Chicken Tagine With Olives and Preserved Lemons Recipe (2024)

Recipe from Shallots New York

Adapted by Florence Fabricant

Chicken Tagine With Olives and Preserved Lemons Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour, plus marinating
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This rich and fragrant chicken stew is laden with complex flavors and spices reminiscent of the sort you might encounter in a mountainside cafe in Morocco. Save yourself the cost of a plane ticket, however, and make this at home. First, rub the chicken with a redolent combination of garlic, saffron, ground ginger, paprika, cumin, turmeric and black pepper, then pop it into the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours to marinate. Once that's done, brown the chicken parts, and remove from the pan, making room for a pile of sliced onions that you'll sauté until golden brown. Nestle a cinnamon stick into the tangle of onions, pile the chicken parts on top and scatter with slices of preserved lemons and olives, a combination of green and kalamata. Add a bit of chicken stock and lemon juice, then cook over low heat until the chicken is cooked through, and your house smells amazing. —Florence Fabricant

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Yield:4 servings

  • 5cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼teaspoon saffron threads, pulverized
  • ½teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1chicken, cut in 8 to 10 pieces
  • 2tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3medium onions, sliced thin
  • 1cinnamon stick
  • 8calamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 8cracked green olives, pitted and halved
  • 1large or 3 small preserved lemons (sold in specialty food shops)
  • 1cup chicken stock
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (4 servings)

779 calories; 54 grams fat; 14 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 25 grams monounsaturated fat; 11 grams polyunsaturated fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 3 grams sugars; 59 grams protein; 1037 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Chicken Tagine With Olives and Preserved Lemons Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Mix garlic, saffron, ginger, paprika, cumin and turmeric together. If not using kosher chicken, add ½ teaspoon salt. Add pepper to taste. Rub chicken with mixture, cover, refrigerate and marinate 3 to 4 hours.

  2. Heat oil in heavy skillet. Add chicken, and brown on all sides. Remove to platter. Add onions to skillet, and cook over medium-low heat about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to tagine, if you are using one, or leave in skillet. Add cinnamon stick.

  3. Step


    Put chicken on onions. Scatter with olives. Quarter the lemons, remove pulp and cut skin in strips. Scatter over chicken. Mix stock and lemon juice. Pour over chicken.

  4. Step


    Cover tagine or skillet. Place over low heat, and cook about 30 minutes, until chicken is done. Scatter parsley on top, and serve.



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Cooking Notes


I've made this several times.
A few points/suggestions.
* See Paula Wolfert's "Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco" for variations.
* I know it's customary to use both saffron and turmeric in Morocco. IMO this is a mistake. Turmeric is excellent, but it's not subtle and overwhelms the saffron. Use one or the other. I use saffron.
* The recipe says discard the preserved lemon pulp. However, Paula Wolfert says she does not bother and uses the pulp. So do I.


I have made this several times. I use 6-8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on. After browning chicken in step 2, I remove and discard the skin, leaving flavorful fond in the skillet. Drain excess chicken fat at this point.
I increase the amount of olives, and sometimes garnish with cilantro instead of parsley. A small amount of honey, added at the end of cooking, can add balance if it's too acidic.


"Marinating" the chicken in the spices doesn't really work. Skip this step and add the spices to the onions. (The spice rub burned in the pan while the chicken was browning.)


Cut lemons into wedges and place in a preserves jar, completely cover with salt. Wait 1 month (or longer) and you have preserved lemons.

You can add other spices and sometimes I add lemon juice to fill the jar better but that's all optional. Preserved lemons are one of the easiest things to make at home.

kathy g

I made this exactly as described a small tagine with 4 chicken thighs. Nothing burned with browning. Tumeric plus saffron as described. Delectable decadence, no honey needed. Served with rice, flat bread and a orange watercress avocado pistachio goat cheese salad with a sweetish vinaigrette. My partner could not stop moaning, yes, like that.


I use skinless thighs & sometimes breasts with the rub overnight. I sauté the onions but skip browning the chicken,. Then I put everything in a heavy covered casserole & bake in the oven. Turns out great. Use home made preserved lemons, much better than what I buy in jars.

Janet S

I just made this for myself and a friend and we both really enjoyed it. I added potatoes, carrots and green beans to up the veggie quotient and some cilantro in addition to parsley at the end. Loved the preserved lemon with this! In my opinion there is no need to add honey. This recipe is definitely going into my regular rotation! I think next time I might discard the chicken skin, because I wasn't crazy about the texture of it when cooked this way.


I made this in my dutch oven. I used skinless chicken thighs, left in the lemon pulp, and prepped all of the other ingredients as directed. I baked it, covered, in the oven at 350 degrees, somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour (I think it was an hour). The chicken fell off the bone. I served this over couscous with a dollop of hummus. This reminds me of a version that I had in Marrakesh.


No, you put everything in. Preserving the lemons removes the bitter taste. The peels become very soft & part of the sauce. I don't discard the pulp either. The flavor is amazing, not exactly lemony.

