Traditional Moroccan Food Guide – What To Eat In Morocco
Moroccan Food Guide
We used to frequent a Moroccan restaurant when we lived in Chicago. From that menu I assumed there were only two dishes in Morocco – tagine and couscous. I realized, though, that there are so many different varieties of traditional Moroccan food to try when traveling in Morocco, if you know what to look for. In this post, we share our tips on what to eat in Morocco and how to make the most of a food tour in Morocco.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
What Is Traditional Moroccan Food
Morocco is a Muslim country in Northern Africa, with a long tradition of Arab and Berber culture. It also has a touch of influence from France, Spain, and Jewish culture. Sure, you will eat a lot of tagine in Morocco, but even the tagine differs from region to region.
We spent 12 days traveling around the country on Intrepid’s Morocco Real Food Adventure (see our review here). Whereas our first trip to Morocco focused on street food in Marrakech, this time we dived deep into Moroccan cuisine. Intrepid not only ensured that we didn’t eat tagine at every meal, but we also took some cooking classes and demonstrations to learn more about Moroccan food and drink.
Eating In Morocco
Our list of Moroccan dishes is a little longer than others, in part because we traveled to so many destinations within the country. Some of these destinations are not on the typical tourist trail. Intrepid also set up several evenings where we were dining at a local’s home, eating classic Moroccan dishes. We only ate a handful of meals at what can be considered touristy restaurants – and that made a world of difference.
Be expected to see beef, chicken, and lamb as well as a lot of vegetables. Vegetables from the core of any tagine or couscous dish, but also in soups and salads. Typical Moroccan spices include cumin, coriander, and turmeric, along with other spices. Most tables will have two spice shakers on it. But, it’s not salt and pepper, it’s salt and cumin – be prepared!
Although the cuisine overall feels pretty healthy, I will say there is a decent amount of sugar used in cooking, even in savory dishes. Most Moroccan dishes don’t necessarily taste sweet, but there is sugar there.Check out our Morocco Real Food Adventure Itinerary here
What To Eat In Morocco
Rather than starting with the most famous Moroccan dishes, I start with Moroccan breads and breakfast dishes, then to salads, Moroccan main dishes, snacks and street food, and then desserts.
Our Intrepid tour really showed us the best of Morocco. We started in Casablanca, traveled to Fes, and then to Marrakech. Along the way, we stayed in smaller towns and villages in Meknes, Midelt, Merzouga, and the M’Goun Valley – all areas of Morocco that were unfamiliar to us before this trip. We also visited the famous Morrocan “Blue City” of Chefchaouen. Our guide was pretty passionate about food, too, and was able to educate us about the history of a lot of these dishes, how they are prepared, and how they differ across the country.
Also, a note about the food photos. I did the best I could. Between eating street food, eating at local Moroccan homes and at simple restaurants, lighting was not great anywhere. I did the best I could!Check out our Morocco Real Food Adventure Review here
Khobz – Moroccan Bread
Just by walking around any Medina in Morocco it is clear how important bread is to the diet. Traditionally, each neighborhood of the Medina would have a neighborhood bread oven. Women or girls would bring their own uncooked loaves of bread to the community oven to bake the bread. They would do this twice a day.
Now, many people buy bread or will make larger loaves at home. We did see a few community ovens, though. The traditional Moroccan bread is called Khobz. It is made of flour, yeast, water, wheat, salt, and semolina. Normally there is semolina sprinkled on the top, which gives it a nice texture and extra flavor.
Be prepared to see Khobz at almost every meal, other than when serving couscous. Couscous is made of flour and serving it with bread would double up the starches. The Khobz can be used to eat salads with your hands and also to sop up the sauces left in the bottom of a tagine.
Moroccan Travel Pro Tip
What is a Medina? A Moroccan Medina is normally the oldest part of the city. It’s a labyrinth of narrow alleyways where people live and shop. These are great places to eat because there are options for Moroccan street food stalls but it is also where some of the most accessible tourist restaurants are located.
Olives, Olive Oil, And Harissa
There are a few common elements to Moroccan food culture. Driving around Morocco, it’s impossible to miss all of the olive trees that line the countryside. This results in some amazing olive oil, which is used in a lot of the dishes included in this list.
This also means that olives feature prominently on every Moroccan table and can be found in large quantities at every food market and in every Medina. If you love olives, Morocco is a great country to visit.
