Moroccan Pastilla Chicken Pie Recipe, steeped in tradition and flavor, this elegant chicken pie is rich with Middle Eastern spices, encased in a buttery crisp phyllo pastry.
What’s in a name, particularly when it has about 6 names; Pastilla, Bastilla, Bisteeya and a few others.
This traditional Moroccan dish, was typically made with squab or pigeon meat.
However, since Moroccan cuisine has become world renowned for its aromatic spices and exotic flavors, chicken is the next best meat to use, making it a Moroccan chicken pie!
Here’s What Goes Into A Pastilla Chicken Pie
Since a pastilla recipe doesn’t belong to Morocco alone, and is highly acclaimed in Egypt, Algeria, Andalusia and other parts of Spain as well, the ingredients will vary.
Besides variations in the spices, the technique for this chicken (pigeon or squab), is mostly the same.
Layers of tender shredded chicken, packed inside of crispy, flaky phyllo dough, with lots of eggs, lemon juice, cinnamon, always cinnamon, and other spices, baked to perfection.
An Exotic Main Dish For special Occasions
While this chicken pastilla takes a little bit of time to prepare, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge, once assembled, brought out to get room temperature, baked and ready to serve as your guests arrive.
Every cook has their own idea of how they want to serve a meal for a dinner party.
Moroccan homes like to make their guest feel as though they have arrived at royal palaces.
However, since I am usually the one cooking for guests to visit my home, I like to get much of the laborious aspects of the meal, prepped in advance.
Therefore, this easy to bake pastilla, is perfect for that, allowing time for a little music and dance!
What Is The Best Type Of Pan To Make A Chicken Pastilla Pie?
Does that seem like a weird question to ask?
Not at all, since this beautifully compact pie holds it shape, with the help of the pan it’s assembled and baked in!
Comparatively, the baking preferences will vary, almost as much as the spices used in the recipe.
As for me, I prefer to use a round springform pan, simply because:
- It’s so easy to pack all the ingredients inside
- Wrap tightly with phyllo sheets
- When it’s baked, simply open the spring of the pan and it is perfectly shaped
However, others have successfully used a cast iron large frying pan, though a little heavy to remove the pie.
Another option is to simply roll the chicken filling inside layers of phyllo dough, into a log, and slice for individual servings.
A Great Chicken Pie Depends On The Spices Used
Let’s be honest about chicken; it can be a rather bland piece of meat, if it’s not spiced up a bit.
And so, since this recipe calls for ‘cooked chicken,’ let’s give this chicken some love ahead of time!
You might think it’s strange that cinnamon is used so frequently in savory dishes, as is often the case in Middle Eastern cooking.
But have you ever tasted cinnamon stick with absolutely nothing else?
It’s almost peppery, a bit woodies and it deepens the other spices used, when cooking with meats.
For this reason, when I make pastilla, I alternate between using Ras El Hanout or Za’atar, both of which I make myself so I am guaranteed of their balance in flavors.
Spices – Ras El Hanout or Za’atar
Don’t you find that certain seasons of the year bring to mind certain spices?
Generally, in autumn and winter, I gravitate towards warm spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, mace and cinnamon, which are some of the spices in Ras El Hanout, just to name a few.
Contrarily, though, in the spring and summer months, I prefer to use spices that are more herbal, such as thyme, marjoram, oregano and the earthiness of toasted sesame seeds, which are some of the spices in Za’atar.
Therefore, I’ll let you be the judge, as to the flavor profile you like best in you pastilla chicken pie!
Making Pastilla In 4 Easy Steps
Whether or not you’re preparing chicken specifically for a pastilla chicken pie, or using leftover chicken, the steps are easy, once you have cooked chicken!
- Chicken – simmering a pot of suggested herbs and spices
- Dry Filling – ground almonds and spices
- Wet Filling – eggs, lemon, orange blossom and chicken broth
- Pastry – phyllo dough and melted butter
If, then, you are preparing chicken for this recipe, and have leftover chicken, I’ve got two other fabulous recipes you will want to make with it!
