Couscous Tfaya with Caramelized Onions and Raisins

I have been making a lot of couscous dishes lately, mostly the traditional ones that are served as a main dish, rather than couscous salads I often make. You see, I’m feeling a bit homesick right now, and when that happens I crave authentic dishes more than anything else. I’m counting down the days until my visit and looking forward to (hopefully) good weather and a stay in the Ourika Valley at the foot of the Atlas Mountains possibly here or here.

Tfaya couscous is served with caramelized onions and raisins, and a flavorful, earthy sauce. It has always been one of my favorite ways to eat couscous. I simply love it. I encourage you to make it and take the time to savor spoonful after comforting spoonful.




Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 50 min


For the chicken
1 pound chicken breast, cut into 4 pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ras el hanout (I used this one)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2.5 cups chicken broth
8 sprigs parsley

For the caramelized tfaya
2 large yellow onions, cut into strips
4 cloves (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup golden raisins

For the couscous
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups instant couscous


In a medium pot over medium-high heat, combine the chicken and onion with oil, ginger, ras el hanout, turmeric, saffron (if using), salt, and pepper. Sauté, turning occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the chicken is golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Lower the heat to medium. Add the broth and parsley sprigs and cook, covered, for 45 minutes. Discard the parsley.

Meanwhile, to make the caramelized onions, place the onions, cloves, and cinnamon stick in a large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat to medium, and continue cooking until the onions are very soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and discard the cinnamon stick and the cloves.

Place the onions back in the saucepan. Add the sugar, ground cinnamon, ginger, orange blossom water (if using), butter and 2 tablespoons of chicken sauce. Caramelize over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently in the beginning and constantly toward the end. Add a tablespoon or two of water if necessary. When the mixture is dark brown, add the raisins and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Boil the water with salt and olive oil. In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over couscous. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Arrange the couscous in a large serving dish. Place the chicken in the center and surround it with the caramelized tfaya. Moisten the couscous with a few ladles of the remaining sauce. The couscous, chicken, and tfaya should be served warm.


7 Responses to “Couscous Tfaya with Caramelized Onions and Raisins”

  1. 1

    El — 05/07/2012 @ 10:07 pm

    I too love cous cous. This dish is gorgeous.

  2. 2

    Eha — 05/08/2012 @ 1:47 am

    I wonder how I could possibly hide in one of your suitcases for DARnanka: I could so use quiet pampering in such a dream of a setting. Have travelled the world but never been near the Atlas . . . Back to reality – this recipe I shall be able to manage! Have never cooked a Moroccan dish quite like it, but it looks so appetizing, actually uses usual fridge/pantry items [I love all the variations available of ras el hanout] and seems easy on perusal with such a moreish result. Already marked for file :) !

  3. 3

    Gaz — 05/08/2012 @ 3:53 am

    Food is an excellent comforter for homesickness. My family came to visit recently and now the house feels too quiet without them. By the way I made them your chicken & lemon tagine and they loved it!

  4. 4

    Nisrine — 05/08/2012 @ 1:37 pm

    El and Eha, you should try this. It’s different from the couscous you’re probably used to.

  5. 5

    Nisrine — 05/08/2012 @ 1:37 pm

    Gaz, glad your family liked it.

  6. 6

    Jamie — 05/10/2012 @ 3:45 am

    I am so thrilled you posted this recipe! I love this sweet type of couscous yet have never found just the right recipe to inspire me and now you’ve given it to us. This is now bookmarked. What an incredible, flavorful couscous.

  7. 7

    Angee — 07/31/2012 @ 11:44 am

    This is my new favorite website! I just came back from Morocco yesterday and already I’m missing it and the food terribly. I can’t wait to try your recipes. Shukran bezaf!

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