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Moroccan Chicken Rfissa – Trid with Chicken and Lentils

Moroccan Chicken Rfissa – Trid with Chicken and Lentils

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Chicken Rfissa is a variation of trid, a Moroccan dish that traces its origins back to tharid, a centuries-old Arab dish of stew and broth served over bread.

While trid can take different forms, rfissa is specifically a chicken and lentil dish that’s served on a bed of shredded trid pastry, msemenmeloui (or rezat el kadi)harcha, or day old bread.

When served over crumbled harcha, it’s referred to as rfissa medhoussa; when served over cubed bread, it’s called treda.

Titled photo of rfissa

Rfissa’s signature broth is uniquely and fragrantly seasoned with Ras el Hanout, fenugreek seeds (helba in Arabic), saffron, and other spices. While not an elegant dish, it’s memorably delicious and regarded by many as Moroccan comfort food at its best.

In some regions or on some occasions, a seasoning blend called msakhen is used instead of ras el hanout. Many consider the two blends to be similar, but msakhen includes herbs while ras el hanout does not. Msakhen also adds an element of heat, so it’s sometimes favored in cooler weather.

You’ll find rfissa served for family gatherings and casual company meals. It’s also traditionally served on the third day following the birth of a baby, due to the health benefits that fenugreek offers a nursing mother. Of course, it can be offered at other times as well.

Rfissa with whole roasted chicken, lentils and onions served on a bed of shredded pastry. The dish is presented in a large, deep ceramic platter.
The chicken for rfissa can be served whole. Photo: Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc

Making Rfissa

An organic, free-range chicken (djaj beldi) is often preferred in Morocco when making rfissa, and it works best due to the long cooking time.

If using a regular chicken (djaj roumi) you’ll need to remove it from the broth once cooked to avoid it falling apart before the lentils, onions, and fenugreek have finished stewing.

The chicken and lentil stew is quite easy to make, but plan ahead to marinate the chicken (preferably overnight) and soak the fenugreek. The pastry can be made while the chicken is stewing or well in advance of the serving day.

In Morocco, we can buy shredded pastry or msemen at local markets. This is a real time-saver!

However, many cooks prefer to make their own pastry or msemen because they have control over the quality of ingredients.

Planning to serve rfissa over leftover bread or store-bought paratha bread will eliminate this prep time.

The shredded msemen or pastry can be stored in the freezer until needed. At serving time, it’s usually steamed in a couscoussier prior to assembly.  Using leftover bread will reduce that prep time.

You might also want to try Bormache, a regional variation of rfissa that includes the addition of tomatoes, garlic and dried herbs.

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Photograph of a large, deep eight-sided ceramic dish holding a Moroccan dish of chicken, lentils and onions served on a bed of shredded pastry.

Moroccan Chicken Rfissa – Trid with Chicken and Lentils

Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc
A delicious Moroccan dish of chicken, lentils and onions served with broth on a bed of shredded pastry, msemen, or bread. 
Plan ahead to allow all day or overnight marinating of the chicken. The trid pastry or msemen can be made ahead of time or while the chicken and lentils are stewing. 
You can eliminate the prep work of making pastry or msemen by using leftover bread or even store-bought paratha bread.
4.80 from 15 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Marinating 6 hours
Total Time 9 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine Moroccan
Yield 6 servings
Calories 614 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 large chicken, - quartered or left whole
  • 3 large onions, - thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp Ras el Hanout - (or 1 1/2 tbsp msakhen)
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric

For the Lentils

  • 1/2 cup uncooked lentils, green or brown
  • 4 tbsp fenugreek seeds, - soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 1/2 tsp saffron threads, - heated gently and then crumbled
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, - finely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, - finely chopped
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp smen - (Moroccan preserved butter)

Msemen or Trid

Instructions
 

Ahead of Time

  • Making and shredding msemen is best done ahead of time. Tear the msemen into bite-size pieces while hot off the griddle. When cool, store in a plastic bag. If prepared more than a day in advance, freeze the shredded msemen until needed.
  • The night before (or at least six hours before cooking), soak the fenugreek seeds and lentils in separate bowls of cold water. (If you forget to do this, you can do a quick soak by pouring boiling water over the fenugreek and lentils and letting them sit an hour or two.) Drain when ready to use. 
    If desired, the soaked, drained fenugreek seeds can be tied in a cheesecloth to keep them separate from other ingredients in the pot.
  • The night before (or at least six hours before cooking), mix the chicken with the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric, saffron and Ras el Hanout spices in a heavy-bottomed pot. Stir to coat the chicken well, cover, and leave in the fridge to marinate.

