An Air of Morocco with a Chicken Pastilla — Vent du Maroc avec une pastilla de poulet

Chicken Pastilla

I have always found difficult to give an answer to the often asked question “what is your favorite cuisine?” Because there is not one. There are just too many cuisines that I like, that transport me to exotic places, areas that I do not know that well. And so yes, just like Italian, Vietnamese, Japanese or Thai, I have a passion for Moroccan food. Earthy, fragrant, comforting and delicate at the same time, these are all qualifiers that come to my mind when I think about this colorful North-African cuisine. With no surprise then, the other day, Loukoum had me think. Did I really have four Moroccan cookbooks practically untouched? Well, almost. I have made preserved lemons, numerous tajines with fish, meat — lamb, chicken, veal — and vegetables, quite often, so much so that there was even a time when P. literally told me “J’en ai marre des tajines (I am sick of tajines). He really said so, if you can actually believe it. How can one get tired of tajines, I ask? Impossible ! But, of all the various Moroccan dishes I prepared over the years, I had never made a pastilla before, until last week. Thanks to Loukoum who made a pastilla on the day of her birthday, I got obsessed with making one myself. “I so much want to taste one”, I kept thinking. I recalled the last one eaten many years ago at La Boussole, this 6th arrondissement bistrot in Paris where we often go when we visit the city. I could not believe it had been so long! I located my Moroccan cookbooks, studied Loukoum’s recipe and decided to make a hybrid of hers, one recipe from Moroccan Café and my own touch. My initial plan was actually to make a pigeon pastilla, but I was really unsure of my success to find pigeons that easily, and to eat them furthermore. When I told P. that I thought of pigeons, he looked up, smiled, and said: “coo coo coo”. Right! I mentally scanned ideas and thought of quails but when I called my local butcher to ask him whether he had any, he replied that he only had two left. I did not want to wait until the following day, so instead of pigeons, I decided to use chicken. It was best to start things progressively anyway.

Pastilla is the meeting of sweet and savory by essence, a North-African pie-like dish traditionally made of squab. It requires many spices, cinnamon, saffron, nutmeg, ginger for example, nuts — almonds — dried fruit and meat. The mixed ingredients are then imprisoned in various layers of flaky dough, traditionally brick but since it is rather hard to find, phyllo dough is often used instead. It is fair to add that it requires some attention and time, especially when assembling the dish, but the result is really worth the time and efforts put.

But I had plenty of time in front of me as it was snowing heavily outside and I was pretty much stuck at home. In fact, this dish was going to be the perfect meal for the weather and the day. I was all excited.

Despite the pretty long list of ingredients and the fact that time is a criteria to consider when making a pastilla, there is really nothing difficult about it. For those a little intimidated by working with phyllo dough, this could perhaps be the only more “challenging” part, although a little bit of care is all that is required. Phyllo dough is fragile and dries out quickly. Hence, you need to be able to work rapidly to make sure that the dough does not dry out before you are done. In a pastilla, I particularly like the complex combination of savory spices subtly contrasted to sweeter flavors such as cinnamon, raisins and confectioner’s sugar. It is a plat complet (one dish with everything) and is plenty for dinner accompanied with a salad, or why not, served as a small appetizer. We really loved it. The question as to why I waited for so long to make one remains a mystery, but there is one thing that I however know, that has not price: reading about what other food bloggers prepare is a great way to challenge myself to try new things, or dishes that I have not made in a while. Very soon, I know that I will probably prepare my next pastilla with pigeons or squab. Exciting! I have never done it and cannot wait to try.

I ‘d better start looking for these pigeons! There is no shortage of them around here!

