Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives

A few years ago, I purchased a tagine, an earthenware cooking and serving pot common in North Africa, with which to experiment.

Have you ever tried cooking with a tagine? Or another type of clay pot? There’s something special about cooking with clay. The heating is more even than what you would get in a regular skillet, and the liquid that gets released from the food while it cooks bastes the food keeping it moist.

A tagine used on a stove-top gives you that wonderful slow, even cooking that you would normally get from an oven-braise. The conical top returns moisture to the food below, and when the dish is done, you can serve it right in the pot.

Tagine for Moroccan Chicken

My first foray into cooking with the tagine was with this Moroccan chicken dish which turned out beautifully—succulent, tender, and full of flavor. I pulled the recipe together from various sources including the New York Times, The New Basics Cookbook, and recipes by Le Souk Ceramique, the maker of my tagine.

Preserved lemon is traditionally called for in this dish (very easy to make, by the way, all you need are lemons, salt, and time), and in my opinion, worth making just for this dish. But if you don’t have any, you can easily use thin slices of regular lemon. Also, you don’t absolutely need to use a tagine to make this dish; just use a large, shallow, thick-bottomed, covered skillet.

Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives Recipe

  • Prep time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

This recipe shines with preserved lemons. If you don't have access to any, you can use thin slices of regular or Meyer lemon, and you'll likely need to add quite a bit of salt to the dish at the end. If you use a tagine, you will likely need to soak it in water over-night before subjecting it to the heat of the stove. Doing so will help keep the tagine from cracking.



  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken, 3-4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces (or 3-4 lbs of just chicken thighs and legs, the dark meat is more flavorful)
  • Salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • The rind from 1 preserved lemon, rinsed in cold water, pulp discarded, rind cut into thin strips (if you don't have preserved lemon, use whole thin slices of regular lemon)
  • 1 cup green olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1 Combine all the spices in a large bowl. Pat dry the chicken pieces and put in the bowl, coat well with the spice mixture. Let the chicken stand for one hour in the spices.


2 If you are using a clay tagine (if you have one, you must soak the bottom in water overnight before using), place it on a heat diffuser on the heating element to prevent the tagine from cracking, and place the olive oil in the tagine and heat it on medium heat.

moroccan-chicken-lemon-olives-2.jpg moroccan-chicken-lemon-olives-3.jpg

If you do not have a tagine, you can use a thick-bottomed, large skillet with a cover. Heat the oil in the skillet on medium high heat.

In either case, sprinkle the chicken pieces very lightly with salt (go easy on the salt, the olives and preserved lemons are salty) and place skin side down in the tagine or skillet for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.


Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and onions over the chicken. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes.

moroccan-chicken-lemon-olives-5.jpg moroccan-chicken-lemon-olives-7.jpg

3 Turn chicken pieces over. Add the lemon slices, olives, raisins, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, then lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and quite tender.

moroccan-chicken-lemon-olives-8.jpg moroccan-chicken-lemon-olives-9.jpg

4 Mix in fresh parsley and cilantro right before serving. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with couscous, rice, or rice pilaf.

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Showing 4 of 77 Comments

  • maureen

    Did you have any problem with your tagine? I bought one of the expensive Le Creuset ones, used a diffuser under it, and still had liquid spitting all over my stove. As the condensation came down the cone it would collect on the edge of the base and then bubble and spit everywhere. I used a diffuser and very low flame and still this would happen. Someone suggested using the oven and tried this and it happened there too. Any suggestions?

    Hi Maureen,

    In searching around online for information about tagines I found several negative comments about the Le Creuset tagine. Basically the problem is as you stated – the tagine boils over. It appears to be a design flaw in that product.

    My new clay tagine gave me no problem, though it does take some care. You have to “cure” it by soaking it in water for several hours, and then letting it dry out for a day. This needs to be done every few months if you haven’t been using it. You also cannot let it get exposed to rapid changes in temperature. It must be slowly heated, and then slowly allowed to cool. But it does appear to work well. ~Elise

  • interessant

    This is such a strange coincidence. I discovered tonight and added some of my favorite bookmarks which included the Republic of T. Then I clicked on the link to see who else had bookmarked the page and you were at the top of the list. So I checked out your bookmarks. I’m into cooking so I clicked on your cooking blog link.

    The coincidence is that I bought my first tagine about 3 weeks ago, although I’d never had Moroccan food. I researched recipes and the first dish I tried was Moroccan Chicken and Olives. I loved it! I used a recipe from Food Network. Yours is similar and probably just as good, but you may want to try the accompanying recipe for cous cous with apricots. Here’s a link to both recipes:

    I’ll enjoy checking out your blog and will add it to my list as cooking is my main passion and it appears you and I have something in common there.

  • singer612

    This was delicious! We didn’t have a tagine, so just cooked it in a big skillet, nor did we have preserved lemon, but the thinly sliced fresh lemon was fine. No one wanted the sauce to go to waste–we were sopping it up with slices of baguette!

  • Christelle

    If you want more vegetables in your chicken tajine, you may want to add a bag of frozen petite peas as well as a bag of frozen artichokes when you add your water and lemon.

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