They say that the longer a meal takes to prepare, the better it tastes. If this is true, Moroccan food is the best in the world because it can take hours to prepare a meal and it’s worth it. There are so many flavors and layers to each dish.
With its exquisite mixture of Mediterranean, Arab, Jewish, African, and Maghrebi influences, Moroccan foods are an unforgettable sensory experience. From traditional dishes to street food – savor all that this delectable fare has to offer as you learn about Moroccan cooking techniques spiced up with herbs and spices. Take a culinary adventure with us by trying out these authentic Moroccan delicacies!
A Guide to Traditional Moroccan Food
Eating out in Morocco can be intimidating. When we first went to a restaurant in Morocco, we didn’t know where to begin so we ordered safe and uninspiring dishes. To help you better understand traditional Moroccan food we’ve rounded up the best Moroccan cuisine that you must try on your next trip to the Middle East so you don’t make the same mistakes we did.
Traditional Moroccan Foods
The distinct flavors and textures of Moroccan dishes can be attributed to the unique combination of different influences in the cuisine. Olive oil, preserved lemon, argan oil, and a variety of spices are used extensively throughout traditional Moroccan dishes, giving rise to numerous delightful recipes that never fail to excite even the most adventurous eaters! For those looking for something new on their culinary journey, they should definitely explore what Morocco has to offer: from regional specialties to local delights, there is sure always bound to be a distinctive Moroccan dish waiting for you to discover!
Popular Moroccan Dishes
Visiting Morocco offers an opportunity to experience the distinct flavor of North African cuisine, with centuries-old Arab dishes such as traditional dishes like stuffed camel spleen and modern staples like tagines cooked in slow clay pots. The tantalizing aromas wafting from the markets ignite the senses. From snail soup to Moroccan bread flavored with Ras el Hanout spice, Morrocco’s robust culinary tradition has much to offer.
Moroccan food is greatly influenced by its signature dish, tagine. Tagine is its most famous dish which is a slow-cooked stew cooked in an earthenware clay pot. Ingredients such as meats or poultry, fish, and vegetables are accompanied by spices like turmeric, saffron powder, and paprika plus herbs including fresh leaves of ginger along with olives.
Preserved lemons also go into making these dishes memorable. It’s traditionally served with Moroccan flatbread but can also be served with rice or potatoes. No visit to Morocco would be complete without sampling this traditional meal has been at the heart of Moroccan culture throughout time.
The slow cooking method in a clay pot captures steam which together produces tender meat simmering in flavorful sauces creating quite a feast!
The flavors infuse with olive oil and spices during cooking and everything comes out tender and delicious. Our chicken tagine consisted of Berber chicken with Vegetables and our beef tagine was served with prunes and almonds. Make your own chicken tagine at home.
This Moroccan dish is traditionally eaten with family members sharing one platter and enjoying the communal experience synonymous with Morocco.
Moroccan food is renowned for its tagines and bakes, yet grilling holds a prominent place in the culinary culture too. Both charcoal-grilled dishes as well as those cooked over an open flame are part of this distinctive tradition, resulting in succulent morsels with tantalizing smoky aromas.
The secret to creating these remarkable flavors lies mainly in marinades – made from olive oil, lemon juice garlic, and spices like cumin, paprika, or turmeric, which add robust depth to grilled foods prepared by Moroccan cooks who understand flavor fusion very well indeed!
The variety of cooking techniques used in Moroccan food brings together delightful and unique flavors, aromas, and textures to create an amazing symphony. Traditional Moroccan dishes have a variety of flavors that showcase the country’s diverse ingredients. In Fez, you can find pastilla – an appetizing pie made from pastry with juicy meat and flavored spices inside. In Essaouira, sardines are loved since they come mixed up with chermoula sauce before deep-frying them to perfection.
