As the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Morocco, Casablanca has earned a reputation as a must-visit destination for gourmets. Culinary traditions from all over the world are represented here, from Japanese sushi restaurants to eateries specializing in Mexican, Indian, Italian, and French cuisine. To help you find food that is uniquely Moroccan, though, we've rounded up a list of dishes every visitor to Casablanca should try. Most of them are national delicacies, although Casablanca’s location on the Atlantic shore means that seafood variations are both popular and especially delicious.
Probably the single most famous dish in Morocco, tagine is a staple in every traditional Moroccan restaurant—and Casablanca is no exception. Tagines are prepared in cone-shaped clay pots (also called tagines) that help to retain moisture while the ingredients cook slowly over a low heat. This unique method guarantees unparalleled flavor and tenderness, while the addition of spices like turmeric, ginger, saffron, and cinnamon gives the stew a distinctly exotic taste. Tagines come in many different flavors, including lamb, chicken, and kefta (meatballs with fried egg). In Casablanca, fish tagines are a particular specialty and are best sampled at La Sqala.
Made from steamed balls of crushed semolina, couscous is a standard dish across Morocco. It is ubiquitous in Casablanca, where you will find it in every Moroccan restaurant, either as an accompaniment to a tagine or other stew, or as a complete entrée. Couscous on its own is quite bland, but Moroccan chefs know how to make each bite memorable with the addition of complex spices. Couscous tfaya, for instance, is a specialty prepared with caramelized onions and raisins. Some recipes require nuts, including seffa, a popular Moroccan dessert that combines couscous with butter, cinnamon, and almonds. Dar Zellij serves some of the best couscous in town.
Casablanca is famous for blending elements of French and Moroccan culture, but one of its most iconic dishes, pastilla, dates back to a time when Spain was the nation’s greatest European influence. Believed to be of Andalusian origin, pastilla (sometimes called bastilla, or b’stilla) is a kind of savory parcel made from sheets of paper-thin werqa dough. Traditionally the filling would have been made using pigeon meat, but nowadays chicken or fish are the most common varieties. The top of the pie is dusted with icing sugar, cinnamon, and nuts, giving it a delectable, contrasting sweetness. Le Cuisto Traditionnel stands out for its chicken pastilla.
No inland city in Morocco can match Casablanca for the freshness of its seafood. If you head to the port, you can watch fishermen unloading their catch yourself. Seafood restaurants in Casablanca serve everything from grilled and fried line fish to prawns, oysters, and lobster. A Moroccan specialty is fish chermoula, which is any kind of fish dish prepared with a traditional marinade of herbs and spices called chermoula. For the most authentic flavors, opt for a whole fish basted and grilled over hot coals. Oceanfront Le Cabestan is our top choice for seafood in Casablanca.
Another Moroccan staple worth trying in Casablanca is harira, a thick, flavorful soup named for the Arabic word meaning “silky.” Harira is typically associated with Ramadan, when it is served to break the fast come sunset. It’s also a perennial favorite with a permanent place on the menu of Moroccan restaurants across the city. Exact recipes and ingredients vary from chef to chef, but harira is usually packed with vegetables (including lentils, fava beans, and chickpeas), and stewed in a tomato and harissa broth. Herbs and spices ranging from caraway seeds to coriander give each version its unique hallmark, with the harira at Restaurant Imilchil being especially popular.
For the adventurous meat-eaters out there, kebda mchermla is a North African delicacy that delivers an unforgettable flavor punch. Typically served as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to a main dish, kebda mchermla is essentially lamb’s liver prepared with chermoula, the special herb and spice blend typically associated with seafood dishes. Other ingredients depend on the chef and your personal preference, but could include garlic, parsley, and chilli. If prepared correctly, the liver should be melt-in-the-mouth tender. Dar Filali, a beautiful Art Deco restaurant in the city center, has a reputation for exceptional kebda mchermla and should be your first port of call.
The Moroccan version of carb-loaded comfort food, rfissa is an addictive dish that consists of chicken and lentils served on a bed of shredded msemen, a dense local flatbread. Occasionally the msemen is substituted for trid pastry, meloui (a type of pancake), or day-old bread. Either way, the chicken and lentils are drenched in a rich broth that soaks deliciously into the starch, making for a truly satisfying meal. The broth is seasoned with a spice blend known as ras el hanout, as well as fenugreek seeds and saffron. The fenugreek makes rfissa a traditional dish for women post-childbirth, but you can sample yours with much less effort at Zayna.
Any Casablanca restaurant that specializes in traditional Moroccan food will likely offer zaalouk, a salad primarily made of grilled eggplant blended with cooked tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and coriander. Most zaalouk recipes call for paprika and cumin as well, giving the dish a distinct smoky flavor that makes it the ideal accompaniment to grilled meat and fish. If you’re in the mood for a snack rather than a full meal, order zaalouk with a side of msemen flatbread and use it as a delicious spread. Dar Filali, mentioned above as one of the best places in the city to try kebda mchermla, also serves a particularly tasty zaalouk salad.
Those with a sweet tooth will be pleased to hear that Morocco has its fair share of sugary specialties as well. Among our favorites is sfenj, Morocco’s version of a donut. These fritter-like pastries are made from unleavened, unsweetened dough, which is then twisted into a ring shape and deep fried. Just like an American donut, the outside of the sfenj is crispy and golden while the inside is pillow-soft and utterly addictive. After emerging from the oil, the sfenj is usually dusted with granulated or powdered sugar. They can also be sprinkled with cinnamon or soaked in honey, and are best eaten hot from street stalls like those in Casablanca’s Central Market.