Msemen recipe | Crispy Square Moroccan Pancakes (Rghaif)

Msemen is a crispy square-shaped Moroccan breakfast pancake or bread that is made with multiple layers to get crispiness and crunchiness to this flavourful treat. In this msemen recipe, you have in detail: how to bake the dough, how to layer the dough to get the nicely folded msemen, and how to cook it correctly. You can master msemen in your own kitchen in no time!

Squarecrispy msemen pancakes arranged in a circle with honey jar in the middle. On the side a tray with Moroccan mint tea pot and two glasses.

The breakfast time in Morocco there is for sure at least one if not all of the following: mint tea, harcha, or msemen the crispy, square Moroccan pancake. The Moroccan mama wakes up earlier than the rest of the family and does breakfast for the others when they are starting to wake up. The incredible scent of mint tea and amazing msemen are in the air.

Msemen is layered, in other words, a laminated dough. Like croissants, msemen layers are done with grease and dough layered time and time again. Whereas Croissants are rolled with the rolling pin and layered with some cold butter, the msemen are spread with oily hands to the thinnest layer possible and then folded in several folds with melted butter and semolina. The other name used for the square Moroccan pancakes is rghaif, spelled as well rghayef.

Tips for making Moroccan msemen (rghaif)

  • Shaping the dough is easier with an oiled work surface and well-oiled hands. Don’t be afraid to use a decent amount. With oil, you get the dough thin and translucid smoothly without any tear-ups.
  • If spreading the dough to a square shape seems harder than shaping a flat circle you can do as well so. I have seen many doing that way too. With a square shape, it is anyhow easier to get the square shape in folding and getting the nice layers after frying.
  • You can change the ratio of semolina and wheat flour, depending on what you have, but as a first-timer, I suggest following the amounts given in this msemen recipe.
  • You can use two or more skillets on different burners to cook more efficiently.
Hand flattening msemen dough to square shape on a wooden well-oiled surface.

Ingredients you need for the msemen recipe

  • Semolina, fine. Fine or extra fine semolina flour can be substituted with coarser semolina as well, then the texture of msemen will be rougher.
  • Wheat flour. You can use some all-purpose flour.
  • Cane sugar. Can be substituted with other sugars, honey, or syrup.
  • Salt. I used some sea salt but you can use the salt of your choice. I don’t recommend leaving it out, because it gives a great nuance for the bread (as in any bread). But if you are used to cooking without salt or you prefer low sodium, you can decrease the amount of leave it out completely.
  • Dried yeast. In this recipe, there is used only a pinch of dried yeast. There are many versions of the msemen without yeast as well. If you want, you can leave it out from this msemen recipe without compromising too much of the texture.
  • Water. Use lukewarm to warm water to help the yeast function. But beware, because too hot a water will destroy the yeast.
  • Olive oil. Though I highly recommend using olive oil in this recipe, you can for sure substitute it with other oil you have on hand like sunflower seed oil or avocado oil.
  • Butter. I used salted butter, but you can use unsalted butter too, or margarin if you prefer, but it will slightly change the flavor profile.

Tools you may need

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Scale
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Cling film or beeswax wrap
  • Skillet
  • Wooden spatula
  • Tray or large plate for raising the dough
  • Serving tray
  • A large, clean table surface for shaping the dough, a marble table would be the most perfect, but a wooden one functions as well

How to make Moroccan msemen

The making of Moroccan msemen seems first very intimidating with the length of the msemen recipe, all the folding, and the number of instructions. Don’t be afraid. I’m showing every step with detailed information so that when you start making you can just breeze through, fry the msemen, and enjoy eating it. First, read carefully through the instructions, and then you can easily follow the guiding photos while doing the msemen. Believe me, you can do the square Moroccan pancakes in no time!

Making the dough

Start the msemen dough by measuring all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour salt and yeast on the other sides of the bowl, for salt will affect the yeast disturbing the rising process.

Large blue mixing bowl filled with flour, semolina, yeast, cane sugar, and salt.

Mix all dry ingredients well together and make a small hole in the middle. Pour in one-third of the water and slowly mix with the hand to incorporate the water with the dry ingredients. Add water bit by bit until you have all the well mixed.

Kneading the msemen dough

Knead the dough well about 8-10 minutes to obtain a dough that is soft and it doesn’t stick into the hands or bowl. Be patient and use your palm to push the dough and refold it. Do not tear the dough. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook you can use that too and knead for at least five minutes.

Roll the dough in a beautiful ball shape. Push the dough gently with your fingers. If it bounces back slowly, you are ready to cover the dough with cling film or beeswax wrap. Leave it on the side for no more than 10 minutes.

