Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine with Apricots


Savory lamb, salty olives, and the warm spices in ras el hanout are balanced by sweet butternut squash, apricots, and a touch of honey for this tagine.

Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 35 mins
4 to 6

A tagine is both a type of North African cookware and the stew cooked in it. Cooking in a clay or ceramic tagine yields tender meat that is infused with flavor.

Before using a clay tagine, be sure to season it with oil, much in the same way you season a cast-iron pan. First, soak it in water for at least two hours (you can soak it overnight if you prefer). Then, pat it dry with a towel, and rub oil inside the tagine. Place the tagine in a 300°F oven for two hours. Let the tagine cool, then rub the inside with oil again before using it.

This recipe uses ras el hanout, a North African spice blend of coriander, cumin, and warming spices including cardamom, cumin, coriander, turmeric, clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and paprika. As it cooks, the natural juices from the lamb and onion create steam that bastes the meat as it cooks over a low flame. The gentle heat ensures that the environment inside the tagine remains moist and the meat does not dry out or burn. 


  • 2 pounds well-trimmed boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces (from about 3 1/2 pounds untrimmed meat)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ras el hanout, divided

  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and halved, divided

  • 2 1/2 cups cubed (about 3/4-inch pieces) peeled butternut squash

  • 1 tablespoon wildflower honey or orange blossom honey

  • 1/2 cup dried apricots

  • 1/3 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, torn

  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2 tablespoons small mint leaves

  • Cooked couscous, for serving


  1. Toss lamb with 1 1/2 tablespoons ras el hanout and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl until evenly coated. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, or cover and chill up to 2 days.

  2. Grate 1 onion half on largest holes of a box grater; set aside remaining half. Place grated onion in a clean dish towel or piece of cheesecloth, and squeeze over sink to remove as much liquid as possible. Stir together lamb and grated onion in base of a 2-quart tagine. Cover and cook on a gas stovetop or a diffuser over an electric range over very low until lamb is cooked through but not yet tender and juices are pooling in tagine, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

  3. Thinly slice remaining onion half. Add sliced onion to tagine; stir to combine. Cover and continue cooking on stovetop until lamb is tender, about 1 hour.

  4. Preheat oven to 300°F with oven rack in upper third of oven. Toss together butternut squash, honey, remaining 2 teaspoons ras el hanout, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add butternut squash mixture and apricots to tagine; stir to combine, making sure apricots are submerged in pan juices. Transfer tagine, uncovered, to upper third of preheated oven. Increase oven temperature to 425°F. Bake until squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

  5. Remove tagine from oven, and sprinkle with olives, pine nuts, and cilantro. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with mint leaves, and serve with couscous.

    Clay Pot Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine Recipe
    Victor Protasio

Suggested Pairing

Darkly fruity, herbal Sardinian red.

Related Articles