Besides dishes such as these, Moroccan salads (more like dips) also have their place on plates for starters: hummus, Zaalouk, or Taktouka cannot be missed. On the other hand, Harcha is most common in Fes. It consists basically of a milk butter blend blended together with baking powder which gets served along with honey or cheese added afterward.
Aromatic Spices and Herbs
Moroccan cuisine is celebrated for its flavor-packed blend of spices and herbs, adding interesting depth to dishes. From a tagine’s powerful medley of flavors to the sharp freshness supplied by cilantro, Moroccan food offers an unforgettable culinary experience that takes you back in time to North Africa’s bustling markets.
Ras el Hanout
There are two important spice blends that bring distinctive flavors to Moroccan cuisine, Ras el Hanout and Chermoula. The name of the first one means “head of the shop” because it usually includes a combination of 25 to 40 spices such as coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric.
Chermoula is mostly used in sauces with its mix of cilantro, parsley, garlic, salt, olive oil, and herbs plus an acidic ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice added for flavor enhancement. Through these seasonings, they aim to show off Morocco’s complex palette when preparing dishes showing the country’s diverse culinary culture.
If you are a fish eater, Chermoula is a marinade of herbs and spices for baking or grilling seafood. It’s also used fish tagine called (mqualli) made with layered potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. There are different mixes but seasonings include coriander and saffron. For a bit of spice add some chili peppers. Make it at home with this recipe
Herbs such as cilantro, parsley, and mint are frequently used in Moroccan cuisine to create a vibrant flavor. Cilantro and parsley are common garnishes for tagines or salads while an important element of the classic Moroccan beverage is the addition of fresh mint leaves.
The use of these herbs elevates traditional dishes from Morocco, producing results that delight with their distinctive tastes. Without them, each plate wouldn’t be complete.
Moroccan Mint Tea
Mint tea is an integral part of the country’s lifestyle. Lightheartedly kown as “Moroccan whisky” it is a combination of green tea and mint. It not only acts as a symbol of hospitality in Moroccan households (where the host prepares it for guests) but this aromatic beverage can be found almost anywhere throughout day-to-day life.
Its distinct flavor comes from combining its green tea base with spearmint while adding sugar creates a sweet taste. One which brings revitalization along with relaxation when enjoyed! No trip to Morocco would be complete without tasting this renowned drink.
One popular option includes almond milk – often flavored with orange flower water – which serves as an alcohol-free refreshing delight. Juices, particularly freshly squeezed oranges or pomegranates, as well as coffee, are also popular in Morocco.
Sweet Treats: Moroccan Desserts and Pastries
No matter what the occasion, Moroccan desserts, and pastries are a popular staple at meals. Traditional snacks such as Sellou and Chebakia are complemented by more delicate options like Kaab el Ghazal and Ghoriba. All of these delicacies feature nuts and fragrant spices, along with natural sugars that make them distinctly enjoyable for any event or afternoon tea party.
Moroccan desserts such as Sellou and Chebakia are enjoyed frequently at special celebrations. Sellou is an especially loved treat that consists of toasted unhulled sesame seeds along with flour, butter, honey, and a few spices mixed together before being roasted. During the holy month of Ramadan, this dessert is very popular in households all over Morocco.
Chebakia meanwhile is deep-fried pastries shaped into a flower, which is then drenched either in syrup made from honey or anise. It is usually served during special occasions and religious festivals, including Ramadan. These flavorsome confections exemplify Moroccan culinary artistry.
Kaab el Ghazal
Moroccan pastries and cookies are delightful treats with various fillings, flavors, and aromas. Kaab el Ghazal, often referred to as gazelle horns due to their crescent shape, are filled with almond paste flavored by orange blossom water and cinnamon. They are sometimes sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Goriba Bahala on the other hand has a crispy outer layer, yet remains soft in texture. It usually comes infused with coconut, sesame seeds, or almonds along with an infusion of a floral scent from the orange flower water being used. Typically enjoyed alongside tea, these Moroccan cookies make for a tasty snack when paired together!
