North African Cuisine: Spotlight on Morocco

Can you say shakshuka? Extra points if you’ve tried or you know what it is. Visit any trend worthy breakfast spot worth its $5 cup of coffee and guaranteed shakshuka is on the menu. And if you’ve tried shakshuka, you’ve eaten a dish associated with Moroccan and North African cuisine, and chances are, you loved it. Shakshuka represents everything amazing about this cuisine all at once: earthy, homey yet simply elegant. Whole eggs are baked or simmered in a bath of a cumin and paprika tomato sauce topped with feta and cilantro and eaten with bread. By the way, shakshuka happens to be one of the biggest North African food trends right now next to harissa; we don’t think it a coincidence that each dish carries bold, ethnic flavors that consumers currently crave.

Why Moroccan?

  • Pinterest reports that saves for pins tagged “Moroccan” are up 2579%.
  • Whole Foods is calling 2018 the year that foods from the Middle East take over as consumers’ appetites have been teased and educated with hummus and falafel.1
  • Chefs predict that African flavors are 69% more likely to appear on U.S. menus in 2018 with peers like Marcus Samuelsson highlighting his nation’s flavors into his Top Chef dishes2

A Primer: the staples of Moroccan cuisine

Ingredients / Spices:

Cumin, coriander, cardamom, za’atar, cinnamon, tahini, mint, ginger, turmeric, saffron threads and nutmeg

ras el hanout – a spice blend that varies from family to family that can contain anywhere from 10-100 spices


chorba – clear soup with meat or poultry and pulses/grains

tagine – a rich stew traditionally with a base of chicken, fish, lamb or beef cooked in a “tagine” (a stoneware, conical-shaped vessel that sits on a dish).

pastilla – a classic wedding dish usually served as the second course, pastilla is a sweet and savory pie. The outside is sheets of warka (a paper-thin lemon flavored phyllo-like dough) filled with pigeon, roasted almond, sugar, cinnamon and eggs.

chermoula – a marinade and relish usually for fish or seafood that includes garlic, cumin, coriander oil, lemon and salt

mechoui – a method as well as a dish where a whole sheep or lamb is roasted on a spit

maakouda – Moroccan tater tots that blend mashed potatoes with spices like garlic, cilantro, onions and cumin, are coated in a seasoned batter and are deep fried until golden.

couscous – traditionally steamed three times over a simmering broth, couscous is then tossed with vegetables like carrots, potatoes or turnips plain or with raisins and herbs

Spotted and Seen

Snacks: Baked in Brooklyn Pita Chips is sporting a Hot Moroccan Spice flavor as is Enjoy Life Foods with their Plentils lentil chips.

Condiments: Harissa, a traditional Moroccan hot sauce typically made with chili peppers, red peppers, and garlic,  is making its way into condiments like Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters harissa cashew nut butter and Chosen Foods avocado harissa mayo. Mina, a mother and son brand launched with a family recipe for harissa that has become a pioneer for Moroccan dishes.

Beverages: Silk Road Soda’s “eastern inspired, western desired herbal sodas have Moroccan accents of mint blended with flavors like pomegranate and cucumber for a refreshing refresher. For a more traditional beverage, mint tea is most popular and made by steeping green tea with mint leaves.

Dining Out:

NYC newcomer, Celestine has a menu dedicated to all things Mediterranean and a Sunday brunch with several Moroccan call-outs, most notably the feta, cilantro and Swiss chard shakshuka and Moroccan-spiced doughnuts featuring cinnamon and a clover syrup.

If you find yourself lucky enough to visit the city of Fez in Morocco, you can try a camel burger. Camel meat is a delicacy that is slowly gaining entry to restaurant menus. In Fez, Cafe Clock makes a camel burger that looks to be one you’d find in any local American restaurant. Dried rose petals are used to round out the cilantro, mint, cumin and paprika, and add a floral flavor and an aphrodisiac element.

Hungry for a taste of Morocco? Check out this shakshuka recipe that will get your family out of bed and inspire some formulation magic.