Moroccan tajine (tagine)

Actually tagine is more a cooking method (using a clay pot of a special shape) than a dish. Because there are too many recipes for tajine-cooking.

Tajine – a pot

Tagine is a clay frying pan with a high conical cover. On the top of the cover there is a little hole. In many books it is written that due to this hole and the height of cover a dish becomes more tender and juicy. Authors state: while stewing the steam constantly condenses and flows down. Many guide books recommend to bring a tajine back home as a souvenir, because in Morocco they are much cheaper.


Before my first trip to Morocco I started dreaming of a tajine pot. But my mind is too rational. So I will give you some practical facts:

1. Many times I’ve seen how Moroccans put a tomato on the top of cover – so if the hole was right on the top, then it was closed by a tomato.

2. And I have never seen their faces when they wash tajines. Any food that was cooked in a tagine sticks to both: the pot and its cover. Because cover stands right on a pan. From one side it plays a role of a plumbing trap – it prevents steam from coming outside; and when the cover is topped with a tomato – the smell becomes locked inside of a tajine. From the other side the cover appears to be too close to food, so it sticks to clay.

3. Pottery is fragile. I mean both: transportation and someone’s awkwardness.

4. Tajine requires space for storage due to its unique shape.

5. You will need a splitter (a special metal disc) if you cook on a stove. And it’s impossible to use a tagine with induction cooker (that are rather popular in Russia nowadays and replace old electrical stoves).

6. If you take a wok frying pan with a simple glass cover, it will easily replace a tajine. The steam condenses on a cover and flows down to food.

Now you can decide, whether you need a traditional clay tajine or a modern non-stick wok.

Colourful tagines of all sizes
Colourful decorative tajines of all sizes

There are also beautifully decorated tajines of any size for sale – they are used as a tableware (only serving, no cooking).

Tajine – a dish

There are too many variations. I will name the most common:

– With chicken and vegetables (f.e. a chicken leg with potatoes, tomatoes, green bell pepper and onion);

– Vegetable tajine (usually some of following vegetables are present: carrots, salted lemons, potatoes, courgettes,  tomatoes, green bell peppers, onions, artichoke);

– Mruziya or m’assal (with lamb, prunes, raisins and honey);

– Kefta mkaoura (a meatball tajine with tomato sauce) – recipe;

– Kefta in saffron-lemon sauce – recipe;

– M’qalli (fish or chicken tagine with olives and salted lemons).

Tajine kefta mkaoura
Tajine kefta mkaoura in Merzouga

Moroccans put only raw meat (not a precooked one) in a tagine. All ingredients are put layer by layer. Every layer is sprinkled with herbs and spices. Usually the dish is cooked without additional water. It takes ~1 hour or more at low heat.


One of tajine-cooking traits is a fragrant sauce marqa. It appears after a long time stewing. It can be liquid as a syrup or thick as a paste. Marqa contains a concentrated flavor of all ingredients of a dish. The professionalism of a Moroccan cook is rated by the quality of marqa.

Vegetable tagine
Vegetable (vegetarian) tajine, khobz (traditional Moroccan bread) and coffee. Bus station of CTM
Restaurant serving tajines
Tagines are everywhere. Many of them are topped with tomatoes
Tagine in Essaouira and chicken
“Gods of advertising” in medina of Essaouira: how to show people that a restaurant uses fresh ingredients? Just put a live ingredient under a table
No worries, the chicken has a lot of food and water. It is carefully bound (so no possibility to be eaten, if it decides to go sightseeing)
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