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Moroccan Cracked Barley Soup with Tomatoes – Hssoua Belboula Hamra

Hssoua Belboula Hamra (Moroccan Barley and Tomato Soup). Photo © Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc

Barley grits, also known as cracked barley, are a kitchen staple in many Moroccan households, where they often get cooked into savory soups such as zesty, peppery Hssoua Belboula Hamra. For this recipe, the barley is cooked until tender along with tomatoes, onions and Moroccan seasoning. It’s perfect as a light supper on a night when you’re not in the mood for much fussing in the kitchen but want something hot, delicious and satisfying.

Of course, you need not restrict yourself to serving the barley and tomato soup in the evening; in some families, savory porridge-like soups are also standard breakfast fare. Large barley grits (referred to as dchicha) are best if you want a lot of chewy bite to the soup; otherwise, medium-caliber grits are fine.

The recipe calls for a little lamb or beef, which may be replaced with chicken or omitted for a vegetarian version. For added flavor, replace some of the water with broth or stock (I use stock cubes), adjusting salt as necessary. Tomato paste is optional, but it will add color and richer tomato flavor.

As with many grain-based soups, this one is best served immediately after cooking because the barley grits will continue to swell and thicken as the soup sits. Add water (and a little more seasoning if needed) to thin the soup when reheating.

5 from 1 vote
Moroccan Cracked Barley Soup with Tomatoes - Hssoua Belboula Hamra
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hrs

Zesty with ginger and pepper, this Moroccan barley and tomato soup is usually offered as a light evening meal or as breakfast fare. 

Course: Breakfast, Soup
Cuisine: Moroccan
Yield: 4 servings
Calories: 387 kcal
Author: Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc
  • 1 cup cracked barley or barley grits (medium or large caliber)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz. beef or lamb, diced (one handful)
  • 1 onion, grated (medium)
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes, grated (seeds and skin discarded)
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1.5 tsp salt, or to taste (less if using stock)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste, or to taste (optional)
  • 8.5 cups water (can use stock or broth instead)
  1. Wash the barley grits in a bowl of water and drain. Repeat several times until the water is no longer cloudy when swishing the barley around. Leave the barley to drain while you start the soup.

  2. In a 3-quart (3-liter) or larger pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the grated onions and meat, stirring until the onion is translucent and the meat is browned.

  3. Add the grated tomatoes, chopped parsley, spices and water (or stock). Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

  4. Add the tomato paste (if using) and the barley grits. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes, or until the barley and meat are tender and the broth is slightly thickened.

  5. Taste and adjust seasoning, and serve.

Nutrition Facts
Moroccan Cracked Barley Soup with Tomatoes - Hssoua Belboula Hamra
Amount Per Serving
Calories 387 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 29%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 986mg 41%
Potassium 494mg 14%
Total Carbohydrates 46g 15%
Dietary Fiber 9g 36%
Sugars 4g
Protein 9g 18%
Vitamin A 17.5%
Vitamin C 19.4%
Calcium 5.4%
Iron 14.8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Christine Benlafquih

Christine Benlafquih is founder and Editor of Taste of Maroc. A long time resident of Casablanca, she's written extensively on Moroccan cuisine and culture. She was the Moroccan Food Expert for About.com (now The Spruce) from 2008 to 2016.