moroccan chicken

Moroccan chicken recipe with preserved lemon and olives

Moroccan food was as good as I expected it to be and during my stay in Morocco I tried to taste as many Moroccan dishes as I could. One of the biggest discoveries was this Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon and green olives. As much as I like to eat chicken, sometimes it is hard to make a chicken dish that is different. Many chicken recipes are repetitive and far from innovative. This chicken dish really surprised me with its flavor so I took a recipe from my Moroccan hostess.

The problem with this dish is that you need to wait for at least a month, or preferably six months to make it. You may wonder why? Well, you need to make a preserved lemon first and then to use it to prepare the chicken. Making a preserved lemon is easy but you need to store it for at least a month to use it.

How to make a preserved lemon?

To prepare this preserved lemon you need to have a clean environment, together with clean jars and tools you will use. The reason for that is fermentation. If you have read my article on how to make a sauerkraut, you may learned that clean environment is one of the conditions for a successful fermentation.  

You need to wash lemons thoroughly as well as the containers where you will put them. I recommended using glass containers. Once you wash the lemons, you need to cut them in halves first but not entirely. Leave one part attached to the end, so when you cut these halves into more halves, it looks almost like a lotus.

The next step is to sprinkle the salt on the lemons and to rub it well. You can use any type of salt for that purpose. Feel free to put as much salt as you want, lemons should be generously salted.

Before you put lemons in a jar, add some salt at the bottom of it, as much salt as it is necessary to cover the bottom. Now place the lemons in a jar so the cut side is down, put more salt on each lemon and press it nicely so the lemon juice is squeezed. Repeat that for each lemon and then pour boiled and cooled water in it so it covers all the lemons. Remember: lemons should be covered in water completely.

Repeat the process for all the jars, depending on how many lemons you want to preserve. If you are not sure whether you will like it, you can just preserve one jar of lemons. So, depending on the jar size, you can decide how many lemons you need. The amount of water also depends on the jar size, but don’t forget to cook it first and let it cool.

When you finish this process, leave the jars at the room temperature for three days. During that time you can shake the jars once in a while so all juices mix up. After that, store the lemon jars in the fridge and preserve it for one month at least. Once your lemon is preserved you can use it to prepare many dishes, and this Moroccan chicken dish is one of them.

Moroccan chicken recipe: a tasty and unique flavor

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For this Moroccan chicken it is best to use chicken thighs but if you like other parts, you can put them as well.This tasty dish is full of different flavors, and preserved lemon and green olives give it a unique flavor. It is a slow-cook dish you will need to start making it at least three hours ahead or if it’s possible make some preparations the day before.

Chicken gets so soft and sticky that it falls off the bones easily, probably because it cooks slowly in a deep pot along with other juices. Moroccans cook this dish in tagine, a clay pot that is used to prepare tagine dishes. If you don’t have a clay pot, you can use any other pot.

Before I give you step-by-step instructions let’s summarize what you need to know:

  • You may find recipes with fresh lemons instead of preserved ones but that is not the same. Make sure you use preserved lemons, it’s easy to make, just make it one month before.
  • For the best results, marinate the chicken the night before so it soaks all the juices and spices. If you don’t have time to make it ahead, marinade the chicken for one hour at least.
  • Use chicken thighs or if you want to prepare lunch for a bigger group, use the whole chicken
  • The chicken has to be fresh or at least thawed. If you use frozen chicken don’t defrost it in a microwave, but at the room temperature.  
  • Wash lemon peels before you use them and discard the pulp

Ingredients for the chicken marinade

  • 4 – 6 chicken thighs (depending on the size)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • one tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
  • a tablespoon of cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • ½ of teaspoon of turmeric or kurkuma
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of saffron, optional

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 6 – 8 green olives
  • 1 preserved lemon, washed and without pulp
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon

Let’s cook Moroccan chicken

  1. If it’s possible prepare the marinade the day before and leave the chicken to absorb all the spices and flavors. In a deep bowl, mix all the ingredients for the chicken marinade. Place the chicken in a deep container and pour the marinade in it. Leave it in the fridge until next day. As I explained above, an alternative way is to marinade the chicken for one hour.
  2. Transfer the chicken and all the marinade in a deep skillet or a pan. Cover the pan and stew the chicken for about one hour or until tendered. Every 20 minutes stir the chicken thighs so they get cooked well on all sides. Stew the chicken at low heat so it doesn’t start to fry. If it does, put just a bit of water.
  3. When chicken thighs are soft and cooked, remove them from the pan but leave the onions. Add ½ of teaspoon of cinnamon. Continue to stir onions so the sauce gets thick enough.
  4. After 5 minutes or so, add olives and one preserved lemon but make sure you washed it first and removed the pulp. Cut the lemon completely, so you get at least 6 slices.
  5. Stew the lemon and olives together with that sauce, for about 5 minutes and then add chicken thighs and simmer for at least 10 more minutes.

You can serve Moroccan chicken with cooked or baked potatoes. Sometimes Moroccans simmer potatoes together with the chicken, but that can be tricky especially if you use a pan of a regular size. That’s why it’s better to make it separately and then garnish chicken with potatoes. Of course, don’t forget to put lemon pieces  on a plate, even if you don’t plan to eat them. The chicken thighs will look nice if you drizzle them with that onion sauce and sprinkle olives and lemons. Yummy!

moroccan chicken
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5 from 1 vote

Moroccan chicken recipe with preserved lemon and olives

A traditional Moroccan chicken tagine recipe stewed with preserved lemons, onion sauce and olives.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Morrocan
Keyword: chicken, chicken with lemon, moroccan chicken, olives
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 330kcal

Ingredients

Ingredients for the chicken marinade

  • 4-6 chicken thighs depending on the size
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tbsp cilantro chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of saffron optional

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 6-8 green olives
  • 1 preserved lemon see the explanation in the article
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  • If it’s possible prepare the marinade the day before and leave the chicken to absorb all the spices and flavors. In a deep bowl, mix all the ingredients for the chicken marinade. Place the chicken in a deep container and pour the marinade in it. Leave it in the fridge until next day. As I explained above, an alternative way is to marinade the chicken for one hour.
  • Transfer the chicken and all the marinade in a deep skillet or a pan. Cover the pan and stew the chicken for about one hour or until tendered. Every 20 minutes stir the chicken thighs so they get cooked well on all sides. Stew the chicken at low heat so it doesn’t start to fry. If it does, put just a bit of water.
  • When chicken thighs are soft and cooked, remove them from the pan but leave the onions. Add ½ of teaspoon of cinnamon. Continue to stir onions so the sauce gets thick enough.
  • After 5 minutes or so, add olives and one preserved lemon but make sure you washed it first and removed the pulp. Cut the lemon completely, so you get at least 6 slices.
  • Stew the lemon and olives together with that sauce, for about 5 minutes and then add chicken thighs and simmer for at least 10 more minutes.

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