Chicken Pastilla

(For 6 people, round mold 9.5 x 1.5″)

You need:

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 Tbsp butter + extra, melted for brushing
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 saffron dose
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 5 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 4 Tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 oz raisins, soaked in water
  • About 10 Phyllo dough sheets
  • 2 oz blanched almonds
  • Salt and pepper


  • Soak the raisins in warm water.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a Dutch-style casserole pot. Braise the chicken drumsticks on all sides for a few min, then remove.
  • Add 2 more Tbsp olive oil and cook the onions with the spices — ginger, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, saffron and ginger root — for a few min, until they are fragrant.
  • Return the chicken drumsticks to the pot, add 1/3 cup water, 2 Tbsp chopped coriander, 1 Tbsp chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan and saute the almonds. Chop and mix with 1.5 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Keep.
  • Remove the meat from the bones and chop coarsely.
  • Reduce the chicken sauce by 2/3.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl and add 1 Tbsp chopped coriander. Add the eggs to the casserole and stir constantly on low heat until you have a creamy consistency. Remove.
  • Preheat your oven at 400 F.
  • Take a round cake mold and brush it with melted butter.
  • Line it with 2 buttered phyllo sheets, on top of each other. Add two more buttered phyllo circles at the bottom.
  • Top with half of the meat, half of the nuts and raisins, half of the sauce.
  • Add 2 more buttered phyllo sheets on top and start again with the meat, sauce, raisins and nuts.
  • Finish with 4 buttered phyllo sheets and tuck them to seal properly.
  • Brush with an egg yolk mixed with a little water.
  • Place in the oven for 30 mns, or until golden. Remove, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon, and serve with a large green salad.

Le coin français

Pastilla de poulet

(Pour 6 personnes, moule de 24 x 4 cm)

Ingrédients :

  • 6 pilons de poulet
  • 2 oignons jaunes
  • 30 g de beurre + extra, fondu pour la pâte filo
  • 3 càs d’huile d’olive
  • 1 dose de safran
  • 2,5 cm de racine de gingembre
  • 1 càc de gingembre en poudre
  • 1/2 càc de cannelle moulue
  • 1/2 càc de paprika
  • Pointe de muscade
  • 5 oeufs + 1 jaune d’oeuf
  • 4 càs de coriandre fraiche, hachée
  • 2 càs de persil frais, haché
  • 80 ml d’eau
  • 60 g de raisins secs, à faire tremper dans de l’eau tiède
  • 10 feuilles de filo
  • 60 g d’amandes entières mondées
  • Sel et poivre

Étapes :

  • Faites tremper les raisins secs dans de l’eau tiàde.
  • Faites chauffer 2 càs d’huile d’olive et 30 g de beurre dans une cocotte, type Le Creuset. Faites dorer les pilons de poulet sur toutes le faces pendant quelques mns, puis retirez-les.
  • Ajoutez 2 càs d’huile d’olive et faites revenir les oignons et les épices (gingembre, cannelle, paprika, muscade, safran et racine gingembre) pendant quelques min, jusqu’à ce qu’elles se développent en parfum.
  • Remettez les pilons de poulet dans la cocotte, ajoutez l’eau, 2 càs de coriandre hachée, 1 càs de persil haché, et assaisonnez de sel et de poivre. Couvrez et faites mijoter à feu doux pendant 1 heure.
  • Faites chauffer 1 càs d’huile d’olive dans une poêle et faites revenir les amandes pendant 2 à 3 mns. Hachez-les grossièrement et ajoutez 1,5 càs de sucre et 1 càc de cannelle en poudre. Réservez.
  • Retirez la viande des os et hachez-les grossièrement.
  • Faites réduire la sauce de 2/3.
  • Battez les oeufs en omelette dans un bol et ajoutez 1 càs de coriandre hachée. Ajoutez les oeufs à la sauce et mélangez constamment sur feu doux, jusqu’è l’obtention d’une consistance crémeuse. Retirez du feu.
  • Préchauffez votre four à 200 C.
  • Prenez un moule à tarte rond et badigeonnez-le de beurre fondu.
  • Recouvrez-le de 2 feuilles de filo badigeonnées de beurre fondu. Ajoutez deux cercles de filo beurrés recouvrant le fond.
  • Versez la moitié de la viande, des raisins et des noix, et de la sauce.
  • Ajoutez 2 nouvelles feuilles de filo beurrées et continuez avec le reste de viande, noix, raisins et sauce.
  • Terminez avec 4 feuilles de filo beurrées et scellez la pastilla en repliant les bouts de filo qui dépassent.
  • Badigeonnez d’un jaune d’oeuf battu avec un peu d’eau.
  • Mettez au four pendant 30 min, ou jusqu’à ce que le dessus soit doré. Retirez du four, saupoudrez de sucre glace et de cannelle, et servez avec une belle salade verte.
Posted in Meat


  1. tres belle pastilla .on dirait presque un gateau ;
    Connais tu la version au canard .?

