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Moroccan Kefta Tagine with Tomato Sauce – Kefta Mkaouara (Mkawra)

Moroccan Kefta Tagine with Tomato Sauce – Kefta Mkaouara (Mkawra)

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This popular Moroccan dish features meatballs (kefta mkaouara) cooked in a zesty, homemade shakshuka-like tomato sauce.

Many cooks like to present the meatball tagine with eggs poached directly in the sauce, but this addition is optional. Olives are sometimes added, and for a little extra heat, throw in some ground cayenne or fresh chili peppers.

Although a clay or ceramic tagine is the traditional cooking vessel of choice, a deep skillet will work just as well. In either case, allow ample time for the diced tomatoes to reduce to a thick sauce before adding the meatballs.

Some cooks prefer to grate tomatoes rather than peel, seed, and chop them. This can slightly shorten the cooking time. If you like extra sauce, you might want to increase the tomato sauce by half. 

A Note About Moroccan Meatballs

The meatballs in this dish use the same Moroccan spice profile that’s often used to flavor ground beef or lamb (kefta): paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, onion, parsley, and cilantro.

There are optional additions that I also tend to include: garlic, turmeric, ginger, and sometimes even cinnamon.

It’s important to note that Moroccan meatballs are almost always shaped in petite form—sometimes as small as marbles. And, while lamb or beef is usually the meat of choice, you can certainly use ground chicken or turkey instead.

Because the meatballs are so tiny, they don’t require a long cooking time. There’s no need to fry them before adding them to the sauce, and once in the pot you should poach them only long enough to cook through. 

Moroccan meatballs in sauce with poached eggs.
Moroccan Kefta Tagine with olives and poached eggs. Mint tea is the perfect accompaniment. Photo: Marco Mayer |

Moroccan tradition is to gather round the tagine and eat communally from the dish, using pieces of Moroccan bread to scoop up the meatballs and sauce. For a truly authentic experience, consider serving the kefta tagine with Moroccan mint tea.

You may also like try Moroccan Sardine Balls in Tomato Sauce, a fish meatball dish that’s prepared nearly the same as this kefta one.

And, for a deviation from meatballs in tomato sauce, try Moroccan Meatballs in Lemon Saffron Butter Sauce.

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Small Moroccan meatballs and poached eggs in tomato sauce sauce are ready to be served from a tagine. The dish is garnished with fresh parsley and part of the red conical lid can be seen resting against the tagine base.

Moroccan Meatball Tagine Recipe with Tomato Sauce Recipe – Kefta Mkaoura

Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc
A well-loved classic Moroccan recipe for seasoned meatballs in zesty tomato sauce. The meatballs are traditionally shaped quite small and many Moroccans like to poach eggs in the sauce just before serving.
Serve with crusty bread for dipping into the sauce and scooping up meatballs by hand.
4.79 from 64 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Moroccan
Yield 4 servings
Calories 560 kcal


For the Meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground beef or lamb - (or mix of the two)
  • 1 small onion, - finely chopped or grated
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric - (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon - (optional)

For the Tomato Sauce

  • 2 lbs ripe tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, - finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, - finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, - pressed or finely chopped
  • 1.5 tsp paprika
  • 1.5 tsp cumin
  • 1.5 tsp salt - (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper - (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper - (optional) OR
  • 2 chili peppers - (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

For Garnish (Optional)

  • 4 eggs - (free range or beldi eggs are preferred)
  • green pitted olives - (to taste)
  • fresh parsley or cilantro sprigs


Make the Meatballs

  • Combine the ground meat with the onion, herbs and spices. Use your hands to knead the mixture for a minute or two until the seasoning is evenly distributed.
  • Take small portions of the mixture and shape into petite, cocktail-sized meatballs. I tend to make mine the size of cherries but you can make them as small as marbles or, if short on time, as large as 1 1/4 inches (3 cm) in diameter. 
  • Cover and set aside. 

