Fish Tajine Recipe. Fishballs Variation

Fish Tajine

Fish tajine


My Fish Tajine is excerpted from my latest cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen.

I just cannot tell you without incurring a serious risk of bragging, how many thousands of my fans make it: it has even become a Shabbat staple for countless of them. Israelis affectionately call this fish tajine Chraimi, insisting that’s what Moroccans call it. (Hello! Never heard of the word Chraimi in Morocco! Something probably got lost, or should I say gained,  in translation . . .) We just called it fish tajine and dug in, mopping the sauces with nice hunks of our Moroccan bread. OK, I concede Chraimi is more intriguing and sounds like more fun.

Preserved Lemons in Fish Tajine

Preserved lemons

This is precisely the kind of dish where preserved lemons make all the difference: You should always have them on hand, as they are heavenly in this and many other dishes. Please note the dish has no added salt as the preserved lemon is enough to season it. Two ingredients (lemons and salt), a few minutes’ work and a little elbow grease is all you need to make a six months supply of preserved lemons. In a pinch, substitute 1 thinly sliced lemon, and be prepared for a Chraimi 90 percent as good.

Any Thick Firm Fish is Suitable for Fish Tajine

Salmon, cod, tilapia, any fish that will stand up to stovetop cooking. No need to use expensive fish here, as the dish has so much going for it. My daughter Bella asked me to make sure I don’t forget to recommend using diced mock shrimp too, her favorite.

Three Valuable Fish Tajine Variations

  • With added chickpeas. As pictured. You will get an amazing complete one-pot dinner
  • Fishballs. Grind the fish and prepare the fish balls mixture as instructed
  • Vegan. Same recipe and same instructions, substituting extra firm diced tofu for the fish. In the vegan version the inclusion of chickpeas will be doubly welcome, as they will add loads of great fiber and plant protein.


  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced thin lengthwise
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Good pinch ground cloves
  • 3 bay leaves, or ½ teaspoon ground
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch flat parsley
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • ½ preserved lemon, skin only, rinsed (settle for 1 lemon, skin and all, sliced thin)
  • optional: 3 cups canned chickpeas, drained
  • 8 serving pieces salmon fillet, or any other thick fish (or 2 pounds mock shrimp, cut across in thirds). Vegan: substitute 2 pounds extra firm tofu, diced.


In a large wide-bottom pot, bring the water, oil, tomatoes, red bell pepper, red pepper flakes, cloves, bay leaves, and paprika to a boil.

Meanwhile, coarsely grind the garlic, parsley, cilantro, and preserved lemon in a food processor using the pulse button. Add the ground mixture to the pot and stir. Add the red pepper, the optional chickpeas and the fish (or the fishballs if you are making fishballs, or the tofu if you are making the dish vegan), and bring to a boil.

Reduce the temperature to medium and cook covered for 20 minutes. Transfer the fish onto a platter with a slotted spoon.
Check the cooking liquids in the pot: If they are too thin, reduce them at high temperature until thickened. Pour the sauce over the fish. Serve hot or at room temperature, making sure you top each serving with the sauce. Makes 8 servings.

Variations: Moroccan Fishballs Tajine

Closeup of meatballs in tomato sauce

Every bit as popular as the mother Fish Tajine Recipe.

I hope you don't use Gefilte fish in a desire to save time on grinding the fish (I have often seen it done, to great disadvantage, hence the friendly and firm warning). Using this gimmick will save you a negligible amount of time, while lots of good flavor and texture will be lost. Grinding fish in a food processor is a snap and takes a minute or two, and you will end up with a far superior dish.

Use all ingredients and instructions just as directed, but first grind 2 pounds of fish (salmon, tilapia, cod, any nice you find at the market, no need to get anything expensive) with 2 eggs, a little oil, salt and pepper, to a smooth paste: that's the whole story! Wait for the mixture to come to a boil, shape balls and throw them in the pot. Process with the recipe just as directed.

22 replies
  1. miriam
    miriam says:

    I don’t have preserved lemon right now…do I grind the whole lemon (sliced) together with the garlic, parsley and cilantro, or do I just put the sliced lemon in the pot?

  2. Jericah
    Jericah says:

    Is this your “Moroccan Fish” my husband is telling me to find on your site? We love your cooking. I would be so happy if you had a “Print” button on your recipes. I love to print recipes and keep them in a book or even just to have next to me while I am making the dish.

  3. Silky Pitterman
    Silky Pitterman says:

    I planned to make this for the yom tov and I started to panic because I couldn’t find my copy of The Whole Foods cookbook. Then I remembered that you probably have it here. And you do.
    Levana, you saved my chag!

  4. Seyma
    Seyma says:

    As someone always secretly harboring a hope of hidden Sephardi ancestry, I was delighted to learn this recipe is actually not as complicated as I’d imagined. Delicious every time! I overestimated my need for the vegetable/spice/tomato mixture, froze what wasn’t used immediately and made the same dish the next week–almost like getting a freebie!

    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Seyma that’s brilliant. Next time this happens and you want more adventure, put that extra sauce in a stovetop with a few chicken thighs and a little water, and cook it until the chicken is tender and the liquids are reduced, about an hour. This is how stars are born! Hey wondering if you have my fan page address, this is where everyone shares comments and recipes:

  5. Carole
    Carole says:

    I want to try this recipe using the frozen Gefilte fish loaf, defrosting it and making balls…a twist on the traditional one…

    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Carole…. sigh…. May I recommend grinding some fresh fish in the food processor, in about 10 seconds? You will be in complete control of what goes in, and the difference will be like night and day. We all buy gefilte fish when we must, but to use it as a starting point for a really good from-scratch recipe? I don’t think so. It’s like those carrot muffins made with baby food jars of boiled carrots….. So: Please don’t. You’ll be happy you didn’t!

  6. Esther Massouda
    Esther Massouda says:

    Dear Levana.

    I was so happy to buy your book. But first of all I want to tell you that we need a restaurant in Providence, RI a kosher one. Since I came to RI we din t really had a good one. So I don t know what you can do for us?

  7. Donna Levy
    Donna Levy says:

    Hi Levanna,
    I made this recipe for Rosh Hashana with salmon and it was great. Would you please be able to tell me the difference between this recipe and moroccan salomon. I’ve spoken to many moroccan friends and everyone seems to have a different recipe they call” Moroccan Salmon” Some people use tomato paste, garbanzo bean, peppers. Your recipes are always good, I would love to know your opinion.
    Thank You,

    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Donna WE Moroccans made fish in dozens of ways, all delicious, all exciting, and all authentic! Why limit yourself to one Moroccan Salmon Recipe?

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