    Very beautiful pastilla .
    It’s look like au cake
    Do you know one with duck ?

  2. I became obsessed with finding the perfect recipe for this dish a couple of years ago. Yours seems somewhat less labor intensive than others I have seen…and it looks wonderful! I love this combination of flavors. I can’t wait to try it again! Thank you!

  3. Bea, what a gorgeous post and such wonderful ideas floating around in your head. Thanks for sharing with us. Last year at my market a lady began selling her pastilla by the slice. It took us several months to break down and get some. I was not prepared for the sucré salé aspect of the dish and it was just foreign enough to me to get me really thinking. Thanks for taking me on your journey today. I didn’t know they are traditionally made with pigeon! It’s very funny I have two pigeons in the fridge waiting to be cooked! You can come over today if you like and we can cook them together!

  4. Wow Bea that is a wonderful Chicken Pastilla.Must admit i’ve never tried it before.Just Bakhlava which is made in a similar fashion with dry fruits,tons of ghee,filo pastry n sugar.But i’m sure u already know that.I’ve become a big fan of your creations and think u are extremely talented.Keep it up.

  5. Bravoooooooo ta pastilla est très réussie miam miam, je viens d’en faire la semaine dernière c’est toujours un moment de plaisir de la déguster!
    Bravo encore…

  6. Bea, love your idea on squabs and quails! I haven’t eaten them, gosh… over 10 years. Your chicken pastilla really looks fantastic!

  7. Il me faudra essayer bientôt. Je n’ai jamais goûté ce plat, et pourtant! Il y a tout ce que j’aime là-dedans!

  8. I’ve been wanting to make a pastilla for a while. Thanks for the further motivation! By the way, the typo in the recipe is a charming one…..this recipe might just be the trick to transform ordinary drumsticks into dreamsticks.

  9. Gorgeous! I’ve never attempted a pastilla, but I do go through Moroccan food phases — especially the tagines. I have many tagine pots that I designed with a local potter, and it’s fun to get several kinds of tagines going at once. But pastilla — well, that is a work of art!

  10. absolutely beautiful and looks so delicious. I am going to see if I can give this a try. I really enjoy your interstitial prep photos, nice and simple styling and illustrative.

  11. good morning bea!
    looks interesting, haven’t had chicken pastilla before but i’d say it’s close to what we have back in Manila, the empanadas, filling-wise…been meaning to do those but maybe i could use phyllo dough instead! thanks for the idea!
    oh, and i miss my morrocan dishes and glasses that i left back home! yours are lovely!
    do you know that that’s my dream house? morrocan-inspired…

  12. So wonderful. I ate this in Morocco years ago, and there used to be a restaurant in Salt Lake that made a fantastic version of it, but sadly they went out of business.

  13. ça fait bien longtemps que je n’ai pas fait de pastilla et sincèrement tu me mets l’eau à la bouche ! J’adore ça tout simplement et je mets la cuisine marocaine juste derrière la cuisine f rançaise par sa qualité et ses goûts et saveurs!

  14. Je n’ai pas mangé de pastilla depuis que je n’habite plus au Maroc si bien que ce post fait remonter dans mes papilles tout plein de délicieuses saveurs; il va falloir que je me lance un de ces quatre…
    My kingdom for a pastilla !

  15. Goodness I really wish I could cook and eat all that appeals to me on blogs. This really looks incredible. I really want to try this. I love the seasonings and the layering!

  16. Oh! comme je suis contente de t’avoir donné envie de te mettre aux pastillas! Surtout quand je voie le résultat!
    J’ai adoré ce plat la première fois où je l’ai gouté, pourtant encore petite mais déjà completement accro au sucré-salé et surtout à la cannelle!
    J’ai déjà essayé aussi une version sucrée, qui se rapproche plus d’une tourte au fruits avec des feuilles de filo, mais c’est un délice et très léger, parfait pour clore un repas!

