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Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons, Moroccan Olives and Saffron-Raisin Quinoa

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons, Moroccan Olives and Saffron-Raisin Quinoa

A tagine is a Moroccan stew "featuring meat or poultry gently simmered with vegetables, olives, preserved lemons, garlic and spices like cumin, ginger, pepper, saffron and turmeric" according to The Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst. Usually tagines are served with coucous. 

I've been a fan of Moroccan cuisine since my first visit to Paris, nearly twenty-five years ago, when my host's daughter and her Algerian boyfriend took me on a culinary tour of North African eateries. Unfortunately, most tagines and couscous dishes present difficult challenges to people with type 2 diabetes. The problem: calorie and carb levels that can completely blow the numbers.

As usual, the solution is careful menu planning, cautious attention to recipes, and portion control, so I've been working to adapt favorite Moroccan recipes to a calorie-limited glucose-control diet without losing the flavor and satisfaction of this traditional cuisine. 

The main trick with this dish is the removal of the chicken skin, which means, of course, a big reduction of fat and therefore of calories. Portion control is the other trick...quinoa (which I routinely use in place of couscous because I like the taste and light feel in the mouth, and because it's higher in fiber than couscous) brings more or less the same calorie and carbohydrate load as couscous, so with both you need to be attentive to quantity: small variations can have big consequences in terms of calorie intake and blood glucose levels.  

At 256 calories per serving and 28 grams of carbohydrates, this delicious and flavorful dish can fit well into a weight- and glucose-controlled diet, as long as you make sure it's in balance with the rest of your diet for the day.

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons, Moroccan Olives and Saffron-Raisin Quinoa

Print recipe only.

Serves 4


  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken parts (legs, thighs or breasts), skin removed
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 preserved lemon (pulp and skin), about 4 ounces, rinse (see Note, below)
  • 1/4 cup pitted green Moroccan olives (about 12 olives)

For the quinoa:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/4 cup raisins or currants
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut in small dice
  • Parsley for garnish (optional)


1. Wash the chicken parts and dry thoroughly. Place the oil in a heavy Dutch oven or similar vessel over high heat and brown the chicken, about 8 minutes. Remove to a side plate.

2. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and lime juice to the Dutch oven. Toss to combine, then place the chicken parts on top of the onions. 

3. Separate the lemon pulp from the lemon skin. Chop the lemon pulp and scatter over the chicken. Cut the lemon skin into julienne slices and set aside. 

4 Add 1/2 cup water to the pot and simmer, partially covered, about 30 minutes. 

5. Meanwhile, make the quinoa: bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, add the quinoa, saffron and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about fifteen minutes. Stir in the raisins and diced carrot and allow to stand, covered, at least five minutes. 

To serve, place a 2/3-cup scoop of the quinoa mixture on each plate, then the chicken. Spoon sauce from the cooking pot over the chicken. Scatter on the preserved lemon pieces. Garnish the quinoa with parsley, if desired. 


Preserved lemons are essential to Moroccan cooking. They're available in specialty markets or you can easily make them yourself. There are several different methods but the one I like is attributed to Paula Wolfert on Epicurious: 24 ounces lemons(4 - 6, depending on size), scrubbed and cut into quarters, are sealed in a 6-cup capacity jar with 2/3 cup Kosher salt and 1 cup fresh lemon juice. This mixture is left to stand at room temperature for seven days. (Shake the jar each day to redistribute the contents.) Store the lemons in the preserving liquid in the refrigerator for up to six months. I usually rinse the lemon pieces before use to cut the saltiness a bit. 

Nutritional Estimate: 4 Servings. Per serving: 256 Calories; 28 g Total Carbs; 4 g Dietary Fiber; 4 g Sugars; 6 g Fat; 51 mg Cholesterol; 191 mg Sodium; 21 g Protein. Weight Watchers: 5 points.

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Great job make this an even healthier dish. Looks really delicious.


What does one do with the julienned lemon skin? The recipe is silent on this question.

Hi Festus...

Thanks for your visit and for taking the time to leave your question.

I'm sorry I wasn't more clear. I wrote: "To serve, place a 2/3-cup scoop of the quinoa mixture on each plate, then the chicken. Spoon sauce from the cooking pot over the chicken. Scatter on the preserved lemon pieces. Garnish the quinoa with parsley, if desired." ...It would have been more clear if I'd said "Scatter on the julienned preserved lemon skin."

I'll update it right away....

I appreciate your help in making the recipe better!

I am so glad I found your site through BlogHer as this dish sounds and looks amazing. I have been wanting to make a Tagine and will have to bookmark this recipe.

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