Moroccan chermoula is the perfect sauce for you to use as a dressing or marinade for your fish, lamb, chicken and vegetable dishes!! This North-African sauce is made using parsley, cilantro and spices. Let's just say, the ingredient combination is definitely bound to transform your dishes! It is also paleo and keto-friendly.
What is Chermoula?
Chermoula, also known as Charmoula, is a North African sauce with origins in Morocco, which was traditionally used as a marinade for fish. The name is derived from the Arabic verb Chermel, which refers to using a spice mix to marinate food. Its usage has since involved to include several other types of food such as shrimp, chicken, beef, lamb and vegetables.
It comes in different variations and each family has its own recipe. In this respect, different North-African countries also make their chermoula differently and you can expect so many variations! In his book The Food of Morocco, Paula Wolfert writes that there is no one similar recipe for chermoula.
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(This is a summary, the full measurements are provided in the recipe card below).
This Moroccan chermoula sauce is so simple to make, you only require a bunch of ingredients.
- Fresh herbs - cilantro, also known as coriander ( you will need the leaves and stems), and some parsley leaves.
- Spices - ground smoked or sweet paprika, granulated onion, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, (feel free to use cumin seeds instead) and some turmeric.
- Vegetable - some cloves of garlic.
- Citrus fruit - you will also need the juice of one lemon.
- Salt to taste
- Cooking oil - virgin olive oil.
- Optional - chilli or cayenne pepper (optional).
How To Make Moroccan Chermoula Sauce
Making this sauce is pretty easy and basically involves processing all the ingredients. You can use your blender, food processor or a simple pestle and mortar. Using a blender or a food processor is much quicker and although I find there is always a certain beauty to the pestle and mortar, I still prefer the faster method.
In a small bowl, combine the ground spices, namely, ground paprika, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, granulated onion, salt and cayenne pepper.
Add the parsley, cilantro (coriander), garlic, lemon juice, and the combined spices to a food processor or blender. While the blender is still running, slowly add the olive oil. Process at a low speed until you obtain a puree, that is slightly coarse in texture.
Use your Moroccan chermoula sauce immediately as a marinade or condiment, or store it in a suitable airtight container in the fridge or freezer, to use later.
- As a marinade: chermoula is a perfect marinade for fish and other types of seafood. It also works well with chicken, lamb, vegetables, the list goes on.
- Use it for basting: spoon or brush over some sauce on top of your fish, meat, chicken or vegetables during the grilling process. You can also drizzle it on top of grilled steak, fish, chicken, meat or vegetables then allow this to rest for some minutes, before serving.
- Sandwich spread: spread some sauce on the surface of two pieces of bread just like you would with any other bread spread.
- Drizzle over grilled potatoes. Alternatively, you can pour some of the chermoula sauce over potatoes before grilling to give them a delicious, garlic and herb-like taste.
Useful Tips from the Chef
Storage - chermoula can be stored easily in the fridge and freezer for up to 2 weeks and 6 months, respectively. To store in the fridge, transfer to an airtight container, pour some olive oil on top, then close the lid. The olive oil will help it retain its beautiful colour. To freeze, use a teaspoon to scoop enough sauce to fit into each hole of an icecube tray. Put your desired amount of frozen sauce into a bowl and leave it on the kitchen surface to thaw for a couple of hours until ready to use.
Variations - experiment and try the different versions of chermoula out there! The most basic one is the green one, made by processing parsley, cilantro, garlic and some cumin. Other popular variations that you can try include:
- red chermoula- made by adding half a cup of pasted (or blended) sweet paprika to this recipe. Alternatively, add a tablespoon of powdered paprika or simply make it spicy by stirring in some harissa.
- make it more yellow - by stirring in half a teaspoon of yellow food powder or simply using some more turmeric.
- Or just add a citrus note by adding 1-2 preserved lemons.
Use a ready-made spice blend - It is also common for merchants in North Africa to make a ready-made chermoula spice mix which can then be ground together with fresh parsley, cilantro and garlic to make chermoula. Love saving time? Then I definitely recommend this method as you will have your sauce ready in a fraction of the time!
Frequently Asked Questions
While the two sauces are quite similar, they are not entirely the same.
Chimichurri sauce has its origins in Argentina. It uses parsley and oregano as the main herbs, garlic for aromatics and salt for saltiness. Its acidic component comes from red wine vinegar while the spiciness comes from red chilli flakes or chilli.
Chermoula, on the other hand, originated in Morocco. Similar to Chimichurri, it uses parsley and coriander for its herby component and garlic for aromatics. Its acidic component comes from lemon juice, the spiciness from the cayenne or chilli pepper. It has cumin as a base spice and normally has more coriander than parsley, in a 4:1 ratio. Finally, it has the texture of a relish.
I normally use both the stems and the leaves. The stems have so much flavour, throwing them away would be a waste. HOWEVER, you should use fresh parsley and cilantro as using older plants could turn your sauce bitter.
More Moroccan Recipes
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I originally wrote this recipe in June 2020. It was refreshed and republished to include step-by-step instructions in September 2021.
Moroccan Chermoula Sauce
- 1 cup cilantro (coriander) leaves and stems roughly chopped
- ½ cup parsley leaves roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon ground smoked or sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper - or one chilli pepper (optional)
- juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon salt (or more to taste)
- 6 cloves garlic
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- In a small bowl, combine the ground spices, namely, ground paprika, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, granulated onion, salt, and cayenne pepper.
- Add the parsley, cilantro (coriander), garlic, lemon juice, and the combined spices to a food processor or blender. While the blender is still running, add the extra virgin olive oil slowly and process it at a low speed to a puree that is slightly coarse in texture. Alternatively, use your pestle and mortar to grind all the ingredients into a thick paste. In this case, I recommend starting with the garlic cloves and the salt.
- Use your Moroccan chermoula sauce immediately or store it in a suitable airtight container in the fridge or freezer, to use later.
- Make red chermoula by adding half a cup of pasted (or blended) sweet paprika. Alternatively, add a tablespoon of powdered paprika or simply make it spicy by stirring in some harissa.
- Make it yellow - by stirring in half a teaspoon of yellow food powder or simply use slightly more turmeric.
- Or just add a citrus note by adding 1-2 preserved lemons.
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