With over 200 Moroccan restaurants scattered across its diverse neighbourhoods, New York City offers a vibrant taste of North Africa in the US.
From aromatic lamb tagines simmering with apricots and warming spices to bright salads bursting with fresh herbs and crunchy vegetables, authentic Moroccan fare brings immense flavour to the Big Apple’s dining scene.
This article will take you on a mouthwatering tour of the best spots to experience Moroccan cuisine in New York, from fine dining establishments to hidden local gems.
We’ll highlight the top dishes you absolutely must try, provide tips on how to get the most out of the Moroccan culinary experience, and even cover modifications for different dietary needs.
Whether you’re a lifelong New Yorker or just visiting the city, this guide will help you discover the incredible depth of tastes Moroccan food offers.
So grab a fork and get ready to tag along on a culinary adventure to the exotic flavours of North Africa—no passport required!
What Makes Moroccan Cuisine Unique?
Moroccan cuisine has been influenced by the many cultures that have called Morocco home over the centuries. This has resulted in a distinctive blend of African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and European flavors. Here are some of the key characteristics that set Moroccan food apart:
- Bold spices: Signature Moroccan spice blends like ras el hanout and herbes de Provence flavor tagines, couscous, and other dishes. Common herbs include cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, coriander, and saffron.
- Savory slow-cooked tagines: Tagines are slow-cooked delicious stews named after the clay pot they are traditionally prepared in. They contain meat, vegetables, dried fruits, and warming spices.
- Fluffy couscous: This staple grain is served with tagines and stews or, on its own, topped with vegetables and meat. Traditional Moroccan couscous is fluffier than other varieties.
- Sweet and savory combinations: Dishes like the lamb and prune tagine blend sweet and savory ingredients for complex flavors. Salads and vegetable tagines use dried fruits, nuts, and honey.
- Vibrant salads and vegetables: Salads feature fresh greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, and more, livened with lemon, olive oil, and fragrant herbs.
- French influence: Morocco was a French protectorate in the early 1900s, leaving a lasting mark on the cuisine, especially in the cities. This is seen in the French-inspired breads, pastries and tarts.
These unique characteristics combine to create the vibrant, aromatic, and delicious cuisine we know as Moroccan food today.
The Moroccan Culinary Scene in New York City
New York City boasts a thriving Moroccan food scene. Here are some of the ways you can experience it:
From fine dining establishments to casual eateries, NYC has no shortage of restaurants serving authentic Moroccan fare. Top dishes include tagines, couscous, and Bastilla, a layered pastry filled with pigeon or chicken. Manhattan and Brooklyn offer the greatest concentration of Moroccan restaurants.
For a quick and cheap taste of Moroccan street food, try one of the halal food carts in the city dishing out lamb over couscous or merguez sausage sandwiches. The carts can often be found near offices and hotels.
Special events like the annual NY Culinary Festival highlight Moroccan food, bringing in guest chefs from Morocco and featuring cooking demos. There are also regular Moroccan pop-up dinners and tasting events.
Hands-on cooking classes provide the chance to learn traditional Moroccan recipes first-hand. Seasoned instructors guide you in recreating specialties like chicken tagine with lemon and olives or Moroccan mint tea.
Ingredients for Moroccan cooking can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores and specialty spice shops. Essentials include preserved lemons, harissa paste, dried fruit, nuts, aromatic spices, and olive oils.
So whether you’re dining out or cooking at home, NYC provides endless opportunities to explore Moroccan cuisine.
Must-Try Moroccan Dishes
From hearty tagines to light salads, here are five iconic Moroccan dishes you shouldn’t miss when exploring the cuisine in New York City:
This savory soup made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and lamb is the perfect warming starter for a Moroccan meal. It’s garnished with parsley and lemon.
2. Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Almonds
Tender, slow-cooked lamb is cooked with sweet prunes, warming spices, and toasted almonds in this quintessential tagine.
3. Chicken Bastilla
Also known as pastilla, this filo pastry pie contains delicately spiced chicken, almonds, eggs, and cinnamon. It’s dusted with icing sugar for a sweet finish.
This cold eggplant and tomato salad is seasoned with garlic, cumin, and paprika. Other vegetables like zucchini or chickpeas are also used.
No Moroccan meal is complete without light, fluffy couscous grains, which soak up the rich flavors of tagines and stews.
Be sure to taste these classic Moroccan dishes to experience the full spectrum of flavors, textures, and ingredients that make the cuisine remarkable.
Top Moroccan Restaurants in NYC
With so many excellent Moroccan restaurants in the city, here are 5 of the top spots to savor authentic North African fare:
1. Casablanca (East Village)
This cozy, candlelit East Village spot serves Moroccan specialties like lamb tagine, Bastilla, and daily couscous offerings in a romantic setting.
2. Café Mogador (East Village)
A pioneering Moroccan restaurant in NYC focusing on rustic dishes like the vegetarian Berber Tagine and Moroccan seafood cazuela in a casual bohemian space.
