Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

An unopened bottle of orange blossom water had been occupying precious real estate in our fridge for months as I debated the best thing to do with it. Finally I opened the bottle, just to smell. One whiff is all it took, and my thoughts were drifting away on a cloud of delicate blooms — soft and white, immensely fragrant. From that cloud, I landed in a darkly lit room, sitting at a large round table surrounded by smiling faces. My tenth birthday party.

We perch on round, gilded pillows at a low table. Silky fabrics hang from the ceiling, lining the walls and giving the room a sense of mystery. Someone has given me a warm, floral-scented cloth for cleaning my hands. A waiter is sprinkling us ceremoniously with orange blossom water, and the droplets land on my shoulders like the sweetest rain that ever rained. Talk about feeling like Queen for the day.

Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

There are candles artfully lighting the space, but the most notable ones are balancing on a women’s body. A belly dancer. She gracefully juggles fire from her head to her elbows and back again, never missing a beat. We eat couscous, chicken with almonds, and b’stella pastry (a dish my dad would later take to making at home).

When it is time for tea, it is time for the greatest show of all. The waiter stacks drinking flutes in a pyramid. He makes a show of pouring the mint concoction from an ornate tea pot, starting with the top glass, and pouring until it pools over, filling the next two. The cascade continues, until each glass is full. (In my mind, the memory is almost a dream-state. I can’t quite figure out the physics of these glasses. How is it that they only spill in two directions? Did they have little spouts? Did he actually pour into glasses individually, and it is my memory that falters?)

We each take a glass and sip. It is, to this day, glorified as the best cup of mint tea I’ve ever had.

To say the least, I’ve been on a Moroccan food kick since I stole a breath of that orange blossom water in the fridge. I bought The Food of Morocco (affiliate link) and searched for something reminiscent of that day. I bought harissa paste and slivered almonds and actually started to use the orange blossom water.

Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato
Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

The flavors of Moroccan food are so different from what you find in other cuisines. Flowers take on a large role. Both roses and orange blossoms. Herbs are used fresh. Citrus is a star of the show. Lamb, goat, cumin, paprika; Roses, pomegranate, dried fruits.

But, this stew is not traditional. It was never supposed to be. Rather, it’s approachable. It’s a one-pot wonder that has been Americanized, Instant Pot-ized, and everyday dinner-ized. It doesn’t ask you to buy a bottle of orange blossom water, which you would surely have to get at a specialty store (or on Amazon (affiliate link), like me). It also calls for quinoa in place of couscous (Couscous is a hand rolled pasta, so not GF, despite it’s millet-y looking appearance). The recipe calls for ingredients you know, but combines them with Moroccan flare in mind. Cumin — lots of cumin. Paprika. Turmeric. And cinnamon, a small amount, something we rarely add to savory dishes here in the US.

I know it’s starting to look a lot like spring in somewhere, but here — and lots of places - it will still be winter for at least a month. On a snowy evening, this stew is absolutely warming and cozy. Just my style.

For the curious: The restaurant I had my tenth birthday at, Boulder’s Mataam Fez, has since closed. There is a Mataam Fez in Denver that provides a similar (but IMO, not quite as magical) experience. Plan to make an evening of it.

Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

Published March 5, 2019 by
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Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 45 minutes


  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cubed
  • 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, strained
  • 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • For serving: minced parsley or cilantro

  • Directions:

    1. In the bottom of an Instant Pot, heat coconut oil using the Sauté setting. When oil glistens, add onion, garlic, ginger and celery and sauté until onion is transparent.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.
    3. Secure lid on Instant Pot and press the “Manual” button. Set to “high pressure” (labeled “more” on some models) and set timer for 1 minute with vent in the sealed position.
    4. When the timer goes off, turn off the Instant Pot and allow it to set for 10 minutes with out releasing the steam. This will ensure the quinoa is cooked through.
    5. After 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure. Stir, and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro.


    Creamy Chana Masala

    Creamy Chana Masala

    Longtime readers of this blog are familiar with my stories from Northern India, a trip I made when I was sixteen (you can read about how the trip inspired my Indian Carrot Pudding recipe, or this Slow Cooker Kashmiri Braised Lamb). This year (2018) is exactly a decade after that trip, but moments from that adventure are stamped vividly forever in my memory: stepping in cow dung on the overwhelming and noisy streets of New Delhi; playing on the shores of the Chandrabhaga River, snapping pictures of the rocks and sand as if there was something special about sand in India versus Colorado; eating dinner on the rooftop of a hotel in Udaipur on New Years Eve, lights glimmering against the river below; knocking on a small door in an alleyway, with a little sign next to it that said “cooking school;” and many more.

    There is something about our brains at sixteen years old: they are pliable, receptive, and ready to learn. They are forming and reforming and reinforcing with every visual we take in. I was the perfect age for that trip. Open, ready, receiving. And my mind did just that. It formed connections that would never be broken, a passion for an older world, where roads are made of laid stone and brightly colored buildings are crammed together. A craving for chapati and mounds of spices and Chana Masala.

    Creamy Chana Masala
    Creamy Chana Masala

    When we passed through that small door in the alley, a short woman ushered us into her home. She got out paper and a pen, and asked what we would like to learn to cook. She made notes, and suggestions, and then told us when to come back for our lesson. 

    Boldly I remember the simplicity of her kitchen. People talk about having a “minimalist kitchen” these days, but this was on a whole different level. The walls, the floor, the shelves, the cooking surface (the counter, if it could be called that), were all made of the same grey-ish stone material, solid and a bit bleak. A window behind us, with no glass pane, looked down on the street. There just enough room for the four of us: the teacher, my dad, myself, and our teacher's little daughter who must’ve been no more than three or four years old. She sat perched on the cooking surface in the corner, making flat bread.

    Chana Masala is one of the dishes we learned to make that day. It's simple, if you know what to do.

    This recipe is a bit different from the one we learned to make in India. For one, the grocery stores here in the United States have nothing on the markets of India when it comes to finding curry blends. But also, I've added coconut milk to the mix, which makes it nice and creamy. Coconut and curry go together so well, I highly recommend giving it a spin. 

    Either way, Chana Masala (which means “Spiced Chickpeas” in Hindi) is a one-pot wonder, and packs a boat load of flavor in. If you can make a stir fry, you can make Chana Masala! It’s also completely plant-based, so if that’s your thing, turn on the burner now!

    Creamy Chana Masala

    Creamy Chana Masala

    Published May 3, 2018 by
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    Serves: 4   |    Total Time: 30 minutes


    • 2 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
    • 2 onions, diced
    • 7 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 inch ginger, minced
    • 1 serrano chili, minced
    • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground curry powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 2 14-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
    • 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
    • 1 teaspoon lime juice
    • Fresh cilantro for serving


    1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet until it glistens (I use my 5-qt Le Creuset Braiser (affiliate link!), but if you don't have a pan this large you might want to make a half recipe). Add diced onion, garlic, and ginger to the pan, and sauté until onion is transparent. Add minced serrano chili, crushed tomatoes and water, and bring to a simmer.
    2. Add cumin, salt, curry powder, coriander, and water to the pan, and stir. Then, add the chickpeas and coconut milk. Place lid on pan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until chickpeas are warmed through and coconut milk is melted in.
    3. Finish by stirring in the lime juice and topping with cilantro. Serve hot over rice, cauliflower rice, etc.