A one dish meal with Moroccan flavors? Yes please! This Moroccan-Style Chicken Couscous combines dried fruit (apricots), Moroccan spices (cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, crushed red pepper), couscous, chick peas, and sweet potatoes in a fragrant, healthy bowl of goodness. These ingredients are major players in the Moroccan flavor profile.
The first time I ever saw St. Louis, I would have bought it for six million dollars, and it was the mistake of my life that I did not do it.~~ Mark Twain, 1883
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
NOTE: This recipe was originally published in 2014!
I don't remember the last time I have taken a long road trip in a vehicle with no trailer towed behind it, and I've never had the experience with a girlfriend... Last Friday afternoon, my friend Kay and I headed for St. Louis, with stops in Albuquerque and Oklahoma City - over 1100 miles.
We spent the week updating the home that Kay and her husband own in St. Charles, in preparation for sale. We "hit the ground running" Monday morning with tile demolition, new cabinet hardware, and replacement of 1980s light fixtures. Physical exhaustion at the end of long days meant we ate our meals at local restaurants.😊
While I enjoyed our meals "out" immensely, I cannot imagine going 10 days without cooking. As I planned dinner Wednesday night, I realized I was not going to have my well-stocked pantry and my own cooking gear. A one dish meal would simplify and satisfy, and I love a challenge!
I decided to look to Morocco for inspiration, and went with chicken and couscous with dried apricots, sweet potatoes, and spices. The end results did not disappoint! I must note, this is very much an "ad-lib" recipe as I didn't have my own gear, my pantry, and I didn't want to invest in a bunch of ingredients that would be left behind and not used.
Just for fun, I have to describe the cooking process at the apartment. Kay's husband is a Vice-President at a major corporation, and a world traveler. He just moved into this lovely apartment and does not really cook for himself, thus my tools were somewhat limited.
I "peeled" sweet potatoes with a steak knife, and then cubed the chicken and sweet potatoes with a very tiny paring knife. The onion was minced with the steak knife, and the garlic was smashed and added that way. It was a challenge, but I had a bottle of Napa Valley's Chateau Montelana Chardonnay. It was no problem! It just goes to show, you don't need a fancy kitchen to cook a delicious meal. 🍷
🍚 Is Couscous Healthy?
Couscous can definitely be part of your healthy diet! It is basically tiny balls of pasta made from semolina flour, making it a "starch," and therefore high in carbohydrates. It is always important to balance "macronutrients" - proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Nutrition Facts (According to WebMD)
A ¼ cup serving of uncooked, refined couscous has about:
- 150 calories
- 30 grams of carbohydrates
- 5 grams of protein
- 2 grams of fiber
- 0 grams of fat
- 20 milligrams of calcium
- 1 milligram of iron
For more on the nutrition profile see WebMD Health Benefits of Couscous.
In the United States, couscous is primarily the pre-cooked and dried kind as opposed to the slow-cooked steamed couscous found in North Africa. This makes it an excellent choice for weeknight cooking as it is ready in just minutes.
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh ginger
- butternut squash or sweet potatoe
- boneless chicken thighs
- crushed red pepper
- dried apricots
- chick peas
- canned tomatoes
- chicken broth
- juice of 1 lemon
- slivered almonds
- chicken broth
- sea salt and a few grinds of pepper
- Sauté the aromatics - Over medium-high heat, add olive oil to a dutch oven or deep skillet. Add onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute until onion softens, and garlic is golden but not browned.
- Add cubed squash or sweet potatoes. Continue to stir until they begin to brown. Watch the heat. Add chicken. Cook until the chicken begins to brown. Again, watch the heat.
- Sauté the spices - Add cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, and red pepper or cayenne. Stir frequently to keep spices from burning - 2-3 minutes.
- Finish the stew - Add garbanzos, tomatoes with their juice, and the broth. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer while couscous is prepared.
- Make the couscous - Prepare couscous according to package instructions. I prefer broth to water, but water is fine as well. Typically, the couscous is added to boiling water, covered, and the heat is turned off.
- Finish the couscous - After about 5 minutes (usually), and just prior to serving, stir in the toasted sliced or slivered almonds (or pine nuts) and herbs, fluffing the grains with a fork.
- Serve - When you are ready to plate, squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken mixture. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat. Place an appropriately sized scoop of couscous mixture on the plate, and top with the chicken mixture. Garnish with chopped cilantro or mint and toasted almonds as desired.
Butternut squash and sweet potatoes may be used interchangeably in this recipe, and I have used both.
Adjust crushed red pepper or cayenne according to your heat preference, or omit it entirely if heat is an issue.
While my preference is boneless chicken thighs, you can use chicken breast in place of the thighs if you prefer, or are looking to get the calories down a bit more.
4-6 ounces of chicken per person is plenty! Watching portions is the key to weight control and/or weight loss. ¼ cup (dry) couscous is appropriate as well.
Always, always check for seasoning. ½ teaspoon of salt is just a reference point. Start with a little bit, and add more if necessary!
Prep work always makes for more efficient time in the kitchen. Even if you're using less than perfect tools (like steak knives), complete your cubing, mincing, and dicing prior to cooking. Prep dishes are helpful!
What can I substitute for dried apricots? Dried fruit is very important in Moroccan cooking, and we like this dish with dried apricots, dried cherries, currants, even dates.
How long does it take to make? You can get this on the table in 30 minutes if you wait on the wine. 😂 I love to sip wine while I cook, and I am easily distracted - haha!
What about the couscous? When all the ingredients for the chicken are in the pot, cook the couscous according to the package instructions. Both regular and Israeli (aka pearl) couscous work well in this dish. I think it would work well with quinoa as well, though I've not tried it. There are no rules!
I have used both cilantro and mint in the couscous and to garnish. We love both!
🍷 Pairing Suggestions
Moroccan-Style Chicken Couscous is lovely paired with the chardonnay. Another really nice option is a dry, somewhat acidic rosé like the Sangiovese Rosé shown here; the strawberries and melon notes, and bone-dry acidity, pair beautifully with the Moroccan-Style Chicken Couscous.
Given this is a one-dish recipe, you don't need a side dish! Of course a simple salad is always a nice option if you need greens at the table...