Food – in all its tastes and textures – is definitely subjective as to what is delicious, but it’s no surprise to us that Morocco often figures on a top 10 list for best world cuisine. Morocco Local Insider – Your Destination Guide to Travel to Morocco shares the 9 most famous traditional Moroccan food dishes (with variations!) to tempt your taste buds while traveling in Morocco.
What are the most popular traditional Moroccan food dishes?
Below we share our list for the most popular traditional Moroccan food dishes. These will be the most common dishes found in restaurants, and no trip to Morocco is complete without trying each and every one!
Couscous is perhaps the “king” of the most popular traditional Moroccan food dishes. Its roots are “Berber” (Amazigh) and it gets its name from the semolina grains.
Considered a staple for family Friday lunch in Morocco, as well as a comfort meal for mourners, there are 2 main types of couscous.
- Moroccan Vegetable Couscous– One type of couscous in Morocco is a base of meat (lamb or beef) or chicken, with a variety of vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, turnips, potatoes and pumpkin. Moroccans who like a bit of spice may also add a whole hot skinny pepper to the broth while cooking and then serve it or a small bowl of harissa (hot pepper paste) on the side.
- Moroccan Tfaya Couscous – The other type of couscous in Morocco is known as “tfaya”, which is a sweet-savory blend of caramelized onions, chickpeas and raisins served with lamb, beef or chicken.
Both versions are served on a bed of gently steamed couscous grains which plump up nice and tender, and are slightly perfumed by the broth above which it steams.
Tagine / Tajine
If couscous is “king”, then tagine is the queen of the most famous traditional Moroccan foods! Tagine can be simply described as a stew, traditionally slow-cooked over coals and named after the conical clay pot in which it is cooked.
There are several well-known and well-loved combinations. “Yellow” sauces for Moroccan tagines most commonly contain dried powdered ginger as well as turmeric and/or saffron, along with cilantro and parsley; sweet-savory sauces for Moroccan tagines often include cinnamon and may be topped with sesame seeds and fried almonds.
And contrary to what you may see as “Moroccan recipes” on the internet, tagines in Morocco are NEVER served with a side of couscous grains!
Our favorite traditional Moroccan tagines include:
- Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemons – This is with a yellow sauce thick with caramelized onions and usually topped with French fries. It sometimes has green olives. This traditional Moroccan dish is typically served as one of the main courses at Moroccan weddings.
- Tagine of Meat with Prunes – This is a sweet and oh-so-savory combination. This is another popular traditional Moroccan dish which is typically served as the other main courses at Moroccan weddings, as well as a delicious dish to honor guests when hosting dinner at home. The deluxe version is topped with tasty fried almonds and toasted sesame seeds, both of which add a nice contrast in both flavor and texture.
- Tagine of Kefta (ground meat) or Meatballs – This is a filling tagine of small seasoned meatballs in a simmered tomato-cilantro-garlic sauce, usually with eggs poached right in the sauce.
- “Berber Tagine” – This is commonly made as a yellow sauce with chicken or beef and then loaded with vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes. This tagine is one of the traditional Moroccan food dishes which Moroccans may add whole skinny hot peppers to the top while cooking to enjoy a bit heat.
Bastilla / Pastilla / B’stayla
Refined but time-consuming to prepare, these are a staple of traditional Moroccan food at Fassi weddings. Traditionally these were made as a pigeon pie, with a sweet-savory filling of eggs, almonds and a hint of cinnamon, then wrapped with layers of “warka” pastry, cousin to filo dough; chicken is now the more common choice. Another variety is seafood and fish with rice vermicelli noodles – this one is sometimes a bit spicy.
Blessed with a climate where seasonal vegetables grow profusely, it’s no wonder we include salads as one of the most popular traditional Moroccan foods!
Some of our favorite Moroccan salads include
- “Moroccan Salad” – Delicious in its simplicity of fresh ingredients and one of the most common salads, this is made of finely diced cucumber, peeled tomato and onion, with a mild vinaigrette dressing.
- Crudité / Niçoise – Despite its French name, this is more of a Moroccan creation. It is a mixed plate of fresh and cooked vegetables, often including potato, rice, tuna, carrots, beets, cucumber, hard-boiled egg and usually topped with a creamy mayonnaise dressing.
- Zaalouk – This is a cooked salad. The base is most often with roasted eggplant or steamed cauliflower, with a cooked tomato sauce with garlic and cilantro.
- Taktouka – This is also a cooked salad, similar in flavor profile to Zaalouk, but the base is roasted peppers.
Among our favorites of traditional Moroccan food, there are 2 very famous Moroccan soups which you will undoubtedly come across during your trip to Morocco.
- Harira – This is a hearty tomato-based soup, made with chickpeas, lentils, rice and/or vermicelli, often with meat, flavored with spices and herbs. Traditionally this is the soup served throughout the month of fasting (Ramadan), alongside dates, lemon wedges and sweet chebakiya pastry.
- Bissara – Sometimes eaten with bread by workers for a filling breakfast, this is prepared with dried fava beans, and more often in the north of Morocco, a mixture of dried fava beans and green split peas. It is served alongside a generous drizzle of olive oil, cumin and hot paprika.
Morocco Local Insider Fun Fact: In the local Moroccan dialect (Darija), Moroccans say they “drink” soup, instead of “to eat” soup.
Moroccan Mint Tea
We’re not sure if a beverage actually counts as food, but with the frequency and volume of how often this sweet and syrupy mint tea is served and enjoyed in Morocco, it gets our vote for one of the most popular traditional Moroccan foods!
Sure, there are coffee drinkers in Morocco, but mint tea is very popular. It is offered as a sign of hospitality and often served at breakfast and of course, tea time! Want to try to make Moroccan mint tea at home? Here is an easy yet authentic recipe for Moroccan mint tea!
In both standard Arabic and local Moroccan dialect (Darija), bread is called “khobz”. Much like the French and their baguettes, you will almost always find bread on a Moroccan table. Our favorite of this traditional Moroccan food staple is home-baked bread which has a heavier ratio of semolina flour rather than white flour and which can be quite dense.
Moroccan Pancakes (Beghrir)
Beghrir is one of the more unique traditional Moroccan food favorites. They are made from a mixture of fine semolina and white flour, and they get their characteristic bubbly surface from yeast. They are cooked only on one side, and the result is a soft and slightly-spongy texture which is perfect for collecting honey, butter, jam, Nutella or “amlou”, Moroccan’s answer to peanut butter made with argan oil, almonds and honey. You may also hear them called 1,000 Hole Pancakes, and depending on the size of the pancake, we are convinced that they could contain even more!
Made of laminated dough, these are a traditional Moroccan food staple for breakfast and tea-time. Sometimes the names are used interchangeably, but msemmen usually refers to a square shape (also called in some places, “rghaif”) and mlawi usually refers to a circular shape. These are sometimes referred to as pancakes, crepes, or flatbread and are very similar in preparation to paratha. Top them with spreadable cheese, butter and honey, olives, jam or whatever your heart desires!