Serious Heat: Moroccan Chermoula, an Underrated Hot Sauce-Marinade-Paste

Note: On Wednesdays, Andrea Lynn, senior editor of Chile Pepper magazine, drops by with Serious Heat.

Chiles and fresh produce are everywhere in Morocco, including this serene scene on the edge of the Atlas Mountains.

20090818chermoula.jpgDo you need to rev up a meal with flavor but are short on time? During a trip to Morocco this summer, I discovered an under-acknowledged ingredient blend: chermoula (also spelled charmoula). I have trouble classifying it as a hot sauce, paste, or marinade. And that's because this combination of chiles, onions, garlic, cumin and olive oil works fabulously as all of the above.

It's my current go-to when anything needs a pick-me-up. I've marinated tilapia in it for 30 minutes, then broiled it. Success. I've stirred it into the rice. Double success. You can rub it under the skin of chicken thighs before sautéeing; mix it into sour cream and slather baked potatoes. The options are endless. Be warned, the recipe below, which I concocted based on Moroccan versions, is quite hot with a massive rush of garlic. But once you taste it, you'll be coming up with reasons to use it.


Note: Remove the seeds from the serrano chiles if you want to tame the fire of this sauce.

Yield: 1 cup
Zest Factor: Hot

Serious Heat: Moroccan Chermoula, an Underrated Hot Sauce-Marinade-Paste

About This Recipe


  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped, or 3 whole scallions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, diced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1. In a food processor or blender, add onion or scallions, garlic, chiles, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, lemon juice and water.
  • 2. Purée ingredients, adding enough canola oil while blending to make mixture emulsify.
  • 3. Taste, and adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice, if needed.

Add a rating with your comment:

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: