Chermoula is a Moroccan marinade of herbs and spices that is used to flavor fish, chicken, and other meats. It’s a great way to add flavor and complexity to your dishes, and it’s really easy to make!
Being away from home and missing the flavors of Morocco, Chermoula really helps me bring a bit of home into my cooking by adding its distinct Moroccan taste to my food.
And since a lot of people are also interested in this pungent Moroccan marinade, I thought why not share my mom’s traditional recipe for Chermoula so that you can start using it in your own cooking as well.
What is Chermoula?
Charmoula is a vibrant Moroccan green herbs sauce that is used as both a marinade and condiment in Moroccan cuisine. It is made with a variety of fresh herbs, spices, and aromatics such as cilantro, parsley, garlic, paprika, and organic olive oil.
How to use Chermoula sauce?
Many Moroccan dishes are simply incomplete without a Chermoula sauce. For example, Chermoula is used as a marinade for fish and seafood dishes like the famous dish, Moroccan fish tagine, or the Moroccan fried sardines.
With a slight change in the core ingredients, Chermoula sauce can be a great addition to Moroccan chicken, lamb, and vegetable dishes.
Chermoula is also used as a condiment served on the side and can be added to dishes after they are cooked. Charmoula sauce can be served with grilled fish, rice, tagines, and bread.
Moroccan Chermoula Ingredients
The ingredients of the Chermoula can be adjusted to your preference. I like a garlicky, lemony chermoula when intended for fish or chicken and less garlicky, but spicy Chermoula for meat.
The best way to determine if the ingredients are balanced for your liking is by tasting the Charmoula sauce as you go along.
The thickness of the Chermoula can also be adjusted by the amount of olive oil or fresh lemon juice used. I usually use a thick texture of Charmoula when marinating, and a thinner consistency when using it as a condiment.
Here you can find the most common ingredients used:
cilantro, and parsley, are the key fresh Chermoula ingredients. You can use either one or a combination of all two. If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use dried herbs, but the flavor will not be as good.
Chermoula typically contains salt, cumin, paprika, dried coriander (optional), and chili powder. I like to add a little bit of ground ginger to my Charmoula marinade, but this is optional.
Fresh garlic and preserved lemon are essential for a good-tasting Chermoula sauce. You can also add fresh ginger, but this is optional.
Charmoula sauce is a very fragrant sauce, and olive oil helps to carry the flavors of the spices and herbs.
Lemon juice or vinegar
Chermoula is a very acidic sauce, so you will need to add either fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to balance the flavors. I prefer fresh lemon, fresh is always best.
Moroccan Harissa paste (optional)
This is my mom’s secret ingredient that she likes to add to Chermoula. It gives it a little bit of heat, and I think it really rounds out the flavors. If you don’t like spicy food, you can omit this ingredient.
How to make Charmoula sauce?
There are many ways to make Chermoula sauce, and each family has its own Charmoula recipe. The ingredients and proportions can be adjusted to taste. I like my Charmoula spicy, so I add more cayenne pepper, but you can adjust the heat to your liking.
The most important thing to remember when making Charmoula is to use fresh ingredients. The herbs should be very finely chopped so that they blend together smoothly.
Another best way to blend the ingredients is doing it my mom’s way by using a mortar and pestle.
If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a food processor, but don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with a Charmoula paste instead of a sauce.
Here is my mom’s Chermoula recipe:
1 cup of cilantro, finely chopped (or 1 large bunch )
½ cup parsley, finely chopped (or 1 small bunch )
4 small garlic cloves, finely chopped (or whole)
1 small preserved lemon finely chopped (for lemony Chermoula)
½ teaspoon of Moroccan Harissa paste (For spicy Chermoula)
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon of ground turmeric (for yellow Chermoula)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
salt to taste (taste before adding)
- Hand mixing:
If all the ingredients are finely chopped and you want a rough Chermouls texture you can just mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
Slowly pour in the olive oil while stirring continuously until you everything is well mixed.
However, if you desire a more smooth Chermoula texture, I recommend using either a food processor or a mortar and pestle.
- Mortar and Pestle:
If you have a mortar and pestle and want to use it, everything must be finely chopped before adding it to the mortar except the garlic you can crush it with the pestle.
Once the garlic is crushed, start adding the herbs and the spices little by a little while crushing them with the pestle until you get a smooth Chermoula paste.
Slowly add the olive oil while pounding until everything is well combined.
- Food processor:
When using a food processor, pulse all the ingredients until they are finely chopped and well combined. You don't need to chop the ingredients beforehand.
- Usage & Storage:
Chermoula is best used when fresh, but you can store it in the refrigerator for a few days (up to 3 days). To prevent it from going bad in the refrigerator pour a film of olive oil on top after putting it in an airtight glass jar.
I hope you enjoy this Charmoula recipe and start using it in your own cooking! Let me know how you like it in the comments below.
P.S. If you’re looking for more Moroccan recipes, check out my collection of Moroccan food here!