Eating in Marrakech is an act of constant exploration. On every corner of the medina you can find street vendors stuffing msemmen flatbreads with onions and spices, cafes perched high above the street serving mint tea to stunning sunsets, and rambling historic residences transformed into the city’s finest restaurants. Even as visitors dig into the city’s twisting corridors to find its rarest dishes, Marrakech opens up ever wider, with more and more chefs proudly sharing their culinary heritage and bountiful local ingredients.
Marrakech’s cuisine developed at a crossroads of cultures. Tagines, found in nearly every Moroccan restaurant, descend from native Amazigh cooking traditions. Arabians brought spices, Spaniards brought olive oil, Jewish Moors contributed preserving techniques, and the French protectorate introduced cafes. Built on powerful ingredients like preserved lemons and smen (fermented, almost cheesy butter), dishes often feature paradoxical, sweet-savory combinations, like slow-cooked lamb with honey-soaked prunes and crunchy fried almonds, or phyllo pastry stuffed with chicken, onions, eggs, sugar, and ground almonds.
Historically, the city’s richest culinary traditions haven’t been easy for visitors to find. Moroccan restaurants became accustomed to serving tourists a repetitive handful of tagines and couscous dishes, while locals dined at home with family. But a new generation of Moroccan chefs are reversing that narrative, offering lesser-known foods from home, modern interpretations of classic dishes, and seasonal produce like green peas in spring, quince in fall, and pomegranates in winter. Diners are also exploring beyond the brash lights and noises of the tourist-packed Jemaa el Fna market, seeking out dishes like rfissa (chicken with lentils), beef with artichokes, or mechoui (roast sheep) all across town.
From mechoui stands so good they named a street after them to Italian pasta inside a beautiful Art eco villa to a professional training center for female cooks, here are the essential meals worth seeking out in Marrakech.
Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 100 dirham (Less than $10 USD)
$$ = 100 - 250 dirham ($10 - $26 USD)
$$$ = 250 dirham ($26 USD and up)
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Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki is a food and travel writer based in Marrakech, Morocco, where she owns a culinary tourism company in addition to her writing work.Read More