Moroccan chicken dish with olives and preserved lemon

Moroccan chicken and olives with preserved lemon – Djaj bel btata we zitoun


Somehow, this week is about Moroccan cooking, because I miss it. Besides, so many dishes can be reproduced with limited ingredients and tools. This week, i’m not into complicated stuff, so that’s the prefect option for me.

In Morocco, The chicken (or meat) tagine with potatoes and green (or red) olives is a crowd pleaser. It’s a famous family meal. You will find everyone raving about it, because it reminds them of their childhood.

Tagine, or Tajine, is an earthware dish made of clay which is usually cooked over low temperature, ideally using a BBQ method: wooden fire or charcoal.

I’ve seen some cast-iron Tagines, I suppose they reproduce the cooking concept of circular steaming inside the pot but I’m not sure you will get the earthy flavour inside.

The dish used is what gives the name to what’s cooked in it. which is why I’m not going to tell you this is a Tagine of chicken with potatoes and olives. If you have a tagine, go ahead and use it to cook this recipe, because it’s meant to be cooked in one of these. I have just cooked it in a casserole.

It’s still tasty, It’s still authentic due to the ingredients. My only advice is that you need good green olives (not bitter, not overly salty), and a good olive oil. 

You may add chili if you are fan of spicy food. Usually, there is a chili on the top of the potatoes, for those who want to have it hot and spicy. Since it’s a family dish, it’s better that way, so the kids do not feel its heat.

What you shouldn’t add: salt. Indeed, the chicken or vegetable stock might have it already, the olives will have it and the preserved lemon is basically preserved in salt only. So adding more salt wouldn’t make the dish pleasant.


Serves 6
Prepa: 15 min – Cooking time: 45 – 60 min

  • 1 good chicken (about 1.5 to 2 kg)
  • 1 kg of potatoes cut in big pieces
  • 2 medium-size onions
  • About 250g of good green olives
  • 1 small bunch  of fresh coriander
  • 1/2 small bunch of parsley
  • 1 preserved lemon (skin cut in length, discard the inner part),optional
  • 1 cube of chicken bouillon (or chicken stock)
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp of white pepper 
  • 1 tbsp of paprika
  • 1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger (1 tsp if  it’s ground)
  • A pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 to 3 tbsp of olive oil


Cut chicken into 8 pieces. Discard skin and fat.

Chop the onions. Sear the chicken in oil. Add the spices and the onions. cover for 10 min.

Chop 1 tbsp of cilantro and form a bouquet with the rest. 

Add the chicken stock (or crumbled chicken cube in hot water) to generously cover the chicken. Add the herbs bouquet and let simmer, covered, until chicken in cooked throught.

Add potatoes halfway through the cooking. Add olives and preserved lemon in the last minutes of simmering.
Serve with bread because traditionally, we never serve food with couscous as a side dish. Couscous is a dish on its own.

You can add carrots, green peas, courgette. But since it’s about potatoes here, the other vegetables should be in small quatities.

Serve hot or warm.

Note: Chicken with potatoes and green olives can be a make-ahead dish. What my auntie does, she cooks the chicken at night. The next day, while the chicken is roasting in the oven for a crunchy layer (about 20 min), she cooks the potatoes in the chicken sauce. She serves it by putting the 2 together in a family dish.



6 thoughts on “Moroccan chicken and olives with preserved lemon – Djaj bel btata we zitoun

  1. I'm not a huge chicken fan, but I love the combination of olive and chicken – I think it's a fabulous taste combo, as you say though : decent olives are really important. When you have simple, few ingredients, choosing decent quality is all the more important. On that note too, I never tried red olives… are they very different?


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