Cook the Chicken and Lentils

  • Place the pot with the chicken on the stove over medium heat and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until a rich sauce has formed. 
  • If using a free range (beldi) chicken: Add the drained fenugreek seeds, parsley, cilantro and the water. Cover and simmer over medium-low to medium heat for about 1 hour. Add the drained lentils and continue cooking, covered, for another hour, or until the chicken and lentils are quite tender. Add water as needed during cooking to ensure that ample broth remains in the pot, and correct seasoning if necessary.
  • If using a regular, factory-raised (roumi) chicken: Add the drained lentils, drained fenugreek seeds, parsley, cilantro and the water. Simmer, covered, over medium-low to medium heat for about 1 hour, or until the lentils are tender and the chicken is well-cooked. There should be rich, ample broth in the pot. (If there’s not, add a little water during cooking, tasting to be sure that the seasoning is not diluted.)
  • Taste the broth for salt, then add the smen, swirling the pot to incorporate it into the broth. If desired, remove the chicken from the pot and place it under a broiler for a few minutes to brown and crisp the skin.

Serve the Chicken Rfissa

  • Steam the shredded msemen in a couscoussier for about 10 minutes, or until steaming hot and tender. Spread or mound the hot, shredded msemen on a large serving dish. Add the chicken to the bed of msemen, and distribute the lentils, onions and most of the broth over all. Reserve a bowlful or two of broth to offer on the side. (If you tied the fenugreek in cheesecloth, empty it into a bowl to offer on the side as well.)
  • Rfissa is traditionally enjoyed communally from the serving dish, with each person eating from his own side of the plate by hand or with a spoon.

Notes

  • My family loves a generous amount of broth as well as a generous bed of pastry or msemen. I often increase the seasoning and liquids by half to ensure ample broth is available to serve on the side. 
  • Halfway through cooking, taste and adjust seasoning, particularly if topping off the liquids. You want the broth to be very flavorful.
  • Fenugreek imparts a traditional flavor to rfissa, but not everyone likes to bite into the cooked seeds. As noted in the directions, tying the seeds in a cheesecloth allows you to keep them separate from the main dish at serving time. Overnight soaking both softens them and reduces their pungency. 
  • Smen is a preserved, clarified butter that adds a distinctive flavor to traditional Moroccan dishes such as this one. It can be omitted without too much compromise, but its absence will be noted by those familiar with the dish.
  • Steaming is the traditional method of tenderizing and heating the shredded pastry or msemen (or stale bread), but you can use the microwave instead. Sprinkle a little water over the shredded pastry, cover and microwave until hot. The cover traps the steam and has the same effect as steaming. 
  • If your chicken cooks faster than the lentils, remove it from the broth and set aside, covered, to avoid it falling apart in the broth. Once the lentils are cooked, you can return the chicken to the pot to heat through for serving.
  • If serving the chicken whole rather than cut into pieces, you can remove it from the pot when nearly cooked and finish it by roasting in a 450° F (230° C) oven.

Nutrition

Calories: 614kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 35gFat: 42gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 116mgSodium: 1299mgPotassium: 646mgFiber: 8gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 280IUVitamin C: 9.7mgCalcium: 72mgIron: 5.8mg

Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate obtained from online calculators. Optional ingredients may not be included in the nutritional information.

