A Guide to Moroccan Olives

Updated on September 10, 2018
AHG maghribia profile image

Sampling olives and collecting olive recipes is a big part of my life in Morocco. After three years, I have learned quite a bit.

Olive variety in Morocco

The olive options in Morocco are endless. They range from spicy to sour. Never eaten plain, they are always cooked with tajine or chucked into a broth. Shopkeepers proudly display their products in enormous tubs and eagerly offer samples to those who ask.

Olives in a Moroccan shop
Olives in a Moroccan shop

Types of olives

Name
Description
Lemon cured olives
Lemon juice is used to brine the olives and give them a citrus taste.
Green olives
Basic, mild green olives.
Harissa olives
Olives are mixed with harissa and fresh herbs. Pickled carrots and turnip are placed on top.
Black olives
Basic, mild black olives.

Harissa and preserved lemons

Two of the olive types mentioned in the table above are made with ingredients that may be unfamiliar to some in the West.

  • Harissa - Harissa is a paste made from paprika, garlic, olive oil, and smoked chili peppers. The condiment is used in Northern African cuisine. There are variations according to each country. Tunisian harissa contains dried onion and caraway. Other recipes include cumin and turmeric. You can scoop some harissa onto your schwarma or tacos. I like adding it to chilies and stews. Lentils and white beans also pair well with the spicy condiment. Give your hummus a touch of heat with a dab of harissa. The health benefits are vast. Harissa is full of vitamins C, E, B6, and K.
  • Preserved lemons - Lemons that have been sitting in salt water for at least a month. Another staple in Moroccan cooking, preserved lemons add a pleasant tang to any dish. You can throw them into a chicken tajine. Lentils are delicious with some preserved lemon pulp.

In Azrou, a small town south of Fez, a shopkeeper shows an impressive display of olives. Preserved lemons in jars are placed around the olive basins.
In Azrou, a small town south of Fez, a shopkeeper shows an impressive display of olives. Preserved lemons in jars are placed around the olive basins.
Lemon-cured olives.
Lemon-cured olives.

A simple Moroccan recipe with olives

Lamb goes well with basic green olives. This tajine recipe incorporates fluffy potatoes and slightly sweet carrots into a satisfying traditional Moroccan dish.

Lamb and vegetable tajine

What is a tajine? A tajine is a ceramic or metal dish. The bottom is shaped like a plate and the top is a cone. When you cook with a tajine, the top stays on and traps the steam in. This keeps the meat tender and the vegetables moist.

  • Time: 30 minutes prep work. 1 1/2 hours cook time.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Makes: enough for 3 people

Ingredients

  • 4 onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 potatoes
  • handful of green olives
  • 4 pieces of medium-sized lamb
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Steps

1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into rounds. Peel the carrots and cut them into sticks.

2. Chop an onion and the garlic. Saute with turmeric, cumin, salt, pepper, and paprika.

3. When the onions are translucent, add the meat and brown it.

4. Remove the meat and place sliced onions on top of the chopped onions. You want the onions to be in rounds.

5. Put the meat in the center of the tajine.

6. Place the carrots and potatoes around the meat. Create a tepee formation.

7. Add the olives.

8. Cover and let the tajine simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Check it after 45 minutes. If you need to add more liquid pour some water or olive oil in. Be sure to taste as you go. Add more spices if you think the tajine needs more flavor.

Where can I find olives?

Search in the Moroccan market for olives. There are shops that specialize in only olives. They carry harissa, preserved lemons, mini pickles, and all the olive varieties you could want. Living outside of Morocco? Head to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Preserved lemons from Tunisia can be found on the shelves.

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