Moroccan Preserved Meat

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • To make this recipe, you will need a

    3 cup

    sterile and dry Mason jar, enough to hold 20 meat strips.

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

Known as khelea, this Moroccan preserved meat is a lovingly produced, hand-crafted, slow-motion product of the North African kitchen and can be made with either lamb or beef. It is used to flavor stews, lentils, beans, couscous, soups, and even scrambled eggs. Moroccans also add it to their famous onion-spice jam confection, mezguélâi, which is served on top of couscous, or as a substitute for meat in Swiss Chard with Lentils and Preserved Spiced Meat.

The cook carefully salts chunks of meat to add flavor and extract moisture, seasons the meat with various spices and herbs, then allows it to dry on the bone. (In Morocco, I have actually seen meat hanging on a clothesline to dry!) After drying, the meat is simmered in olive oil, then packed in crocks with oil and lamb or beef fat to cover, much like French confit. To serve khelea, remove from the oil and soak in water to remove salt and restore softness. Use as directed in the recipe.


  • pounds boneless lamb shoulder or beef, cut into 1 long slice ½ inch thick, or 2 smaller slices of the same thickness
  • 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 small head of garlic, crushed
  • teaspoons crushed hot red pepper
  • teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cider vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped hard meat fat, preferably trimmed from lamb kidneys, optional (but necessary if you intend to store the meat for more than a few weeks)


  1. Divide the meat into 20 strips, each about 3- by 1- by ½-inch. Combine the salt and garlic and rub into the meat. Stack in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The following day, preheat the oven to 175°F. Dry the meat with paper towels. Combine the spices and vinegar; rub into the meat and set out on a wire rack over a baking sheet to catch the drip. Cook the strips in the oven until dry but still supple, 4 to 8 hours, depending on the density of the flesh.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil and the meat fat, if using. When hot, add the meat and fry until crisp on all sides, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the fat and meat to cool to room temperature. Have ready a sterile, dry jar. Place the meat and strained frying fat into the jar; top with plenty of fresh oil and store in the refrigerator.