Moroccan Chicken Rfissa

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Last Updated on April 2, 2024 by Share My Kitchen

Rfissa, a Moroccan stew of chicken, lentils, and onions, is served over a bed of shredded msemen, trid pastry, or bread. Then, beautifully seasoned broth is poured over everything.

Chicken Rfissa is a version of trid, which is a Moroccan dish. It originated from tharid, an Arab dish, that has existed for centuries, and consists of broth and stew served over bread.

Trid can come in many forms, but rfissa is specifically a combination of chicken and lentil, which is served on a bed made of trid pastry, msemen, meloui (rezat el-kadi), harcha, or a day-old bread.

It’s known as rfissa Medhoussa when it’s served over crumbled harcha; it’s also known as treda when it’s served with cubed bread.

Rfissa’s signature broth is unique and wonderfully seasoned using Ras el Hanout, fenugreek (helba in Arabic), saffron, and other spices. It’s not an elegant dish, but it’s delicious and is considered by many to be the best Moroccan comfort food.

Msakhen, a seasoning blend, is sometimes used in place of ras el hanout in some regions or some occasions. Although they are similar, msakhen contains herbs and ras el hanout doesn’t. Msakhen can also be used in cooler climates as it adds heat to your food.

Rfissa is often served at casual company dinners and family gatherings. Due to the health benefits that the fenugreek provides a mother-to-be, it is also traditionally served on the third day after the baby’s birth. It can also, of course, be served at other times.

Making Rfissa

In Morocco, they prefer organic, free-range chicken (djaj Beldi) when making rfissa. This is because it takes longer to cook.

For your regular chicken (djaj roumi), you will need to take it from the broth after it has been cooked to avoid it falling apart before the lentils, onions, and fenugreek finish stewing.

It is easy to make chicken and lentil stew. However, it is a good idea to marinate your chicken (at least overnight) and to soak the fenugreek. You can make the pastry while the chicken is stewing, or even before serving.

You can find and buy shredded pastry or msemen at local markets in Morocco. This can be a time-saver!

However, plenty of cooks choose to make their own pastry or msemen, as they can control the quality of the ingredients.

This prep time can be eliminated if you plan to serve rfissa with leftover bread or store-bought paratha bread.

You can put the shredded pastry or msemen in the freezer until you need it. It is usually steamed in a couscoussier before being assembled at serving time. Reusing leftover bread will cut down on the prep time.

You may also like to try Bormache. It is a regional version of rfissa which includes tomatoes, garlic, and dried herbs.

Recipe Card



  • 1 large chicken, – quartered or left whole
  • 3 large onions, – thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp Ras el Hanout – (or 1 1/2 tbsp msakhen)
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric

For the Lentils

  • 1/2 cup uncooked lentils, green or brown
  • 4 tbsp fenugreek seeds, – soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 1/2 tsp saffron threads, – heated gently and then crumbled
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, – finely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, – finely chopped
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp smen – (Moroccan preserved butter)

Msemen or Trid

  • 1 1/2 batches msemen, shredded – (or trid pastry)


In Advance

  1. It is best to make and shred msemen ahead of time. While the msemen is still hot from the griddle, cut it into small, bite-sized pieces. Once cool, place in a bag. If you have prepared the shredded msemen more than one day ahead, store it in the freezer until you need it.
  2. Soak the lentils and fenugreek seeds in separate bowls of cold water the night before (at least six hours prior to cooking). If you forget to do so, pour boiling water over the lentils and fenugreek seeds and let them rest for an hour or two. Then, when ready to use, drain.
  3. To keep the soaked, drained fenugreek seed separate from the other ingredients, you can tie them in cheesecloth in the pot.
  4. Mix the chicken with the olive oil, onions, salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric, saffron, and Ras el Hanout spices in a heavy-bottomed pot the night before (at least six hours prior to cooking). Then, stir to coat the chicken properly, cover, and place in the refrigerator to marinate.

Cook the Chicken and Lentils

  1. First, put the chicken in a pot on the stove over medium heat. Then, cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for approximately 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is thickened.
  2. If you are using a free-range (beldi) chicken, add the drained fenugreek seed, parsley, cilantro, and water. Then, cover and let simmer over medium-low to medium heat for approximately 1 hour. Add in the drained lentils, and continue to cook, covered, for an additional hour, or until the chicken and lentils are quite tender. To ensure there is enough broth, add water during cooking and correct seasoning to the pot if necessary.
  3. If you are using regular, factory-raised chicken (roumi), add the drained lentils, drained Fenugreek seed, parsley, cilantro, and the water. Cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for approximately 1 hour, or until lentils are tender and the chicken is well-cooked. The pot should have a rich, ample broth. If there isn’t, you can add some water during cooking, and make sure to taste it so you’d know that the seasoning is not diluted.
  4. Then, taste the broth for salt, and add the smen to the pot. Make sure to swirl the pot to incorporate them into the broth. If you prefer, you can remove the chicken from the pot and put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown and crisp the skin.

Serve the Chicken Rfissa

  1. The shredded msemen must be steamed in a couscoussier for approximately 10 minutes, or until they are tender and steaming hot. Then, mound or spread the hot, shredded msemen in a large serving plate. Place the chicken on the bed of msemen, and distribute lentils, onions, and most of your broth over it. A bowlful or two of the broth can be reserved to serve as a side dish. If you have tied the fenugreek with cheesecloth, pour it into a bowl and serve it as well.
  2. Rfissa is traditionally shared from the serving dish, and each person eats from his or her own plate, either by hand or using a spoon.


  • If your family enjoys a large amount of broth, as well as generous amounts of pastry or msemen, you need to ensure that there is plenty of broth to serve with the meal. You must increase the seasoning and liquids by half.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning halfway through cooking, especially if you are topping off the liquids. The broth should be flavorful.
  • Fenugreek adds a traditional taste to rfissa. However, not everyone enjoys eating the cooked seeds. The instructions state that you can tie the seeds in cheesecloth to keep them separated from the main dish when serving. The overnight soak softens the seeds and reduces their pungency.
  • Smen is preserved, clarified butter that gives traditional Moroccan dishes, such as this one, a unique flavor. You can leave it out without making too many changes, but those who are familiar with the dish will notice its absence.
  • The traditional method of tenderizing and heating the shredded pastry or msemen (or stale bread). However, you can also use the microwave to heat it. Sprinkle a bit of water over the shredded pastry, cover it, and heat in the microwave until it’s hot. The steam gets trapped in the cover, which has the same effect of steaming.
  • If it so happens that your chicken cooks faster than the lentils, you need to remove it from the broth and set aside, then cover, to prevent it from falling apart in broth. You can add the chicken back in the pot once the lentils have been cooked.
  • You can serve the chicken whole, rather than in pieces. Remove it from the pot when it’s almost cooked, and finish it by roasting in a 450°F (230°C) oven.

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