Chicken Bastilla is a traditional Maghrebian pie filled with chicken, scrambled eggs and a crunchy layer of sweet cinnamon toasted almonds, all wrapped up in buttery phyllo pastry.
I savoured my first slice of authentic bastilla recipe probably about 20 years ago. I fell in love at first bite. I had never tasted anything quite like it. A chicken pie with sugar and cinnamon? How can that be? How come it works so well?
All I knew at the time is that is was a Moroccan dish and it was hard to come by. I was fortunate enough to have devoured a few bastillas since then. The occasional authentic restaurant has it on the menu, I saw a few at cultural festivals, and I found a homemade bastilla once at a community center pot-luck.
Updated: October 10 2022
Moroccan in the kitchen
Preparing Moroccan recipes is not new to me (cannot count how many tagines and couscous I have made), but making a chicken bastilla pie has been on my recipe bucket list for at least 10 years. I never got around to it as I was intimidated by the process and did not want to serve a failure to guests. Taking time to research the history behind this Moroccan recipe helped overcome some fears.
And it turns out the dish is not 100% Moroccan! The original name is Pastilla and it is actually Andalucian with Middle Eastern flair. What? The dish was created in Andalucia by a famous Spanish chef during an Arabian occupation and it was one of the favorite dishes of the Sultan of Fes in Morocco.
It’s all in one letter
The spanish chicken pastilla recipe (p) became a bastilla (b) in Arabic countries. One can actually find various spellings – such as b’stilla or beestiya – depending on which North African country you are in. There is even a seafood version of this pie.
But the traditional sweet and savory recipe is made from stewed squab (chicken nowadays) with spices, a scrambled egg filling, and a crunchy layer of toasted ground almonds mixed with cinnamon and sugar. The crust is made from phyllo dough.
Cooking with Friends
Since one traditional moroccan bastilla recipe serves 10 guests, it is truly ideal for entertaining and a perfect group project. Nothing beats cooking with friends. But having an opportunity to cook with friends who just so happen to be part of the roster of wonderful Montreal food bloggers, now that was a real treat. Meet Hilary and Kimberlie.
We all met in 2015 via the Food Bloggers of Canada 2015 conference and we have enjoyed several meals together since then. When the idea of cooking together and planning a cross-blog post project came about, I thought my chance to check the chicken bastilla of my bucket list might have finally arrived. I was thrilled when they liked the idea.
Our North African Menu
Roasted Stuffed Eggplant
Moroccan Chicken Bastilla
Makroud (Date Filled Semolina Cookie)
What to serve with chicken bastilla
The deliciously talented Hilary of Cocoa Bean, The Vegetable (above center), prepared our starter with a quinoa stuffed eggplant dish. Kimberlie of The Finer Cookie (above right, and she makes damn fine cookies), took charge of our North African dessert with date semolina cookies. Kim’s husband, Rick, was our in-house photographer, because he really knows what he is doing! He took most of the shots during the day while the gals cooked.
So how did the recipe turn out? Did it live up to my expectations after so many years of build up bastilla fantasies? The chicken bastilla was absolutely extraordinary, fantastic, amazing, can I go on? I think it is a tie at no. 1 with the homemade version I had once in the basement of a community center. Be generous when buttering the phyllo sheets because you can really taste the butter. This recipe really is just incredible!
Is three food bloggers to many cooks in the kitchen? Absolutely not, we had a blast and worked great together. My only favorite part to cooking together was … eating together 🙂 It was a meal fit for a Sultan and Sultanas.
Before I get to the recipe make sure to check out Hilary’s and Kimberlie’s posts as well so you can get all 3 recipes of this fantastic meal. They would love to also hear what you think of our day together.
Roasted Stuffed Eggplant
our starter by Hilary
Makroud (Date Filled Semolina Cookie)
our dessert by Kimberlie
Got to enjoy a cocktail during our cooking day!
And you can find my easy chicken bastilla recipe recipe just below…
How do you feel about cooking with friends?
What theme would you like to prepare for a group meal?
If you are a blogger do you know fellow bloggers in your city that you could get together with?
Moroccan Chicken Bastilla
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts deboned
- 1 1/2 cups onions chopped
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh gingerroot peeled and finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron ground
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves chopped
- 7 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 lb phyllo dough thawed (about 18 to 24 leaves)
- 1 cup butter 2 sticks
Topping for Phyllo leaves
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Topping for filling
- 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook until golden brown on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
- In the same skillet add onions, garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon oil. Saute, stirring constantly, until onions are translucent. Stir in cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander, red pepper, turmeric, and saffron. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until onions are completely coated with spices, about 3 minutes.
- Increase heat to high and add the broth and fresh coriander to skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring to combine. Return chicken to skillet and spoon mixture on chicken, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet to plate and set aside to cool.
- Continue to cook onion mixture until almost dry, about 15 minutes. Add eggs, salt, and pepper to skillet and cook until soft curds form, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.
- Make phyllo leaves topping: heat oven to 375 F. Spread almonds on a ungreased baking sheet and place in oven for 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. In food processor, process almonds with sugar and cinnamon until coarsely ground.