3. Tangier (Lower East Side)
This hole-in-the-wall Lower East Side joint impresses with daily tagines and other homemade Moroccan classics at budget prices.
4. Barbes (Park Slope)
Sample Moroccan tapas like spicy merguez sausage and luscious babaganoush at this cozy Brooklyn restaurant and music venue.
5. La Goulue (Upper East Side)
This upscale Moroccan hideaway crafts elegant fare like the lamb shank tagine with almonds and honey paired with live jazz.
From street food to fine dining, these restaurants offer memorable meals that showcase the diversity of Moroccan cuisine. Be sure to come hungry!
The Moroccan Food Experience Beyond Restaurants
While restaurants offer the classic Moroccan fare, there are other ways to experience North African flavors in NYC:
- Food festivals: Savor unlimited samples from street food vendors at events like NY Maghreb Food Fest.
- Pop-up dinners: Look out for special Moroccan pop-up dinners at venues around the city for a one-of-a-kind communal meal.
- Cooking classes: In hands-on cooking classes, learn to prepare Moroccan specialties like lamb tagine and chicken pastilla.
- Cultural events: Attend Moroccan cultural nights at venues like Nightshift, featuring music, dancing, henna, and food.
- Street snacks: Track down Moroccan street food carts dishing out budget merguez sausage sandwiches for an authentic taste.
- Grocery shopping: Find Moroccan ingredients like spices, olives, preserved lemons, and harissa sauce at Middle Eastern markets.
- Bakeries: Pick up Moroccan cookies, sesame bread, and almond cakes at bakeries like Maghreb Sweets.
Immersing yourself in the broader cultural context brings the flavors of Morocco to life in a unique way.
Dietary Preferences and Moroccan Food
|Dietary Preference||Foods to Enjoy||Foods to Avoid||Tips|
|Vegetarian/Vegan||Vegetable tagines, chickpea tagines, salads, vegetable couscous, vegetable broth soups||Meat dishes, chicken/lamb broths, yogurt||Request tagines without meat. Use tofu or seitan.|
|Gluten-Free||Tagines, stews, rice, quinoa, corn-based couscous||Wheat couscous, breads, pastries with wheat||Verify GF couscous, avoid bread, use GF flour|
|Dairy-Free||Tagines, stews, sesame bread, nut-based cookies||Creamy Bastilla, pastries with milk/butter||Substitute ghee or oil for butter, nut or seed milk for dairy|
|Nut Allergies||Dishes with chickpeas, lamb, chicken, beef, lentils||Tagines, salads, Bastilla with nuts||Specify no nuts when ordering. Use seed butter|
|Egg Allergies||Most tagines, stews, veggie dishes||Bastilla, pastries with eggs||Request no eggs in pastillas or pastries|
|Soy Allergies||Dishes made with chickpeas, lamb, chicken||Tofu or other soy-based meat substitutes||Use seitan or legumes instead of tofu|
|Nightshade Allergies||Dishes with lamb, chicken, chickpeas||Tagines with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers||Ask for tagines without nightshades|
|Low FODMAP||Herb salads, lemon chicken/beef dishes||Onion/garlic-heavy dishes, dried fruit||Focus on low FODMAP ingredients|
Tips for Enjoying Moroccan Food in NYC
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of the Moroccan food experience in New York City:
- Go at lunchtime – Restaurants offer lunch deals on tagines, couscous, and salads at cheaper prices.
- Bring a group – Dining family-style and sharing a spread of small plates is customary.
- Start with a salad or soup – Opt for tangy vegetable salads and the classic Harira soup to kick things off.
- Don’t skip the tagine – Be sure to order Morocco’s flavorful stew cooked in an earthenware pot as the centerpiece.
- Ask questions – Inquire about ingredients and couscous/tagine pairings if unsure what to order.
- Order mint tea – Round your meal with traditional Moroccan mint tea, expertly poured from ornate teapots.
- Try the Bastilla – Sample this multi-layered pie packed with sweet and savory fillings like chicken, almonds, and eggs.
- Save room for cookies – Leave space for traditional Moroccan cookies like the sesame seed riba.
- Buy spices and sauces – Pick up ras el hanout spice mix, preserved lemons, and harissa sauce to recreate flavors at home.
Immerse yourself in Moroccan cuisine’s sights, sounds, and aromas for an unforgettable culinary adventure in New York City.
Conclusion: A Culinary Journey Like No Other
From aromatic tagines simmering with meat, prunes, and warming spices to bright vegetable salads bursting with fresh herbs, Moroccan food offers an incredible sensory experience.
In New York City, diners can embark on a culinary journey to North Africa without even leaving town, thanks to the many restaurants, food carts, markets, and cultural events that provide access to authentic Moroccan fare.
Whether planning a night out at a fine dining establishment or picking up ingredients to cook at home, Moroccan cuisine satisfies the desire for new flavors and excitement for the tastebuds.
The next time you’re craving a flavorful escape, set your sights on savoring the best Moroccan food New York City has to offer for a taste of this one-of-a-kind cuisine.