Preserved Lemons and Chicken Tagine

Moroccan slow cooked Tagine stews remind me of the slow cooked curries I grew up eating in India.  Both cuisines use the same spices and so the tastes and aromas have a major overlap in both cultures.  I love this Lemon Chicken Tagine because it has the tartness from preserved lemons that is reminiscent of the Indian lemon pickles and then the olives and thyme give it a Mediterranean flair.  Of course, I have only tasted this dish in Moroccan restaurants in the US and can just imagine how good the “real thing” in little roadside stalls in Casablanca or a Suq in Marrakesh, must be.   I do hope to get there someday soon and taste the native version.


1.    8 chicken thighs or drumsticks
2.    One medium sized white onion or two shallots
3.    An inch long fresh ginger root
4.    3-4 cloves of garlic
5.    One teaspoon of turmeric
6.    Two teaspoons of dry thyme
7.    One and ½ tablespoons of honey
8.    A pinch of saffron
9.    One tablespoon of Ghee (clarified butter) or 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
10.    One teaspoon of black pepper
11.    One teaspoon of salt
12.    One tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
13.    15-16 black olives
14.    15-16 green olives
15.    Two zucchini squash
16.    3-4 preserved lemons (jars are available in Middle-eastern stores)

17.   1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes (optional)


1.    Peel and roughly chop the onion, ginger and garlic cloves.
2.    In a blender, coarsely mince, the onion, turmeric, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, one teaspoon of thyme, lemon juice and 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. If needed, add a little bit of water (to facilitate the blending process. If you use a food processor, no water would be needed.

3.    Marinade the pieces of chicken in the mixture from the blender for at least 4-6 hours in the refrigerator. I usually marinade for 24 hours.
4.    When the chicken is ready to be cooked, heat a large sized heavy bottomed pan.

5.    Add the ghee and a tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pan and brown each side of the chicken pieces in this pan.

6.    When the chicken is browned, add the remaining marinade and about a cup of water into the hot pan and cover with a lid and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes. Do stir the chicken occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t burn. If needed, add a little bit more water (the chicken pieces should be partially covered with the liquid).

7.    While the chicken is cooking, slice the zucchini in thin slices and also cut each of the preserved lemons into four pieces each.

8.    Then add the zucchini, preserved lemon quarters, the second teaspoon of thyme, honey, black olives, green olives and saffron to the pot and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
9.    Taste for salt. If needed, add more salt but usually the preserved lemons a have a lot of salt in them and more would not be needed.
10.    Garnish with chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves and serve with a side of couscous (regular or Israeli pearl couscous).

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  1. Permalink Submitted by Shilpa Patel on Wed, 22/02/2012 - 16:01

    Shabnam – have you ever tried making preserved lemons yourself? It’s really easy. You just take the well-washed lemons, slit them into quarters taking care not to go all the way – sort of how we cut vegetables for picking and stuffing in India – and then stuff them with sea salt. Place lemons in a CLEAN jar, cover with water, and leave to pickle for a few weeks in a cool place. They look beautiful in the jar and they taste wonderful – no preservatives etc as sometimes found in the commercial variety. The recipe I use for a similar Moroccan dish calls for the use only of the lemon rind – the flesh is discarded for some reason, though after reading your recipe I now want to try using all of the lemon to see what it does!

  2. Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Wed, 22/02/2012 - 16:36

    Hi Shilpa, I have made preserved lemons in the past (quite a few years ago) but this time I got a little lazy and just bought a jar at the Middle-eastern store. I plan of making a jar in the summer when the lemons are in season and also when I can find good Meyer lemons…when I had tasted the preserved clementines at your place, I had at that time thought “hmmm, it has been quite a while since I salted lemons, must do it again this summer and make the Lemon Moroccan chicken and put it on my blog!” – funny that you should mention it on exactly the post that I originally got the idea for, at your place 🙂

  3. Permalink Submitted by Ally on Wed, 17/07/2013 - 14:35

    I love this, Shabnam! Can’t wait to get my tangine and try it…course I reckon I could use a slow cooker, too!! Thanks for your genius! xo ~~ally

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Wed, 17/07/2013 - 17:54

      hi Ally!!! good to see you here 🙂 Welcome to my site! I hope you’ll like this chicken tagine (its a big hit with my family) – let me know how it turned out – xoxo

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