This easy homemade Moroccan chermoula is a flavorful sauce made with preserved lemons, fresh parsley and cilantro, cumin, paprika, and olive oil. While it’s perfect for fish, it’s also terrific for adding flavor to shellfish, veggies, or just about anything savory. Best of all, it takes just 10 minutes to make!

a bowl of chermoula marinade

Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite marinade, chermoula! It’s vegan, made with simple ingredients and super quick to throw together.

If you’re wondering what this sauce tastes like and how it will transform your cooking, imagine a rich, pungent acidity from the preserved lemon and garlic paired with the bright freshness from all the herbs.

It holds many of the most classic spices and flavors of Moroccan cuisine.

It’s best used as a marinade and you will love pairing it with a few classic Moroccan side salads, like this Tomato Salad or Lentil Salad.

bowls of oil, lemon, spices, and more

Ingredients

This sauce makes a colorful and healthy addition to any meal. I love that it doesn’t use any sugar and that the ingredients are quite accessible.

Here’s what you’ll need:

See recipe card for exact quantities.

No Preserved Lemons? If you can’t find preserved lemons and don’t have the time to make your own, they can be substituted with fresh lemon juice and a pinch of lemon zest. The pungent flavor won’t be 100% the same, but it will be pretty darn close!

This recipe is about as simple as it gets. There are two ways to go about it.

Instructions

How to Use Chermoula

Moroccan chermoula is a super versatile marinade and can be used in many different ways.

Here are some of my family’s favorite uses:

  • Fish – chermoula is most commonly used on fish. It’s colorful, bright flavors really compliments most mild buttery varieties of white fish and, of course, sardines!
  • Shellfish – similar to fish, shellfish loves this marinade. I’ve tried it with scallops, clams, and shrimp.
  • Veggies – some potatoes, zucchini, or even carrots love a good toss in this sauce before roasting!
  • As a quick snack – we are not above spreading some of this magical sauce on a piece of toasted bread or throwing a spoonful in our leftover couscous for a bright pop of flavor! Have fun with this vegan sauce and don’t overthink it.
  • Swirled into brothy things – I’m not kidding, I’ve mixed a spoonful of this into this Moroccan Fish Soup, or in a pot of beans or lentils to amp up the flavors too.
a spoon of chermoula marinade

Chermoula vs. Chimichurri

This sauce is commonly confused with chimichurri, likely due to the fresh cilantro, parsley and garlic.

While the two sauces do have similarities, they differ in many ways:

  • Peppers: Chimichurri usually requires a spicy pepper of sorts. Chermoula is not spicy, has no peppers, and instead gains that smokey flavor from paprika and cumin.
  • Acidity: While chimichurri relies on red wine vinegar (or some form of vinegar) for it’s acidity, the Moroccan sauce uses lemons, preferably preserved lemons which provide another layer of depth in flavor.
  • Spices: As mentioned above, chermoula sauce uses spices like paprika and cumin, while chimichurri usually requires dried oregano, or no dried herbs and spices.

Chermoula Sauce in Morocco

I’ve been lucky enough to have lived a lifetime of enjoying this magical marinade, so I can’t vividly remember my first time trying it.

That said, I do remember the first time I decided I needed the recipe for myself. It was on a trip to Agadir with my parents and brother.

We stopped at this beautiful little seafood restaurant near the ocean, where you could see the fishermen reeling in their catch of the day. The restaurants were using their special chermoula sauce recipe to marinate the fresh sardines before grilling them.

You wouldn’t think sardines would leave such a lasting impression, but I promise you haven’t truly experienced sardines until you try them this way.

I’m not sure if the magic came from the fresh fish or from this marinade (probably both), but either way it’s something you have to try.

Chermoula marinade in a measuring cup

Minced vs. Blended

If you’d like you can also blend this marinade (pictured above) using an immersion blender or food processor.

It’s not necessary but will save you some time spent chopping the herbs and can be make the marinade stick to your chicken or fish better.

Note: The consistency of chermoula sauce will differ slightly when prepared with a food processor or immersion blender. The result will be slightly thicker and creamier in texture.

Here are some quick instructions if you’d like to puree the marinade: Once you’ve got your ingredients ready, combine and pulse until evenly combined.

Equipment

My family in Morocco makes this recipe with a knife and a cutting board, so no fancy equipment is needed.

Just make sure your knife is sharp and take some extra time to finely mince the herbs, garlic and preserved lemon.

a bowl of chermoula

Storage

Moroccan chermoula is an awesome marinade to make ahead and store in the fridge.

It can keep fresh for up to a week, so make a big batch and use it all week!

Make sure to store it in an airtight container.

Happy cooking!

Salima written in cursive
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a bowl of chermoula marinade

10 Minute Moroccan-Style Chermoula Sauce

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Salima Benkhalti
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: side dish, sauce, marinade
  • Method: raw
  • Cuisine: Moroccan, North African
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This easy homemade Moroccan chermoula is a flavorful sauce made with preserved lemons, fresh parsley and cilantro, cumin, paprika, and olive oil. While it’s perfect for fish, it’s also terrific for adding flavor to shellfish, veggies, or just about anything savory. Best of all, it takes just 10 minutes to make!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1/4 preserved lemon + 2 tbsp preserved lemon juice (see notes for substitution)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

Mince the preserved lemon, parsley, cilantro, and garlic finely. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Keep for up to a week in the fridge and use as a marinade for fish, shellfish, veggies, or whatever you like!

Notes

If you can’t find or make preserved lemons, you can use ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp lemon zest.