Moroccan Fish Mqualli Tagine with Argan Oil

Fish Mqualli tagine is a delicious classic Moroccan recipe with potatoes, tomatoes and capsicum.

Traditionally, the ingredients are layered in a tagine or deep skillet, and then cooked over a fire or on the stove. In the north of Morocco (where Hind’s dad is from), fish stews such as this one is prepared in a tagra; round or oval clay casseroles similar to tagines, but without the conical top. But don’t worry, it is just as tasty when cooked in a regular skillet!


Fish mqualli tagine with argan oil, naturally gluten free and dairy free


Mqualli is a term which refers to sauces made with ginger, saffron and oil. Here, however, the additional zesty flavour comes from fresh or preserved lemons, olives and a Moroccan marinade called chermoula.

Any firm, thick fish can be used, filleted or whole. Swordfish, dorado, large whole whiting and sea bass are great choices. We think the Aussie barramundi would also be wonderful with this recipe!

You can make many alternatives with this, choosing to add prawns, capsicum and olives or leaving them out. You will see a great difference in the two photos, but both are Fish Mqualli! 


Fish mqualli tagine with prawns and argan oil, naturally gluten free and dairy free


Time to make marinade: 5 mins
Time to soak marinated fish: 15-60 mins
Tagine preparation time: 30 mins
Tagine cooking time: 2 hours

Serves: 4-6 people.

Gluten free and dairy free!


Tagine Ingredients:

  • 1 kg firm fish
  • 1 batch chermoula marinade (see below for ingredients and instructions)
  • 2 capsicum (any colour)
  • 1/3 cup argan oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into rings (optional)
  • 1 carrot or celery stalk (cut into thin sticks)
  • 2 large potatoes (cut into thin slices)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes (seeded and cut into thin slices)
  • 1 fresh lemon (cut into thin slices) or 1 preserved lemon (quartered)
  • A handful of red olives
  • A handful of prawns (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)



Initial Prep:

  1. Make the chermoula marinade.
  2. Reserve and refrigerate half of the chermoula, and mix the remaining half with the raw fish.
  3. Cover the raw fish and refrigerate, allowing it to marinate for two hours or overnight (or at a bare minimum, 15 minutes, but a few hours will be tastier)!
  4. Roast the capsicum in the oven, then peel and seed them, and cut them into strips. Or, alternatively, slice the raw capsicum into rings. Set aside.


Making the Tagine:

  1. Pour the argan oil into a tagine pot or skillet and distribute the onion slices across the bottom.
  2. Criss-cross the celery or carrot sticks in the centre to form a bed for the fish.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the potato slices with the ginger, salt, pepper, turmeric, and saffron.
  4. Once the spices are well mixed, arrange the potatoes around the perimeter of the tagine.
  5. Top the potato with the tomato slices, then distribute the reserved chermoula over the vegetables.
  6. Add the marinated fish to the centre of the tagine, and arrange the strips of capsicum on top of the fish in any manner of your choosing.
  7. Garnish the tagine with the lemon and olives, and sprinkle salt and pepper over all.
  8. Optional: For a fancy look and extra deliciousness, you can add prawns on top, but it is not necessary in the traditional recipe.
  9. Cover the tagine/skillet and cook on the stove on low to medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the fish and potatoes are cooked through.
  10. Reduce the sauce if necessary until it is quite thick and mostly oil. (If you feel there is an excessive amount of liquid in the tagine, it's easiest to ladle the sauce into a pan to reduce it, and then pour the sauce back over the fish before serving).
  11. Serve the tagine directly from the dish in which it was cooked, with Moroccan bread for scooping up the fish and sauce. You can eat it on its own or with a side salad of your choice.


Enjoy! Bon appétit or Bessaha, which means ‘good health’ in Moroccan! :)



*If you prefer to cook it in the oven instead, it will work just as well as on the stove.

**Normally the fish adds enough water to the mix, however if you are cooking with a drier fish, you may need to add a little water to the tagine, or move the contents around a little during cooking to avoid burning.


Fish mqualli with argan oil, naturally gluten free and dairy free


Chermoula marinade: 

Prep time: 5 mins
Soak time: 10 mins

Serves: One tagine or meal (4-6 people)



  • 1 large bunch cilantro (coriander, finely chopped, only small leaves and small stems)
  • 4 cloves garlic (pressed or finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon ginger
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 3 tablespoons argan oil
  • 1 small lemon (juiced)



  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let it soak for 10 minutes to enhance the flavours.


That’s it! Your chermoula is now ready for marinating meats and veggies, dressing potatoes before baking, or mixing into rice, quinoa, or couscous. It’s perfect for fish and argan oil adds an extra subtle Moroccan taste.

Here's another tagine recipe with argan oil for that nutty flavour!