Make the Tomato Sauce

  • Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes. Set aside. (Or, if the tomatoes are very soft, cut them in half crosswise, remove the seeds, and then grate the flesh to a pulp; discard the skin.)
    Image showing a hand grating a tomato half against a box grater.
  • Place a skillet or the base of a medium- to large-sized tagine over medium-low heat. When hot, add the oil, onion and green pepper. Saute for several minutes.
  • Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two, until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  • Add the chopped or grated tomatoes, herbs and spices. Stir to combine. Allow the tomatoes to come to a simmer then cover and cook for about 15 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes soften and a sauce begins to form.
  • Use the back of a spoon to crush the tomatoes and add the chili peppers, if using. Cover and continue cooking for another 15 to 30 minutes, until a rich tomato sauce forms. Stir occasionally, adding a little water if necessary to smooth out the sauce.
  • When the consistency of the sauce is to your liking, taste and adjust seasoning. Add the meatballs. Cover and continue simmering for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the meatballs are just cooked through. 
  • The meatball tagine can be served now; or continue to the next steps to add olives and/or eggs.

Add Olives and/or Eggs (Optional)

  • If adding olives, do so now, allowing time for them to heat through before serving. 
  • If garnishing the tagine with eggs, carefully add them over the meatballs, taking care not to break the yolks. Cover and continue simmering the tagine just until the whites are firm and the yolk is beginning to set.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro and serve directly from the tagine or skillet. 


  • Cooking time for the tomato sauce can vary greatly depending on ripeness and juiciness of the tomatoes, as well as your choice of cooking vessels. I find that peeled and chopped tomatoes reduce to a sauce faster in a tagine or stainless steel skillet as opposed to non-stick pan.
  • When cooking in a traditional clay or ceramic tagine over any heat source other than gas, be sure to use a diffuser. If cooking over gas without a diffuser, be sure the flames don’t touch the bottom of the tagine.
  • Take care to avoid overcooking the meatballs or they will become tough. (Or, if you prefer a softer texture overall to your meatballs, you can deviate from Moroccan tradition and add a whole egg and 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs to the ground meat when seasoning your kefta mixture.)
  • If planning to add the optional olives at the end of cooking, you may want to reduce the salt when seasoning the tomato sauce.


Calories: 560kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 29gFat: 41gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 244mgSodium: 1612mgPotassium: 1179mgFiber: 5gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 4380IUVitamin C: 66.5mgCalcium: 142mgIron: 5.9mg

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.

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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 from 2008 to 2016.

Recipe Rating


Sunday 31st of December 2023

I haven’t made this yet but I do wonder if it’s possible to make this dish a day ahead then reheat and add the olives and eggs at the end?

Christine Benlafquih

Sunday 31st of December 2023

Yes, you can easily make the Moroccan meatball tagine ahead of time. Keep in mind that the meatballs might be a little firmer after reheating.


Friday 9th of December 2022

I’ve followed your recipe on numerous occasions and the dish always turns out delicious. I generally half the recipe as there are only 2 in the house, the left over my husband eats for breakfast the following day. I absolutely adore Moroccan food, I find the spice ratio is perfect, my husband loves curries so the subtle flavouring of Moroccan food makes a really tasty change from Indian.

Christine Benlafquih

Friday 9th of December 2022

I'm glad you like it well enough to make occasionally. My daughter just made this for me last night. :)


Friday 2nd of December 2022

this is amazing! ive just come back from Marrakech with a tagine and am trying to encourage my husband to try some moroccan food. We both loved this. We used an old bucket charcoal BBQ and it worked great! thanks for posting!

Christine Benlafquih

Saturday 3rd of December 2022

I'm happy to know that you enjoyed the recipe!


Saturday 12th of March 2022

Making tonight. I’ve added cremini mushrooms, hope it doesn’t wreck it.

Christine Benlafquih

Sunday 13th of March 2022

I hope you liked it. Mushrooms aren't a traditional addition to kefta tagine. What was your inspiration?


Friday 4th of March 2022

I had this kind of dish when I was in Paris at a Moroccan restaurant. It was honestly my favorite food I ate during my stay in France. I have been looking for recipes to make it at home but none have looked very similar. Let me just say, I made this for dinner tonight not expecting anything special but wow. I and the rest of my family was shocked at how good this was!!! It was even better than I remember in Paris and the flavors were amazing. I rate this an 11/10. I followed the recipe exactly, only adding slightly more paprika and cumin than it called for. I can not wait to make it again soon 😍😍

Christine Benlafquih

Friday 4th of March 2022

I'm so happy that the recipe turned out well for you. And thank you for sharing your story!