Like Italy, Morocco is a destination known for its cuisine but also known just as well for its tourist traps. While I agree that there is no such thing as bad gelato, there is such a thing as badly cooked meat and a poorly flavoured tagine and so I went on my trip to Marrakech with a bit of trepidation.
I knew the food was supposed to be outstanding, but what if I didn’t find it?
I needed have worried. Much of the food in Marrkech is absolutely top notch, and with a bit of forward planning and research it was easy to find some of the best foodie spots. I’ve put together my list of what and where to eat and drink whilst in Marrakech so you get to experience the gastronomic highs of the city!
Traditional foods in Marrakech
Like many bustling cities, you can get any sort of food you like in Marrakech (and I was partial to a cheeky cheeseburger for lunch one day), but which a local cuisine this tasty, it’s worth eating your way around the traditional dishes. I’d recommend trying all of these if you can!
The tagine is probably the thing you most associate with this part of the world (apart of course from cous cous), and you’ve probably tried making it at home too. It’s a totally different experience in Marrakech (or indeed anywhere in Morocco). Full flavoured, with soft, butter-like meat in amongst the zesty spices, it doesn’t get better than this. To make it, range of vegetables and meats are slow-cooked in a clay pot which gives the dish its’s name – the tagine.
I enjoyed a gorgeous mix of chicken with preserved lemons and olives, and lamb with prunes on my trip. All of it was faultless!
The tanjia is a dish that is specific to Marrakech, and is often prepared in the home by men and then shared with neighbours. Luckily for you, you can find tanjia in many places in Marrakech, especially in the restaurants in and around the back of the souks that are often serving workers and merchants.
The tanjia is prepared with beef, lamb, or chicken, a blend of spices and preserved lemon (this is huge in Morocco), and then roasted in the pot (which is called the tanjia) for up to 8 hours. It’s then served in a tagine pot, where all the lovely juices can flow out and be tasted.
In Marrakech, cous cous is more than just a side dish – it’s also the main event. Mounds of the grain are cooked with meat and vegetables to produce an incredibly tasty and very hearty meal. The cous cous is actually steamed over the mix of meat and veg which gives everything a succulent texture that is hard to replicate at home.
I had mounds of cous cous with spiced chicken and colourful veg during my trip to the Atlas Mountains. It really hit the spot.
The humble kebab
This is no 2am doner kebab drive by after a mad night out, so typical of the British city-centre high street. Moroccans love their grilled meat, and you’ll find flavoursome kebabs everywhere from street food stands to restaurants in every type of meat. Depending on where you eat it, it might be served with salad, chips or all alone, but definitely don’t miss the Marrakech speciality of Mergeuz sausages on the grill!
The briouate is a simple puff pasty dish which is a big part of Moroccan cuisine. They are filled with mixed meats or cheese (and can we sweet too) and come in either a cylindrical or triangular shape. They are super tasty and very filling, and we often found these on the menu for a starter.
There were a few other dishes from the wider region such as the Tunisian brik – a deep fried pastry dish often filled with egg, the Moroccan pigeon pie or pastilla and the traditional harira soup. In other words, there are loads of options to keep you going.
Traditional drinks in Marrakech
Perhaps there are not so many traditional drinks as there are foods in Morocco, but you should get on board with all of the below because you’ll see them everywhere in Marrakech. Added to this list I also found the coffee to be very very good, so if you need to start your day with a strong one, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
So it isn’t exactly traditional given that Morocco is a largely muslim country, but given that Marrakech caters for huge numbers of tourists every year, alcohol is widely available. Casablanca is the local, and most widely available beer and it’s pretty good. Lager strength, not expensive and very refreshing after a heavy afternoon shopping in the souks.
I imagine that you mostly associate mint tea with drinks in Morocco, and you’d be correct. Forget everything you know about mint tea however, because in Morocco, it’s a ritual. There are certain tools for the job, including the Moroccan teapot, (or berrad) which has a perfect shape for the long pour you need to serve. Moroccan tea glasses tend to be small and colourful, without handles as well.
So on to the tea. It’s prepared with fresh mint leaves, Chinese gunpowder tea and plenty of sugar – Moroccan tea is always served with sugar brewed in it so it might taste very different to the mint tea you have at home! Loose tea leaves and water are placed into the berrad and brought to boil, after which the mint leaves and sugar are added and left to steep for 5 minutes.
To serve? Well it is back to that long pour, where the pot is held high above the tea glass and poured with perfect precision. There are a few theories as to why this is, including that it creates a foam at the top of the glass which means the tea is good. Either way it is a fascinating ritual to be a part of – I had tea at a traditional Berber house in the Atlas Mountains and it was fascinating!
Orange or pomegranate juice
Sure, you can get these from anywhere, but do they taste as good as in Marrakech? Maybe not. You’ll see scores of stands making and selling freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice in the Jemaa al-Fnaa and both the smell and the riot of colour will draw you in. It’s very good and cheap too.
And bear in mind, the Pomegranate juice is really only available from November to January, so take advantage if travel during this time!
Freshly made almond milk (or variants of like date and almond) is around everywhere, but can be particularly found in patisseries. In fact dates are almonds are hugely important (and very good) in Morocco, and so much cheaper and juicier than we find in the UK. So, whilst in Marrakech, definitely try the almond milk!
