a sweet version of Briwat which is filled with almond paste and coated with honey that is also popular in Morocco.
Bastilla is a savory-sweet meat pie that comes from the Fès region and has a notable mix of sweet and salty flavors. The filling traditionally consisted of pigeon meat and almonds, seasoned with various spices such as saffron, cinnamon, and fresh coriander. Today, however, mostly chicken is used for the puff pastry dish.
Chicken bastilla a dish usually reserved for special occasions such as weddings and celebrations. Chicken bastilla is essentially a chicken pie cooked with some uniquely Moroccan spices such as saffron and cinnamon.
Cooked with onions and red pepper, a huge range of herbs and spices, cinnamon toasted almonds, and encased in a delicious phyllo pastry.
Another celebratory dish reserved for special occasions, rfissa is a chicken, onion, vegetable and lentil dish that is served with shredded puff pastry in a soupy broth. A bit like a deconstructed pie except the broth is the real hero of the dish, making it hearty and warming.
Of course, expect to use a huge array of spices or the Moroccan spice blend of ras el hanout.
Zaalouk (or Zalouk) is a Moroccan cooked salad consisting off eggplant and tomatoes seasoned with a range of traditional spices and garlic. Typically served as a side dish, it is eaten with a big chunk of pita bread or crusty white bread to mop up the delicious sauce.
Zaalouk is then garnished with cilantro and a lemon wedge. If you plan on trying zaalouk I would highly recommend serving as a side to another traditional Moroccan dish as it works very well as a complimentary dish.
Couscous is a versatile side dish made from semolina and water, a bit like rice but consists of thousands of tiny, steamed balls of wheat. It’s a staple ingredient in much of Northern Africa and is typically served in a stew with vegetables and spices. It can be served as a side dish or a main couscous dish is also quite common
Couscous is usually eaten following Friday midday prayers at the mosque. It is only eaten with the right hand, as the left hand is considered untidy.
Mrouzia is a sweet-salty lamb tagine recipe, typical of the culinary customs of northwestern Africa. The meat is typically stewed in a broth with a wide range of spices, dried fruits, and ginger, and accompanied by almonds, sesame seeds, and honey at the time of serving. Eaten with rice, chickpeas, or couscous. Mrouzia is often served on anniversaries, weddings, and other special occasions.
Khobz (Pita or Flatbread)
Khubz is a typically Arabic bread that is widely consumed in Morocco and indeed the Middle East and Northern Africa. Whilst not unique to Morocco, it is a popular staple that is a big part of the traditional diet and so it’s important to include!
Khubz has the same traditional bread ingredients of yeast, flour, salt and water but it is cooked to be round with little bubble pockets throughout. Khubz is eaten as a side to pretty much every dish as Moroccan cuisine consists of many stews, broths and delicious sauces.
Now you might find this one a little bit weird but it’s actually not even unique to Morocco. In Norway they serve their own version of sheep’s head, Smalahove. Of course, the Moroccan steamed sheep’s head is a little different as it has a bit of a spicy kick to it.
The sheep’s head is prepared by steaming and charring the head before serving with vegetables and a spicy sauce.
Brochettes are essentially lamb or beef skewers that are known in other parts of the world as kebabs. They are a traditional Moroccan street food that you will find absolutely everywhere you visit, but they are are also prepared at home and particularly around special occasions such as Eid al Adha.
Different countries have their styles of cooking kebab skewers but Moroccans use alternating chunks of lamb and beef that is marinated in a spice mix of cumin, cinnamon and cayenne among other spices.
Moroccan breakfasts usually include Moroccan tortillas and bowls with olives, goat cheese, orange, strawberry, peach jam, fresh fruit and yogurt. Moroccans also serve the unusual local amlou sauce, which is made from almonds, argan or olive oil and honey. Another must-have breakfast includes sweet mint tea and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Kaab el Ghazal
Kaab el Ghazal, also known as gazelle horn (due to its shape), is a sweet made mainly with almonds and wheat flour. To prepare this dish, almond paste with the aroma of orange blossom water and cinnamon is folded into a thin dough, formed into a crescent, and then baked until slightly golden. Moroccan cuisine has many delicious desserts to offer, but you should definitely try these pastries.
Moroccan Mint Tea
Moroccan mint tea, also known as Maghrebi mint tea, isn’t just a tea, but a soothing mixture of green tea and spicy peppermint leaf. It is also known as the national drink of Morocco and is served as a welcome drink. Be it a small roadside cafe or a big restaurant, you can easily find this drink almost everywhere.