This traditional Moroccan chicken tajine with olives and preserved lemon is one of the best and most flavorful tajines ever! Think juicy chicken thighs marinated in Moroccan spices in a rich sauce served over couscous.
If you've ever been lucky enough to try Moroccan cuisine, chances are you've tried a tajine.
The name (sometimes spelled with a g - tagine) represents both the clay cooking vessel and the type of dish cooked in it.
Tajines (the cooking vessel) come in a variety of different shapes and colors and sizes. Similarly there is a great deal of variety in the types of tajines you can cook.
This chicken tajine with olives and preserved lemons is one of the most universally loved and requested tajines of them all.
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If you want the full Moroccan experience when you make this tajine, I recommend serving it with some traditional Moroccan side salads like this lentil salad, this classic tomato salad, and/or this carrot salad.
There are a few special Moroccan ingredients you will need to make this recipe.
Here's everything else you'll need:
- olive oil
- garlic, minced
- yellow onion, sliced thinly
- chicken thighs and/or wings
- parsley, minced
- cilantro, minced
- saffron (optional)
- preserved lemon, sliced thinly
- green olives
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make it
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and prepping all of your herbs and vegetables. Mince the garlic, parsley and cilantro, chop the onion, and thinly slice the preserved lemon.
Next, add half of the olive oil plus all of the garlic and onion to the base of your tajine. Turn the heat up to medium and sauté until the onions begin to appear translucent (this should take about 5 minutes).
At this point, turn off the heat and allow the tajine to cool for 10 minutes.
Next, arrange the chicken in the tajine over the onions and sprinkle with half of the parsley, the rest of the olive oil, saffron, salt, pepper, ginger, paprika, cumin and turmeric. Mix well with your hands until the chicken is coated with all the spices.
Spread the seasoned chicken evenly around the base of your tajine. Arrange the sliced preserved lemon and olives over top. Drizzle with water, cover and bake for 2 hours (or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees), checking every 30 minutes or so.
OPTIONAL: Remove the tajine from the oven, set the temperature to broil and, using tongs, move the chicken from the tajine to a baking sheet, leaving behind the sauce, olives and preserved lemons. Broil the chicken, skin side up for 5 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crispy.
Serve chicken with the sauce and veggies from the tajine plus fresh bread or over a plate of couscous. Garnish with remaining minced cilantro and parsley and enjoy!
Hint: when sautéing in your tajine, make sure to not use a heat higher than medium, to protect and preserve your tajine.
Here are some easy substitutions you can make to this chicken tajine recipe if needed:
- NO PRESERVED LEMONS - if you can't find preserved lemons and don't have the time to make your own, simple substitute them with thin slices of fresh lemons and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- NO GREEN OLIVES - if you can't find mediterranean green olives, I recommend substituting them with kalamata olives for a similar flavor profile.
- SKINLESS CHICKEN - NO BROIL - if you're using skinless chicken thighs you can skip the broiling step altogether as your chicken will be cooked through simply from the time spent in the tajine in the oven.
Another easy substitution you can make if you're gluten free is to serve this with your favorite gluten free bread or over quinoa instead of couscous.
Making a tajine without a tajine
This might sound a little crazy but I promise there are plenty of Moroccans who make tajines (the style of dish) without an actual tajine (the cooking vessel). Tajines can be an investment (especially if you purchase a good quality one), so I totally understand it if you're not ready to go there.
The good news is you can still emulate the flavors and textures of a tajine meal without the tool.
Here are some tips for success with making this chicken tajine without an actual tajine from my aunt in Morocco:
- sear the chicken in a cast iron pan before sautéing the onions and garlic
- sautee the onions and garlic with the chicken in the pan
- follow the same steps as the recipe in the tajine, just make sure to use an oven safe lid before placing your pan in the oven
If you try this method and need help, feel free to reach out to me and ask questions in the comment section below!
Once you know how to make 1 tajine successfully, your confidence will boost and you'll realize it's actually quite an easy vessel to cook with. Keep an eye out for my tajine cooking guide (coming soon)!
Here are some of my family's favorite tajine combinations (recipes coming soon!):
- Lamb tajine with tomatoes and green beans
- Chicken tajine with caramelized onions and garbanzo beans
- Lamb tajine with prunes and almonds
- Beef tajine with peas and artichokes
- Fish tajine with tomatoes and potatoes
There are so many amazingly flavorful tajines to explore and I hope you'll take a second to subscribe to the blog so that you can stay up to date on all the recipes as they're published!
No saffron? No problem.
If you don't have saffron or can't find it, it's no problem!
My dad taught me that it can be easily replaced with a bit of extra turmeric as it adds that lovely golden color and is already used in this recipe. Simply double the amount used and skip the saffron altogether.