Moroccan Street Food and Snacks
Moroccan cuisine, featuring its vibrant flavors and textures, can be savored through street food options such as Sfenj, Maakouda, and stuffed Moroccan bread.
Sfenj and Maakouda
Sfenj and Maakouda are two popular street foods widely enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Sfenj is an unsweetened, airy doughnut that is typically consumed at breakfast or even during the day with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top for some added sweetness.
Maakouda, another popular street food is sold all over markets, roadside stalls, and in many other places throughout Morocco, consists of deep-fried mashed potatoes mixed together with cumin powder, turmeric, and chopped cilantro providing a tasty flavor. So make sure you give these potato fritters a try when visiting!
Moroccan cuisine is heavily reliant on bread, such as Msemen and Harcha. They are served with savory dishes or sweet toppings. Desserts like cookies flavored with spices, herbs, sugar, etc., made from semolina can be seen at the end of any meal in Morocco. Traditionally cooked in communal wood fired ovens, the practice continues today.
Sandwiches and Stuffed Breads
Moroccan sandwiches and stuffed bread, such as Msemen and Harcha, offer an interesting take on a meal or snack. Msemen is made from semolina dough that’s mixed with butter for flavor before it’s formed into square shapes. Savory spreads or sweet toppings make this style of sandwich even more delectable. Harcha pancakes are equally enticing, they’re made using milk, baking powder, butter- all of which lend them unique texture when cooked!
These carefully crafted snacks provide an insight into Moroccan cuisine in convenient bite sizes – giving everyone a taste of its rich culture without needing to commit much time or effort.
Moroccan Food Traditions and Celebrations
Moroccan cuisine has a significant place in the nation’s customs and observances, with particular courses prepared for events such as Ramadan, Eid al-Adha, and weddings. These special feasts feature all of the flavorsome tastes and textures that Morocco is known for, symbolizing how crucial food is to their cultural identity.
Gathering around one tagine brings family members together. Meanwhile, lavish meals are created to commemorate memorable moments, both revealing just how generous Moroccans can be when it comes to entertaining friends or celebrating life milestones through Moroccan dishes.
Ramadan Iftar Meals
At iftar meals during Ramadan, it is customary to serve Harira as a starter. This creamy soup typically consists of chickpeas, lentils and tomatoes blended with spices, an appetizing dish for breaking the fast. Dates are then offered due to their symbolism in Islam while Chebakia – deep-fried pastry dipped in either honey or anise syrup – provides a sweet finish after the meal has been consumed.
These dishes not only provide sustenance but also embody concepts such as community and unity, which make this period so special for many around the world.
Eid al-Adha Feast
During the Eid al-Adha celebration, people savor dishes such as Mechoui and steamed sheep head. Mechoui is a slow-cooked lamb dish that offers plenty of flavor while steamed sheep head provides an interesting culinary experience for those looking to try something more traditional Moroccan.
Both serve as symbols marking the end of the Hajj pilgrimage and are incredibly significant in religious tradition.
Moroccan Wedding Feasts
Weddings in Morocco usually offer an array of cuisine, like savory pies and tagines. Bastilla is a popular choice – made with layers of pastry containing either pigeon or chicken, almonds and spices – while tender meats are often served for the main chicken dish course in flavorful stews called tagines. Beyond providing deliciousness to such special occasions, these dishes also represent the family’s shared love and devotion between those being married.
Vegetarian and Vegan Options in Morocco
Moroccan cuisine has many different options for vegetarians and vegans, like tagines made with vegetables, salads, and dips.
For vegetarians and vegans, Morocco offers incredibly delicious options in vegetable tagines. These dishes feature a variety of vegetables cooked with aromatic spices to create a rich and flavorful sauce that is filling yet still light on calories. Because these recipes offer a meat-free alternative to traditional Moroccan meals, they are the perfect way for non-meat eaters to savor all the delightful flavors Morocco has become renowned for. Vegetable tagines provide not only great nutrition but also incomparable taste, making them truly irresistible!
