Exploring the Flavors of Moroccan Cuisine

Exploring the Flavors of Moroccan Cuisine: A Guide to Essential Herbs

Moroccan cuisine is a vibrant blend of Arab, Berber, Moorish, and Mediterranean influences, known for its rich flavors and aromatic spices. Central to many Moroccan dishes are a variety of herbs that add depth and complexity to the food. Let’s explore the essential herbs used in Moroccan cuisine and discover how they enhance traditional dishes. Plus, enjoy a special recipe for a classic Moroccan dish at the end!

1. Cilantro (Kasbour):

Cilantro is a staple in Moroccan cooking, known for its fresh, citrusy flavor. It is often used fresh in salads, soups, and as a garnish. This versatile herb can be found in dishes like Harira (Moroccan soup) and Chermoula (a marinade for fish and meat).

2. Mint (Na’na):

Mint is integral to Moroccan cuisine, especially in beverages and desserts. Fresh mint leaves are commonly used in Moroccan mint tea, a national symbol of hospitality and tradition.

3. Parsley (Maqdoun):

Parsley adds a bright, slightly peppery flavor to many Moroccan dishes. It is often used fresh in salads, tagines, and as a garnish for various dishes.

4. Cumin (Kamoun):

Cumin is a fundamental spice in Moroccan cuisine, providing a warm, earthy flavor. It is used both whole and ground in soups, stews, and meat dishes.

5. Coriander Seeds (Kosbor):

Coriander seeds add a warm, slightly nutty flavor to Moroccan dishes. They are often ground and used in spice blends like Ras el Hanout.

6. Saffron (Za’faran):

Saffron adds a unique, floral flavor and vibrant yellow color to many Moroccan dishes. It is a key ingredient in tagines and various rice dishes.

7. Thyme (Za’atar):

Thyme is used both fresh and dried in Moroccan cooking. It adds a subtle, aromatic flavor to dishes and is often used in marinades and soups.

8. Bay Leaves (Waraqat Ghar):

Bay leaves impart a subtle, herbal flavor to soups, stews, and tagines. They are used whole and removed before serving.

9. Rosemary (Ikliil):

Rosemary, used fresh or dried, adds a pine-like, aromatic flavor to dishes. It pairs well with meats and roasted vegetables.

10. Oregano (Za’atar):

Oregano adds a robust, slightly bitter flavor to many Moroccan dishes. It is commonly used dried and is a key ingredient in marinades, soups, and stews.

Traditional Moroccan Recipe: Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives


  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
  • 2 preserved lemons, quartered
  • 1 cup green olives, pitted
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (kasbour), chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (maqdoun), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (kamoun)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds (kosbor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (za’faran), soaked in warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup water


  1. Prepare the Marinade: In a large bowl, combine the chopped onions, minced garlic, cilantro, parsley, cumin, coriander seeds, ground ginger, saffron threads (with their soaking water), black pepper, and salt. Mix well.
  2. Marinate the Chicken: Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and coat them thoroughly with the marinade. Let it marinate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Cook the Chicken: In a large tagine or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the marinated chicken pieces and cook until browned on all sides.
  4. Add Ingredients: Add the preserved lemons, green olives, and 1 cup of water to the tagine. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer: Cover the tagine and let it simmer on low heat for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary.
  6. Serve: Serve the chicken tagine hot, garnished with additional chopped cilantro and parsley if desired. Accompany with couscous or bread.


The use of herbs in Moroccan cuisine is essential to its distinctive flavors and aromas. Each herb brings its own unique character, enhancing the taste of traditional dishes. By incorporating these herbs into your cooking, you can bring a touch of Morocco to your kitchen.