Moroccan Kemama tagine with sweet onions and tomatoes

I have previously posted a variation of this recipe and explained what is the method of cooked called kemama or “binareen” is all about as far as the cooking from the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) is concerned. I would like to redirect you the latest before getting started with this recipe.

Now this onion and tomato version of Kemama is my favourite. It’s juicy, subtle and so delicate. The smell in the kitchen is so enchanting and aftertaste once eaten can’t be described. Although this tagine has sugar (or honey) as part of the ingredients but it’s actually not sweet. If you think about the tomato being a fruit, the onions being sweet, well that little bit of cinnamon and sugar are just highlighting this attribute without pushing it too far thanks to the savoury sauce. When the tagine is ready to be served, I can’t stop spooning the sauce and literally drinking it before it gets to the table.


A good-looking Kemama tagine with tomatoes and onions. (Credit: Choumicha Achafai, Saveurs & Cuisines du Maroc, N 25)

Today, I have used 1/2 a baby chicken and I cooked the recipe in a tagine from start to finish. The second cooking part was done in the oven to accommodate my living style (I wish I had a corner where I could cook it the old way).

Serves 2
Prep: 15 min – cooking: 1 hour – baking : 20 min


  • 1/2 baby chicken ( you may use a whole baby chicken or replace with red meat but adjust the time)
  • 1 small yellow onion for the sauce
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion for the topping, sliced (choose good sweet onions)
  • 3 medium-size tomatoes, peeled and sliced choose good quality tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 handful of parsley and coriander to make a small bouquet (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 tsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp of sea salt or salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp of smen (Moroccan cured aged clarified butter), optional
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of honey

For the finishing touch

  • 2 tbsp of sugar ( I used 1 leveled tablespoon)
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon


Prepare the spices’ paste: Mix half of the spices with 1/4 teaspoon of smen or 1 tablespoon of olive oil and massage the chicken with this mixture. You might as well do that ahead of time. It’s worth noting that in Morocco, we usually keep our chicken in a brine (water, salt, lemon rinds and juice) for a couple of hours before washing it, drying it and using it. which makes it tasty and tender when it’s cooked.
1st cooking

In this step, medium heat is advised.


Place the tagine over a heat diffuser and wait for it to heat up. Heat the oil and sear the chicken then add the chopped onion, the bouquet of herbs and the cinnamon stick tucked under. Add the garlic and the honey.
Place the sliced onions on the top and then the sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with the rest of the spices and drizzle 2 or 3 tablespoons of water over these ingredients but not more because the tomatoes and onions will render a lot of liquid.

Cook for 1 hour over medium/low heat. If the tomatoes have fallen put them back on the top. The sauce should be nicely reduced after this cooking step.

2nd cooking and serving



Preheat the oven at 200 degrees C.
Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake the tagine without cover using the broiler for 20 min until it dries up a bit and looked caramelized, My tagine didn’t get to this stage because I only used a tiny bit of sugar and I’ve cut on the baking time. It still tasted good.



Serve the tagine with a nice bread to soak the amazing marka (sauce).

2 thoughts on “Moroccan Kemama tagine with sweet onions and tomatoes

  1. Anonymous

    This was absolutely delicious – thank you for the recipe! I added double the amount of chopped & sliced onions, i used tinned peeled Roma tomatoes (which i drained & sliced & used sauce instead of water) as that is all i had & baked it in the oven in my Le Creuset dish. I added fish sauce & sprinkled 1tsp ground cumin & 1 tsp ground coriander on the tomato before baking for an hour. The cinnamon was superb – thank you again for a stunning recipe !


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