  17. Hello tartine.. just stopped by to say I was having a comment contest over at tangled up.
    wittiest wins a Guerlain prize. Thank you for all the great recipes.

  18. very interesting dish. It’s like chicken pie. I could almost imagine the flavors from the ingredient list. Wonderful!

  19. Quelle belle recette! Ca donne envie meme si j’ai fini mon dinner. J’adore les combinaisons des saveurs. Mes parents etant nes et ayant ete eleves au Maroc, c’est une cuisine qui fait beaucoup partie de ma vie et qui manque ici en Caroline.

  20. Nicely done… It really looks authentic like the one I used to eat when I was a child. I still make it sometimes as a traditional meal for special occasions.

  21. Looks exotic and delicious! I understand how difficult it is to pinpoint ine favorite cuisine…there is just so much “tastes” out there that vie for my palate’s attention and love. But Moroccan is definitely up there!

  22. I love pasteeya, however you spell it, and fell inlove with the dish the first time I made it. I think though, that I’d prefer for someone to make if for me since it’s a lot of work!

    Funny that you should add the note about using pidgeons or squab. A woman (french no less!) suggested that I use cornish game hens or squab the next time I make this dish. She said that I’d be surprised at the better flavor!

  23. Tu expliques parfaitement les différentes étapes de confection et ta recette semble vraiment abordable, je m’y essayerai prochainement, dans le cadre d’un petit dîner en amoureux aux accents du Maroc, pourquoi pas ?! Mais maintenant qu’on a l’entrée, il faudrait que tu nous proposes un plat et un dessert dans les mêmes harmonies ! ;O)

    Amicalement blog,

  24. ces photos sont trop trop belles et cette recette enchante mes papilles qui ont besoin d’être réchauffées avec ce temps maussade !!!

  25. Béa, ta pastilla est une petite merveille !!! Et je sais de quoi je parle 😉
    C’est une de mes recettes préférées…

  26. Myrtille , merci.

    Lili63, non je ne connais pas mais j’y ai aussi pensé. C’est une excellente idée de viande. Parfumée, en en plus j’adore le canard.

    Peggy, merci.

    Missb, I would love to see your recipes!

    Emy, merci.

    Lucy, thank you! Yes as a matter of fact, funny, my mum told me yesterday that I already ate pigeons (I had forgotten) since someone in our village breeds them, and in the next-door village, there is a small family owned company who does this business too, catering for all the restaurants in the area. I had no idea! 😉

    Mirabelle, merci.

    Kate, Bakhlava is great too. I have not made this in a while, and now you are giving me ideas.

    Omo, oh merci bien. Tu as fait une pastilla à quoi?

    Gattina, thank you!

    Ninnie, oh oui, essaie, je suis sûre que tu vas beaucoup aimer!

    Suzy, ahah, oh yes, thank you! Good eyes you do have, once more! I corrected it 😉

    Lydia, ah yes tajines are wonderful, aren’t they?

    Madjy, merci.

    Nika, thank you. I am delighted to hear you enjoy the step-by-step. Not always easy to do while cooking 😉 I would need so many assistants, ahahah!

    Ces,yes ! Lokve empanadas too! I guess you are right, the dough is different, and perhaps the meeting of savory and sweet too!

    Kalyn. oh bummer this place closed down. ALways hard to see a place you like go, doesn’t it?

    Mercotte, ah oui, tu as bien raison. C’est une cuisine super créative et délicieuse.

    Kat, thank you!

    Veronica, tant mieux !

    Sophie, les voyages comme cela font tant de bien, pas vrai ?

    Adeline, very nice!

    Tanna, yes me too. There are so many great recipes I make note of! Not enough time!

    Claude-Olivier, merci. Tu es bien trop bon 😉

    Loukoum, ah mais merci à toi pour cette superbe inspiration!

    Cheddy, thank you for letting me know.

    Veron, the dough I suppose is what makes it also different! I am sure you would enjoy it.

    Helen, ah je ne savais pas. Alors j’imagine que tu dois avoir un superbe répertoire de recettes si colorées.

