Spicy Moroccan chicken tagine


I am a firm believer that there are a number of ways in which the world can definitively be divided into two types of people:

  • People who can touch their toes and those who can’t.
  • People who are fundamentally dishonest and those who aren’t.
  • Starfish sleepers and corpse sleepers.
  • And people who love hot chilli and those who don’t.

And like starfish and corpse sleepers who inevitably end up married to one another (ask around – you’ll see I’m right!), more often than not a chilli-lover and a chilli-hater end up married to each other.

Seeing as I am of the opinion that Nando’s lemon and herb chicken is a little on the spicy side, obviously I had to go and marry a man who once downed a double tot glass of half Tabasco and half tequila for a laugh. The line between stupid and hard-core narrows daily!

Years of marriage have kind of conditioned me to believe that everyone except me loves hot food, so when I cook I tend to assume that if I can take the heat then it should be fine for everyone else too.  But as Samuel L Jackson said, assume makes an ass out of you and me.  So when I made a spicy chicken tagine as the second course of a recent Valentine’s Day lunch (to follow the halloumi with zaa’tar and red pepper coulis), I tasted it and dubbed it hot but not unbearable… but some of my guests thought I was trying to incinerate them. Live and learn!

This recipe is adapted from one by Jean-Christophe Novelli.  I replaced the poussin with chicken pieces, fiddled with some of the spice quantities and added some touches of my own, like preserved lemons.  The dried apricots I used were diced, but next time I would use whole or halved dried apricots – otherwise their sweetness gets lost.  NB – there is a LOT of spice in this recipe!! if you like things not-so-spicy, I would reduce the cayenne pepper by half but if you like spice, this dish is perfectly balanced between sweetness and heat.  In the interests of full disclosure, I made mine not in a traditional tagine but in my trusty 5 litre Corningware casserole dish.  I served it on fluffy couscous and accompanied by a simple salad of flat-leaf parsley, cherry tomatoes and diced cucumber.  And a cool bowl of yoghurt on the side for spice-phobes!


ChickenTagine collage



4.7 from 6 reviews
Spicy Moroccan chicken tagine
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This easy and delicious recipe will fragrance your house with the spices of Morocco and take your tastebuds on a Moorish journey. Don't be put off by the long prep time - that's just time absorb the spice rub!
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Moroccan
Serves: 6
  • about 1kg chicken pieces (I used a mix of drumsticks and thighs)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1.5 Tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp argan oil (I used rapeseed)
  • 3 large onions, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 200ml tomato juice
  • 1x400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100g dried apricots, halved
  • 75g raisins or sultanas
  • 1 preserved lemon, chopped
  • 100 g blanched flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp strands saffron, soaked in cold water
  • 450ml chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp runny honey
  1. Place the cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix to combine. Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and toss together with half of the spice mix. Cover with cling film and leave overnight in the fridge.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150C.
  3. Heat 1.5 Tbsp each of the olive oil and argan oil in a large heavy frying pan. Add the onions and the remaining spice mix and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes until the onions are soft but not coloured. Add the garlic for the final 3 minutes.
  4. Scoop the onion mix out of the pan and into an large (5 litre) ovenproof casserole dish or Dutch oven.
  5. Heat the remaining oil in the onions pan and when it is really hot place the chicken pieces skin side down in the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes (use a splatter screen - it's going to sizzle and spit!). Turn over and cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and place in the casserole dish.
  6. Pour 200ml tomato juice into the pan and stir well, scraping up all the bits on the bottom. Add the chopped tomatoes, apricots, preserved lemon, raisins, flaked almonds, saffron, stock and honey and when heated through, pour the contents of the pan into the casserole dish.
  7. Cover with a tightly fitting lid and cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
  8. Serve on cous cous.

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  1. says

    lol! i do like spicy food but have to say married a man you can eat hot indian pickle straight out of the jar! this looks so inviting and good!

  2. says

    I like ti hot, he doesn’t…….compromise….hate that word! Love this heartwarming dish and Oh boy I love the wine decanter!

  3. says

    Wonderful! I so love tagine and we make them often so here is one I absolutely must try! Love the mix of spicy, savory and sweet. Beautiful dish!
    And yes you have JP and I down to a tee!

  4. Melanie Heavenly says

    Both my partner and I sleep tidily [not quite corpses] and we both like hot food and we can both touch our toes. What does that say about us! We’re not excacly honest though – not in small ways – nothing criminal I hasten to add. We still managed to disagree about most things though. Anyway…….. this recipe looks great – love your site!

  5. says

    I no longer use myself as the taste-test for heat, because apparently I’ve developed a huge tolerance for it! I too have seen people suffer at my table. But I love all things tagine, and this dish is one that will go into my repertoire.

  6. says

    Let’s see – can’t touch my toes, not a chilli fan (although I do like mild heat), corpse sleeper and fundamentally honest.
    I love love love that you’ve used preserved lemons in this tagine – it’s my newest addiction!

  7. says

    I’m the spice wuss in our marriage (those Wasabi nuts at CTBC blew the roof off my mouth!), but I do like the fragrant spices and this sounds delicious. I’ll just add cayenne cautiously to start with!

