This Chicken Tagine is my take on the traditional slow-cooked Moroccan dish! Juicy chicken thighs, onions, olives, preserved lemons and spices come together to create a rich and fragrant stew-like meal that will have you licking your plate clean. And before you start freaking out about not having a tagine pot, don’t worry! You do not need one to make my recipe.
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I have a soft spot in my heart for Moroccan cuisine, with its vibrant colors and flavors!
I am not a connoisseur by any means, and I still have a lot to try and learn. But the few dishes I do know how to cook keep making an appearance at my weekly menu!
This chicken tagine is one of those dishes! I just love the Mediterranean flavors in it, especially the brininess from the olives and the umami preserved lemons.
And while I considered getting a tagine pot just to develop this recipe, I eventually decided against it, as I wanted this to be something that can be done in any kitchen, without special equipment!
If you haven’t tried making tagine because you didn’t have the special pot, this is your chance! It is much easier than you think and I have a feeling you will love it just like I do.
What is a Tagine?
Tagine, or tajine, is a word that defines both the conical shaped clay or ceramic North African cookware and the stew-like food that is cooked in it, which is usually lamb, beef, chicken or fish, slow cooked with several spices and vegetables or fruits.
Using a tagine is not difficult, but it has a bit of a learning curve if you are doing it for the first time.
But before you run out to try and find a tagine, you should know that – even though it is still the cookware of choice in Moroccan rural areas – it is not necessary and that even urban Moroccans use modern cookware to make tagines nowadays.
To make my version of a Chicken Tagine, you will need:
- Chicken – Traditionally, a chicken tagine is made with a whole chicken, cut into pieces. I prefer using boneless, skinless chicken thighs – and I cut into smaller pieces after browning – to make it easier to eat!
- Onions – We’re going to use 3 large onions. Yes, it will seem like a lot, but the onions will shrink considerably after cooking!
- Spices – Chicken tagine is quite spiced. Not spicy or hot, just flavored/fragrant with quite a bit of spice!
- Oil – Olive oil is used for marinating and browning the chicken.
- Olives – I like using both green and kalamata olives. You can use one or the other if you prefer! But make sure they are pitted.
- Preserved Lemons – Preserved lemons are traditional in this dish, and you can find them at some supermarkets or online. If you can’t get your hands on a jar, you can substitute for fresh lemons, but the dish will lack the umami-ness from the preserved ones!
- White Wine – for deglazing the pan. Omit if needed!
- Chicken Broth
- Parsley – You can substitute for cilantro or even use half cilantro and half parsley, if you are a cilantro lover.
- Raisins – Raisins are optional, but I personally find that they add a bit of sweetness bursts that balances the overall brininess of this dish!
What Spices Go in Chicken Tagine?
Tagine seasonings vary widely, with each cook having their personal favorites!
Here are mine:
- Sweet Paprika
- Black Pepper
- Cumin – To me, a little bit of cumin goes a long way. Feel free to increase the amount as needed!
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How to Make Chicken Tagine
Despite the exotic sounding name, chicken tagine is quite easy to make! It is also cooked in one pan, which makes cleaning up so much easier.
As I mentioned before, I chose not to develop this recipe using a tagine pot, so anybody can make this at home. I highly recommend you use a braiser or a Dutch Oven, if you own one, but any wide pot with a lid will do in a pinch!
The tight fitting lid and low heat are essential to replicate the effects of cooking in a tagine pot, without having to add too much liquid.
Finally, preserved lemons can be quite overpowering for some people. If that’s you, you can lower the amount and also remove the flesh, adding only the rinds. You will still get their unique pickled taste, but it won’t be so pronounced!
Recommended tools and equipment: braiser or Dutch Oven, large bowl for marinading, tongs, wooden spoon.
Here’s how I make this chicken tagine recipe. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post!
Step 1: Marinate the Chicken.
- Combine the chicken thighs, salt, olive oil and all spices – minus the cinnamon stick. Massage, making sure all chicken pieces are coated.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. You can also let it marinate overnight!
Step 2: Brown the Chicken Thighs.
- Heat olive oil in a large braiser (or Dutch Oven) and brown the chicken thighs on both sides. Remove, cut into smaller pieces and reserve.
Step 3: Cook the onions.
- Cook the onions until softened.
- Add the white wine to deglaze the pan.
Step 4: Simmer the chicken tagine.
- Pour in the broth and add the cinnamon stick, olives, raisins, preserved lemons and a pinch of salt. Nest the chicken pieces in the pan, then cover and simmer until the chicken is very tender.
- Stir in the chopped parsley and serve!
- Be conservative with the salt! Since the olives and preserved lemons are salty, you risk oversalting the dish. Taste and add as needed instead!
- Don’t skip marinating the chicken for at least 2 hours (4+ hours is best). Believe me, you want to give the spices a chance to infuse the chicken with their wonderful flavors!
- Avoid adding more liquid, unless it’s sticking on the bottom. A tagine is not quite a stew, so we only need enough liquid to steam and cook the food. It is not supposed to be soupy!
Serving Chicken Tagine
For me, a nice tagine has to be served with couscous! Either plain, herbed or jeweled (like my Moroccan Couscous Pilaf), the couscous soaks the juices from this stew-like dish perfectly!
That being said, serving couscous with tagine is not traditional in Morocco. I, unfortunately, have never visited the country, but according to my research, they eat tagine with bread and no other sides, apart from an occasional salad.
Because of the unique flavor from the preserved lemons, this chicken tagine is best paired with a crisp, dry and neutral white. Another good option would be a rosé, such as the Moroccan Vin Gris, or even a light red, like a Rioja or a Pinot Noir.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! After browning the chicken and sautéing the onions, transfer everything to the slow cooker, nesting the chicken on the onions, olives, raisins and preserved lemons. Then, cook on high for 4.5 hours or low for 8 hours. Stir in the parsley before serving!
Properly store, chicken tagine will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
Yes, this dish freezes well. Store in a freezer bag or airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat slowly on the stove.
- 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 ½ teaspoons The Spice Hunter Sweet Paprika
- 1 teaspoon The Spice Hunter Turmeric
- ½ teaspoon The Spice Hunter Ginger
- ½ teaspoon The Spice Hunter Black Pepper
- ¼ teaspoon The Spice Hunter Cumin
- A pinch The Spice Hunter Saffron Threads, ground
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus more if needed
- 3 large onions, sliced
- ½ cup dry white wine, (optional)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 The Spice Hunter Cinnamon Stick
- 1 – 2 preserved lemons, sliced
- ½ cup gold raisins
- ⅔ cups pitted green olives
- ⅔ cups pitted kalamata olives
- ⅓ cup chopped parsley
- Braiser or Dutch Oven
- Large Bowl
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken thighs, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, paprika, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cumin, ground saffron and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Massage the mixture into the chickens with your hands, to ensure every piece is thoroughly coated. Then, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a braiser (or Dutch Oven), over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut each chicken thigh into 2 or 3 smaller pieces. Reserve on a plate.
- Reduce heat to medium and sauté the onions, until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Optional: pour in the white wine and cook until evaporated, using a wooden spoon to scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the chicken broth and add the cinnamon stick, preserved lemons, raisins and olives. Season with a small pinch of salt. Add the chicken thighs and any juices, nesting them into the liquid.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, then cover and cook for 40 minutes or until the chicken is very tender.
- Stir in the chopped parsley and serve!