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Moroccan Mallow Salad is a tangy, delicious, and sometimes spicy dish of steamed and sauteed mallow greens. Moroccans refer to both the mallow plant and the salad as khoubiza or bakkoula.
The mallow salad is prepared by washing and chopping mallow leaves and stems, steaming them until tender, then sauteeing the mallow with parsley, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, spices, and lemon juice.
These herbs and spices combined are essentially chermoula, a marinade and cooking style or flavor profile that shows up repeatedly in Moroccan cooking.
Mallow itself isn’t particularly flavorful, so it’s the chermoula seasoning that really lifts khoubiza or bakkoula salad with zesty goodness. How zesty or spicy depends on the cook.
The chopped pulp (and optionally the rind) of preserved lemons are traditionally mixed in for tangy flavor, with some cooks also adding chopped olives.
My family also enjoys the salad with a little heat, so I include ground cayenne or whole chili peppers with the seasoning.
Mallow in Morocco
Several different varieties of mallow grow wild in Morocco, including common mallow (Malva sylvestris), round mallow (Malva pusilla or Malva rotundifolia), and little mallow (Malva parviflora).
According to the journal article Edible Weeds In Morocco, mallow is one of 17 different types of weeds that Moroccans include in their cuisine. Little mallow is the most prevalent type that’s consumed, bought, and sold in Morocco.
Despite being classified as a weed, mallow is actually a nutritious plant that’s rich in Vitamins A, B, and C as well as the minerals magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
You can find mallow sold in some Moroccan markets and grocery stores, but you’ll also see people gathering the plant from the wild, especially during the spring when it grows in abundance.
It’s also not uncommon to see Moroccan women picking mallow wherever they happen upon it—fields, along roads, or in empty lots—then taking it home to prepare mallow salad for their family.
Other greens such as purslane, spinach, and beet greens—alone or in combination—can replace the mallow to make an equally delicious salad. They receive essentially the same treatment as mallow but fragile greens like spinach will require less steaming time while purslane might require more.
Both purslane and mallow are mucilaginous, which can be discernible in cooked salads. I don’t find it off-putting, though, as I do with okra.
Mallow is quite easy to steam, but in order to work with a voluminous quantity, you’ll want to have a good-sized steamer so that you can manage it in a single batch.
Finely chop the leaves and stems then transfer them to a steamer basket placed over simmering water.
It’s okay if the chopped greens are heaped or piled above the rim of the steamer; they’ll quickly reduce in volume as the greens steam and wilt.
Once tender, you can squeeze out excess water from the greens by pressing them against the side of the basket with a large wooden spoon, ladle, or spatula.
If you have a couscoussier you can go ahead and use that for steaming mallow, but if not you might want to invest in a steamer with at least a two-quart capacity. I find a two- to three-quart steamer basket to be a great general-purpose size, and I use mine for steaming all kinds of veggies and greens.
A universal steamer is a good alternative if you don’t want to add a bulky 2-piece pot and basket to your cookware collection.
Serving Moroccan Mallow Salad
Moroccan salads such as khoubiza or bakkoula are usually served on small dishes which might be shared communally — usually one small plate between every two or three people.
Whole olives and slivers or wedges of preserved lemon are traditionally used to garnish the dish. They do add a nice pop of color, plus they’re tasty as condiments.
Like many other Moroccan salads, khoubiza or bakkoula is usually eaten as a dip with Moroccan bread.
Moroccan Mallow Salad – Khoubiza or Bakkoula
- ½ pound mallow leaves and stems - (about 8 cups, packed)
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup chopped parsley and/or cilantro - (I use a mix)
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped - or more to taste
- 1½ teaspoons paprika
- 1½ teaspoons cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt - or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper - or to taste (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice - or to taste
- 1 preserved lemon pulp - chopped
- preserved lemon rind - for garnish
- 1 handful red olives - for garnish
Wash, Chop and Steam the Mallow
- In a large bowl or sink full of water, wash the mallow thoroughly. Rinse and drain well. Chop the leaves and stems and place into a steamer basket set over simmering water. It's okay if the greens are heaped above the rim.Steam the mallow for 15-20 minutes or until the mallow is tender. It will greatly reduce in bulk and turn darker in color.½ pound mallow leaves and stems
- Squeeze or press out any extra water from the steamed mallow. You cand do this directly in the steamer basket using a wooden spoon or spatula to press the mallow against the sides of the basket.
Saute the Steamed Mallow
- While the mallow is steaming, place the olive oil, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and spices in a large skillet. Saute over medium or medium-low for several minutes, until the herbs are wilted and the garlic is fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Remove from the heat until the mallow is ready.½ cup olive oil, ½ cup chopped parsley and/or cilantro, 4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped, 1½ teaspoons paprika, 1½ teaspoons cumin, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Add the mallow to the skillet along with the chopped preserved lemon pulp, and lemon juice. Saute over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the flavors are well combined.2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 preserved lemon pulp
- Taste and adjust seasoning or lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnishing with the whole olives and preserved lemon rind.1 handful red olives, preserved lemon rind
- This salad will still be tasty if you don’t have preserved lemon on hand. Just use a little more lemon juice to taste to give it a classic lemony, tangy flavor.
- To spice up the salad, add roasted, chopped chili pepper or a spoonful of harissa.
- Whole chili peppers can be sauteed with the greens and then served as a garnish and condiment.
- The same base recipe works with other greens such as spinach, kale, and purslane; adjust the steaming time accordingly.
- I find that bits of mallow or other greens tend to stick to the interior of stainless steel steamers; those bits become difficult to wash off as the steamer basket cools. To make cleanup easier, have a deep bowl of hot water ready in the sink to soak the basket until you can get to it. Or just plan to immediately wash the steamer with hot, soapy water as soon as you’ve emptied it.
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.
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.