Salads and Dips
Moroccan salads and dips are both nutritious, delicious options when looking for something to enjoy alongside a meal. Zalouk is an eggplant and tomato salad dish served either cold or hot with crusty bread as an appetizer or side dish. Another popular Moroccan salad option is Taktouka – it’s made of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers spiced with paprika, and olive oil garnished by parsley all blended together for a light yet flavourful accompaniment to any main course. These traditional dishes bring the rich culture of Morocco right onto your plate while still remaining suitable for vegetarian/vegan diners!
This yummy dish of eggplant and tomato is our favorite of Moroccan foods and is often touted as the best of Moroccan salads. The eggplant and tomatoes are mixed with garlic, olive oil, and spices and served as a side dish served as an appetizer served alongside crusty bread. See how to make it here.
How to Eat Morrocan Food
Moroccans eat three meals a day but the main meal is mid-day as opposed to dinner. So when dining out, order your large meal at lunch, and for dinner enjoy lighter meals of Moroccan breads with dipping sauces or kebabs.
When eating in Morocco, be sure to use your right hand. Pick up foods with your right thumb and first two fingers. Often times you’ll be scooping up dips, stews, and salads with fresh bread using your hands. Do not lick your fingers. If you do, save it until the very end of the meal.
Insider Tip: If you are visiting a Moroccan household, be sure to bring a small gift. We went to the market to order some figs and dates.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is typical Moroccan food?
Traditional Moroccan food is famous for its savory dishes like couscous and tagines containing either chicken or lamb along with various vegetables. This meal, which often takes the form of a pyramid, consists primarily of steamed couscous topped with stewed meat, or vegetable stew, plus seasonal veggies placed at the bottom.
Is Moroccan and Indian food the same?
Moroccan cuisine is characterized by the use of milder spices like cumin, paprika, ginger, cinnamon, and saffron. Indian dishes tend to be spicier due to their higher content of these same flavorings.
What makes Moroccan cuisine unique?
Moroccan meals provide a wide variety of tastes and textures that are a mix of Mediterranean, Arab, Jewish, African, and Maghrebi culinary traditions. A unique gastronomic experience awaits anyone who tries it!
Are there vegetarian and vegan options in Morocco?
When dining in Morocco there are plenty of selections for vegetarians and vegans, such as vegetable tagines, salads, and dips.
What beverages are popular in Morocco?
Mint herbal tea, known as the national drink of Morocco, is served often during meals or throughout the day. Other preferred traditional drinks in this country consist of coffee, fruit juices, and almond milk.
Moroccan cuisine is a diverse culinary delight that no food lover should miss. Its aromatic spices, rich and varied flavors, comforting tagines enjoyed with friends, sweet pastries and vibrant street foods are all part of this unique cultural experience. All these elements together make Moroccan dishes unforgettable to the taste buds!
Moroccan Gluten Free Foods
Are you Celiac or have a gluten intolerance? Our friend Jodi at Legal Nomads has created detailed gluten-free cards that have been translated into the Moroccan language by native speakers. These cards were created to help people with celiac disease travel and eat in Morocco safely. Carry these Gluten Free cards with you and show them to restaurants and staff at Moroccan restaurants to ensure they understand your food requirements. Get more details and Purchase your gluten free Morocco card here for just $8.99
Plus, we now have the confidence to order whatever we wish off the menu when eating at Moroccan restaurants. It was one of the best afternoons we had in Marrakech. If you go, make sure you book a cooking class of your own.
Info: You can book a Moroccan cooking class for $90 USD/pp at Get Your Guide. It includes a three-hour cooking demonstration by a gourmet chef, great conversation, appetizers, tea and still/sparkling water throughout the day. The course was followed by a candlelight dinner in a fine dining establishment. Oh and don’t forget the bottle of wine for two people included.