Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A vegetable tajine dish as served in a London restaurant
Alternative namesTagine
TypeStew or casserole
Region or stateMaghreb
Associated cuisine

A tajine or tagine (Arabic: طاجين) is a North African dish, named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked.[1][2] It is also called maraq or marqa.


The Arabic طجين (ṭažin) is derived from Ancient Greek τάγηνον (tágēnon) 'frying-pan, saucepan'.[3][4] According to some sources, the origin of the word 'tajine' is Persian, pronounced "ته چین".[5]


According to Rebecca Jones, in the 1990s, the late Dr Vivien Swan identified pottery from various sites on Scotland's Antonine Wall, built by the Numidian governor of Roman Britain, Quintus Lollius Urbicus, of a North African style, one being a casserole dish that may have been a precursor to the modern tajine.[6][7] Fragments of tajines have also been identified among Numidian ceramics in modern-day Tunisia.[8]

According to some sources, the history of tagine dates back to the time of Harun al-Rashid, the fifth Abbasid Caliph.[9][10][11] The concept of cooking in a tajine appears in the famous One Thousand and One Nights, an Arabic-language story collection from the 9th century.[11]

Today, the cooking pot and its traditional broth are primarily prepared in the Middle East and North Africa. There are different ways to prepare the tajine. In the original qidra style, saman (clarified butter) is used to lubricate the surface and a puree of chopped onion is added for flavour and aroma. For muqawlli-style cooking, the ingredients are placed in olive oil to enrich the flavours.

According to the historian of Jewish food Gil Marks, the unique two-piece cooking vessel made from red clay called tajine originates from Morocco (Anti-Atlas Mountains).[12]

Étienne Villot recounts in his book Customs and Institutions of the Indigenous People of Algeria in 1888:

All indigenous women know how to make pottery, from humble cups to the immense kolla of the Kabyle Algerians. Clay pottery is very common in Algeria. Various colors, usually red, yellow, and black, are applied to the pottery pieces shaped by the women. These colors are fixed onto the clay using a varnish composed of pine resin and a little bit of olive oil. Kabyle women have great skill in these types of work.[13]

There are many descriptions of how to prepare a tajine from Arab scholars. A famous description is the one from ibn al-Adim (1192–1262):

Boil the meat and fry with fresh coriander, onions and hot spices and a little garlic. Then pick out the fennel hearts and cut in half. Put over the meat. Put back some of the broth on it along with sheep's tail. Boil until cooked and the broth has been absorbed. Remove [from the heat].

— Ibn al-Adim, Kitab Al Wuslah il Al-Habib fi wasf al tayyibat wa Al-Tib

Tajines have been in use for an extended period, persisting to the present day. In 1859, French explorer, geographer, archaeologist, librarian, and Maghreb expert Oscar Mac Carthy recounted encountering cooking tajines and pottery in the streets of Algeria. He described them as large hollow pots of various shapes.[14] Additionally, a Tunisian review from 1896 also references the presence of pottery and tajines in Tunisia.[15]

Algerian chicken and olive tajine


The traditional tajine pottery, sometimes painted or glazed, consists of two parts: a circular base unit that is flat with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to return all condensation to the bottom. That process can be improved by adding cold water into the specially designed well at the top of the lid.

Tajine is traditionally cooked over hot charcoal leaving an adequate space between the coals and the tajine pot to avoid having the temperature rise too quickly. Large bricks of charcoal are used, specifically for their ability to stay hot for hours. Other methods are to use a tajine in a slow oven or on a gas or electric stove top, on the lowest heat necessary to keep the stew simmering gently. A diffuser, a circular utensil placed between the tajine and the flame, is used to evenly distribute the stove's heat. European manufacturers have created tajines with heavy cast-iron bottoms that can be heated on a cooking stove to a high temperature, which permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking.

Tajine cooking may be replicated by using a slow cooker or similar item, but the result will be slightly different.[citation needed] Many ceramic tajines are decorative items as well as functional cooking vessels. Some tajines, however, are intended only to be used as decorative serving dishes.

Algerian and Moroccan tajine[edit]

Tajine with tomato, meatballs, and egg served boiling hot in Casablanca.

Algerian and Moroccan tajine dishes are slow-cooked stews, typically made with sliced meat, poultry or fish together with vegetables or fruit.[16][17][18] Spices, nuts, and dried fruits are also used. Common spices include ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and saffron. Paprika and chili are used in vegetable tajines. The sweet and sour combination is common in tajine dishes like lamb with prunes and spices. Tajines are generally served with bread. Because the domed or cone-shaped lid of the tajine pot traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, a minimal amount of water is needed to cook meats and vegetables. This method of cooking is important in areas where water supplies are limited or where public water is not yet available.[19]

Tunisian and Libyan tajine[edit]

