Chicken Djaj M'Kalli

James Beard

Author and Educator

Start this Moroccan chicken dish the night before you plan to serve it. It’s even more delicious after the flavors have had a chance to meld.


  • Three 3-pound chickens
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 3 large onions, grated on the large holes of a box grater or food processor
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups soft ripe olives
  • 1 preserved lemon, sliced


Remove all the fat from the chickens and rub them well with salt and 3 chopped garlic cloves. Let stand for 1 hour. Wipe off the salt. Rub chickens with a mixture of vegetable oil, ground ginger, turmeric, pepper, and saffron. Place them in a large bowl with any remaining oil mixture, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day put the chickens in a very large pot with onions, butter, remaining chopped garlic cloves, water, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until the chickens are tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove chickens and rapidly boil down liquid to a thick rich sauce, stirring often. Add olives and preserved lemon. Carve chickens and return to simmering sauce to reheat. Serve over steamed couscous.


8 to 10 servings