Moroccan food has an iconic global status thanks to the deep colors and contrasting flavors that charm the mouth of every eater. Spices, meat, vegetables, herbs, and dry fruits form the baseline of this cuisine with each dish offering a savory experience. This north-western country doesn’t just see food as a basic need but a social ritual that joins family and strangers together.
A (Brief) History of Moroccan Food Culture
Religion, geographic location, and cultural interactions have played part in shaping the Moroccan food scene. The Moroccan cuisine is a mix of Mediterranean, Arab, Amazigh, and Andalusian cuisines. Besides that, it has some sub-Saharan and European touches.
Historically, the Berbers (nomad natives) were the first to inhabit this country. That’s more than 2000 years ago and they used to feed on dates, olives, and stew. Besides that, the Berbers prepared dishes with poultry and lamb stews.
Over the years, cultural interactions with the Arabs through trade led to the introduction of food grains as well as bread into Moroccan food varieties. Besides that, the Arabs were responsible for the introduction of spices such as cumin, cinnamon, saffron, and ginger. It’s worth noting that Arabs loved the sweet and sour cooking technique and while the Moors from Andalusia introduced Moorish dishes.
Geographically, Morocco has a front that faces the Atlantic Ocean, mountains, and desserts. So, it’s not unusual to find fish, seafood, dates, figs, and almonds as part of its cuisine. Due to the lack of adequate grassing fields, beef isn’t so much available but this is usually substituted with poultry and lamb.
This is a Muslim country and, therefore, religion has had its share in determining the cuisine. The Muslim diet prohibits the consumption of alcohol and pork. Due to the many religious holidays, thick soups such as Harira are very common and they are normally used to break the fast.
The Geographic Regions of Moroccan Food
Even though Morocco is a diverse region with lots of dishes, there are still regional specialties. This country produces lots of seasonal foods and this has contributed to flavor specialization. From the highs of the Atlas Mountains cultural region to the streets of Fes, here is what different Moroccan towns offer.
Marrakesh: Bissara and tanjia are the local favorites served in this western city.
High Atlas: This is an extensive region that starts from the Algerian border and ends at the Atlantic coast. There are lots of seafood as well as mechoui, a type of stuffed, slow-roasted beef/lamb.
Fez: it’s located on the northeastern side of the country. Fez is popular for Kennaria, a type of stew that is made with artichoke or thistle.
Casablanca: it’s a port city and the most popular commercial hub in this country. Fronting the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, Casablanca is located in western Morocco and it’s popular for seafood and fish. Besides that, couscous served with seven vegetables is common here.
South Coast Region: argan-nut paste (Amlou) served with argan oil and honey is the local delicacy.
Essaouira: this is another resort and port city that fronts the Atlantic coast. Essaouira is found in the western region and the most popular dish served here is fish tagine with ginger and saffron.
Chefchaouen: this blue city is found in northwest morocco. It’s one of the most searched places in the world with its beautiful bluish shades making appearances in most Instagram posts. The most common dish that’s served here is chicken with prunes.
List of 25 Interesting Facts About Moroccan Food Culture
1. Moroccan food is a mix of Berber, Mediterranean, Arabic, and Andalusian cuisines.
2. This is a culturally diverse country with regional specialties being on the basis of towns and their geographic location.
3. The Berbers were the first inhabitants in this country and they introduce tagine equipment for slow cooking
4. The Arabs who arrived in Morocco in the 7th century brought with them lots of spices from Malaysia, India, and China.
5. The sour and sweet food flavor bought by the Arabs was influenced by their interactions with Persians who used lots of dried fruits and nuts in their cooking
6. The Moors who were in this country around the 8th century enhanced the production of olives as well as olive oil. The also introduced pickling
7. A huge percentage of food variety is produced locally with sardines being the most exported food from this country.
8. There are lots of home-grown vegetables and fruits including potatoes, tomatoes, melons, and oranges.
9. The Mediterranean Sea on the north and the Atlantic Ocean in the west are responsible for the abundant supply of fish and seafood.
10. Couscous is the most popular dish from Morocco and it’s served all over the world.
11. Spices and herbs are vital components of Moroccan food.
12. The five basic spices used to prepare most Moroccan dishes are turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, and paprika.
13. A typical Moroccan breakfast includes baghrir (pancakes), beyssara (stewed beans with paprika and cumin), and bread.
14. Most meals involve a single main dish. This is mainly stew and it’s usually served alongside cold vegetables, bread, or salad.
15. Most soups and broths are usually accompanied by bread
16. Food is normally eaten with bare hands instead of silverware and the locals believe that food should be eaten with the right hand.
17. Mealtimes are meant to bring together family and friends.
18. Mint tea is the most commonly served drink and it accompanies most meals.
19. Alcohol and pork meat are prohibited on religious grounds.
20. Moroccans love to eat meals on low and round tables while sitting on the floor.
21. The food culture involves lots of sweets that are commonly made of pastry filled with almonds, figs, dates, and honey.