Another thing that features heavily on tables is harissa, a spicy chili paste. It can be added to all sorts of dishes that are flavorful, but not spicy. My favorite was when these two were put together – olives mixed with harissa. Look for olives with a bright red paste mixed in.
When staying at a typical tourist hotel, breakfast might be, well, typical international breakfast. If your hotel or guesthouse doesn’t offer something local, ask them for a local coffee house or cafe to try a more traditional Moroccan breakfast. It’s more likely you will find authentic Morocco breakfast foods at a guest house or homestay (called a gite). Normally, breakfast will include one or more types of Moroccan bread along with various jams, oil, and honey.
This Moroccan breakfast bread reminded me of Malaysian-style roti. It’s a layered bread, made with butter between the layers. M’smen is served with olive oil, jam, or honey. It’s common to find this at many local restaurants for breakfast but several of the hotels and guest houses also served it.
Another type of bread served for breakfast in Morocco is Harcha, which is much thicker and more dense than M’smen. It is made with semolina. We saw this less frequently at hotels and guesthouses but some did have it. Both Harcha and M’smen can be found in the Medinas as well, sold as street food through the day.
A Berber man told me that Amlou is like Berber Nutella. But, considering I am not a fan of the Nutella brand products, I loved Amlou. Instead of chocolate and hazelnuts, Amlou is a paste made with almonds, peanuts, olive oil, and argan oil. It is normally served on the side of one of the Moroccan breakfast breads.
Dchicha – Moroccan Cracked Barley Soup
Dchicha is a seemingly bland breakfast soup with a base of barley and milk. It is seasoned with thyme. My first few sips were very passive, thinking the soup really lacked flavor. The more I ate it, the more I started to appreciate the subtlety of the flavor. I can imagine it being a hearty dish to start the day. A few of our hotels offered Dchicha on the breakfast buffet, which was a nice way to bring Moroccan flavors to a typical western breakfast.
Svenj or Sfenj
A Sfenj is a Moroccan donut at its most simple. It is deep-fried dough in a typical donut shape. It can be eaten plain, with sugar, or even filled with egg or jam. It’s normally seen in the mornings at street stalls for breakfast or a late-morning snack.
I loved all the varieties of salads that were served before many of our meals. There really isn’t a tradition of Moroccan appetizers, per se. But, many of our meals started with several small plates or bowls of various types of salads to share among the group. Salads included simple carrot or beetroot salad in addition to the ones I include below.
Moroccan Mixed Salad
Often meals will include a chopped or mixed salad that includes tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, lettuce or mint. These salads will be served before or alongside a tagine or couscous. Some of them are a little more simple, with just tomato and onion. Other times, a “Moroccan mixed salad” included rice, potatoes, eggs, or beets. Be careful, though, ordering a raw salad in some local restaurants. We only ate at restaurants where our Intrepid guide said it was okay to eat the salads.
This was one of my favorite things to eat in Morocco, but I love anything with eggplant. Zaalouk is made with roasted eggplant that is mixed with seasonings that might include paprika, ginger, garlic, black pepper, coriander, cumin, olive oil, and sometimes a little chili. Zaalouk was my favorite of the Moroccan starters!
Similar to the Zaalouk, Tk’touka is another cold salad made with roasted peppers and roasted tomatoes, along with cumin, coriander, and lemon. Normally, the peppers are roasted in a wooden oven. Sometimes this means visiting the communal bread oven to roast the peppers.
Salad of Batata Hlouwa – Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad
In Moroccan Arabic, this translates to salad of potato. It’s a local sweet potato, which I would consider more like a yam, mixed with honey, raisins and cinnamon. It’s a sweeter salad, but very good.
Moroccan Soups And Stews
Some of the best Moroccan food we ate involved lentils and pulses, which are beans and legumes. Most of these were served as Moroccan starters but can also be a main dish, particularly for the locals. The lentils and beans were often flavored with tomato, onion, cumin, and coriander. Feel free to use a spoon, or some Moroccan bread to sop up all the tasty deliciousness!
Harira is probably one of the most commonly found soups on a Moroccan food menu. This soup is made with chickpeas and lentils. Using tomatoes as its base, sometimes the soup takes on a more “tomatoey” flavor.
Better versions take on the flavors of the seasonings, like coriander and cumin. Some versions will include whole chickpeas as well as small vermicelli-style noodles or broken rice. Although a few versions use beef or lamb broth as a base, it’s also possible to find them using vegetables as a base. If you are a vegetarian, be sure to ask.
