Chicken With Preserved Lemon


Chicken with preserved lemon is a delicious Middle Eastern food recipe. Learn How to make chicken with preserved lemon step by step with pictures.

I love this simple chicken dish. Every time I prepare it for guests, they are impressed with the bright, fresh flavors. This is a simple recipe that highlights the ingredient of preserved lemon and provides wonderful aromatic spices for the chicken.

Chicken with preserved lemon

  • 1h 10m prep
  • 45m cook
  • 4 servings
Chicken with preserved lemon

Create gourmet meals by adding a few key ingredients such as preserved lemons and aromatic saffron.


Mireille Kligour, Randwick Nsw (Reader Recipe)


out of 10

Health Score*


502 calories per serve

Allergens: Recipe may contain gluten and wheat.

More nutrition information >

  • 8 Ingredients
  • 3 Method Steps
  • 2 brown onions, diced
  • 2 preserved lemons, flesh discarded, rind chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2cm piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 chicken pieces, on the bone
  • pinch of saffron
  • cooked pasta, to serve
  • Select all ingredients


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  • Step 1Combine onion, lemon rind, coriander, ginger and 2 tablespoons oil in a large, shallow ceramic dish. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Step 2Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, scraping away onion. Cook chicken, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer chicken to a plate and wipe pan clean.
  • Step 3Reduce heat to medium-low. Add marinade to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes or until onion is tender. Return chicken to pan. Add 1/2 cup cold water. Increase heat to medium. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Add saffron. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and sauce reduced. Season with pepper. Serve with pasta.

Stovetop Moroccan Chicken With Preserved Lemon and Olives

Moroccan Chicken In A Cast Iron Pan

Prep:15 mins

Cook:90 mins

Total:105 mins

Servings:4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)SAVE RECIPE

Chicken with preserved lemons and olives is a classic Moroccan dish. Salty, lemony, and zesty, it’s a favorite of many Moroccans! Saffron is an optional but delicious, fragrant addition.

This recipe is for conventional stovetop preparation in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. The trick to this method is two-fold:

  1. Don’t add any water during the cooking.
  2. Reduce the sauce until the onions are a thick mass.

This dish can also be made by cooking in a traditional tagine or slow-roasting in the oven. The last method is useful when serving a large group of people.

Do not substitute fresh lemons for the preserved lemons. Outside of Morocco, you’ll find it easy and inexpensive to make your own preserved lemons (allow a month for curing); or look for them in Middle Eastern and halal markets, or buy preserved lemons online.

Although it’s not necessary, many cooks allow time for marinating the chicken.


  • 1 chicken whole chicken, skin removed and cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, or a mix of vegetable oil and olive oil; or a mix of oil and butter
  • 2 very large white or yellow onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads, divided, optional

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon smen (Moroccan preserved butter), optional
  • 1/4 cup green, red, or mixed olives
  • 1 preserved lemon, quartered, seeds removed

Steps to Make It

Cook the Chicken

  1. Ahead of time if possible, combine the chicken with the onion, garlic, herbs, and spices, including half of the saffron. (Reserve the rest of the saffron for adding to the sauce at a later time.) If time allows, cover and leave the chicken to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.
  2. When ready to cook, transfer the chicken and onions (scrape every last bit out of your bowl) to a heavy-bottomed pot, deep skillet or Dutch oven. Cover and cook the chicken over medium or medium-low heat, gently stirring and turning the chicken every 15 minutes or so, until the chicken is tender enough to pinch off the bones. (This will take approximately one hour, but longer if using a free range chicken). Keep the heat adjusted so that the chicken doesn’t scorch, and only add a little water if you feel you must. Typically the chicken will braise in its own juices.
  3. When the chicken is cooked, carefully transfer it to a plate and cover.

Reduce the Sauce

  1. Continue cooking the onion mixture and sauce over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquids evaporate and the onions can be mashed into a blended mass which separates from the oils. If your onions do not appear to be melding, you can give a few pulses with an immersion blender, but do not overprocess.
  2. Add the preserved lemon, olives, the rest of the saffron, and a few tablespoons of water, and simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot to heat through, or place under the broiler to brown the skin.

Serve the Chicken

  1. Place the chicken on a serving platter, pour the onion sauce over the top and sides, and garnish the top of the chicken with the quartered lemon and some olives.
  2. For casual meals, consider garnishing the chicken with a handful or two of french fries (patate frite), which may also be offered as a traditional side.
  3. Moroccan tradition is to eat by hand, using crusty Moroccan bread for soaking up the sauce.

Chicken and preserved lemon tagine

Chicken and preserved lemon tagine
  • Effort iconEASY
  • JULY 2008

Test kitchen approved

  • Serves iconSERVES 6
  • Time iconREADY IN 1 HOUR 20 MIN

This is one of the best known and loved tagines. Accompany with houmous, flatbread and a few mezze dishes to make it an affordable dinner party or Sunday lunch spread.





  • Pinch of saffron
  • 600ml chicken stock, hot
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.7kg organic chicken, jointed or 1.5kg chicken pieces (leg, thigh and breast)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
  • 5 small preserved lemons, quartered (we used Belazu)
  • 200g green olives
  • Small handful fresh flatleaf parsley or coriander, chopped


  1. Soak the saffron in a jug containing the hot stock for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large deep-sided frying pan or casserole over a high heat and brown the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes. You may need to do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan and steam the chicken. Remove the chicken to a plate and add the onion to the pan. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and spices to the pan and cook, stirring, for a further minute. If you’re using a tagine, transfer the onion to the base and add the saffron-infused stock and the browned chicken pieces (if using a casserole, leave the onion in the pan, then add the chicken and stock). Bring to the boil and simmer over a gentle heat, covered, for 40-50 minutes, until the chicken is tender.
  3. Add the lemons and olives and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Season to taste, scatter with the fresh herbs and serve with couscous.

delicious. tips

  1. You can easily cook the tagine in a large casserole in the oven if you prefer. Preheat to 150°C/fan130°C/gas 2 and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Add the lemon and olives and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes before scattering with parsley and coriander.

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