Tried this recipe? We’d love to know!Mention @tasteofmaroc or tag #tasteofmaroc!
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About the Author

Christine Benlafquih is Founding Editor at Taste of Maroc and owner of Taste of Casablanca, a food tour and culinary activity business in Casablanca. A long time resident of Morocco, she's written extensively about Moroccan cuisine and culture. She was the Moroccan Food Expert for The Spruce Eats (formerly About.com) from 2008 to 2016.

Recipe Rating




Maggie

Friday 11th of November 2022

I’m about to give this recipe a go but realized I only have ground fenugreek not in seeds. Can I substitute? If so, what ratio would you recommend? Thanks!

Christine Benlafquih

Friday 11th of November 2022

Hi Maggie. I've never made rfissa with ground fenugreek. I suggest starting with only 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground fenugreek, and increasing to taste later in the cooking if you feel the broth would benefit. I believe the general rule of thumb is to use half the quantity of ground fenugreek to whole seeds, but I'd be afraid to rely on that ratio for this dish. Please follow up and let me know how your rfissa turned out and how much ground fenugreek you used.

Chantelle

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

I LOVE rfissa, however, I discovered on my 3rd trip to Morocco it triggers my genetic blood disorder due to having lentils in the dish. I am alergic to all legumes (fava beans, chickpeas, etc.. ) Is there anyway to make this without lentils and it still taste good? I read somewhere to substitute mushrooms, however, I would think that would alter the flavor significantly.... Suggestions?

Chantelle

Friday 27th of May 2022

@Christine Benlafquih,

Thank you for replying. I was not sure if the lentils were adding flavor or mostly texture and nutritional content. I LOVE this dish and miss making it/eating it. Thank you again for answering me. OHH.... one more question. I was told by my Moroccan ex sister in law that the reason msmen tastes better in Morocco is because they have a different flour that is not sold in USA. Not Semolina. She insists about that however, does not know how to say the name in English. I have long lost contact with her and those I have asked said they were not sure which type of flour she was using. She mixed 2 different kinds. Any idea if it was something other than semolina? I found a few imported flours at the international market near me.

Christine Benlafquih

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

Hi Chantelle. I would suggest simply trying to make it without the lentils. It's the chicken and seasoning in the broth that provides most of the flavor, so I think you'll be fine without making a substitution.

Andriana Duilo

Sunday 7th of November 2021

this is my favorite dish. I love spices and Moroccan cuisine is a combination of fresh vegetable,meat and spices. Chokran bzzzzzaaaaaafffffff

Christine Benlafquih

Sunday 7th of November 2021

I love rfissa, too! It's been a favorite since I first tried it decades ago.

Nishanthan Jegavithiya

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Hi! Recipe sounds great. Planning to try. Can you specify on lentils? Or any type of lentils would do?Thanks

Christine Benlafquih

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Good question! Green or brown lentils should be used; I've updated the recipe to specify that. Definitely avoid red lentils or you'll end up with a mushy mess.

Khadijah Chadly

Friday 23rd of February 2018

Salaamz and first may I say that I find your recipes to be excellent-so well thought out and explained. Shukran ! I started seeing you on The Spruce and was impressed from the beginning. I have been cooking and baking Moroccan all these years but still find useful information and new ideas for my dishes in your recipes. And this is after being married to a Moroccan for 32 years. I especially enjoy your well written pieces about Moroccan culture which I find to be completely accurate and interesting. In the recipes I especially appreciate the detailed differences between pressure cooking, regular pot , and tajine ...all of which I use on a regular basis. I am not a big fan of making msemmen, so I make Jewish medium egg noodles instead and so far I have had only good reviews from my husband and the Magrebi crowd. It might be worth a try for people who have less time but still want to make r'fissa. for anyone who might be interested I made a short documentary about Moroccan Women it can be seen online here.

Lahcen b.

Sunday 19th of December 2021

@Khadijah Chadly, I have hard time making messamen so I use Indian flaky paratha instead you could hardly make the difference .

Christine Benlafquih

Friday 23rd of February 2018

Salam Khadijah. Glad you find the recipes and articles to be helpful. And thanks sharing your suggestion of using Jewish noodles as a bed for rfissa...I can see how that would work well.