With the frequent use of chickpeas in a lot of Moroccan dishes, bissara took us by surprise. This is a soup made with broad beans or fava beans, garlic, and water and topped with olive oil and cumin. Because of its color, every sip I took made me think I was eating chickpeas, but the soup had a different, almost bitter flavor to it. I liked it even more when I used Moroccan bread to sop it up.
Bissara is more commonly found in Northern and Eastern Morocco. The best version we are of this Moroccan speciality was at a family’s home in Chefchaouen. It can be found on restaurant menus in Morocco as well. Moroccans often eat Bissara for breakfast.
I have a hard time with the name of this dish because I don’t speak Moroccan Arabic, but it was always listed on a Moroccan menu as lentils in English or lentejas in Spanish. It is a simple lentil dish, made with coriander and cumin.
At home in Span, we are trying to increase the amount of lentils and pulses we eat, so I loved that many of the best Moroccan dishes included beans and lentils. Loubia is a white bean stew made with tomatoes, garlic, spices like cumin, and sometimes a little spicy chili. It can be found on Moroccan restaurant menus but can also sometimes be found as a street food, particularly in colder weather.
Moroccan Gastronomy Pro Tip
I feel like a bit of a broken record when describing the food to eat in Morocco. The food of Morocco is relatively simple, with a lot of complex flavors. But, many of the dishes rely on the same core ingredients and seasonings. It’s hard to find a Moroccan dish that does not include cumin. Other common spices include salt, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, onion, tomato, coriander, and parsley. The most popular Moroccan food dishes include most if not all of these core spices.
Moroccan Main Dishes
So far, I’ve focused on starters and soups. When it comes to Moroccan main dishes, be prepared to eat family style, with large shared platters in the center of the table. This is particularly true when eating at homestays and even some tourist restaurants.
The truth is, though, that you will eat a lot of tagine when traveling in Morocco as it is on almost every menu. That’s why I was thrilled to be on a Morocco Food Tour, which specifically arranged for us to try a lot of different, local dishes. This gave us more insight into the Moroccan food culture than we otherwise would have only eating at touristy restaurants serving tagine.
Tagine – The National Dish Of Morocco
If travelers to Morocco have heard of one Moroccan dish before arriving it would have to be tagine. A tagine is a dish cooked inside a clay pot, which is also known as a tagine. It can come in a variety of options including chicken, lamb, beef, vegetables, and even fish. Each variety will have a different seasoning and even different vegetables that go with it.
There are also variations around the country depending on the region or village. In addition to meat and vegetables, they also will include herbs, spices, dried fruit, and olive oil. You will generally see Moroccan bread on the table as well to sop up the juices or the crusty bits that remain on the bottom of the tagine.
Eating in Morocco is synonymous with tagine. When on a group tour through Morocco it’s common to eat a ton of tagine! Even when traveling on your own, it’s the most commonly served dish at more touristy restaurants.
This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed our Intrepid Morocco Food Adventure tour. Because it is a tour that caters to food travelers, they ensured we ate a variety of dishes along the way and weren’t stuck eating tagine at each stop. I love a good tagine, but not every day. There are so many other Moroccan dishes to eat. That said, a Moroccan tagine is a little different than others served in neighboring countries so it is worth it to track down a few different varieties during a trip.
This is another typical dish in North Africa, but the Berber culture in Morocco calls it their own. I learned one fact about couscous that I thought was interesting. In Catalonia, rice is typically eaten on Thursday, normally for lunch. It’s never been explained to me why other than saying “it’s tradition.” The same thing seems to go for Moroccan couscous, which is traditionally eaten on Friday, the Muslim holy day. In some cases, it might be difficult to find on the menu at local Moroccan restaurants on other days of the week.
Couscous is made of wheat or barley flour. It is steamed and served with meats or vegetables. Interestingly, of all the spices added to Morrocan cuisine, cumin is rarely added to couscous because it is used in so many other traditional Moroccan dishes. Also be prepared to eat couscous with your hands, although at more touristy restaurants a fork and spoon are often provided.
Typical Moroccan Food Pro Tip
I never knew what couscous translated to. It is the Arabic word for rubbing between the hands, which is how the couscous is prepared. Cold water is added to the dry couscous and it is rubbed between the palms of the hands and almost fluffed to get it moist. We learned the recipe from a grandmother in Moulay Idriss in Northern Morocco, who warned us never to pour the water in and let it just sit – it will get soggy.
