Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Lemon (Chicken Tagine)


(from Bethany’s recipe box)

Serves 4

Bone-in chicken parts can be substituted for the whole chicken. For best results, use four chicken thighs and two chicken breasts, each breast split in half; the dark meat contributes valuable flavor to the broth and should not be omitted. Use a vegetable peeler to remove wide strips of zest from the lemon before juicing it. Make sure to trim any white pith from the zest, as it can impart bitter flavor. If the olives are particularly salty, give them a rinse. Serve with couscous (see related recipe).

Time-consuming techniques and esoteric ingredients make cooking authentic Moroccan chicken a daunting proposition. We wanted a recipe that was ready in an hour and relied on supermarket staples. For depth and flavor, we used a mix of white and dark chicken and browned the meat first. After removing the chicken from the pot, we sautéed onion, strips of lemon zest, garlic, and a spice blend in the leftover brown bits and some oil; this ensured that no flavor went to waste. A number of everyday spices were necessary to recreate the authentic notes in Moroccan chicken, including paprika, cumin, cayenne, ginger, coriander, and cinnamon; honey contributed a missing sweetness. Greek green olives provided the meatiness and piquant flavor of hard-to-find Moroccan olives. Chopped cilantro, stirred in right before serving, was the perfect finishing touch to our exotic dinner.

Source: America's Test Kitchen Season 12: A Moroccan Feast

Categories: Moroccan, Poultry


  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 strips lemon zest (each about 2 inches by 3/4 inch)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 to 2 lemons
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons)
  • 1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (4 breast pieces, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks; wings reserved for another use) and trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 3 cups)
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick coins, very large pieces cut into half-moons (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup Greek cracked green olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Combine spices in small bowl and set aside. Mince 1 strip lemon zest; combine with 1 teaspoon minced garlic and mince together until reduced to fine paste; set aside.

  2. Season both sides of chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large heavy—bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke. Brown chicken pieces skin side down in single layer until deep golden, about 5 minutes; using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown on second side, about 4 minutes more. Transfer chicken to large plate; when cool enough to handle, peel off skin and discard. Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.

  3. Add onion and 2 remaining lemon zest strips to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have browned at edges but still retain shape, 5 to 7 minutes (add 1 tablespoon water if pan gets too dark). Add remaining 4 teaspoons garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly, until darkened and very fragrant, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in broth and honey, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add thighs and drumsticks, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes.

  4. Add carrots and breast pieces (with any accumulated juices) to pot, arranging breast pieces in single layer on top of carrots. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes.

  5. Transfer chicken to plate or bowl and tent with foil. Add olives to pot; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid has thickened slightly and carrots are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Return chicken to pot and add garlic-zest mixture, cilantro, and lemon juice; stir to combine and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

  6. MAKE AHEAD: The recipe can be prepared through step 4, cooled, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To serve, gently warm until the chicken is heated through, then proceed with the recipe from step 5.

  7. TECHNIQUERAISING THE BRAISE: When braising chicken parts, it can be hard to keep the white meat from turning dry and stringy. We solved this problem by layering the dark meat, the carrots, then the white meat. The propped-up white meat sits above the braising liquid and cooks at a gentler pace. Top: White Meat Middle: Carrots Bottom: Dark Meat

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