How to make Moroccan Msemmen: recipe and tutorial

If you are a beginner in this, let me tell you that I never made any of these when I was living with my parents since I didn't have to. I learned just about 3 years back.

It requires someone who understand the texture of a dough and a few tricks to get the lamination right, both comes with practice but I can ensure you, it's worth it. Once you get the hang of it, it will be as if you've done it all your life.

Medium-size Msemmen sold in the street in specific times of the day
(Morning for breakfast and at about 4 or 5 pm  for an early evening snack)

To me, a good msemmen or meloui is the one with a bit of yeast in its dough especially if one makes a large batch for freezing. They'll come wonderful after heating them again (use a pan or an oven but not a microwave). 

Small and medium-size plain Msemmens and one filled with khlii

Some like it crispy all the way through but then It won't last for hours and it's not as good when you heat them a second time. Should you want this, omit the yeast in the dough.

But when it comes to a Rghaif dough, especially baked, I prefer it without as this brings out a nice contrast of a think crispy crust and a soft inside.

It is important that you use fine semolina flour in the dough as well as during the lamination as it gives an authentic texture and help separating the layers while they puff.

Fine semolina flour, called la'hrech or finot in Morocco, is a bit yellowish with a slightly coarser texture as compared to the usual plain flour.

Left: fine semolina flour, Right: coarse semolina. Not the same.

This is a basic recipe for the dough and how to shape it. We do serve them plain and filled (more recipes to come).

A plate of msemmens (coupled, one inside the other 
then flattened before pan-frying)

You could use the same dough to make a version of Mlaouis.

I'm sending this to Susan's weekly even at yeastspotting

Serves 8 
Prep: 40 - Rest: 20 min- Cooking: 3 min/pancake

Main dough
  • 250 g of strong white bread flour
  • 250 g of fine semolina flour (not the coarse semolina)
  • 1/2 tsp of dried instant yeast (optional, see note)
  • 1 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 260-290 ml of water, lukewarm 
For shaping and laminating
  • 100 g of butter, at room temperature with a cream-like texture
  • 150 ml of vegetable oil
  • 200 g of fine semolina flour


Prepare the dough

In a small glass, mix the yeast with 3 tbsps of barely warm water. Stir.

In a bowl, place the flours, salt and yeast (each in one side). Add the water to 3/4 and start mixing either by hand or by machine.

The dough need to be thoroughly kneaded to become smooth and soft without being sticky. It takes about 20 minutes by hands and 10 minutes with a KitchenAid.

The achieve the desired dough texture, gradually add the other 1/4 of water according to the absorption of the flours used.

You could leave the dough, covered, to rest for 15 min (in cold weather) or skip this step if the weather is too warm.

Shape the dough balls

Oil your hands as well as the dough. Depending how big or small you want the Msemmens to be. Form smooth dough balls the size of a small apricot to the size of a large egg. At all times, you should keep the outer dough as well as the hands oiled.

The way how I will describe it might help you go through this step: try to push the dough between your thumb then try to strangle the dough from the top or what should look like a little head peeking.

Pull that bit of dough with your other hand to detach it from the main dough. Make sure to form a dough ball by smothering its bottom.

Place each dough ball on a generously oiled surface. We usually use a big tray where we place them all. Roll the dough balls in oil and cover with foil or a plastic. Set aside to rest for 15 min.

Clean a flat and smooth work surface and place the ingredients for laminating the Moroccan pancakes next to you. I suggest you also keep a kitchen roll handy.

Although Oil the worktop, flatten the dough very thinly with your hands. Make sure you flatten it to reach a large rectangular or square form (practice makes perfect). Sometimes we want it rather round-shaped but not for today. The dough is each to stretch when well kneaded so fixing the corners won't be a big deal.

It's important that you avoid tearing the dough while you flatten it and stretch in order to get a see-through thin layer.

After you flatten the dough ball with one set of fingers, you will need the other set to stretch it outwards; we go from the centre towards the edges  which should also be equally thin and see-through.

Keep your fingers as well as the work surface oiled at all times.

Shape Msemmen/Msimnates

In this shaping step, you should always remember these rules:
  • The thinner and even the first rectangle of dough is the better.
  • Always remember the rule of thirds (see below). 
  • After you shape a square of folded layers, you need to leave the dough to rest for at least 10 min. It helps getting on with the next flattening step.

The edges can be stretched with fingers to form a perfect tall rectangle where all layers are covering each others neatly.

1- Once the dough ball is flattened to a rectangle of thin and transparent layer, smear with a bit of butter and sprinkle with fine semolina flour. 

Visually divide this rectangle into 3 thirds from top to bottom and from right to left. Both surrounding thirds will have to be brought back to the third located in the centre. That's pretty much the logic of shaping a Msemmen square.

2- Bring the top third to the middle and fold it equally on it by stretching any edge. Bring the bottom third on top of the two and make sure it's covering the first 2 thirds.

3- Sprinkle with a bit of fine semolina flour and place a few dots of butter as well and bring the third bit of dough from the right into the middle then the left third to the middle to close the square.
5- Set aside for a few minutes, slightly oiled from the surface and covered with cling film.

6- To couple Msemmen (a standard msemmen is built with 2 msemmens actually, one inside the other), just place one msemmen slighly flattened in the middle of another see-through layer of dough and repeat the procedure. Set aside when you carry on with the rest of the dough.

A coupled Msemmen for a better texture

7- Flatten each formed square again so the layers become even thinner. Avoid tearing the dough or poking holes in the square of dough while giving it extra centimetres. If you are making a single Msemmen, you stop here for now.
Dotting a thin layer of dough to make Msemmen with agriche, a Fez favourite.
In this case, butter is not needed to laminate the dough
Single Msemmens with a non-yeasted dough

8- The Msemmen or R'ghaif squares are ready to be oil-fried (single Msemmen), baked (we do that when we stuff 3 or 6 msemmen inside each others) or pan-fried (single or coupled Msemmen).

9- Flip each Msemmen a couple of times from each side. They're better pan-fried over medium heat. Bring the heat down if the pan is too hot.

9- In some region, Msemmen gets somewhat crushed during the first couple of seconds between the hands to allow the steam coming out and keep the layers separated. I tried it and it was not a bad idea. But you can also do without especially if you have used the fine semolina flour during the lamination process.

Once you become expert, you can tackle the giant Msemmens as they're sold in our streets..

Approximately 50 cm large (or more) Msemmen in the street of Larache.
Left: plain Msemmen.Right: filled Msemmen

Always serve warm with a hot glass of tea.


1- Small msemmens the size of 10 cm or less do not need to be coupled or doubled.

2- After you have finished shaping a Msemmen square, make sure the work surface or your hands do not have a lot of semolina flour as this will disturb you while flattening the dough for the next one. This is where the kitchen roll comes in handy.

3- Msemmen or meloui with yeast in the dough is last longer. It's even freezer-friendlier than a non-yeasted dough verison. Some like the texture as well while others like the other version.


  1. These look delicious. I love Indian parathas so I am definitely pro laminated breads. Laminated semolina dough? Yes, please! I shall be keeping an eye out for fine semolina flour so that I can make these soon.

    1. Hi Claire. I want to bring your attention on the fact that semolina is not what's needed here. It's rather fine semolina flour, not the grits.Hopefully you can make them soon and let me know how they come out..


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