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What Is Chermoula?

By Kathy Dowling
Updated May 16, 2024
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Chermoula, also known as charmoula, originated from different countries in Africa, including Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. It is a marinade that is used in many dishes, and, while popular to flavor vegetables and meat, it is particularly used to marinate seafood and fish. Like most marinades, chermoula is made by combining herbs and spices that are fresh in flavor and fragrance. Chermoula is the basis for many dishes and is generally made using pepper, salt, and parsley, as well as paprika, and cumin. It is used in different Moroccan cuisine, including fish tagine mqualli and baked fish tagine.

Made in different countries throughout Africa, chermoula recipes vary, though the result is usually quite similar. Generally, chermoula includes coriander, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs. It also includes onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. The marinade is made by combining all ingredients, except the olive oil and lemon juice, which are mixed in gradually until a thick paste is formed that is used to coat meat or fish prior to cooking.

Two popular Moroccan dishes that use chermoula are fish tangine mqualli and baked fish tagine. Tagine is a typical Moroccan dish that gets its name from the pot in which it is cooked. Generally cooked slowly at a low temperature, tagines are stews that use dry and moist heat in a process called braising. When meat is braised, it is first cooked at a high temperature until it is sealed, and is then placed in a liquid where it gently cooks at a low temperature. Not only is chermoula used as dressing, but it is also used in Moroccan cuisine as a stuffing, with one example being fried sardines stuffed with chermoula.

Marinades are used to season food and often come in the form of a liquid or paste. Seasoned with different ingredients, main foods such as meat are coated or soaked in a marinade prior to cooking, infusing it with flavor. Meat can be soaked in a marinade for a short period of time or over several days depending on the level of flavor needed for a dish. Generally requiring an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice, marinades make meat tender, and allow it to absorb the flavors. Too much acidity, however, may actually toughen the meat.

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