22. Religious celebrations involve the consumption of four main foods: date cakes (Mescouta) for common celebrations, lamb/bean soup (Harira) for Ramadan, pigeon meat (bisteeya) for Eid al-Fitr, and the spit-roasted sheep that’s eaten during Eid al Adha.
23. Salads and desserts are mainly prepared with fruits and vegetables including eggplants, almonds, and honey.
24. The traditional way to end a Moroccan meal involves the consumption of fresh fruits.
25. There are lots of street foods but kebabs are the most commonly sold.
Popular Moroccan Food
As one of the most sought-after cuisines in the world, food in Morocco is a revered delicacy that is specially prepared every day. Whether it’s a basic breakfast or a wholesome dinner, Moroccan food usually provides a savory experience. With a blend of innovative ingredients and tasty seasonings, this is definitely a cuisine worth exploring. If you want to know what this cuisine offers, here are some traditional Moroccan dishes.
What food is Morocco famous for?
This Maghreb dish is a staple in most Moroccan homes. The national dish is often featured weekly in most home menus thanks to its amazing taste. Couscous is a dish that features small steamed balls with crushed durum-wheat semolina.
It’s a highly flexible meal that features a wide range of ingredients. However, the most common variation is the one that has 7 vegetables. Besides that, meaty variations featuring chicken, lamb, or beef may be stewed together with the veggies.
Note: even though you can easily find this family meal in most eateries, it’s traditionally prepared on Friday’s, the Muslim holy day.
It’s the most popular Moroccan entree. The slow-cooked stew has established itself as one of the most consumed traditional meals. It’s normally cooked in ceramic or clay which gives it a smooth texture. Tagine is usually made with meat, usually lamb, beef, or chicken. This is then mixed with certain vegetables and spices and then slowly cooked in the clay pot.
Even though you can find tagine in the streets and restaurants, Tagines are traditionally consumed from the cooking vessel directly. For those who love vegetarian meals, this is still an ideal Moroccan food since the meat can be removed.
In Morocco, Tangia means two things – an urn-shaped terra-cotta pot or a stew that’s cooked in a pot. The latter is a local Marrakesh dish that still derives its name from the urn-shaped pot.
The tender dish involves meat ingredients such as tendons, bones, and fatty parts. It needs to be cooked slowly and for a long time to ensure that the hard parts are softened. The meat in the pot is normally staffed with additional ingredients such as garlic, salted butter, lemon, and other spices.
Note: it might be very easy to confuse Tangia and Tangine. However, they are not the same. These two dishes are predominantly consumed in different regions of Morocco. Besides that, Tangia is traditionally cooked in wood ashes while tagine is mostly cooked over wood fire or charcoal.
It’s a popular Moroccan dish that’s predominantly prepared by the Easterners and Northerners. Bissara is normally consumed in the morning as a satiating breakfast thanks to its liquid-like nature and filling effect.
It’s a thick soup that’s made with fava beans. To enhance its state, the hearty meal is normally seasoned with salt, chili, and cumin. It’s versatile and that’s why some people even add lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.
It seems that this country has a limitless variation of delicacies because Harira is another iconic Moroccan dish. It’s tasty, delicious, and effectively satiates hunger pangs for quite long. Even though Morocco has a wide array of soups, Harira is distinct in its own way, and as a result, it’s loved throughout the country.
A typical Harira soup is made with chickpeas, fine noodles, and lentils. Seasonings and tomatoes are used as the base and some people may add a few pieces of meat for extra flavor. Harira is a common soup during the cold winter months and it’s sometimes used to break the fast during Ramadan.
6. Mint Tea
Even though this drink may not be popular only in Morocco, it’s an important part of the country’s culture. Green mint tea is a delicious drink. The Moroccan food staple can be taken at different times of the day and it’s the most served drink in most households.
The popularity of mint tea is facilitated by Morocco being a Muslim country. Locals don’t consume alcohol so this tea acts as a good substitute. The beverage is made with mint leaves and hot water in addition to sugar cubes.
7. Chickpea Stew
This cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world as it features lots of beans and vegetables. Chickpea stew features mainly meat and vegetables. In addition to that, it’s made with legumes, herbs, and spices to enhance its flavor.
This edible is mostly consumed alongside fresh bread and it’s an excellent source of protein. For vegetarians, there is still an alternative that doesn’t involve meat. Chickpea stew in most instances can be served over couscous.
This is a delicious aubergine dish that’s easy to prepare. It’s a common dish in most homes and restaurants. Zaalouk is mostly served with crusty bread and its spread is made of olive oil, tomatoes, eggplants, and a few spices. Note that the eggplant must be first grilled before it’s seasoned with the spices.
This popular Moroccan dish is normally served during traditional celebrations. Even though you might think that there is nothing special about adding hot broth and meat over bread, this humble meal will shock you with its savory effects.
