For Shabbat: Dafina, a slow-cooked Moroccan stew

The Dafina before and after its 24 hours in the crockpot. 

By 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.

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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: