Tagines, couscous, and dates are just a few of the foods that come to mind when I think of Moroccan cuisine. You don’t have to go far to find delicious, heart-warming food there, and with a few insider tips you, too, can savor the taste of Morocco. If you don’t make it to Morocco in person or can’t wait for your trip, find a Moroccan restaurant, or try looking up some recipes online and have a go at cooking a dish or two yourself.
Everywhere in Morocco, you will find traditional food on offer. You can search out tasty street food at the souks (markets), find a restaurant in the main square, or visit a cafe tucked away in the tiny alley of a medina -- the old walled part of whatever town you’re in.
When collecting the ingredients needed to make the best Moroccan dishes in our RV, we visited the souks held once a week in each town. We stocked up on juicy fresh dates (to do this we had to compete with swarms of bees), fat crunchy walnuts, gorgeous vegetables, the freshest chickens, and aromatic spices ground for us on the spot.
Here are some of the foods not to miss when visiting Morocco.
Throughout Morocco, you will see the distinct cone-shaped earthenware tagine that gives its name to the national dish. Try vegetarian, lamb, beef, chicken, goat, or even camel tagine. The only meat you won’t find is pork, as Morocco is a Muslim country.
While in Chefchaouen, also known as the Blue City, we indulged in two authentic tagines: one, beef and plum, the other, chicken and lemon, both ordered from Marisco Twins restaurant. To experience authentic Moroccan dishes, treat yourself to a meal here and enjoy fantastic service at the multi-generational family restaurant.
Competing with tagine for the title of Morocco’s most famous culinary export, couscous-making has evolved into an art form. You can eat the best and most authentic couscous on a Friday afternoon, when many restaurants change to a couscous-only menu. Eating couscous after Friday midday prayers is a very strong tradition, and any restaurant that can attract a crowd of locals coming from the mosque has to be good.
This sweet, also known as swassa, is a very popular dish originating from the Berbers of the southern region of Morocco. Made with argan oil, ground almonds, and honey, amlou is spread on top of pancakes or fresh Moroccan bread or can be used as a substitute for peanut butter on your morning toast. It has a nutty flavor that’s almost addictive, and the texture can be quite runny or thicker, as with peanut butter.
Also known as the pancake with a thousand holes, you can imagine how spongy and soft the texture will be.
A baghrir looks like a giant crumpet and is super tasty smothered with fresh Moroccan butter and honey or amlou for a special treat. You will find them freshly cooked in town market stalls as part of the street food offerings, or buy a few from the old woman sitting on the street corner with a stack she made at home that morning.
A delicious deep-fried combination of mashed potato, garlic, and spices, this is one not to be missed. Made fresh in the market square food stall while you wait, these will be delivered hot and straight from the frying oil, so don’t burn your mouth. Also known as Moroccan potato donuts, potato cakes, or Moroccan potato beignets, maakouda are usually served as a side dish, an appetizer, or squashed in between bread as a sandwich. They are super fluffy, packed full of flavor on the inside, and crunchy on the outside.
Chocolate Crepe Layer Cake
I’m sorry I don’t know the Moroccan name for this sweet despite several attempts at finding it. A street food vendor outside the medina at Meknes sold us this confection, consisting of layers and layers of thin crepes and chocolate or hazelnut paste. Warning: It’s sweet!
And speaking of sweet, here’s one for those who like to exercise their sweet tooth. There are many variations of this dessert (also known as snake pie). The one we enjoyed had a stuffing made from almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and dates crushed together and wrapped in thin filo-like pastry. After being rolled into the snake shape, it was baked and covered with liquid sugar or honey. Baklava is the only other dessert we have tried that is similar to m’hanncha.
Sfenj is an unsweetened, airy, and fluffy donut that must be eaten fresh. Outside cafes and on street corners, you will see the sfenj masters shaping the dough before frying it in large wok-shaped vats. If you have time on your hands, just stand and watch. This institution brings people together for a chat and a quick snack.
