Thursday, 30 October 2014

How to make Moroccan Khlii (or Khlea), a family recipe

Khlii’ or Khlea’ is our Moroccan cured and preserved meat that is confit in fat to last for at least a year. I have previously posted a Khlii' recipe but without too much details. 

Today, I promise you plenty of details and pictures so you become an expert in how to make khlii.

Khlii' sold in R'cif, old Medina in Fes. Left: traditional khlii with animal fat,
Right, lighter version preserved in olive oil

It seems that this tradition of making khlii’ has started in Fes and then spread across Morocco and North Africa. This is maybe the reason why the Capital of Khlii’ in Morocco is Fes where this preserved meat is eaten throughout the year.

Seffarine, a place in the old Medina of Fes where you can find those massive pots
 to make huge batches of Khlii 

Khlii and its gueddid have to be made during hot summer days when meat dries outside during the day. We have a sort of ritual in the family and it must be done every year, at least once.

Nowadays, it seems that dehydrators and ovens can make up for this step but then the marination time is much longer.

Homemade Khlii', just out of the cooking pot

Every house used to make their khlii if they could afford buying the meat. Nowadays, I see many people dropping this very demanding task and settling for a store-bought pots from the old Medina. It usually costs more, and if one is not careful on the origin of that pot, It will likely develop a tiny film of mould unless it is frozen. No big deal since you can just scrap it off but like anything in food: homemade is better unless you trust the source.

The final stage of khlii' making: cooling before packing.
Note the grainy texture of the fat which is a sign of a perfect cooking method

Now, I have to say that khlii’ and gueddid are not to everyone’s liking, like any food. However, to my surprise, I saw some mistranslations here and there, which has led people to believe that khlii is a sort of meat gone bad and therefore the word "rancid" or "fermented" or "spoilt" is wrongly used (unless you really bought it from a questionable source). It’s none of that. Khlii is a sort of jerk meat or biltong with an extra stage: confit. Now this word and the savoury recipes under it sound good when Chefs talk about the French confit of duck or other meat. 

On a personal note, I just feel like we should have lured those new foodies and acclaimed Chefs in believing it was French or Italian rather than Moroccan, I suspect they would be more “receptive”. I feel that anything packaged that way is “sold” en “grandes pompes” and with less scrutiny, but that is my own opinion.

Khlii's fat when it's set. It looks like white chocolate.

Curing and drying meat is a traditional way of preserving it for a longer period in many parts of the world. The meat reduces as it loses its water. Dried meat kept the travellers and nomads alive.
In Morocco, dried meat is called “gueddid”. It’s the main ingredient to make khlii. Both recipes go back in time where there was no fridge to keep the meat edible. The meat was covered in fat (the khlii’ stage) and stored in clay jars. Both gueddid and khlii would be used in many recipes especially in the cold days.

Drying the marinated meat during sunny days

Gueddid is the first stage of meat which has been marinated in spices, salt and vinegar, then left to dry in the sun for days. It will become dry and hard to the touch. It is used in many recipes (couscous, pulses stews etc.). I do not personally like its texture but I like the flavour it imparts in a stew. It acts as a sort of Soya sauce or a cube of bouillon in a sauce. The meat of choice could be beef of camel but we also use sheep’s meat after Eid El Adha.

Gueddid is ready

As far as the long process of making khlii’ goes, there are 2 ways:

1- We either confit (cook for hours) the gueddid in animal fat and follow meticulous stages to have a good result which would last for at least a year.

Sediments from the cooking process of khlii, used in different Moroccan recipes.

2- Some people choose to steam it first then preserve it in olive oil. This new and healthier way of making khlii does not render sediments called “agriche” or “agrisse” used in many incredibly tasty recipes. I can skip khlii but I need my agriche! Thank you! Not to mention the fat, which helps getting the crunchiest roast potatoes!

Agriche is what's at the bottom, fat is what is white on top after cooling down

You could of course make an express version of khlii which consist on skipping the drying step but it won't last longer. You may freeze it but I if you have the possibility to make the long traditional version, I suggest you go for it.

Khlii cut into pieces for easier use throughout the year.
In this picture, the fat is still hot to be solidified 
Although khlii is made in massive batches of more than 20 kgs of meat, making smaller batches increase your chances or success and you won't have to buy massive cooking pots. I know many people who adopted khlii and forgot about the bacon..My husband is one of them.

A few bits like this one are going into my morning scrambled eggs
Homemade khlii is better in many ways. Basically, if you are buying it from a shop, you will be most likely paying for more fat than the meat itself. While making it at home allows you to control the quality, adjust it to your liking and it costs way cheaper.

