Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives

Moroccan Dinner_A Little Yumminess

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives

Preserved Lemons by A Little Yumminess

This is one of those recipes that upon eating it, I wanted to jump right in and make it again for dinner the next night and the next night after that. It’s really just a simple, braised chicken dish, but the combination of spices and flavors makes it really, really special: ginger, saffron, cumin, preserved lemon, green olive. If you ask me, preserved lemons are one of those magical ingredients that add a complex depth when you want a bit of saltiness and tang and having some on hand is a great ace in the hole anytime you’re faced with a drab dish that needs a little “something extra”.  Having tried my hand at preserving lemons with Simran, I can report back that they are really easy to make. If you can sprinkle salt and squeeze a lemon, you too can be an artisan preserved lemon maker — although you will also need a bit of patience because they take 3-4 weeks to pickle.

Another thing that was cool about this recipe was the technique of using grated onion in the braising liquid, a totally new one for me. Grating the onions allows them to melt beautifully into the sauce, giving the sauce some body without chunkiness. Not only is this lovely on the palette, it’s a bonus for kids who don’t “things” floating around in their sauce :). My little guy loved, loved, loved this dish and took particular delight in stealing all the green olives, so I will be sure to add more next time!

Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives

adapted from The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert

  • 1 -2 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 Tablespoons saffron water (pinch of saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot water for 5-10 minutes)
  • 1 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/2  preserved lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley (or a combination of both)

Spice Mixture:

  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Make the spice mixture and rub under and over the skin of the chicken. Marinate overnight in a covered container.
  2. Add chicken to a large pot or skillet and top with grated onion, turmeric, saffron water, and 1/2 cup water.
  3. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes, turning chicken occasionally in the sauce.
  4. Add water if needed, and continue to cook uncovered for an additional 20 minutes over medium heat until the chicken is tender and beginning to fall off the bone.
  5. Remove chicken to a broiler safe baking dish and set aside. Then add the preserved lemon and olives to the sauce.  Taste and correct the seasoning as needed and keep sauce warm on the stove.
  6. Heat the broiler and broil chicken skin side up until browned (5-10 minutes).
  7. Arrange chicken on a platter and pour sauce over. Garnish with parsley/cilantro.

You might also like: Bar Jules Lamb with Preserved Lemons

Pickling Project: Preserved Lemons

Recently, Stacie and I got together to make some preserved lemons.  My friend Anya gave me a bunch of lemons from her lemon tree and our friend Rosie from 18 Reasons sent us instructions on how make preserved lemons.  We got carried away and made way more than we needed, so some our friends are going to have these sunny jars of yumminess coming their way.

Preserved lemons are a Middle Eastern/Moroccan condiment that are basically lemons that have been pickled in their own juices and salt.  Fun and easy to make, though you have to wait 3-4 weeks for them to be ready.  You can involve the kids by making them help with the squeezing of lemons, salting and periodic shaking of jars.  Stacie also had the wonderful of idea of getting the kids to make some labels for the jars.  It’s a neat and easy way to introduce children and yourself to pickling.  These lemons are usually pretty pricey to buy from specialty stores and making your own seems to be the way to go.  We also experimented with some limes and by adding spices and chilies to some jars.  Can’t wait for our preserved lemons to be ready for use!

Preserved Lemons from Simply Recipes


  • 8-10 Meyer lemons*, scrubbed very clean
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt, more if needed
  • Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed
  • Sterilized quart canning jar

* You don’t need to use Meyer lemons, regular lemons will do, it’s just that the milder Meyer lemons work very well for preserving in this way.


1. Place 2 Tbsp of salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar.

2.One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons, and cut 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwise, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but again, attached at the base.

3. Pry the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.

4. Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. Fill up the jar with lemons, make sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt.

5. Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.

6. To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.

7. Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

You can add spices to the lemons as well – cloves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, bay leaf.

Below are some recipes using preserved lemons.  Do share yours if you have any.

Lamb with Preserved Lemons – This is from Bar Jules in San Francisco.  We have made this for many a dinner party and it has been a hit.  Ria loves it too.

Vegetable & Whole Grain Salad with Preserved Lemons – from my friend Lena’s blog A Happier Meal (she has got some good stuff on her blog and some very lucky kids!)

Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemons – cannot wait to try this once our lemons are ready

Fettuccine with Preserved Lemons and Roasted Garlic – this one is right up Stacie’s alley

Sauteed String Beans with Preserved Lemons and Garlic – simple side dish

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons, Green Olives and Golden Raisins – intriguing!  I am also currently into using raisins in cooking.