Dividing the dough

This dough makes about 10-12 Moroccan msemen. If you are a beginner I recommend doing the dough ball size of about 80 grams each, it will be so much easier. If you want bigger (and you have a nice big skillet), then you can measure 100g balls. Measure the first dough ball with the scale and then eyeball the rest to keep them about the same size.

Do the balls by squeezing a small part of the dough between your thumb and index finger to detach about golf ball-sized smooth dough ball from it. Keep the round-shaped side of the ball on your palm and pinch with your other hand fingers the ends of the dough to hide underneath the ball of the dough. Roll softly the ball against your palm to shape it nicely and round. Place the balls of dough on the tray and cover immediately with the cling film to prevent the surface from drying. Repeat until you have finished the whole dough.

Melt the butter in a small pot and set aside to cool down.

Preparing the workspace

Now when you have all the dough balls ready, move the cling film for a moment and pour a bit of olive oil on the top of each ball to moisten the surface of the dough, and cover them again. If you have a spray bottle for oil, I have found it very handy for this and the following steps.

Prepare your working surface. Spray or pour generously the olive oil on the surface. It feels quite much the quantity of the oil that you are using but it will not all end up in the msemen – don’t worry, and you will have well-cared hands with the olive oil afterward! I can’t emphasize enough the importance of using enough olive oil in shaping the dough. If you try to use less the dough will tear up and have holes and the shaping will be extremely difficult.

To do the shaping the most fast and easy way, pour the butter and extra semolina for the shaping into their own small bowls and put them on the different sides of the working table. Use one hand for butter and with the other hand reach for the semolina – that way I guarantee the next steps are faster and less messy.

Shaping the msemen

Work one dough ball at a time. Take one ball on the well-oiled surface. Flatten the dough ball with your palms and spray or pour more oil on it. Start spreading SLOWLY the dough inch by inch by sliding with the palm of your hand and fingers gently pressing from the middle towards the edges. Be efficient but do not rush, otherwise, the dough will tear up. When spreading try to shape the dough into a square about 30 x 30 cm large. The dough should be quite thin and translucid.

Now dip your other hand in butter and spread it generously applying it on the whole surface of the dough. Then with the other hand sprinkle some semolina evenly on the top. Pat a bit so that the semolina sticks.

Start doing the envelope folds: Grab the upper corners between your fingers and pull slightly upwards before folding one-third part of the square in the middle. Grease and sprinkle semolina on the top of the folded part. Pat a bit and then grab the lower corners and fold them on the top of the folded part. Now you have three layers and a rectangle-shaped dough. Grease the surface as usual, sprinkle some semolina, and pat. Now fold from the sides towards the middle one-third part from right to left, (grease-semolina-pat), and then the other side of the dough from left to right. Now you should have nine layers and a square maybe a bit smaller than 10 x 10cm. Return the folded msemen to the tray under the cling film and start working with the next ball accordingly.

When you have folded four squares put the skillet on the stove on medium-high heat. Continue with the other dough balls until the skillet is hot.

Shaping the square msemen for frying

Though you haven’t finished folding all the balls start frying whenever the skillet is hot. Take one of the folded msemen, apply some olive oil on the top, and spread like with the first shaping time, but try not to spread too hard so that the layers do not stick together. The square should be about 20 x 20cm, twice the starting size. Spray some olive oil on the top, grab from the upper corners of the flattened msemen, and place it on the skillet.

Frying the Moroccan msemen square pancakes

Differently from the regular pancakes, you should flip the msemen often. Leave about 20-30 seconds between the flips. If you have your working space and frying place next to each other you can easily continue shaping the rest of the dough balls at the same time. Because I don’t have space enough wide next to the stove, I have my husband start the frying while I finish the folding.

Moroccans seem to have tougher fingers to resist the heat. So my husband is just flipping the msemen with bare hands as my mother-in-law and sister-in-law do too. But whenever I continue the frying, I will use my wooden spatula for flipping, not to burn my sad little Nordic fingers.

The msemen is ready when it is golden brown on both sides. Repeat the shaping and frying with the rest of the Moroccan msemen.

Msemen frying on a skillet, on the side a silver tray with one msemen ready.

Serving the Msemen

The msemen, like in this recipe, is typically served with honey, cream cheese, or even some kind of spreadable pâté of beef or chicken. I top mine usually with apricot jam or homemade kefir soft cheese. It is so yummy and crispy to just roll up and eat hot in the morning. Do not forget to steep a hot teapot of incredible sweet Moroccan mint tea to enjoy with msemen!

