vegetarian aubergine tagine

Until a few years ago I had only used a tagine now and then for work. I’d never considered having one at home until, out of the blue, my sister-in-law bought one for my husband’s birthday. Now it’s one of my favourite ways to cook, and it’s inspired my husband and me to one day visit Morocco.

vegetarian aubergine tagine

It’s so simple but it delivers a delicious flavoursome and tender stew every single time. Traditionally it’s used over hot coals, but your hob or oven will do. Made out of clay and usually pretty bulky, the secret is the simple design and the shape. The tagine is made up of two parts: the base and the lid. The cone lid means the steam rises, hits the pinnacle and trickles down back into the stew. This keeps the flavours moving and stops the dish drying out.

We have often used it for when we have had a few friends over, making feasts by serving a meaty tagine with couscous, flatbreads, yogurt swirled with harissa and a crisp salad, which is all typical of the Moroccan cuisine. The tagine is a big part of Algerian cuisine too, but they do things a little differently.

Algeria was once part of the Ottoman Empire, and as a result has some strong Turkish influences, such as making flatbreads to go with the stews and using lots of Mediterranean vegetables. It’s the latter that has inspired my tagine recipe below.

Whatever ingredients you use, the tagine ensures that your finished dish is full of flavour, and is tender and juicy. In most recipes the meat and base ingredients (usually onions and garlic) are browned off first in a heady mix of spices, the most common being cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cumin, turmeric, paprika and chilli. Next the vegetables, liquid and fruits are added. It is traditional to combine sweet and sour flavours – I love to use dates or apricots when making a lamb tagine, and chicken thighs work really well with sultanas. Once the lid’s on, it’s left on a low heat for hours and hours, until the sauce is thickened and meat and veg are beautifully tender.

The recipe below is for a vegetarian aubergine tagine. Have a go yourselves and don’t be scared to change bits until you find something you really like. I often use what I have left in the kitchen, so each one it is slightly different, which I love. I had a bag of baby aubergines so I used them as the main ingredients, but this would work just as well with normal aubergine or butternut squash, as well as roughly chopped chicken thighs or lamb neck fillet. If you’re going for meat make sure you brown it off at the start, and give it an extra 30 minutes with the lid on.

Algerian-inspired vegetarian aubergine tagine

Serves 4

  • 1 red onion, roughly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 10 baby aubergines, halved (or 3 large ones, roughly chopped)
  • 1 tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 10 apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 sweet potato

To serve:

  • 400g couscous
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice of
  • 2 tbsps of natural yogurt

Place the tagine on a medium heat and add a little oil and a knob of butter. Add the onion, garlic, celery and spices, and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until starting to soften.

Add the aubergines and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, stirring continuously to get all the spices and flavours into the aubergine.

Next, add the tomatoes, chickpeas and their water, the stock cube and the apricots. Season with salt and pepper, give it a good stir, then place the lid on for 1 hour, or until thick and the aubergine is cooked through.

With a few minutes to go, cook the couscous according to the packet instructions, then add the zest and squeeze in the juice. Serve next to the stew, with a dollop of yoghurt for some creaminess.

vegetarian aubergine tagine

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Header image by Simon Mackenzie

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  • петя спасова

    yum. thanks christina,that looks yummy aubergine tagine. i can add whatever i want in it.super easy only need to throw things in sauce.

  • петя спасова

    i can use ordinary potatoes.

    • Christina Mackenzie

      Yes use what you have have- enjoy!

      • петя спасова

        im very happy to see some simple,healthy and delicious recipes to the site…

  • Miss Food Fairy

    This looks absolutely delicious! I have an eggplant (aubergine) waiting to be used in the fridge. Thank you for some new inspiration and for sharing. Oh, love the tagine – gorgeous colour!

    • Christina Mackenzie

      So glad you like this- happy cooking!

  • Deborah Eleazar


    • Steph

      I just use my oven at Gas mark 4/160-180 degrees C, it takes longer but it’s worth it. I usually check it after an hour or so, then it’s usually still a bit wet so I put it in for another hour.

    • Christina Mackenzie

      Yes you can although i would suggest you fry off the base in a frying pan first and then transfer into the tagine in the oven. Just double check that the tagine can go in oven (different products have different specifications)

  • Ana Mafalda

    Hi Christina! The plum tomatoes can be natural instead of tin can they?
    How much of them?
    And they must be taken off their skin and seeds to cook is it?

    The apricots can be natural too or they can be dried apricots?!

    Thank you a lot! Best regards, Ana! :)

    • Christina Mackenzie

      You can of course use fresh tomatoes and not tinned- I use whatever I have in.
      Skin on is not a problem, just roughly chop then up.
      Apricots- they can be fresh too, half and take the stone out and give them a good wash before adding.
      You can use a Ragu style pan (low and quite shallow, and create a tagine type lid with foil.
      Best of luck!


      • Lois Carrington BSc

        The recipe ingredients mention a sweet potato that then gets left out of things??? When do we add this?

        • Christina Mackenzie

          Yes! opps…thanks for the spot!
          sweet pot gets cut up roughly into chunks-skin on and then gets added with the toms, chickpeas,stock and apricots etc.

  • Fella

    Hi! I’m algerian, and just to say that here we never add lemon juice or zest to the couscous. Traditionally we add either olive oil, or butter (for special occasions) to separate the grains and get that softness in the mouth .Soureness is got from a kind of buttermilk we call here “l’ben”. In the central part of the country including Algiers, we also do a white sauce with couscous or other pasta such as “Reshta” ( a kind of home made semoulina pasta) with either mutton or poultry browned with chopped onions, a little bit of garlic, salt, pepper, cinammon, and either turnips or courgettes. Hot water and chick peas are added for the sauce.

    • Christina Mackenzie

      Thank you for the incite- it is always great to hear from people about the way they do things.
      It sounds yummy.