Left: homemade khlii with more meat and less solidified fat (with a nice white chocolate colour)
Right: shop-bought khlii (in the freezer) having more fat rather on yellow-y side 

For 4 kgs of meat
Prep: 15 min - Marination: overnight- Drying process: 3 hot days min. - Cooking: 3h

For the meat and its marinade
  • 4 kgs of boneless lamb or beef (best) shoulder or leg meat cut into long strips of at least 30 cm length and 4 cm width
  • 150 g of salt
  • 4  heads of garlic, unpeeled and crushed
  • 160g of coriander seeds, roughly ground
  • 50 g of cumin seeds, roughly ground
  • 50 g of caraway seeds (optional but my auntie loves it)
  • 80 ml of vinegar
  • 80 ml of olive oil
To cook Khlii'
  • 4 l of water
  • 1.5 kg of suet (animal fat mostly located around the kidney)
  • 2 tbsps of salt 
  • 50 g of garlic in paste
  • 50 g of freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 20g of freshly ground cumin seeds
  • 2 l of olive oil

Bottom: khlii. Top: agrich, both covered with solidified fat.


Prepare Gueddid

Use a food processor or a pestle and mortar to make the spice rub paste.

One by one, crush the coriander seeds and the cumin seeds. Set aside.

Good garlic from Morocco. I personally like this variety.

Crush the garlic, unpeeled. Mix with the spices, salt and vinegar. Mix all ingredients and rub the meat with this paste. Be generous. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

Generously and thoroughly rub the strips of meat and place in the fridge 
Get your strips of meat out and make sure to give them a last massage. Hopefully this is the beginning of a sunny day so you can hang the meat on a clothesline and dry it in the sun or under a covered window. It takes 4 to 6 hot days minimum to have a dry gueddid, depending on the temperature/humidity. Alternatively, you can use a dehydrator or a low heat oven to dry the meat (at 40/50 degrees C for at least 17 hours).

How to proceed?

We actually leave the meat outside for the first 2 days but we cover it from sunset until the next day just after dawn (see picture below, make sure the strips are not overlapping and that there is enough space between them).

Past the first 2 days, WE MUST bring it inside before sunset until the next day after dawn. We repeat this until the meat has dried through.

Gueddid is ready with the shrank meat has become dark stiff and seem to have separated its fibres. 
This step is vital for its preservation and for a good khlii.

Cooking khlii

It is important that the area where the khlii is being made is pet/children free to avoid any accident.

In a big cooking pot, mix garlic, ground coriander seeds and cumin seeds, water, fat and simmer on a medium heat until it starts bubbling.

Pre-order minced kidney beef fat for khlii with more cumin and coriander
seeds in powder (before adding other ingredients)
Slowly add in the strips of meat.

Cover the fat with enough water before putting the mix over a heat source.
Stir to cover the meat with the liquid.

Cover and let simmer on low heat for at least 2 1/2 hours. Use a large wooden spoon to stir occasionally while scrapping the bottom of the pot.

Uncover the pot and add the olive oil. Let simmer further more until water has totally evaporated (another 1 hour).

Khlii is ready when:

1- By now, meat should be swimming in a pool of fat only and you can tell.

2- Sediments start sticking to the bottom of the pot, which is why you should keep stirring at these bits are precious.

3- If you cut through a strip of meat, it looks like this:

If you pull the meat with your fingers, you could see dry fibers. 
It should not be soft from the inside.

4- This is the ultimate test that water has evaporated: dip a piece of hard paper or cloth and try to light fire in it (we call it "ftila") If it works, there is no water left. If not, you still have a way to go.

If, for some reason, the meat is ready before the water has totally evaporated, pull it out and save it on the side while you carry on simmering the liquid. This should not happen if you have cooked the khlii on low heat.

Now, a sign of a khlii done right is to have a grainy solidified fat once it has cooled. The way to get to that texture is to sprinkle the fat with cold water when the khlii is cooked through (see the picture above showing how the meat should be at that stage).

I know that sprinkling water at this stage seems like doing things backwards, but for some reason, this action is required and is beneficial to its conservation as well as the general texture.

Storing the layers of khlii

Like mentioned earlier, Khlii is the cooked meat which comes with a layer of fat (cooked suet or olive oil) and a layer of sediment which we keep dearly.

First of all, we get the strips of meat out of the hot pot and set aside for some time it's we can handle  it without burning our fingers. With scissors, we cut cubes of 2 cm each and place them in containers/jars. We do this now rather than later when we need it because khlii is difficult to fiddle with once set. This way, you are a step ahead.

We cover the meat with fat and set aside to cool until the fat has solidified.

Different stages of khlii cooling.
Now this is how the fat will look like once almost cool.

Right, the fast is still runny, unlike the pot on the left where it seems almost set

Leave uncover until it's completely cool and looking like this:

Taking care of Agriche (sediments)

Agriche are the sediments falling of the meat: smaller pieces of meat amd marinade left in the bottom of the pan.

Normally, once the meat has been picked out of the fat, we bring the pot back to simmer again but since we have used minced fat and not chunky chopped fat, there is no need to do that. The sediments should be water-free and good to go.

After the pool of fat has cooled a bit, we will be left with sediments at the bottom of the cooking pot. Transfer these precious bits in a different jar/container and set aside to settle, uncovered.

Once all the jars and containers seem to have set, cover and seal (if needed). Place in a dark place (a cupboard).

Be aware that opened jars need attention: never leave a container of khlii open for a long time. Ideally once you start using one of the jars, keep it in the fridge/freezer. That said, a khlii properly done should not develop mould or smell bad at any time.