    Yoyo, thank you!

    Rose, oh very nice to hear. Thank you.

    JOey,yep, I would agree with you. Moroccan cuisine is definitely high on the list.

    Rowena, yes you are right, it is a lot of work, but worth it, I know you would love to make it, c’m on Rowena 😉 Yes pigeons as I was told by my mum, are delicious. SHe added that I ate some already (which I had forgotten). Am I getting old or what?

    Ingrid, merci. ahaha, coquine, oui tu as raison, c’est une bonne idée.

    Mitsuko, tu sais ce qui rend cette couleur verte? C”est les oeufs mélangés à la sauce brune du poulet une fois qu’elle a réduit. J’étais moi aussi au début intriguée. C’est de la vraie magie de peinture.

    Sylvie, merci. Ravie que cela te donne comme un rayon de soleil marocain.

    Ellie, thank you!

    Christine, yes! I take your word 🙂

    Merci beaucoup Camille. Cela m’enchante de le savoir, vraiment.

    Carol, it is really easier than you think, trust moi!

  27. This looks wonderful! I’ve never tried this, but have been meaning to! When I lived in Paris, I ate at la Boussole a few times! The food there was always delicious – and what a cute street!

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  30. Pastilla is the best meal i’ve had in years ! I went to a small unknown restaurant not well situated in Montréal called “Au Tarot” last night. I like that restaurant for the couscous but mostly order it “to go” or have it delivered. I went to the actual dining room a few times over the years but never really bothered with the dishes i didn’t know. I talked with the waiter for a couple of minutes before ordering a pastilla. He talked me into it. WoW !!! What a great experience ! It’s so had to describe but it’s like an explosion of flavours inside your mouth ! If you see that dish on a menu, don’t hesitate. You might be disappointed when you look into the plate but you’re in for a really good surprise (that i can best describe as a “orgasm of the mouth”) on the first bite.

    The texture is light even if it’s quite dense. The smell coming out of the pastilla when you break the crust (very thin and flaky) will give you a hint of what’s coming and make your mouth waters. I dare you to not make a sound of satisfaction when biting into the first bite! All the flavours exciting your tastebuds make each bite of this dish pretty spectacular. Very tasty, complex and long lasting in your mouth.

    Bring a really good bottle of wine if you’re going there (yes, that restaurant is a BYOW) to drink with the pastilla. Had it with a spanish 8 years old wine that i know and love. It was good but the wine could have less tannins and it would be preferable. but don’t hesitate to bring a red wine that you like, that dish can hold it’s ground ! I don’t think a white wine could stand beside that dish. It would have to be a very good white wine and i don`t have that kind of wine in the cellar. Next time i go there, i am bringing a decent Burgundy. I think that could fit better with the PAstilla and the other dishes they serve “Au Tarot”.

  31. I had a Bastilla many years ago in a Morrocan restaurant and just reading your recipe and reviews brought back all the memories of that incredible explosion of flavours in your mouth. I want it again!!!

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  33. Bonjour! Je cherche une recette de pastilla et la vôtre semble convenir parfaitement. J’ai cependant une question : qu’est-ce que vous entendez par une dose de safran? Le safran que j’ai se présente sous forme d’étamines dans une petite boîte. Merci!

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  36. Looks great. But why not make readers’ lives easy by offering a print version of thee recipe?????

  37. I tried this dish to give my daughter a flavorful introduction along with cultural studies she is participating in at school. I loved the blend of spices, simple set up, & the dish was a hit.

  38. April, so pleased to read. Makes me want to make one again soon as well.

  39. I was looking for an authentic pastilla recipe and came across your site – so glad I did as this recipe is fantastic. It took a while, but was definitely worth it. My family ate huge amounts tonight – so the next one I make will be twice as big. thank you!

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  48. Hello! Sorry but pastilla has never been north african. It is only Moroccan. Also, authentic pastilla doesn’t contain any raisins 🙂

  49. Can you make this without eggs? I am allergic…which is why I couldn’t taste it when I lived in Fes. Found one vegan recipe that mentioned substituting egg for chickpea flour, but not sure how that would work.