Moroccan lamb stew is a hearty Mediterranean dish packed with sweet and savory flavors. Each serving is loaded with fragrant braised vegetables and couscous for a complete meal!
Moroccan lamb stew is a bold one-pot dish with fragrant and hearty ingredients. Sweet and pungent spices infuse into tender pieces of meat and vegetables as they slowly cook. Making a stew allows affordable and less tender cuts of meat to transform into a glorious and tender feast.
Using the technique of browning the lamb first to add new flavors and textures, then slowly simmering in a flavorful liquid makes the meltingly soft. The stew is topped with cinnamon-scented couscous to soak up all of the delicious juice. As the Fall weather starts to cool down this flavorful recipe provides a healthy and nourishing warm meal.
How to cook lamb stew
This Moroccan lamb stew recipe uses cubes of lamb shoulder that has been browned in oil first, then slowly simmered in a tomato and beef broth base. The stew gently infuses fragrant spices from whole cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cumin, and lemon peel.
Selecting the meat
Use tougher cuts of meat like lamb shoulder or leg of lamb. These pieces naturally contain more connective tissue like collagen. The moist cooking process will help to break down the collagen.
Browning the surface
Using the dry heat cooking method, brown each side of the meat cubes in olive oil to create color pigments and add flavor. This only happens at high temperatures above 285°F.
Simmering the meat in the cooking liquid over low heat, for a longer time creates a tender and moist product. The connective tissues contain collagen that converts to gelatin when cooked in water, which adds flavor and richness to the stew. The tender pieces of lamb absorb all of the delicious spices from the seasonings.
We can’t always enjoy an expensive center cut filet of beef every night, so why not use some simple cooking techniques to make tougher cuts of meat tender and tasty! If you are looking for more hearty and flavor-packed stews, try my Grandma’s Chinese ginger beef stew or my Guinness corned beef stew, yum!
The stewing liquid combines the warm cinnamon, ginger and cumin spices with savory garlic, onions, and olives. A hint of sweetness and acidity from orange juice, tomatoes, and dried chopped apricots complements the flavors.
The carrots and butternut squash slowly simmer in the huge pot of lamb and spices. Your home will be filled with sweet and savory aromas, just like walking through a spice market in Morocco.
I serve this Moroccan lamb stew with couscous, which is a small rice-sized pasta made of semolina and wheat flour. The couscous cooks quickly and absorbs flavors very easily into each tender grain.
Hooray for leftovers! This delicious recipe provides plenty of extra servings for the next few days. I enjoy this lamb stew when taking a lunch break at work. The flavors have more time to soak into the meat, and the liquid becomes, even more flavorful.
Add preserved lemons for extra flavor
If you have access to or have a chance to make preserved lemons, it will take this lamb stew to the next level! A staple in Moroccan cuisine, whole cut lemons are brined with salt and allowed to ferment over time to create intense new citrus flavors and aromatics, adding a unique depth to any dish. Just rinse the preserved lemons before using and substitute the amount 1:1 for the freshly grated peel on this recipe.
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Moroccan Lamb Stew with Couscous
- 1 ½ pounds lamb shoulder, in 1-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1 teaspoon ginger, ground
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup minced yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 cup carrots, cut into ½-inch rounds
- 1 ½ cups butternut squash, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 28 ounces tomatoes, canned diced, with juice
- ½ cup orange juice, and zest
- ¼ cup dried apricots, cut into small cubes
- 1 cup unsalted beef stock
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup green olives
- zest of one lemon
- kosher salt, as needed
- black pepper, as needed
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped for garnish
- 2 tablespoons sliced mint leaves, for garnish
- 2 cups unsalted beef stock
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 ½ cups couscous
- In a medium-sized bowl combine lamb, cumin, ginger and ground cinnamon.
- In large pot heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, brown lamb cubes on all sides, about 5 minutes, work in batches if needed. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and transfer to a clean plate.
- Turn down the heat to medium, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic, sauté until softened, stirring as needed, about 5 minutes.
- Add carrots and squash to the pot, cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.
- Add the lamb, tomatoes, orange juice and zest, apricots, 1 cup of beef stock, cinnamon stick and dried bay leaf.
- Bring the stew to a boil over high heat, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to get up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
- When the stew comes to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer over low heat.
- Cook until the lamb is tender, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Check and stir every 20 minutes.
- Add olives and lemon zest to the pot. Cook covered about 10 minutes more.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve lamb hot with couscous and garnish with chopped parsley and sliced mint.
- In a 2-quart saucepan, bring beef stock, olive oil, salt, and cinnamon stick to a boil. Add couscous, stir, cover and turn off the heat.
- Let couscous sit for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork to separate the grains.
- Leg of lamb may be substituted for lamb shoulder. If bone in, make sure to factor in the weight of the bone (buy around 3 pounds of meat instead of 1 ½ pounds).
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