  8. says

    Huh, I guess the years have changed you Jeanne! I love spicy food but I would never drink that much Tabasco (at least not for a sizable amount of money). But I would give just as much to taste this lovely tagine!
    By the way, I believe it was the great Benny Hill who said that quote first, not Samuel L Jackson :)

  9. says

    I have one of those husbands…hotter the better! Great tagine recipe! Interesting the addition of the argan oil. In some areas here in Morocco they dont cook with it, only using it for salads and flavouring after the cooking, however in the south they cook with it all the time! Possibly as its cheaper and more available in the South? Have a wonderful Easter Jeanne. xxxx

  10. says

    I adore tajines! We make one similar to this with apricots AND prunes. And recently, we made a more savoury tajine using preserved lemons and sun-dried olives. I cannot decide which I like better!
    I used not to be able to eat spicy food either. I too am married to someone who once ate freshly shaved habaneros on crackers as a joke. He also routinely eats whole green chillis – the devilish little Thai chillis. Now, after twenty years, I find myself craving hot food. I used to carefully give ALL of my blackened cayenne chillies to my husband (who demanded that I do so rather than push them to the side of my plate). But recently, I have neeeeeeeeeded to retain one of the chillis to nibble on from time to time.
    (My turning point was the greenchili/corianderleaf omelette.)

  11. says

    Help me, Jeanne – what’s a starfish sleeper and corpse sleeper????
    The recipe looks like something that I’d love, though I’d probably reduce the amount of Cayenne’i a little. I’m an Estonian after all 😉

  12. says

    Heh, it’s funny how palates differ from person to person. I went to Awana a few months ago with a Malaysian. We ate the same side dish – I said it’s spicy and he said it isn’t at all. It was also interesting to talk to the creators of authentic Indian takeaway review I have to do. They have a hard balancing act to do to tend to Brits’ tongues but remain true to the dish….

  13. Sam van Straaten says

    Hi there! I am from Cape Town and I would like to know where I will be able to find one of these tagine pots? Can you please send me in some sort of direction? I have searched everywhere online and can’t seem to find anything in any product catalogue [not Woolworths, Boardman’s or @home]. Please help!

  14. tanya says

    preserved lemons are not easily found… but so easy to do. i have just donr some for the first time. its so easy. all you need is a jar with a sealable lid, lemons and salt… just type in “preserved lemons” and they will give you the simple instructions.. good luck

  15. Bobby says

    I have made this twice now, both times without the dried fruit as me and hubby dont like fruit in savoury meals and it’s still delicious. I do have a tagine, but find that with all the liquid it cant be cooked in it, so i usually just dish it up into the tagine without all the added juices.

  16. Rachel says

    We followed this recipe the other day and only managed to eat a third of it between 7 of us! There was a lot of liquid (we ended up splitting it into 3 containers to cook in) – maybe it would be improved without the litre of tomato juice??

  17. Charlie says

    Made this tonight and it was delicious. Divided everything by 1/3 though and had six chicken thighs. Cooked it at 155 for 3 1/2 hours in a tagine. Beautifully spiced, but you can’t eat too much as it’s very rich.

  18. Honest starfish touch toes chilli lover says

    This dish was fabulous, I got a chance to use that big purple tagine I got at Christmas.

    • Jeanne says

      Thanks so much for the feedback! It’s such an easy recipe to make that rewards 110% with the taste & flavours it delivers.

  19. Jenn says

    Quartered the amounts for 2 of us but added some sweet veg (carrots and yams) to the pot… this was delicious and could have served 4 medium to big appetites!

  20. el says

    It is absolutely delicious! I have swapped the chicken for pork loin and cut all amounts by a third. Didn’t put any tomato sauce and bit less stock as I didn’t want to much sauce as I like it rather thicker.I almost cried when I tasted it at the end.My boyfriend will love it,cant wait to see what he is going to say!All the flavours together are just a heaven!many many thanks!!!

  21. says

    Not a frequent reviewer but I had to give my compliments and thanks for this recipe. A few friends decided to do a bring a dish to my place for a Moroccan evening. I looked at many recipes but decided on this one in the end. I have to say with a little forward planning for marinating the night before etc it turns into a one pot (nearly) wonder – just a matter of accumulating the ingredients and following simple steps. I was a bit ‘worried’ about the tomato juice I have to say and reduced it to 250 ml. I ran out of space for the prunes as I only have the one creuseut pot, as I began to realise the amounts, i.e. 300 gm of the almond slithers and etc.
    However, it was a great success. Poured it out onto a large white serving plate and scattered a lot of coriander on top. And et voila I was impressed it really looked the part and delicious on taste. I had thought many were going to bring couscous but alas no one did. However, I had blitzed a rather load of chickpeas in the food processor but had run out of time to create something with it. I added a bit of olive oil in a pan to the chickpea mixture, plus lemon, tangerine and flat leaf parsley etc. and guess what it was just as good as or better as a partner to the chicken tagine as well as some of the other dishes others’ brought. With a side helping of a simple beetroot and tomato salad this was fabulous quite frankly and so easy really. The end result was impressive on taste and presentation. It looks so dark and sumptuous. Remarkable. Thank you. I will be making it again and it will be one recipe I will keep in mind for many other occasions. A note on the ‘heat’. I am not wild about things being too hot but I did use the recommended amounts and found it just the right temperature to counter correspond to the lovely sweetness of the apricots and honey. Yummmmm

  22. says

    I cooked this for 11 friends for a lunch just after Christmas, everybody loved it! Fantastic full-bodied, spicy tagine. I couldn’t get preserved lemons, only Caribbean knobbly lemon/limes, so I cut 3 of them in eighths, squeezed juice from 2 over in a pan, sprinkled salt over and simmered for half an hour, until soft, they countered the heat and richness, making a delicious dish. Served with couscous, grilled veg, mixed salad etc. A ‘flax’ plant in my garden had produced some amazingly huge green and orange fruits. Internet search revealed it to be a Pandanus. I juiced the fruit (with a tough blender) with coconut water and a little brown sugar, to make a refreshing soft drink, and also juiced fresh passion fruits, sieved seeds out, mixed pulp with water, Smirnoff vodka and minimal white sugar. Memorable meal!