Arts and Culture

For Shabbat: Dafina, a Slow-Cooked Moroccan Stew

Dafina, a slow-cooked Moroccan stew (Sabrina Ovadia)

(The Nosher via JTA) — Dafina is an iconic, slow-cooked Moroccan stew served especially on Shabbat. It has a long history and no two are the same.

For centuries, Jewish women around the world have prepared some kind of similar dish each week, usually prepping the ingredients Friday to be served for lunch the next day. Although recent generations have immigrated around the globe to different countries, the tradition of this classic dish has prevailed and is close to each family’s heart.

There is no right or wrong way to make this dish, and recipes vary from city to city and  family to family. Jewish houses are distinguished by their dafina and what is included in it. There is even a legend that noble rabbis can sense the peace and holiness of the house from the smell of the dafina.

The most commonly found ingredients are potatoes, sweet potato, chicken, meat, rice, barley, chickpeas and, of course, a famous golden brown egg. Many recipes call for each item to be placed in individual cooking bags. Everyone adds their personal touch and favorite spices; some of the most commonly used spices include paprika, cinnamon, cumin, honey, dates and garlic. I even have a family member who throws in a whole peach, pit and all.

Like the mothers and grandmothers who came before me, I have adapted the recipe handed down to my own family’s taste and cook the rice separately. It may not look like much, but there are few things that warm the soul quite like a hot dafina on a cold winter day, and I invite you to add your own family’s take on this beloved dish.

Dafina, a slow-cooked Moroccan stew (Sabrina Ovadia)
Dafina, a slow-cooked Moroccan stew (Sabrina Ovadia)

Moroccan Dafina


2 pounds flanken meat, on the bone
4 pieces of chicken, on the bone
12 large red potatoes, peeled
2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed
4 eggs (in the shell)
4 pitted dates
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3-4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of olive oil


Arrange the chickpeas on the bottom of the crockpot. Add the potatoes around the interior walls of the crockpot. Place the meat, chicken, eggs and pitted dates in the center.

Add all the spices and mix very well but gently to keep each ingredient in its place. Pour in enough water to cover everything. The top of the water should hit around 1/4 inch above the ingredients.

Set the crockpot at a medium temperature and set to cook for 24 hours. Sephardic tradition is to not add any water, even boiling, to the crockpot on Shabbat.

(Sabrina Ovadia was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco, and grew up watching her mother and grandmother create delicious dishes from scratch. Check out her blog:
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