Morocco, Lemon and Chicken. Chances are, you have probably seen at least one recipe that has those 3 words. Moroccan Lemon Chicken is a dish that is beloved by lots of people, and until I left Morocco, I had no idea that it was so popular.
Truth is, there are many many ways to make this dish and just like most of Moroccan cuisine, every household has its spin on it.
I have previously published a lemon chicken Tagine recipe, which is a little different from this one. You can check out the difference right here.
What is Moroccan Lemon Chicken or Djaj Mqualli?
Djaj = Chicken
Mqualli = Roasted
Djaj Mqualli or Djaj Mhamer is a sort of rotisserie style chicken recipe, where the chicken is traditionally heavily seasoned with a Savoury Charmoula (Marinade) and braised in a pot until thoroughly cooked through.
Once your chicken is cooked through, you can either char it very quickly on the grill or under your oven broiler to crisp up that delicious chicken skin that we all love.
As far as the sauce goes, it is composed mainly of onions, olives, garlic, preserved lemons, coriander and of course chicken livers.
Yes, you’ve read it right, chicken livers. They are quite crucial to this dish, and even if you’re a liver hater, like my wife, you will find yourself shamelessly going for seconds … Just like my wife did.
The reason why chicken livers are crucial to this dish is pretty simple. They act as an emulsifier to the sauce and release an incredible flavour into it. Because liver tends to be a little bitter, it compliments perfectly the sweetness of the onions and lemons. Not to mention that due to the long cooking time of this dish, the chicken livers kind of partially melts away in the sauce which turns it into a pate like sauce.
It’s quite phenomenal.
This is by far my favourite Moroccan dish
I have a pretty strong connection with this dish, as it brings me back to my childhood almost immediately.
Like a lot of kids, I really hated school and I especially hated Mondays and Tuesdays. Those two days were almost always packed with awful classes, like Math and Biology. Not to mention that as a kid, I mostly despised the beginning of the week for being just that … the beginning of the school week.
The only silver lining I had was knowing that my mom always makes this delicious roasted chicken on either Monday or Tuesday.
And the best thing was, she didn’t just make it by itself, but she used to serve it to us with a side of homemade french fries.
For 12 years of school, this way my Monday/Tuesday lunch, and I always looked forward to going home for my lunch break to devour it. It always made things a little better for me, that and 30 minutes of gaming on my Playstation.
Good food and Playstation, my beacon of light.
Rotisserie Style Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Olives
- 2 kg Chicken thighs
- 3 large red onions
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 medium sized preserved lemon
- 200 g chicken livers
- 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp rass al hanout optional
Marinade & Chicken Rub
In a very large bowl, combine all ingredients for your Charmoula. Using a whisk, beat everything together until fully incorporated. Add your chicken thighs and using your hands make sure that you rub the Charmoula properly all over your chicken thighs. Cover and Place in the fridge to chill
Cooking Your Chicken
On a large chopping board, roughly chop your onions and garlic clove. Cut your preserved lemon in 4-6 pieces and using your fingers, remove the pulp, leaving only the skin of the lemons.
In a large nonstick pot, heat up your sunflower oil on medium heat and add your chopped onions, garlic, lemon and cilantro. Cook for about 2-3 minutes then add your chicken livers and cook for another 3-4 minutes while continuously stirring.
Add your marinated chicken thighs to the pot and lower the heat to medium-low. Cover and let your chicken thighs cook for 35-45 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on your pot just in case it dries it or starts to burn. The sound you should be hearing while your chicken is cooking is that of a simmer and not sizzle. If you hear sizzling noises add 1/4 cup of warm water to your pot to stop the onions from burning.
Once your chicken thighs are completely cooked, set your oven to broil and grab a nonstick baking sheet. Place your chicken thighs on the baking sheet and broil your chicken in the oven until the skin becomes golden brown. This should take 3-5 minutes, it all depends on your oven so keep an eye on it.
While the chicken is roasting, grab a wooden spoon and continue stir your sauce. You will notice that the livers have started to slightly break apart and thicken the sauce. Cook your sauce down until it gets slightly thicker and remove from the heat. Add your cup of pitted olives to the sauce while its hot and stir.
Serve your chicken on top of a ladle of sauce, topped with some olives and chicken livers. Enjoy
This is the best way to eat chicken!!! I made it for my kids and they all loved it!!! Thank youuu
Glad to hear that Abby!
Looks and sounds delicious! I want to try this, but olives don’t appear in the list of ingredients so would you kindly provide type and number of olives?
Hi! Thanks for pointing that out
A cup of olives I would say. But if you like olives you can put more.
Sorry for the delayed answer, your comment was flagged as spam for some reason.
Thank you for the reply! And now I must apologize for the delay in my reply to your reply…😉
Am I correct in assuming in Morocco saffron would be used in place of tumeric? Or not in this recipe?
Also, how would preparation differ if one were to use a tagine? (Or should I even use it for this dish? I have one 😊, but haven’t used it enough to develop the confidence to just make an equipment change without asking first).
I would not recommend using a Tagine for this recipe as it will just complicate it a little more for you.
As far as saffron goes, you can use both Turmeric and Saffron for this recipe. Just keep in mind that Turmeric has an earthy taste that you don’t get from Saffron.