Rfissa is a mouthwatering delicacy that’s made with stewed chicken and lentils. It’s usually seasoned with ras el hanout, saffron, and fenugreek. This blend results in a juicy dish that easily has a satiating effect. In some instances, Rfissa is sometimes served to new moms.
10. Brochettes (Kebabs)
For meat lovers, Morocco has a broad range of meat delicacies that you can always feast on. Brochettes are some of the meaty favorites that you can easily find in the street stalls and restaurants. Even though its name originates from the French word skewer, these meat skewers have found a good home here.
They are made by using either chunks of fish, lamb sausage, lamb, or live. The meaty part has to be speared and then slowly grilled. These are versatile meat skewers that can be served with lots of sides including rice, fries, and grilled tomatoes among others.
While some people may not consider Amelou a top cuisine, it actually forms part of the Moroccan cuisine. Amelou is a dip that will trigger your taste buds and all your senses thanks to its sensational effects. It’s a thick type of nutty accompaniment that significantly changes the taste of a wide range of meals.
It’s made with argan oil, almonds, and honey. The dip is usually served in most argan-growing areas in Morocco including Essaouria and Agadir.
This is a type of Arab bread that’s normally used to scoop up tagines as well as other stews. Even though it’s small and round, Khobz still does an excellent job, just like bread sandwiches. The crusty bread is mostly baked in wood-fired ovens. So, if you are trying to scoop and consume more carbs, make sure that your Moroccan stew is served alongside Khobz.
13. Fish and Seafood
Morocco has an extensive coastline and so fish and seafood form part of the local cuisines. There is an abundant supply of water edibles ranging sardines to large big fishes.
Snail Soup: this is a Moroccan dish that every foreigner should try when sampling Moroccan food. Snail soup is found all over this country and it’s basically made from snails. It’s a tasty broth that aids digestion and that’s why it’s normally used as an appetizer. Enjoy this soup with a toothpick by gently picking out the snails and then slurping up the soup to your fill.
Spicy Sardines: as the biggest exporter of sardines in the World, Morocco has the best spicy sardines. This is a national food that’s served all over the country. The unique sardine variation is normally made by grilling or baking whole sardines. Besides that, locals also love to stuff the fillets with chermoula, a zesty type of marinade before frying the sardines.
Moroccan Cooking 101
The Moroccan cooking style is quite unique even though it still involves the same processes as other cuisines. Generally, the culinary methods involve stewing veggies and meats into thick broths or sauces. Locally, this is usually referred to as marka or marqa.
Besides that, food can be cooked between two fires i.e. binnarine. Alternatively, the cooking technique may involve baking (Fel Ferran), steaming (m’bak.khar), boiling (maslouq), and grilling (mechoui). Everyday dishes follow a distinct preparation guideline.
Basic Moroccan Cooking Guidelines
Sauces/thick broths (Marqa): it involves simmering ingredients. The hue, texture, and flavor of the broth determine if it’s good or not. Proper cooking pots are important in the preparation of broths.
Appearance: the color of Moroccan dishes are religiously adhered to. That’s why most vegetables, fruits, desserts, and meat have to be prepared in a certain codified way in addition to spices in order to deliver a specific appearance. While you might think that most of these dishes are similar, the spices and their color patterns set them apart and that’s what makes them different. Primary dishes normally have red and yellow colors.
Mchermel: it’s one of the most used cooking styles and it involves the use of marinades in order to flavor the ingredients. Red sauce or grated tomatoes is commonly used with Mchermel.
Qadra: they have the predominant yellow hue thanks to the use of onions, pepper, and saffron. The main fats used to prepare Qadra dishes are smen and butter.
M’hammar: its signature color is the red hue due to the use of paprika. Alternatively, cooks can also use harissa, cumin, and paprika.
M’qualli: these dishes have a yellow hue as well as a result of using ginger and saffron.
What ingredients are used in Moroccan cooking?
Couscous, tagine, and tangia are some of the popular dishes from morocco. As a result, bread, soups, and meat form the basis of Moroccan cuisine. So, the common ingredients used to make these meals include:
- Indigenous olive oil
- Lamb or poultry
- Dried beans and dried fruits
- Vegetables such as eggplant, pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, onions, and zucchini
- All-purpose flour
- Smen (salted, fermented butter)
What is Moroccan seasoning made of?
- Ras El Hanout
- Bay Leaves
- Yellow coloring
- Sesame seeds
- White and black pepper
- Wild thyme
- Lemon verbena
Final thoughts…Moroccan Food is AMAZING!
The savory dishes, sweet dried fruits, as well as the well-blended spices are some of the things that have given the Moroccan food a global status. From the appearance to the taste, Moroccan dishes are highly attractive with the sour and sweet flavor awakening all your five senses. If you want a taste of an exquisite dish that combines Arabic, African, and European cooking styles, Moroccan food is definitely worth it.