Tunisian tajine

What Tunisians refer to as a "tajine" is very different from other forms of the dish.[20] Tunisian tajine is more like a French quiche while the Libyan is more similar to an Italian frittata or an eggah. First, a simple ragout is prepared, of meat cut into very small pieces, cooked with onions and spices, such as a blend of dried rose flower buds and ground cinnamon known as baharat or a robust combination of ground coriander and caraway seeds; this is called tabil.[21] Then something starchy is added to thicken the juices. Common thickeners include cannellini beans, chickpeas, breadcrumbs or cubed potatoes. When the meat is tender, it is combined with the ingredients which have been chosen to be the dominant flavouring. Examples include fresh parsley, dried mint, saffron, sun-dried tomatoes, cooked vegetables and stewed calves' brains. Next, the stew is enriched with cheese and eggs. Finally, this egg and stew are baked in a deep pie dish, either on the stove or in the oven until top and bottom are crisply cooked and the eggs are just set. When the tajine is ready, it is turned out onto a plate and sliced into squares, accompanied by wedges of lemon. Tunisian tajines can also be made with seafood or as a completely vegetarian dish.[citation needed]

In rural parts of Tunisia, home cooks place a shallow earthenware dish over olive-wood coals, fill it, cover it with a flat earthenware pan, and then pile hot coals on top. The resulting tajine is crusty on top and bottom, moist within and is infused with a subtle smoky fragrance.[citation needed]

Maghrebi Jewish tagine[edit]

Maghrebi Jews also eat and prepare tagine, owing to their historic presence in North Africa. Tagine is a very important dish in Sephardi cuisine, and is commonly eaten and prepared by Moroccan Jews, Algerian Jews, Tunisian Jews, Libyan Jews, Djerban Jews, and also by French Jews, Jewish Americans, and Israelis, due to the large population of Sephardim in those countries.[citation needed]

Tagine is a mainstay of Sephardic cuisine[22] commonly prepared for Shabbat dinners in the Sephardi community, and served with couscous. Sephardim from different regions prepare different styles of tagine, for instance Moroccan Jews often prepare tagine with dried fruits, while Tunisian Jews often prepare a vegetable tagine containing potatoes, carrots, and zucchini cut into large dice. Tagine is also commonly prepared for Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and the Yom Kippur break-fast.[23]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nedroma (Oran)". Magasin pittoresque (in French). Paris: Jouvet & cie. 1859. p. 182.
  2. ^ Uebersax, Mark A.; Siddiq, Muhammad, eds. (2012). Dry Beans and Pulses: Production, Processing and Nutrition. John Wiley & Sons. p. 516. ISBN 978-1-118-44828-1.
  3. ^ Albala, Ken (2011). Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Greenwood. p. 234. ISBN 978-0313376269. The Arabic word ṭažin is derived from the Greek teganon, meaning "frying pan".
  4. ^ τάγηνον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  5. ^ "الطاجين المغربي يقاوم التشويه". BBC Arabic. 31 May 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
  6. ^ Africans on the Antonine Wall? Rebecca Jones Historic Environment Scotland
  7. ^ Jones, Rebecca H. (2021). "What Divides Us Also Connects Us: Roman Frontiers, World Heritage and Community". The Historic Environment: Policy & Practice. 12 (2): 120–145. doi:10.1080/17567505.2021.1916703. S2CID 236625898.
  8. ^ Ben Moussa, Moncef, Joan Ramon, Víctor Revilla Calvo, Joan (Sanmartí i Grego) Sanmartí, Maria Carme Belarte Franco, Chokri Touihri, Imed Ben Jarbania, and Sami Ben Tahar. Catalogue Du Mobilier Archived 2022-07-17 at the Wayback Machine. 2011. Consorci de Biblioteques Universitàries de Catalunya, Centre de Serveis Científics i Acadèmics de Catalunya.
  9. ^ Roden, Claudia (2008-12-24). The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307558565.
  10. ^ "Tagine in heartwarming spoonfuls". english.alarabiya.net. Al Arabiya Newsdate=22 April 2011. 22 April 2011. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  11. ^ a b Snodgrass, Mary Ellen (2004-12-29). Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Routledge. ISBN 1135455716.
  12. ^ Marks, Gil (2010-11-17). Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. HMH. ISBN 978-0-544-18631-6.
  13. ^ Villot, E. (1888). Moeurs, coutumes et institutions des indigènes de l'Algérie (in French). Jourdan.
  14. ^ MACCARTHY, Oscar (1859). Notes et notices algériennes [Algerian notes and notices] (in French). Bastide. p. 37.
  15. ^ Revue tunisienne (in French). 1896.
  16. ^ Lucy M. Long (17 July 2015). Ethnic American Food Today: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 24–27. ISBN 978-1-4422-2731-6.
  17. ^ Sari Edelstein (2011). Food, Cuisine, and Cultural Competency for Culinary, Hospitality, and Nutrition Professionals. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 344. ISBN 978-0-7637-5965-0.
  18. ^ "The Art of Moroccan Cuisine". fescooking.com. 10 October 2007.
  19. ^ "How to Use a Moroccan Tagine: Origins, Culinary Uses, and 7 Tagine Recipe Ideas". Retrieved 2 July 2022.
  20. ^ Paula Wolfert. "Recipe for Tunisian Tajine". Retrieved 2014-07-21.
  21. ^ Nancy Harmon Jenkins. "Divine Secrets of the Mahjoub Sisterhood". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  22. ^ "Seven Sephardic Foods that won't make buzzfeed gag". The Forward. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  23. ^ "You're Doing it Wrong: Tagine". Slate. Archived from the original on 18 October 2019. Retrieved 18 October 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]