- Greek Chicken Lettuce Wraps – a refreshing easy lettuce wrap with Greek flavors
- Italian Chicken Soup – because who doesn’t love chicken and pasta
Bite-size Pastilla Perfect For Tapas and Appetizers
While this dish is traditionally prepared in a large pan, turned upside down (once cooked), I have another option for you.
Individually prepared rolls of phyllo sheets with chicken pie filling, and cut for appetizer size servings.
Once the logs are baked and cut at an angle, exposing all the luscious ingredients, a platter of the rolls can be served tapas style, replenishing the platter with more rolls kept warm in the oven.
I like to call these Moroccan Chicken Rolls!
What To Serve With Pastilla
Because this Moroccan Chicken Pie is practically a meal in and of itself, I would suggest keeping side dishes light and refreshing.
A simple mound of cooked, slightly crisp Green Beans, with colorful peppers tossed in lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs is also lovely and fresh!
A Millet Tabbouleh salad, with lots of parsley in a lemon and olive oil dressing, is also a lovely side dish.
It’s light, cleansing, aromatic flavor compliments the richness of the Pastilla, and can be prepared in advance.
But… let’s not forget dessert!
While there are so many desserts we could choose from, after such an incredible exotic meal such as this, let’s stay traditional.
As for me, I am going to have a small slice of something as richly steeped in history as it is honey; Mediterranean Baklawa, also known as Greek Baklava.
- Cooked chicken
- Almond meal
- Za’atar or Ras el Hanout
- Aleppo pepper
- Chicken broth
- Lemon juice
- Orange blossom water
- Phyllo dough
- Powdered sugar
- Slivered almonds
- Springform pan
- Large boiling pot
- Mixing bowls
- Pastry brush
- Small saucepan
- Wire whisk
- Stovetop or burner
Moroccan Pastilla Chicken Pie Recipe
- Springform pan a large cast iron frying pan can work
- 2 Mixing bowls
- Pastry brush
- 3 cups Cooked shredded chicken
- 2 cups Almonds ground in a food processor or blender
- 1 tsp Salt or to taste
- 1 1/2 tbsp Za'atar or Ras el Hanout
- 2 tsp Aleppo pepper less if you don't prefer heat
- 6 Beaten eggs
- 1 cup Chicken broth
- 2 Lemons lemon juice extracted
- 2 Garlic cloves crushed
- 1 tsp Orange blossom water
- 20 Phyllo sheets
- 12 tbsp Melted butter
- 4 tbsp Ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp Powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup Slivered almonds
- Set the oven to the medium heat of 350. Melt the butter over low heat and allow it to remain without bubbling.
- Prepare a springform round pan with a brush of melted butter.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of cinnamon with powdered sugar, and set it aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, broth, lemon juice crushed garlic and orange blossom. Set aside.
- In a different mixing bowl, whisk together the ground almond mixture, 2 tablespoon of cinnamon, salt, za'atar or ras el hanout and Aleppo pepper. Set aside.
- To prepare the layers of phyllo, place one phyllo sheet into the prepared pan and brush the entire surface with melted butter, using a pastry brush. Place the second sheet and do the same until 10 layers have been fitted into the pan and sufficiently basted with butter.
- Place half of the shredded chicken filling into the pan of layered phyllo sheets, and pat down to make it level. Sprinkle half of the dry ingredients across the chicken, followed by half of the wet ingredients. Repeat the layers of chicken, dry ingredients and wet ingredients. With a fork, gently press down these ingredients making them firmly packed together.
- Finish with the last 10 sheets of phyllo, brushing melted butter across each layer.
- Shape the edges and overhang, just as you would any pie crust, using a little melted butter to form a nice phyllo dough crust.
- Sprinkle most of the powdered sugar mixture across the top of the pastry, followed by the slivered almonds. Place the springform pan on top of a sheet pan, making it easier to put into the oven and remove. It will be a little heavy.
- Bake for about 1-hour, or until the phyllo is golden brown. Dust the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture across the top of the pie. Allow to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving, or serve at room temperature.