Julia FL

Love this dish. Used all the mentioned ingredients, but added golden raisins. Also, followed the recommendation to use thighs and not marinate, but cook the onions, garlic and spices together. I did it all on the stove top. This dish was a huge hit and will become a go to for dinner guests as it served up even better the next day. I recommend cooking it the day before and reheating for dinner guests giving you more time to enjoy your company. We served it with Jasmine rice - perfect.


This was great! I used 4 chicken thighs and 6 legs and cooked it in a 12 inch cast iron skillet. My only complaint is that the garlic on the chicken burnt by the time the chicken was browned - next time I will cook the garlic with the onions instead.


Delicious. I also left out the turmeric to favor the saffron. Slow cooked it in the oven, and used freshly ground cumin seeds. I've made many a tagine and this was up there with the best.


This was phenomenal. I followed the recipe closely and took some creative license here and there (I don't measure spices). I also put a bit more stock and let it hang out on low with the lid on for a while, while I farted around the house doing Sunday things. I didn't have preserved lemon, so I used fresh lemon sliced very thinly, which I threw in with the onions. It was out of control good. I spooned it over Israeli couscous with raisins.


Add carrots and apricots, dares or prunes.Cover and put in 350 oven for 45 to 60 minutes


Preserved lemons are really easy to make. There's a bunch of recipes out there, adding herbs etc. - just pick your fave. They are worth making, and cooking with, and very expensive to buy, so make your own!


This was amazing! I did not change a thing - except I removed the chicken and broiled it for a few minutes right before serving for crispy skin.

Some Bees

Changes I made:Used only bone-in-skin-on chicken thighs.Added about a cup of sliced dried apricots.Added a can of chickpeas with the liquid.Doubled all spices.Doubled olives.I thought this was delicious. I will definitely make it again. I likely will not add the beans liquid next time as the end result was very wet and from my understanding tagines are meant to be somewhat dry. Could have easily added two cans worth of chickpeas. Altogether a winner in my book.


This was outstanding. I made a few substitutions for time. I made this with salmon and cooked it for 8 min, used lemon paste (couldn’t find preserved lemon), and added a little Sri Lankan mango chutney (Trader Joe’s) for sweetness since I served it to 7, 5, and 3 year olds. I added the olives at the end so they would stay firm. I also took the advice of another cook on here and chose saffron over turmeric. Served it with toasted pearl couscous and charred baby broccoli. Everyone loved it.


Sublime! Used a Le Creuset tagine - one pot does it all. Doubled spices (half to marinate, half to cook with onions), cut onions to two and chicken broth to 1/2 cup. After assembly it went into a 350 oven for one hour. Homemade preserved lemon is key here - no medicinal funk. Next time I would use garlic powder in the marinade and save the real garlic for the half that goes with the onions, as I had some issues with burning and just did my best to pull out the really dark pieces. Loved it!


Editing my previous note:1. Slice the preserved lemons before you marinate the chicken.2. Scrape off as much of the marinade as possible because it can burn before the chicken can brown. I use a spatula.


I morfed two recipes into one.I added 2 dried Persian limes cracked and torn into quarters. 1cup cilantro1 cup orange juice. I marinate the chicken in all the spices, lemons, limes, olives, and garlic, except for the saffron for a few hours or over night. I bake skin side down covered for 40 minutes then uncover turn over the chicken and bake for another 20-25 minutes to brown and crisp.It turns into a braise which is delectable.


Great dish! Made with skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. Did not marinate but added spices to onion and garlic saute. Omitted the turmeric. Cooked perfectly in 30 minutes stovetop low in an enameled cast-iron skillet. Served over Cajun Dirty Rice.


More olives and preserved lemons Chicken strips cooked for less time


Love this dish. Easy to make. I add dried apricots and prunes.

Shannon D.

I liked this well enough but didn't really get the hype around it. It was fine.


I used boneless and skinless chicken thighs as that is what I had on hand, turned out amazing. I used preserved lemons with pull with no issues, served with couscous. I think sultanas or apricots in a small dose would be a lovely addition, but can't go wrong with what's written.


I would decrease the amount of broth. It was a bit too “liquidy”.


Great recipe! Doubled the spices for the chicken. Added a few cut up dried apricots which was really nice! Used the juice of a whole lemon. Otherwise followed the recipe exactly and it was perfect.


I used an Emile Henry tagine to brown chicken and cook onions on stovetop before finishing it all in oven for 30 mins at 350. Yes - the prescribed method to coat chicken first results in burnt garlic and spices (in my case fresh ginger too). Used my preserved lemons and added carrots and a few dates. Flavors were ok but final dish was too liquidy as it lacked any thickening agent. Next time I'll follow Once Upon a Chef's version (including not coating the chicken in spices before browning)!

Catherine Hay

This was amazing! We didn't have time to marinate the chicken, but it still turned out moist and flavourful. Browning the chicken was key. We added some dried prunes and apricots, as well as the preserved lemons (including the pulp). We don't have a tagine so we used a Dutch oven. It was really fantastic.

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Chicken Tagine With Olives and Preserved Lemons Recipe (2024)
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