Learn how to serve a tagine: Moroccan style! You will find these conical clay pots (aka tagines) at the center of many Moroccan dining tables, usually accompanied by assorted sides salads and baskets of bread. Keep reading for tips on how to cook, serve, and enjoy a tagine.
This post may contain affiliate links; this means if you purchase an item linked, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Click here to learn more about my disclosure policy.
If you've ever had the honor of visiting Morocco, chances are you've tried a tagine (also occasionally spelled tajine). This conical clay pot is a staple in many Moroccan recipes, known for its ability to infuse big flavors into humble ingredients.
Whether you're cooking in a tagine or using a classic tagine recipe in a basic pot, you are in for a delicious and unique meal.
The word 'tagine' refers to both the conical pot and a wide variety of dishes Moroccans make using the pot.
What is a Tagine?
While the base of a tagine takes a slightly more shallow but similar shape to that of an average pot or dutch oven, it's lid is what makes it truly unique, taking the form of a cone.
This cone shaped lid allows flavors to steam and circulate in a larger space while cooking. The end result being meat and vegetables that are both perfectly tender and richly infused in whatever herbs and spices are used.
Traditional Moroccan tagines are typically made from earthenware clay (a kind of clay that resembles terracotta). The pots are usually handmade by Moroccan artisans and spun on a pottery wheel.
In Morocco you will find both glazed and unglazed tagines, which both have their own benefits when used to cook.
Traditional Ways to Serve
I grew up eating tagines for dinner on a weekly basis. Whether it was at my grandma's dinner table in Rabat, or at my dad's in Washington, we were always gathered around a circular table.
Traditionally, tagines are served as the center of the table. It is very common to have an assortment of Moroccan side salads served in smaller bowls and plates around the tagine. Usually these are spread out so that each individual will have one of each salad.
Another key element of serving a tagine is the bread (aka khobz), usually heated up and served in a small basket that's passed around the table.
Moroccans love their bread, and for good reason as it does a lovely job of soaking up all of the sauce at the base of the tagine. It's also used as a vehicle to scoop up the meat, veggies, and any other contents of the dish.
Here are a few of my favorite Moroccan side salads to serve around your tagine:
Eating Your Tagine: The Moroccan Way
In Morocco we traditionally enjoy tagines with bread and our hands in lieu of utensils (as pictured above).
Each person will unofficially claim the section of the tagine closest to their seat (usually around a circular table) and eat from that section.
While this is the most authentic way to eat your tagine, you can also use utensils, serve your tagine in individual portions over couscous, on individual plates or bowls.
How to Cook in a Tagine
Cooking with a tagine is about as easy as serving a tagine. In many cases, it's as simple as sauteeing some onions and garlic together with olive oil, then layering everything on top and cooking in the oven until finished.
An authentic Moroccan tagine should be able to be used on the stovetop (over low to medium heat to not crack the clay) and in the oven. Many Moroccans will even throw their tagines on an open flame or grill during the hot summer months.
Your ability to do this will depend on the type of tagine you're using, so keep reading for tips on that.
When it comes to knowing how to cook in your tagine without a recipe, I recommend starting with your favorite stewed dishes.
Build a base of flavor on the stovetop by sauteeing any alliums, before adding the heavier veggies or proteins that will require more time to cook down. Add your spices, herbs, and a splash of water to help develop a sauce, and throw it in the oven with the lid on.
If you're ever lucky enough to visit the country, you will notice there are infinite combinations of tagines that can be found.
Here are just a few of our favorites in my family:
- Beef Tagine with Prunes & Almonds
- Fish Tagine with Tomatoes, Potatoes, & Olives
- Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons & Olives
- Lamb Shank Tangia Tagine
- Veggie Tagine with Potatoes
- Meatball Tagine
- Makfoul (Lamb Tagine with Caramelized Onions & Tomatoes)
- Lamb Tagine with Olives, Peas & Artichoke Hearts
Check the section above for ideas on how to serve a tagine.
When you've had some experience cooking in a tagine, you start to pick up on common ingredients that are used in many of the Moroccan recipes.
You can read the full rundown on those elements in my list of Moroccan staple recipes, but you will notice spices like paprika, saffron, and cumin, as well as herbs like parsley and cilantro. Other commonly used ingredients are nuts, preserved lemons and olives.
Now that we've talked about how to serve your tagine and how to cook with a tagine, let's look over some of the popular tagines on the market:
- The Painted Ceramic Tagine: while this tagine may look very eye appealing and authentic, I do not recommend it. The nature of this style of ceramic means it cannot be used directly on a stovetop, and is very sensitive to changes in temperature.
- The Cast Iron Tagine: if you can't find an authentic Moroccan tagine, this is the way to go. It's cast iron foundation means it can withstand heat on the stovetop and in the oven, making it very adaptable to many popular Moroccan recipes.
- The Traditional Moroccan Tagine: this style of tagine is as close as you can get to travelig to Morocco and buying one from a local artisan. It's safe to use on the stovetop and in the oven, and is made with the authentic clay and shape.
Whatever style of tagine you decide to use and make, I hope you enjoy the experience and appreciate how special this kind of cuisine is! Thank you for being curious about Moroccan cuisine.