Moroccan stuffed chicken with spinach - roasted or steamed option

Steamed or roasted chicken recipes are one of the healthiest meal options in Moroccan cooking. You can combine both cooking methods by steaming the birds ahead of time then roast them for colour and texture in the last minutes or you can marinate them and roast them on time just before lunch or dinner. Then you can also serve leftovers in many ways (sandwich, salad...)

Steaming chicken or meat to make Moroccan m'bakhkhars keeps them moist and prevent them from drying. If you try out this method, I'm sure you will love it.

The same recipe is valid to make the roasted version and have the birds in the oven without going through the steaming method although sometimes we combine them both as explained many times in this post, in which case roasting is just to heat the birds and give them some colour and extra texture just before serving.

When we have family gathering, this recipe is one of the "must serve" for a lighter option in case anyone is on diet. More recipes and stuffing option on making this dish can be found here.

Before you marinate the chicken, you want to decide which colour you are going for. You could marinate the chicken with a red effect by adding more paprika to the chermoula (the mix of herbs and spices used) or with a yellow effect by adding turmeric which also will call for ginger. Both are a matter of choice.

After the chicken is cooked through and steamed properly, or you could either semi-roast it or serve it as it is. We like to semi-roast it for a nice golden colour just before serving.

Serving stuffed chicken with herbs with pickles all around
The liver, heart, gizzard are also added to the stuffing. They also get sauteed separately with a bit of seasoning before adding them to the rest. In Europe, I have to buy them separately and I tend to forget them..So I'm omitting them in the recipe considering how hard it is to get them here

Serves 10-12
Prep: 20 min - Cooking: 1 h
  • 3 medium-size chickens, prepared and brined according to this method
Marinade (chermoula), use pestle and mortar or a blender
  • 1 cup of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of harissa
  • 3 tbsp of sweet paprika 
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 2 tbps of olive oil
  • 3 tbsps of lemon juice
Stuffing: herbs and chermoula (depending on the cavities, extra can be served as a cold salad)
  • 1.5 - 2 kgs of spinach (frozen will do), you can mix with chard, purslane, mallow leaves..
  • 500 g of green or purple olives, chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped herbs (coriander and parsley)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin
  • 1-2 tbsp of harissa
  • 2 tbsps of sweet paprika
  • 1-2 preserved lemon, chopped
  • 5 tbsps of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Adding precooked rice or pre-soaked rice vermicelli to the herbs stuffing is a possible option 


Prepare the chickens

First of all, clean the chickens thoroughly and dip it in a brine for at least 3 hours (water, vinegar, salt and lemon).

Try to get rid of any fat between the skin and the meat (yep, those white spots, you will never find them in a chicken cooked Moroccan style). Be careful not to tear up the skin..

Wash the birds from the brine and pat-dry it, smear the cavities with the blended chermoula and also under the skin of each bird.  

Massage the chickens with chermoula rub. Tuck your fingers under the skin and make sure every bit of the flesh has been covered with that rub. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.

Make the stuffing

Again, make the chermoula by mixing to a paste the coriander, parsley, garlic, spices, oil and a couple of tablespoons of water if it's needed. Set aside.

Steam the chopped spinach (chard, purslane, mallow) in a couscoussier over hot boiling water (drop into that water some roughly chopped onions for more flavour) until they seem wilted. Don't worry about fitting all that pile inside the couscoussier as the herbs will release space as they steam so you can just add more progressively. Set aside to cool then squeeze out excess liquid.

In a saucepan or a frying pan, slightly saute the chermoula mix for a minute then stir in the chopped spinach and co.. Set aside.

Stuff the chicken's cavity from the bottom then from the neck to ensure it's properly filled. Seal it with a toothpick (this can be made a day ahead)

Cooking the chickens

Steam the chicken in the top part of the couscoussier over hot boiling water. Again you can chop in some onions for flavour. Cover the chickens to allow proper and even cooking. The birds should be ready after 45 to 60 min depending on the size.

Should you want to go for a full roast or partial roast, make sure to massage the birds with a bit of olive oil or butter (or smen) before placing them in a hot oven (200 degrees C). Roast all sides (rotate the bird every 15 min) leaving the breast at the end. Make sure it's all cooked through.

Accompanying vegetables

Steam the vegetables (whole new potatoes, sliced carrots, sliced turnips, sliced courgettes, green beans..) until cooked. Before serving, pass then in a pan with butter, cumin and salt for a couple of minutes. You could add chopped coriander or/and parsley. 

Optionally, you could roast the potatoes.

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