Square msemen pancakes arranged on a silver tray with a honey jar and a pot of Moroccan mint tea and glasses.

Storage and reheating

You can store ready-cooked msemen in the fridge for up to 5 days and just reheat it in the oven at 180°C (356°F) or on the skillet. I do as well have a toaster large enough to dip in one end of the msemen and then turn around and toast the other side. Heat it well, msemen doesn’t taste good when it’s cold.

You can do as well several Moroccan pancakes at one go with this msemen recipe, for msemen freezes nicely as well for up to about 3-4 months. When my mother-in-law cooks the big batch of msemen for us, she leaves it slightly undercooked. She packs it airtight and whenever we return home we stick it to the freezer. Then we defrost a few at a time on the hot pan to cook it through and eat it like freshly made!

Tiny child's hand on the big ball of dough in the large blue mixing bowl.

Little Helper

Because of the fast pacing and multitasking, this is not the easiest recipe for the tiny ones to join. Poking the dough on the other hand is most amusing. Sprinkling the semolina is also a nice one for the smaller kids, but whenever doing first time the laminated dough, the layered technique, I suggest maybe not fully including the tiniest ones. Anyhow, if you have older children this is a good recipe to have many helping hands and the msemen square pancakes are quickly done!

Have you yet tried the msemen recipe?

Tell me if you have tried yet the msemen recipe! Any tricky business with the layers or breezing through? Let me know in the comments!

Squarecrispy msemen pancakes arranged in a circle with honey jar in the middle. On the side a tray with Moroccan mint tea pot and two glasses.

Msemen | Crispy Square Moroccan pancakes (Rghaif)

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

The making of Moroccan msemen seems first very intimidating with the length of the msemen recipe, all the folding, and the number of instructions. Don't be afraid. I'm showing every step with detailed information so that when you start making you can just breeze through, fry the msemen, and enjoy eating it. First, read carefully through the instructions, and then you can easily follow the guiding photos while doing the msemen. Believe me, you can do the square Moroccan pancakes in no time!

Ingredients

  • 300g semolina, fine
  • 300g wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp cane sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3,7 dl water, lukewarm
  • 1 pinch of dried yeast

Instructions



    Making the dough

    1. Start the msemen dough by measuring all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour salt and yeast on the other sides of the bowl, for salt will affect the yeast disturbing the rising process.
    2. Mix all dry ingredients well together and make a small hole in the middle. Pour in one-third of the water and slowly mix with the hand to incorporate the water with the dry ingredients. Add water bit by bit until you have all the well mixed.

      Kneading the msemen dough
    3. Knead the dough well about 8-10 minutes to obtain a dough that is soft and it doesn't stick into the hands or bowl. Be patient and use your palm to push the dough and refold it. Do not tear the dough. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook you can use that too and knead for at least five minutes.
    4. Roll the dough in a beautiful ball shape. Push the dough gently with your fingers. If it bounces back slowly, you are ready to cover the dough with cling film or beeswax wrap. Leave it on the side for no more than 10 minutes.

      Dividing the dough
    5. This dough makes about 10-12 Moroccan msemen. If you are a beginner I recommend doing the dough ball size of about 80 grams each, it will be so much easier. If you want bigger (and you have a nice big skillet), then you can measure 100g balls. Measure the first dough ball with the scale and then eyeball the rest to keep them about the same size.
    6. Do the balls by squeezing a small part of the dough between your thumb and index finger to detach about golf ball-sized smooth dough ball from it. Keep the round-shaped side of the ball on your palm and pinch with your other hand fingers the ends of the dough to hide underneath the ball of the dough. Roll softly the ball against your palm to shape it nicely and round. Place the balls of dough on the tray and cover immediately with the cling film to prevent the surface from drying. Repeat until you have finished the whole dough.
    7. Melt the butter in a small pot and set aside to cool down.

      Preparing the workspace
    8. Now when you have all the dough balls ready, move the cling film for a moment and pour a bit of olive oil on the top of each ball to moisten the surface of the dough, and cover them again. If you have a spray bottle for oil, I have found it very handy for this and the following steps.
    9. Prepare your working surface. Spray or pour generously the olive oil on the surface. I can't emphasize enough the importance of using enough olive oil in shaping the dough. If you try to use less the dough will tear up and have holes and the shaping will be extremely difficult.
    10. To do the shaping the most fast and easy way, pour the butter and extra semolina for the shaping into their own small bowls and put them on the different sides of the working table. Use one hand for butter and with the other hand reach for the semolina - that way I guarantee the next steps are faster and less messy.

