Morocco is home to one of the world’s greatest and most diverse cuisines. Making the most of seasonal ingredients, dishes are a mix of cultural influences forged over the centuries, including Berber, Jewish, Arab and French. Here are Morocco's top food experiences.

Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.

Tagine

Tagines, named after the conical clay cooking pot they’re cooked in, are on every Moroccan menu, from roadside cafes to palatial dining rooms. It’s a stew of tender meat and vegetables in a blend of spices, sometimes with the addition of olives and preserved fruit, and is always served with bread. Try the kefta variety, where lamb or beef mince is rolled into balls, cooked in a tomato and onion sauce, and topped with an egg.

Tanjia

Tanjia is another dish that owes its name to the clay pot in which it’s cooked. Large chunks of beef or lamb and a selection of spices are stuffed into the pot, which is topped with a paper lid and tied with string. It’s then taken to the local hammam (bathhouse) where it’s propped in the embers of the furnace that heats the water to slow cook for hours.

An ornate bowl of traditional Moroccan jeweled couscous.
Couscous is Morocco's quintessential dish © Stockcreations / Shutterstock

Couscous

Dating back to the 13th century and probably Berber in origin, couscous is Morocco's quintessential dish. It’s traditionally a time-consuming process, where semolina grain is laboriously hand rolled before being steamed. When the grains are plump and fluffy, it’s served piled high with meat and vegetables, nuts and dried fruit. It’s usually prepared on Fridays, the Muslim holy day, and for weddings, funerals and at the end of Ramadan.

Salads

Moroccan meals often begin with a vegetarian-friendly spread of colourful small salads, raw and cooked, hot and cold, and perfect for sharing. Dishes include salade marocaine, finely chopped tomatoes, onions and cucumber; a smoked aubergine dip called zaalouk, seasoned with garlic, paprika and cumin; finely grated carrots with freshly squeezed orange juice; courgette purée; taktouka, a cooked tomato and roasted pepper salad, and plump, local olives.

Closeup of a pastry filled with pigeon, ground almonds and topped with a layer of spices
Pastilla is a Moroccan specialty mixed with sweet and salty flavours © Suzanne Porter / Dorling Kindersley/Getty

Pastilla

This Fassi (from Fez) speciality is a mix of sweet and salty flavours thought to have been brought to Morocco from Andalucia by the Moors. This elaborate pie is traditionally made with pigeon cooked in spices, topped with a layer of toasted and ground almonds and cinnamon, all wrapped in warka pastry, similar to phyllo. It’s more likely to be made with shredded chicken today but try the original version if you get the chance.

Harira

This traditional Berber soup is rich and flavoursome and while it’s often served as a starter, it’s filling enough to be a meal in itself. The recipe varies from region to region but the basic stock includes flour, chickpeas, tomatoes, lentils, spices and a small amount of lamb or chicken, finished off with a squeeze of lemon juice and turmeric. During Ramadan it’s served at dusk to break the fast, often with the sweet and sticky pretzel-like chebakkiya.

Bread

In Morocco, every neighbourhood has five things; a mosque, a school, a hammam, a fountain, and a communal wood-fired oven, or farine. Families take their own dough to be baked or buy direct from the baker, who regularly make around 2,000 of the khobz – Morocco’s staple round, crusty loaf – each day. Other traditional breads include harcha, made from pan-fried semolina; rghaif, a flaky, layered flat bread, and baghira, spongy and full of holes like a crumpet.

Closeup of a stall filled with traditional moroccan sweets on sale at a Marrakesh market
Moroccans are passionate about their sweet treats © Tony Zelenoff / Shutterstock

Sweets

Fresh fruit usually ends most meals but Moroccans are passionate about sweet things and the souks are filled with calorie-laden treats. There are rich pastries like briouats, deep-fried filo pastry triangles stuffed with almond paste, and gazelle horns, crescent-shaped pastries with almond paste scented with orange flower water and cinnamon; and shebakia, flower-shaped, fried sesame biscuits and crunchy biscotti-like fekkas. If you’re in Moulay Idriss, don’t miss the famous nougat.

Tea

Mint tea is the national drink, often jokingly referred to as Berber whiskey. A sign of hospitality, preparing it is an art form: green tea is flavoured with sprigs of fresh mint and normally served with lots of sugar. In winter, when mint is scarce, bitter wormwood – also known as absinthe or sheba – is used. It’s usually poured from metal teapots into glasses from a great height, and the resulting bubbles are meant to make it more appealing.

Colorful spices and herbs on display at a moroccan market in Marrakesh
Spices markets can look like works of art in Morocco © Sylvia Kania / Shutterstock

Spices

You’ll find colourful pyramids of aromatic spices in every souq, including saffron that was once worth more than gold. Moroccan speciality Ras El Hanout is a complex blend of up to 30 ingredients prepared by grinding together whole spices, dried leaves and roots, including cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. Usually reserved for special dishes, the literal translation from Arabic is “top of the shop”, or the best the shop has to offer.

Street eats

Don't miss a chance to grab these on-the-go snacks, which are sold in markets and from food stalls across the country.

Camel spleen

Gamey tasting camel spleen is stuffed with ground camel meat, and sometimes beef or lamb, olives, spices and a dash of hump fat. The sausage-like form is baked in a communal bread oven before being sliced, cooked on a griddle and served up in a khobz sandwich.

Sheep’s head

Medina stalls serve steamed sheep’s head, dished up with cumin, salt and chilli. Almost all the meat is edible but the cheeks and toungue are particularly tender. Nothing goes to waste and other stalls will have pots filled with sheep’s brain bubbling away in a rich tomato sauce.

A pair of hands stirs snails in a large bowl at a food stall in Morocco
Snail soup is a popular street food treat in Morocco © Dreef / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Snail soup

Snails can be found all over Morocco, usually in a spicy soup served from a cart in the medina. They don’t use the large French variety but small snails known as babouche. Eat them with a toothpick or just buy a bowl of the tasty broth that the snails are cooked in.

Bisara

Also called talakhcha, this is a thick soup, especially popular at breakfast time. Made from dried and peeled fava beans or broad beans, it’s served topped with a generous drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of red-hot chilis or cumin and a freshly baked khobz.

Sardines

Morocco is the largest tinned sardine exporter in the world but fresh ones make a tasty medina snack. They’re best stuffed with tangy chermoula paste, a mix of spices, including cumin and paprika, fresh coriander and lemon juice, dusted with flour and deep fried.

Etiquette

They say the best traditional Moroccan food is served at home, so eat with a family if you can, or at least in a family-run restaurant at some point during your travels. Remember, if you do eat with a family, it will probably be with your hands and bread, rather than a knife and fork. Eat only with your right hand and when you’re sharing a communal plate like a tagine, it’s polite to take only what’s in front of you.

You might also like: 

Morocco's 10 best natural wonders  
Essential Moroccan experiences you won't want to miss 
Why you should embrace Berber culture on your Moroccan adventure 

This article was originally published in October 2014 and updated in September 2020. 

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This article was first published October 2014 and updated September 2020

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