Traditional spices in Marrakech
There are a number of spices that you’ll com across on menus whilst in Marrakech, so hopefully this quick run down helps you understand better what you are eating. And side note? If you enjoy them, buy some to bring home because the quality and price will be so much better. I brought home stacks of ras el hanout and saffron for buttons and I’m so pleased with my purchases.
- Saffron – I had no idea that this spice was Moroccan, but it hails from the Taliouine region and is known as the most expensive spice in the world. It’s much cheaper in Marrakech than back home though, so it’s worth making the most of it.
- Ras el hanout – a famous Moroccan spice blend which will vary in mix from vendor to vendor – so be sure to try them all!
- Argan oil – probably one of the most expensive oils in the UK, but as it is a special Moroccan oil it’s much cheaper there. I had no idea you could cook with it too, so pick up some cooking grade oil for your kitchen.
- Amlou – a peanut butter like paste made from argan oil, honey and almonds. It is insanely gorgeous and you’ll be ruined for nut butters forever.
- Harissa – a hot paste made from chilli and other spices it is fragrant and super spicy. If the menu says the dish contains harissa, have the beer handy!
- Preserved lemons – I mentioned above that they are in many dishes, especially tagines. They are pretty tasty, and you can definitely make them at home too!
Where to eat and drink in Marrakech
Marrakech is truly a riot for the tastebuds, and I personally have found it hard to find decent authentic Moroccan cuisine in London (hit me up with your recommendations though), so dining out in Marrakech was a total dream. I did my research carefully first, but as it turns out there are lots of great options for really authentic Moroccan food.
A big tip from me though is to avoid places to eat (and the street food market) in Jemaa al-Fnaa, because whilst you may not get an upset stomach, the food won’t be of the highest quality. If you are determined to experience the street food stands, look for those at which locals, not just tourists are eating and make sure you only receive what you order – unwanted add ons that then end up on your bill are common.
Located in the heart of the souks (but don’t worry, if you look up you’ll find plenty of signage to help you find it), Nomad is modern take on Moroccan cuisine and a total hidden gem. All your favourites like tagine and cous cous are on there alongside other North African dishes, and an experimental ice cream and sorbet menu will have you salivating.
We had the courgette and feta fritters and the Tunisian brik to start and a mix of gorgeous, succulent tagines and kebabs for main. My mum ordered the Nomad Burger which was probably the food highlight of the whole trip with a super tasty harissa mayonnaise that I’m still trying to recreate at home.
It’s a casual affair here, and they have an incredible roof terrace which we sadly couldn’t sit out on as we were unlucky to get some rain! I’d recommend booking a table via their website as they get really busy.
An Italian – Moroccan hybrid isn’t necessarily what you’d expect to find, but because of the mediterranean influences on Moroccan cuisine it really works. Pepe Nero have got a Moroccan and Italian menu, so you can mix and match from both, which we did – I enjoyed and Italian starter and dessert and a tasty chicken tagine for main course.
My whole family completely raved about the chocolate pudding, but for me the real standout was the restaurant itself. I don’t know if it is based inside an old riad, but we were sat inside a beautiful tiled courtyard and the whole ambience felt really special. Again the restaurant is packed out and I’d suggest emailing in advance for a table. They are really friendly!
A slightly more rustic affair located at the back of the souks you’ll find all types of traditional Moroccan cuisine, including the tanjia which is very specific to Marrakech. It also has a rooftop terrace to escape the mayhem of the souks and it’s really cheap.
The Moroccan Restaurant, Les Jardins de la Koutoubia
You’ll find great restaurants in many of the upmarket hotels inside the medina walls, and we were very lucky that ours played host to three! Whilst there is the highly recommended Les Jardins de Bala, a rooftop restaurant serving Indian and Asian food, we opted for The Moroccan Restaurant on the ground floor for some really filling and tasty grub.
First thing to say is that portions are HUGE! We didn’t have room for dessert after stuffing ourselves silly with a plate each of the briouates which were warm and flaky and very aromatic. We were treated to a little belly dancing too, and overall had a really fun first night in Marrakech.
The Piano Bar, Les Jardins de la Koutoubia Hotel
How lucky for us that one of the most recommended bars in Marrakech was also right in our hotel! A cosy little place with a nightly live pianist accompanies some of your favourite cocktails and the local beer, Casablanca. They did one of the best espresso martinis I’ve ever had, and the Koutoubia cocktail was delicious – but absolutely lethal.
Every drinks order came with a round of crisps/nuts/olives and on warm, balmy nights you can sit outside and watch the starlight over the pool. Plus, you hear live piano versions of Barry Manilow. What is not to like?
Grand Balcon du Café Glacier
This Jemaa al-Fnaa cafe was a great place to watch the madness of the snake charmers, drummers and acrobats whilst sipping on a traditional mint tea or coffee. It’s an excellent spot for sunrise too, and you could happily see the Koutoubia Mosque from the balcony.
Kasbah Cafe and Kosybar in the heart of Marrakech’s coolest neighbourhood Kasbah, Pattisserie des Princes located close to the Jemaa al-Fnaa and Lattitude31.
We are already planning our return trip to Marrakech in February 2019 so I’d love to know if you have any foodie recommendations for me! Let me know in the comments below!
ENJOYED THIS POST? PLEASE PIN IT!