      Shaping the msemen
    11. Work one dough ball at a time. Take one ball on the well-oiled surface. Flatten the dough ball with your palms and spray or pour more oil on it. Start spreading SLOWLY the dough inch by inch by sliding with the palm of your hand and fingers gently pressing from the middle towards the edges. Be efficient but do not rush, otherwise, the dough will tear up. When spreading try to shape the dough into a square about 30 x 30 cm large. The dough should be quite thin and translucid.
    12. Now dip your other hand in butter and spread it generously applying it on the whole surface of the dough. Then with the other hand sprinkle some semolina evenly on the top. Pat a bit so that the semolina sticks.
    13. Start doing the envelope folds: Grab the upper corners between your fingers and pull slightly upwards before folding one-third part of the square in the middle. Grease and sprinkle semolina on the top of the folded part. Pat a bit and then grab the lower corners and fold them on the top of the folded part. Now you have three layers and a rectangle-shaped dough. Grease the surface as usual, sprinkle some semolina, and pat. Now fold from the sides towards the middle one-third part from right to left, (grease-semolina-pat), and then the other side of the dough from left to right. Now you should have nine layers and a square maybe a bit smaller than 10 x 10cm. Return the folded msemen to the tray under the cling film and start working with the next ball accordingly.
    14. When you have folded four squares put the skillet on the stove on medium-high heat. Continue with the other dough balls until the skillet is hot.

      Shaping the square msemen for frying
    15. Though you haven't finished folding all the balls start frying whenever the skillet is hot. Take one of the folded msemen, apply some olive oil on the top, and spread like with the first shaping time, but try not to spread too hard so that the layers do not stick together. The square should be about 20 x 20cm, at least twice the starting size. Spray some olive oil on the top, grab from the upper corners of the flattened msemen, lift and place it on the skillet.

      Frying the Moroccan msemen square pancakes
    16. Differently from the regular pancakes, you should flip the msemen often. Leave about 20-30 seconds between the flips. If you have your working space and frying place next to each other you can easily continue shaping the rest of the dough balls at the same time.
    17. The msemen is ready when it is golden brown on both sides. Repeat the shaping and frying with the rest of the Moroccan msemen.

      Serving the msemen

      Msemen is typically served with honey, cream cheese, or even some kind of spreadable pâté of beef or chicken. I top mine as well with apricot jam or homemade kefir soft cheese, and it is so yummy and crispy to roll up and eat hot in the morning. Do not forget to steep a hot teapot of incredible sweet Moroccan mint tea to enjoy with msemen!

      Storage and reheating

      You can store ready-cooked msemen in the fridge for up to 5 days and just reheat it in the oven at 180°C (356°F) or on the skillet. I do as well have a toaster large enough to dip in one end of the msemen and then turn around and toast the other side. Heat it well, msemen doesn't taste good when it's cold.

      You can do as well several Moroccan pancakes at one go with this msemen recipe, for msemen freezes nicely as well for up to about 3-4 months. When my mother-in-law cooks the big batch of msemen for us, she leaves it slightly undercooked. She packs it airtight and whenever we return home we stick it to the freezer. Then we defrost a few at a time on the hot pan to cook it through and eat it like freshly made!

Notes

  • Shaping the dough is easier with an oiled work surface and well-oiled hands. Don't be afraid to use a decent amount. With oil, you get the dough thin and translucid smoothly without any tear-ups.
  • If spreading the dough to a square shape seems harder than shaping a flat circle you can do as well so. I have seen many doing that way too. With a square shape, it is anyhow easier to get the square shape in folding and getting the nice layers after frying.
  • You can change the ratio of semolina and wheat flour, depending on what you have, but as a first-timer, I suggest following the amounts given in this msemen recipe.
  • You can use two or more skillets on different burners to cook more efficiently.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 185Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 224mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 6g

Did you make this recipe?

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Hands lifting a translucid dough from the wooden surface. In the middle, there is a text: "Step-by-step Msemen Recipe. Crispy Moroccan Pancake (rghaif).

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23 Comments

  1. What a unique recipe. My sisters and I are always up for a new challenge in the kitchen. This square Moroccan Pancake recipe is perfect! I’m printing it and bringing it to our next gathering. Thank you for another great recipe.

  2. I’m Moroccan and this is my favorite breakfast thank you for sharing.
    The post is incredibly well written and detailed

  3. This looks like a labor of love – but well worth the effort. I will save the recipe and hopefully try it soon. It looks amazing!

    1. Thanks for sharing Janet. It seems a lot of work, but once you have done a few msemen and you know the drill it will go so much quicker with the next ones. Let me know how it turned out!

  4. That looks delicious and I’m glad you shared such a complete and easy to follow recipe. Thanks!