Sfenj are chewy on the inside and crispy outside. They have an interesting yeasty, delicate taste and are unsweetened, so you can choose to eat them with savory or sweet toppings. There is usually a big bowl of sugar beside the frying wok, so those with a sweet tooth can dip them for an extra sugar hit -- highly recommended.
In the small southern Moroccan coastal town of Mirleft, a friendly local took us into his friend’s bakery to watch tafarnout being made. The flat, round bread was cooked in a seemingly ancient bread oven containing a base of small pebbles and with glowing hot embers that were stoked along one side. The dough was placed directly onto the hot pebbles and left until it was cooked and slightly charred, then removed with a flat paddle. The pebbles stuck to the bottom were brushed off and the loaf wrapped up and placed in our eager hands. After watching the whole process, we consumed the delicious, very crusty, slightly wood smoke-flavored delicacy while still hot.
Tafarnout is best eaten warm with olive oil or honey. My only complaint was that it didn’t even last until we arrived back to our RV.
Another bready delight in Morocco is khobz, which is the popular white bread eaten daily throughout the country. In the past, the dough would be prepared at home and given to the children on their way to school to deposit into one of the many public street ovens known as ferran. They would then collect the baked loaves on their way home for lunch.
The bread has a crusty outer shell and is soft and fluffy inside. The locals use this instead of forks; they break pieces off to scoop up meat or vegetables from their tagine.
We cut the loaves horizontally to use like sandwich bread, filling it with fresh salad ingredients for a tasty delight. For a really easy lunch, buy a fresh khobz from a corner vendor and stuff it with hot rotisserie chicken from a street stall.
At our camping spot in Tafraoute, we ordered and paid for the bread a day ahead. A colored cloth bag was tied onto our door handle when we placed the order, and we awoke the following morning to find fresh, warm khobz hanging off the RV’s door.
Also called the Berber pizza, the medfouna is a flat round bread stuffed, usually, with onions, carrot, meat, and spices, then baked in a traditional clay-and-rock oven. We had the delightful experience of enjoying this for lunch with a Berber family. Allegedly, medfouna was originally a leftover dish, prepared at the end of the week. This super tasty and rich bread -- or pizza -- is found only in the southwest of Morocco where it’s known as a desert dish.
While in Mirleft, we were befriended by a Moroccan-Canadian man. Moroccan born, Mohammad spends half of his year living in Morocco and the other half in Canada. One morning, he brought us these delicious pancakes -- just after we had eaten breakfast -- and wanted us to taste this local treat still hot from the vendor. Not wanting to disappoint, we set about tackling our second breakfast challenge. These square pancakes can be eaten any time of day or night, usually accompanied by mint tea.
The word msemen (pronounced muss-si-mon) means “oiled” in Arabic. The oil gives these pancakes a crunchy outer shell. They can be likened to the traditional roti bread found in South Asian countries.
While it’s not strictly food, I wanted to share a couple of ingredients that I highly recommend you purchase to take home with you.
The first is argan oil, made from argan nuts, which grow only in Morocco. I used this -- one of the world’s most expensive cooking oils -- to make amlou, and I’m hooked on the delightful flavor. Just make sure you buy authentic argan oil from a certified seller or from a locally known and trusted source, as you could be sold inferior products. Note also that argan oil comes in culinary grade (for cooking) and cosmetic grade (for skin, hair, et cetera). The cooking variety is darker, toasty rich in aroma, and likely to have some sediment in the bottle.
Want to know more about argan oil? Read up on the incredible story of tree-climbing goats in Morocco to learn how they contribute to the production of this unique product.
If you have a desire to recreate your own delicious Moroccan tagine at home, be sure to purchase the famous spice called ras el hanout, which is blended from up to 45 different spices. With just a teaspoon or two used per dish, your purchase should last you until your next trip to Morocco.