Charmoula (sometimes spelled chermoula) is a signature sauce in the Moroccan kitchen. Aromatic spices such as cumin, sweet paprika, and black or hot pepper are combined with chopped parsley, cilantro, and garlic in a base of olive oil, with either lemon juice or vinegar as the acid component. There are many different versions of this traditional sauce. Some have sweet spices such as cinnamon and ginger, and some include saffron. Others have grated onion or slivers of preserved lemon. Charmoula is most often used as a marinade for fish, poultry, and lamb.
Charmoula is incredibly versatile. Just like the Moroccans, we can use it as a marinade for fish, poultry, and lamb. It can be a finishing sauce and can be spooned over grilled fish or shellfish or stirred into fish soup for an herbal jolt. As a dressing, it is excellent on grilled vegetables, bean salads, potato salads, grain salads, and couscous salads. For the acid factor, I usually opt for lemon juice, but if the lemons are mild and you want greater acidity to set off the spices, add some red wine vinegar.
Total Timeunder 30 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, spiced, tangy, tart
Type of Dishdressing, marinades, sauces
- About ½ cup fresh lemon juice, or ¼ cup lemon juice and ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 6 cloves garlic, very finely minced
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika or pimentón dulce
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin, toasted
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped preserved lemon (optional)
Mix the lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, and cayenne in a mixing bowl until smooth. Whisk in the parsley, cilantro, and olive oil. Taste and add more oil if necessary and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle in a little preserved lemon if you like.
Charmoula citrus dressing: Make the charmoula, then add more lemon juice to thin it to the consistency of a dressing.
2008 Joyce Goldstein