Vegetarian Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives with Fluffy Lemon Quinoa
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Adapted to be vegan from two of Paula Wolfert’s chicken tagine recipes from her book The Food of Morocco. If you happen to have an Instant Pot, I've included instructions below! Although couscous is a more traditional accompaniment, I like eating this tagine with quinoa because it's more nutrient-dense. If you prefer, feel free to serve with couscous!
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Moroccan, Vegan
Serves: 4-6 servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Nigella seeds (also known as kalonji or charnushka), optional*
  • 1 large tomato, chopped (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ pound (12 ounces) cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • ¾ pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ¾ pound carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • ¾ cup pitted brined mixed olives, rinsed to remove excess salt
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or equivalent cooked chickpeas from dry)
  • 1 pinch saffron threads, about ¼ teaspoon, optional*
  • 2½ cups vegetable broth (I like vegetarian no-chicken broth for its more neutral flavor)
  • juice of one lemon, or to taste
  • fresh parsley leaves, to garnish
  • salt to taste
  • lemony quinoa, for serving (recipe follows)
  1. Rub the saffron between your fingers to crush the threads a bit, and put them in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons warm water and allow to soak for 15 minutes to infuse the water and release the flavor.
  2. Quarter the preserved lemon and remove and discard the flesh. Rinse the rind and chop into ¼ inch strips.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or large heavy pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the onion, and sprinkle with salt. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the chopped tomato, turmeric, ginger, black pepper and ground cumin. Sauté for 2 minutes longer.
  4. Add the cauliflower, potato, carrot, olives, chickpeas, 2½ cups broth and the saffron water (including any saffron threads left in the water). Add some salt to taste.
  5. Quarter the preserved lemon and remove and discard the flesh. Rinse the rind and chop into ¼ inch strips. Add rind strips to the pot.
  6. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 55 minutes to and hour and ten minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are tender. Season to taste with salt, and lemon juice to bring out the flavors. Serve over lemony quinoa.
  7. While tagine is simmering, make the quinoa (see recipe below).
  8. Instant Pot Adaptation:
  9. Push the sauté button and allow the Instant Pot to heat up. Sauté and add the ingredients in the same order as in the recipe above through the vegetable broth. The Hit the cancel button on the Instant Pot, then secure the lid and cook on high pressure (or push the meat/stew button if yours doesn't have a manual pressure button) for 9 minutes*. Make sure the valve is set to "seal" not venting. Release manually (be very careful, the hot steam will shoot out. I like to put an oven mitt on and use tongs to turn the valve. Make sure you are standing far away from the pot).
  10. *Note: I have tested this recipe at many different cooking times, each resulting in very tender vegetables. 9 minutes cooking time still left the cauliflower very soft. When I test again, I'll start with 7 minutes. If you test a different cooking time, please leave a comment below!
*I like using Nigella/ Kalonji for the specks of color, and the slightly nutty, toasted onion flavor they impart. I like to get mine from Savory Spice Shop.

*This tagine is wonderful without the saffron--if you have some around and would like to use it, by all means do! It adds a rounded depth of flavor. If you don't want to invest in this expensive little spice, your tagine will still taste great!
Recipe by Spoon With Me at