Yes, camel burger! The camel meat was not mixed with any sort of bread or binding agent. Instead, it was mixed with coriander, cumin, and harissa. It’s served on a semolina roll with a little bit of red pepper. It didn’t taste a bit gamey. Instead, it was tender and moist.
I was a little hesitant to try it, but our camel burger was one of the best things we ate on the trip! Camel is more commonly found in Fes and Meknes. It is less common in Marrakech or Casablanca. We ate it at a family home in Meknes, which Intrepid arranged as part of our food tour.
Mechoui is slow-roasted whole lamb that is traditionally cooked over a coal fire pit. You can find it at some street stalls in the Medina in Marrakech, but you can also find it served in some restaurants. It’s not as common to find as a tagine, so when you see it, order it. It can be super tender and moist. The mechoui falls right off the bone.
Where to eat mechoui in Marrakech: There’s one place known for mechoui in Marrakech. Chez Lamine is in the Medina, just behind the Jemma el Fna food stalls. Although open for both lunch and dinner, the best cuts are served around 12:30 or 1 pm when the lamb is freshly prepared. Pricing is per kilo. About a half kilo is enough for two people.
At its most basic, kefta are Moroccan meatballs. They are made from minced lamb or beef and are normally grilled. I will say, they often looked a little dry from the outside, but they are super moist on the inside. And, generally, they are made without any bread or breadcrumbs to bind them. Instead, the meat is mixed with onion, parsley, and coriander before cooking.
This popular Moroccan food takes the kefta up a notch. Instead of serving the Moroccan meatballs grilled, they are cooked in a tagine with tomatoes and onion and then topped with egg. I loved this dish. Particularly when seasoned just right, the sauce was a nice little treat with Moroccan bread. It felt like a Moroccan version of Italian scarpetta – using the bread to sop up the tomato sauce at the end of a meal.
Pastilla or B’stilla
This is the must-eat dish in Fes. Until we saw it being prepared I forgot that this is a dish I frequently ate at a Morrocan restaurant in Chicago over a decade ago. It was once known as pigeon pie. The savory version of Pastilla or B’stilla includes slow-cooked, shredded meat along with seasoning. It’s not an everyday dish in Morocco as it takes a long time to prepare. Instead, it is saved for weddings and other special events.
A mixture of coriander, parsley, onion, turmeric, ginger, and other spices is cooked with egg. Shredded chicken is added along with ground almonds and peanuts. The entire concoction is then rolled carefully inside a very thin pastry, similar to filo dough called warqa. It is baked and topped with cinnamon and sugar. The result is a perfect mix of warm, sweet, and savory.
Not to be confused with a tagine, a tangia is a different type of Morrocan cooking vessel. This version is more like a large pot or urn. The pot is stuffed with meat and seasonings, along with lemon, butter, and garlic. The meat is slow-cooked over coals. We ate a version in Chefchaouen that was served similarly to the slow-roasted mechoui we ate in Fes.
There are multiple varieties of what people call Berber Pizza. It’s a simple dish made with humble ingredients. The pizza bread is filled with seasonings, including salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, ginger, and turmeric. Sometimes it includes ground beef or lamb. One of the best versions we ate was at a street-side rest stop. It was thinner than most versions, and skipped the meat. Instead, it included a bit of chili pepper.
Berber Omelette – Maticha o Lbid
I struggled to find the Arabic word for this dish as it is often referred to as a Berber Omelette. It includes tomatoes, onions, and seasonings along with eggs. It’s another bread delivery system – scoop it up with warm bread and enjoy.
Moroccan Street Food And Snacks
There are loads of options when looking for a quick snack or even a meal on the street or within one of the many Medinas in Morocco. Here are a few items to look for on carts while walking through the narrow streets of the Medina or in casual food stalls near hotels. Many of the items on this Moroccan food list can be purchased for only a few dirham.
I just liked saying this word. Makouda is a potato patty with coriander and a little bit of spice, which is deep-fried. They are pretty small, so feel free to order a bunch as a great afternoon or late night snack.
Moroccan Brochettes, Skewers, or Kebabs
Whether you call these brochettes, skewers, or kebabs, this is one of the most common ways to serve meat in Morocco that doesn’t involve a tagine. This is a popular dish on tourist menus around the country, but you can also find stalls selling kebabs throughout the city. We enjoyed one night where we sat street side. Our skewers came a half dozen at a time. They were served simply with Moroccan bread, cumin, and a tomato-based sauce. We tried beef, lamb, turkey, and even beef hearts.