- When chicken is cool enough to handle, tear chicken into 2-inch-long strips.
- To assemble bastilla, place phyllo between 1 sheet of parchment paper and cover with damp towel at all times. Brush 12-inch pizza pan with some melted butter. Remove 1 sheet of Phyllo and place on pan, letting the edges hang over the rim. Brush phyllo with butter. Working quickly, stack and butter 1/2 the sheets, arranging them in the pan in an overlapping, circular fashion.
- On center of phyllo, in even layers, place half the topping, half of onion-egg mixture, all of chicken, the remaining onion-egg mixture, and the remaining Topping, Fold overhanging phyllo over top of bastilla and brush top with butter.
- Continue to butter the other 1/2 of the phyllo sheets in the same pinwheel fashion over top of bastilla. Carefully tuck the overhanging ends underneath it. Brush top and side of bastilla with butter.
- Heat oven to 350 F and bake bastilla 20 minutes, or until golden. Place a baking sheet or another 12-inch pizza pan over the bastilla and invert so that the underside is now on top. Return to oven on the new pan and bake 25 minutes longer or until crisp and golden.
- When the bastilla is ready, flip as above on a serving plate. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar and ground cinnamon on top of bastilla, with a handful of toasted almonds slices if you wish.
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Kefta Tagine with Eggs in Tomato Sauce
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Sneha’s Recipe: Keto Moroccan Whole Oven Roasted Chicken
Sugarlovespices: Moroccan vegetable stew with butternut squash and chickpeas
Palatable Pastime: Moroccan Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame
Kitchen Frau: Grated Carrot Salad with Oranges
Pandemonium Noshery: Bissara – Moroccan Legume Soup
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Harira
Magical Ingredients: Spicy Moroccan Vegetable Tagine
CulturEatz: Chicken Bastilla
Check out more Moroccan recipes here:
Kind remarkable, thanks for this surprising article which inspired me !
WOW! This sounds amazing! I love the spice profile in the filling.
It’s really an incredibly tasty recipe.
I can see how this recipe was a labour of love – and so worth it! Looks like a good time was had by all!
It really is and a great way to spend time with friends
This looks and sounds amazing. My mouth is watering at the photos.
Hi highly recommend you make this Bastilla, it’s a winner.
Nice to see Hilary and Kimberlie! We met all of you at the Food Bloggers of Canada conference. Such great memories! And what a lovely recipe! Never had anything quite like it!
I do hope we meet again, it was a pleasure. And this is a must try!
I loved the recipe – all in my family said it was delicious. However, I have an ice pack pressed to my skin where I was burned while flipping it! Please add a caution to your article. As all the butter melts, it can cause a hazard as they invert the bastilla.
Wow, this is such an interesting post…I love all your exotics recipes Evelyne. I can only imagine how delicious is this chicken bastilla…thanks you so much for sharing the recipe…and yes, the pictures as awesome…you girls sure like had a great time.
Hope you are having a great week 🙂
Thank you Juliana for your compliment. It really is a delicious dish hope you try it. yes we had a blast week. Hope your week is great too!
SO cool, Evelyne! Love that you’re consistently introducing me to foods I’ve never heard of. And so jealous you got to cook with those marvelous ladies 🙂
Thank you Viviane, I feel the same way with all the discoveries I make on your blog! And O really hope you try this, Bastilla is fabulous. And I would love to cook with you 🙂 if we are ever in the same city!
I was lucky enough to live in Morocco for a bit in the 70s, and first had this dish there. Instantly fell in love. Never have made it myself for some reason. Really should — it’s SO good. Yours looks spectacular — thanks.
Oh wow you lived in Morocco? That is so cool! I would love to have this recipe made locally in it’s country. Glad you know it and love…and hope you make it now. Thanks for your compliment!
Great food and company! It sure look like you had an amazing time. OMG, I must be living under a rock because I’ve never come across this gorgeous pie before. It looks and sounds so good!
Thanks! We had an absolute blast! And it is not a recipe everyone knows, but once you discover you are hooked 😀
What a happy meal with co blogger friends! thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!
My pleasure Balvinder 🙂
I’ve wanted to try bastilla since ages but did not have the courage to :), it can come with so many varieties and I really need to try one , at least one. Your version looks so delicious and I like the idea of cooking with your guests/friends. What a fun evening you had.
It was same for me…but I promise it is worth the small effort and you get like 10 portions lol. Thanks Amira!
This reminds me of the pitas we make here in Greece! They are a lot similar! I bet this one bursts with flavor! What a lovely gathering!
Thanks Katerina. Oh I am not familiar with the Greek recipe, can you send a link?
You just gave a me an idea. It will be a great experience to be cooking with my friends too. And that chicken bastilla is really tempting 🙂
Wow this looks like a fun thing to do, cooking togther. Lucky there are that much bloggers in your part of the world to do this 🙂
Love the dishes and thank you for introducing these new bloggers to me.
Thanks Raymund I am so glad this is a new happy discovery for so many people, it is a awesome dish. Well come on over anytime … when in Montreal lol.