Recipes with khlii and its agriche

Most straight forward recipe to use khlii is with fried eggs. It's usually served with Moroccan mint tea to wash down the fat.

My favourite recipe is quite old and we can only find it in old houses with deep traditions. It's fried egg and khlii with lemon, parsley and water to cut on fat.

Different recipes with khlii and egg to serve for a brunch, always with a glass of mint tea

Next in line, Rghaifs del ferrane (baked flaky pastry, stuffed with khlii/agrich and spicy onions). I can't resist it. It's a good thing that this recipe is freezer-friendly. It comes back to life after a stop in a hot oven.

My next favourite dish using khlii is Mezgueldi tagine, either with tomatoes or without, It just needs a few ingredients but mosly a lot of onions.

Next, comfort food at its best: beans, white beans in this case which get a kick with a spoon of agriche in them

Not to forget some seasonal vegetables which get enhanced with the addition of agriche in the broth

Bottle gourd served as a cooked salad. It suddenly becomes
incredibly tasty with the addition of agriche.
There are many more recipes using Khlii, agriche or their fat. It's just the right thing to have in your pantry!

Note: How to make light Moroccan khlii using the steaming method

To make light khlii (not cooked in suet), place a maximum of 3 layers of gueddid (repeat if you have a big quantity) on the top of a couscoussier or a steamer. Steam for about 2 hours. Once the meat has cooked, place in jars and let cool for 30 min. Cover with extra virgin olive oil and seal the jars.

Like mentioned earlier, this method is less caloric but do not make khlii sediments. It also makes a khlii which is not very strong in taste and it does not have the same shelf life either. It should preferably be kept in the freezer.


  1. Thank you for the recipe. We needed a refresher course since we last made a batch of khlii two years ago and just ran out. we only have a few spoons of agriche left!

    1. I can't live without agriche..It's my favourite condiment! Good luck in making Khlii..It's worth the effort.

  2. Hi! I have a question about sprinkling the water on after the khlii is cooked. Do you pull the meat out of the fat and then sprinkle water on the fat before using it to cover the meat in the jars? And how much water should be sprinkled on? Ho long should the fat be cooked with the sprinkled water before it is used to cover the meat in the jars? That step is a little confusing for me, although everything else is very clear. Thank you!

    1. you could sprinkle about 2 handfuls of water for this quantity mentioned in the recipe, about 5 minutes before knocking off the heat.The water is not meant to evaporate so no proper cooking should follow..

      I hope I answered to your question. Happy cooking!

    2. Hi, thank you so much for this recipe. I have 2 questions i hope you can answer them. Do i remove the meat before sprinkling the water, or should i just sprinkle it on the fat while the meat is still in the pan? And my second question is what kind of suet do you use, do you use lamb suet or beef suet? Im gonna use lamb meat to make this so should i use lamb suet aswell or is beef suet better. Thank you so much

  3. I usually order khliia from Moroccan khliia in Florida but since they always seem to be OOS of thr lamb, im thinking about following your recipe. I live in an apt so hanging the meat outside isnt an option. Is there anything i can substitute for the suet if i wish to use the first method? Would duck fat work?

    1. I think duck fat has a high heating point so it might work. I never tried it though so if you do please do let me know.

      If you don't want to go through the hassle of a proper khlii, just try out the cheat old version of express khlii called "m'quila". It's a recipe from Sale/Rabat and I use it a lot too. You will find it in the blog. The best thing about it is that you don't need that much suet in it.

  4. I called the Middle Eastern market that I shop at and they will be getting some kidney fat in this friday. They usually dont save it but they will put it aside for me :).

    I cant wait to make the khlii. It shouldnt be any harm in leaving it in the oven to dry overnight would it?

    Btw, this is Calista from the facebook Moroccan group(stuffed msemen post). Ive been checking out your blog and I love the stories and explanations for all of the dishes. The step by step photos are super helpful. I hope that you continue to post :)

    1. Oh Hi Calista! Glad you mentioned it! I wouldn't have figured it out! Thanks for your sweet words..

  5. Also would mason jars be good for storing? I dont know how to "seal" them but i do have a ton of them. How about storing khlii in the freezer in freezer bags?

    1. Both options are good! As you see up there in the pictures, even plastic containers are used for the job. However, when you want to freeze, try to separate the layers and store each in a separate plastic bag (that's what I do):

      -You may want to use the fat to roast potatoes and Moroccan baked rghaifs or msemmen,

      - Khlii's sediment for many recipes (check the blog for agriche) and finally,

      The khlii itself (the meat part) for fried eggs or any other recipe (check the blog as well, there should be loads)..


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  7. Can you please answer my questions, i wanna make this as soon as possible. I have 3 questions.
    Question 1:Do i remove the meat before sprinkling the water, or should i just sprinkle it on the fat while the meat is still in the pan?
    And my second question is: what kind of suet do you use, do you use lamb suet or beef suet? Im gonna use lamb meat to make this so should i use lamb suet aswell or is beef suet better. Thank you so much
    Question 3: what is the traditional meat that is used in marocco to make this? Lamb or beef?

    Thank you in advance.


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