Our guide first introduced us to Baghrir in the Fes Medina. He called it a crumpet. It’s soft and slightly sweet, with little crumpet-style holes on one side. I don’t otherwise know how to explain it other than cheap, soft, sweet, and tasty.
As much as m’smen is a typical breakfast bread, it can also be found as a street food snack throughout the day. One of the best versions is M’smen Bchehma, which translates to M’smen with fat. It includes suet, a meat fat, along with coriander and chili. It’s a perfect, cheap snack while shopping in the Medina.
Kalinte is so regional, that our Berber guide didn’t know the name. We found this Moroccan street food in Chefchaouen, the Blue City. It was made with pureed chickpeas that were cooked on an open flat top grill. It was then topped with salt, chili, and cumin. After an afternoon walking tour of the city, this was the perfect treat!
Moroccan Goat Cheese
This was a bit of a surprise for me as I don’t associate North Africa with cheese. This might be the French or Spanish influence, but keep an eye out for goat cheese. It is sold at markets and in the Medinas. It comes in a salty or unsalted version. It’s soft and mild.
Best Moroccan Desserts And Sweets
Dessert at the end of a Moroccan meal is often more simple, include plates of fresh fruit or dates. Sometimes cookies will be served along with mint tea. The best way to taste all of the best Moroccan sweets is to look for them at street food stalls and bakeries in the Medina. Here are some of our favorite traditional Moroccan desserts and sweets.
Sugared peanuts are commonly found for sale in the Medinas. The are sold by weight. The peanuts are pretty sweet, but tasty.
Moroccan Ghriba Cookies
The Ghriba cookies are made with almond, sugar, and flour and often served for dessert with mint tea. I liked them because they were soft and not overly sweet.
Gazelle Horns are named for their shape. They are made with almond paste, cinnamon, and orange flower water. The ones we tried were heavily flavored with the orange blossom water, which we are not a fan of. It’s worth trying though.
Although this can be a savory dish, we found a sweet briwate at a small stall in the Medina of the Blue City. Briwate is a deep-fried pastry, made with pastry that is similar to filo dough. It was filled with almonds and sugar, with a sugary coating on the top. Normally it is the shape of a triangle, but you might also see them in the shape of a small cigar.
Dates Filled With Walnuts
These can be served as a desert or picked up as a snack on the street. Dates are purchased for gifts as well and come in a large box. They can be a little sweet, so I liked the version stuffed with walnuts, which offset the sweetness. One thing about eating dates in Morocco, according to tradition you must always eat an odd number. This left me eating one at a time!
Figs On A String
This was something we saw everywhere, at the Medinas and at the weekly food markets. Figs are dried and then strung together to look almost like a snake.
If traveling to Morocco in the fall, be sure to try pomegranate. It can be found sold on the side of the streets across the country. They also feature in many of the desserts served by Moroccan restaurants and home stays. Although a little difficult to crack open, the taste of the seeds is quite sweet and refreshing on a warm days.
* Intrepid Travel supported us on our trip through Morocco. Learn more about their Morocco Real Food Adventure here.
FAQs - What Is Moroccan Food
Much like the Spanish, Moroccans typically eat about five times a day. Meals include breakfast, a late morning snack, lunch, a late afternoon snack, and a dinner, often eaten very late when everyone is home and together. Most Moroccans will go out for a snack, street food, or to visit a cafe. It is not common, though, to eat an entire meal out. Instead, meals are eaten at home. This is why many restaurants might be considered “tourist” restaurants and it is hard to find a restaurant where the locals eat. This is one of the facts about Moroccan food that is different from eating in Spain or Italy, for example.
Food and drink prices in Morocco vary depending on where you eat the food. At a tourist restaurant or homestay, expect to pay between 70 dirhams and 100 dirhams for a dish ($7-10), or between 100 dirhams to 200 dirhams for a full set menu ($10-20). Street food is much cheaper, with many items costing only 5 or 10 dirhams ($.50-1). We ate at one tourist restaurant in Chefchaouen where lunch for two people cost only 72 dirhams. So, it is a little difficult to answer the question of how much is food in Morocco because it will depend on what you are eating and where.
Although most dishes include common Moroccan spices, the cuisine overall is not all that spicy. Most meals are served with harissa, which is a chili paste. If they don’t serve it, ask for it. It can be added to almost everything. Sometimes olives will be served with harissa. Look for olives in a red paste. The harissa can pack a punch, so be careful.