I can totally see why you fell in love at first bite, what a flippin fantastic combination of yummy tastes and flavours. 🙂
I adore that picture of you and your friends with glasses of goodness, it looks like the cover of a TV show I wanna watch.
Ha ha ha love you comment about us being the cover of a tv show, so I would be the goofy one one the center lol. Lots of booze that day. I hope you try the bastilla some day, it is heaven.
I love Moroccan food , but never had a meat based Bastilla( I know it’s a pigeon or chicken based dish but had only a sweet one 🙁 ) . Love this recipe and the sides look delicious, especially the eggplant!
Oh you tried the seafood one Prateek? I have not, just the chicken which is fantastic. Everything during that meal was excellent 🙂
This looks so good. I would love to try this pie!!! At first, I was a little surprised when you described the almonds and cinnamon – the sweet and savory, but looking at the recipe, it doesn’t seem like it would be too sweet. What a fun cooking experience. I’m a big lover of Morrocon food – couscous mostly. Now need to branch out and try this Bastilla. Wine, friends and good food….the perfect combination.
Thanks Rosemary. I know everyone get’s thrown of by the sugar mix. But there are only 2 tbsp of sugar in there. It really works well and it is sooooo good 😀 This is a great recipe to branch out from the better known Moroccan dishes for sure.
Yes!!! What a lovely treat for your guests. I loved bastilla when I first had it in Morocco and unlike you, I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere since. I made it once but don’t think I shared the recipe on my blog. Yours looks excellent though. 🙂
Thanks Janet for you comment, I am so happy to read many people have tasted this recipe before. Awesome that you made it once.
I love Maghrabi dishes! Infact Moroccan cuisine is something I really want to learn. Do you have a chicken recipe made with prunes and dried apricots. My friend’s Mum makes something like that and says its Maghrabi. This dish looks totally appetizing…
Thanks Sahar and yeah it is so good. i don,t have the traditional recipe for the chicken prune one but I have this version here https://cultureatz.com/moroccan-cinnamon-chicken-with-couscous-and-dried-fruit
That seems like it was a really fun day! I really love bastilla, I’ve only made it once, but I’m going to have to make it again now! And invite the trifecta over to help 😛 Thanks for the post!
Thanks Krysten ans so glad you know and have made this dish before, is it not like the best! Wish we could make the next one together!
It looks like a chicken cake!!! 😀 Wow, really really nice one!
Ha ha that is exactly what it is 🙂
Hi Evelyne, I can’t stop talking about your Chicken Bastilla. Truly delicious. I loved spending the day in the kitchen with you. You’re very talented. And I have to make this for myself, only a smaller version.
Hi Kimberlie! Ah that is too sweet I am so happy you loved it so much! I salivate at the tought of dates and orange blossom syrup…I want a cookie now! It was such a pleasure to spend the day in your kitchen and learned so much!
What a great experience! I am not sure I would like the cinnamon sugar topping, but the rest sounds delicious 🙂
Thank you Tandy it was a blast. The dusting is very subtle with all the flavors and enhances it…but it is optional.
You guys look like you’re having the time of your lives. I wish I was so there. And you are so right, I am so in for a treat because I am loving this bastilla.
Thank you Kia and yeah we had just a blast. I have a feeling you and I in the kitchen would be so much fun too lol.
Good food and good friends will always make you stay in the kitchen girl :). Hopefully one day we will be able to cook together.
It was so fun cooking with you Evelyne! And you totally opened my eyes to the Bastilla, which was completely new to me. Who would have thought that icing sugar belonged on a meat-based dish? But it totally worked! Loved the seasoning as well! 🙂
Thank you Hilary for sharing in this amazing day. So glad you loved the Bastilla and I am so happy to have discovered your stuffed eggplants too. A perfect pairing!
Love the pics of you gals doing your thing! Cooking is so much more fun when done with friends isn’t it! 😀
Thank you Lorraine 🙂 yes the more the better…when you get along lol
While the bastilla looks so good, I am more drawn to the stuffed eggplant! It looks fabulous!
Thank you Rosemarie, just everything was delicious! 🙂
SO much fun cooking with friends!!! We had this dish come up in our French Fridays with Dorie queue, but I never got around to making it. Yours looks fabulous! So packed full of yummy flavors and textures!
Thank you Liz and too bad you did not make Dorie’s…yet, a must!
This is my favorite Moroccan dish, Evelyne! I simply love its contrasting flavors and textures. I will have to try your recipe.
Thank you Denise and so cool you know the dish already, totally agree best Moroccan dish!
What a feast! It all looks and sounds delicious!!! You are 3 cool ladies and it looks like you had a blast cooking, eating and drinking! I’ve never had chicken bastilla but want to try it now. Way to go, Evelyne!
Thank you Pam, and you HAVE to make the bastilla one day, no regrets 😀
3 gorgeous ladies! The chicken bastilla looks really tempting. First I thought it looked like a dessert because of almond and icing sugar..then I saw the chicken filling with all my favourite spices. Sweet and salty..I love the combo of flavour. Stuffed eggplants by Hilary and Kimberlie’s semolina cookies look scrumptious too.
Thank you Angie. I know the sweet part is confusing but totally a main meal dish, so good.