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Tajine and Couscous Don’t Go Together!

Tajine and Couscous Don’t Go Together!

Tajines do not go over couscous!  

I haven’t been able to pinpoint why this irks me but I am constantly seeing American and other Western chefs guilty of pairing couscous with tajine.  Now you all know I am one for innovation, adding something new and so if that’s what the dish is all about, rock on.

But, at least from what I’ve seen they are trying to pass this off as the authentic way to do things.  This might be the case in other Maghreb countries but I’ve never seen this in Morocco.  I’ve been living in Morocco for 7 years now (and married to a Moroccan for 15) and trust me, couscous + tajine is just for tourists.

Tajine over couscous is not traditional.

It’s unheard of!

So let’s discuss.

Tajine (or tagine)

This word has multiple meanings.  First it’s the conical shaped cooking vessel that a meal is prepared it.  The food cooked inside is also called a tajine.  It can be any number of things but usually is some kind of meat and vegetables, slow cooked and seasoned.  

Savory and sweet flavors are often combined and you’ll see beef and prunes, chicken and olives, beef and tomatoes and many other combinations depending on where in the country you are.

Tajine is eaten with bread. It’s not eaten with a fork and knife and it’s not served with something on the side – save for perhaps salads. No couscous, no rice.

CouscousMost people recognize couscous immediately as a Moroccan food.  This traditional dish is made from semolina (the same flour used to make pasta) and is rolled into very small balls. In fact that’s what it is – small pasta grains. To prepare this dish a couscousiere is used.

A couscousiere has two parts, the top has small holes to allow for steam to vent, and the bottom acts like a regular pot.  The couscous is cooked by steaming in the top and the meat and/or vegetables and broth are cooked in the bottom.  The couscous is steamed three times and the vegetables and meat cooked until very tender.

To serve the couscous is heaped onto a large serving plate and then the contents of the pot arranged around the top of the couscous.  Some of the sauce is poured on top as well.  Generally small bowls with extra broth are present on the table for individuals to add as desired.

Corn Couscous with Vegetables

If you do want some couscous recipes than head over to this page where I have all of my couscous recipes in one place.

This is a couscousiere – a steaming pan used to cook the couscous and vegetables and/or meat together.

This is the end of my rant!  There’s no reason you can’t put a tajine on top of couscous or serve it with couscous, it’s just not traditional. When you’re visiting Morocco don’t expect a side of couscous!


If you’re interested in trying another couscous recipe I’ve got a page for that! Find more recipes as well as how to prepare it the Moroccan way.

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Tuesday 28th of April 2020

Thank you! Finally it has been said, Tagine & couscous do not belong together on one plate (not even on one table). I often cook using different cultural foods on one plate and I am all for mixing & matching. But somehow with tagine and couscous it annoys me when people do so. Without going into historical migrations and settlements, we can pretty much say that the tagine is a berber dish, and couscous is an arab dish. They are two completely different and separate dishes. It is like putting an indian curry on top of Italian pasta ;) Cheers! Nicole


Saturday 5th of January 2019

I think there is a simple reason why tajine over couscous doesn't feel right: It's the sauce - tajine doesn't have enough liquid while the sauces for couscous do. My moroccan friends always said that couscous has to swim, which is impossible in a properly cooked tajine with its creamy sauce.

Amanda Mouttaki

Friday 11th of January 2019

That's part of it but also it's just two separate dishes. :)

Emily Boone

Sunday 9th of April 2017

Where is your favorite restaurant to enjoy couscous in Marrakech?

Amanda Mouttaki

Friday 14th of April 2017

The Amal Women's Center on Friday's has good couscous - pretty traditional!


Sunday 20th of November 2011

Yeah - at last! We sell tagines in Melbourne, Australia and keep telling people that tagines are not for cooking couscous.

The other thing that really gets me are tagine recipes that say they use tagines and they add heaps of water or stock. There's no way you can add the amounts indicated without the tagine overflowing.

And while we're on tagines, I recently saw an 'electric tagine' in a cookware store here in Melbourne. Made in China. I had a good chuckle.


Tuesday 22nd of November 2011

Oh boy loads of water or stock is going to ruin a good tajine! The meat and vegetables give off enough that only a little liquid is needed. Interesting an electric tajine huh? I just got an electric pressure cooker and am curious how that would work out...


Friday 18th of November 2011

I agree 100%...its just not right! I also feel the same way when people try to add all kinds of flavors to hummos or make it using other beans. That's fine, but then don't call it hummos!

BTW - do you like the Mina Harissa? I know I could make some if I really wanted to, but I am looking for a good jar that I can keep in the pantry. The only canned kind I canned kind I can find is just so-so.


Tuesday 22nd of November 2011

Yes I think you would like Mina - did you see my review of it? It's a little different texture than what I get in Morocco - thinner but good!

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