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Harira Recipe – Moroccan Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Lentils

Harira Recipe – Moroccan Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Lentils

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Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup of tomato, lentils, and chickpeas. Wonderfully fragrant with zesty seasoning, it often ranks high on lists of must-try Moroccan foods. It’s a popular offering in Moroccan homes and restaurants, and you can even find it sold as street food.

The name harira, derived from the Arabic word for silk, makes reference to the texture of the soup after it’s been thickened with either eggs or a tedouira of flour and water. The tedouira (thickener) sometimes includes yeast and may be left to ferment for a day or two.

Although harira is prepared year-round, it’s famously associated with Ramadan, when it’s likely to be served alongside chebakia and other traditional foods to break the fast. This tradition is so ingrained that many Moroccans consider a meal during Ramadan incomplete if harira isn’t on the table.

I share that sentiment. I’ve come to love and expect harira during Ramadan, and if I don’t have a bowl of this traditional soup after a day of fasting, something always seems to be missing even if I’ve had an otherwise satisfying meal.

As with so many Moroccan recipes, the way harira is made can vary dramatically from family to family. Beef, lamb, or chicken are typically added to flavor the stock; however, they can be omitted for a vegetarian version.

Some prefer harira light and mildly seasoned while others favor a thick, zesty soup that suffices as a hearty meal-in-a-bowl. The latter is my preference, no doubt influenced by my mother-in-law’s delicious version below, which she taught me to make long before I moved to Morocco.

Fragrantly seasoned with ginger, pepper, and cinnamon, it gets additional flavor and body from a robust quantity of fresh herbs: cilantro, parsley, celery, and onion. Rice or broken vermicelli is added as a filler. 

Smen, a type of preserved butter, is an optional but recommended ingredient, as a little bit will add a pleasant layer of parmesan-like flavor.

The prep work for harira can be considerable; however, much of that work can be done in advance and the prepped ingredients put in the freezer for easy cooking at a later time.

If you plan to cook harira with any regularity, such as in Ramadan, then you may want to consider getting that prep work out of the way.

You can also make a large batch of harira and portion it out for freezing before thickening it. In this case, it’s best not to add rice since it can break down in texture. Plan to add broken vermicelli when reheating and thickening the defrosted soup.

Read through the directions for prepping ingredients for suggestions of what can be done ahead of time. A food processor will help simplify those steps.

Many Moroccans enjoy dates as an accompaniment to harira. And, if serving harira as a light supper, consider offering batbout or krachel on the side.

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bowl of Moroccan harira soup in traditional bowl. Served with dates and dried figs.

Moroccan Harira Recipe

Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc
An authentic recipe for a hearty version of Moroccan harira, a zesty tomato, lentil and chickpea soup.
Plan ahead to allow for overnight soaking of the chickpeas or to prep ingredients in advance. Cooking time is for a pressure cooker; double this time if simmering the soup in a conventional pot.
4.75 from 99 votes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine Moroccan
Yield 6 servings
Calories 330 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 8 oz. lamb, beef or chicken, diced
  • 3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • several soup bones (optional)
  • 2 lbs soft, ripe tomatoes - (about 6 large)
  • 1 handful dry chickpeas, soaked and peeled
  • 2 handfuls dry green or brown lentils
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1 stalk celery (with leaves), chopped
  • 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp smen (optional)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1.5 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon - optional; see notes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste - combined with 1 or 2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp uncooked rice OR broken vermicelli
  • 1 cup flour - combined with 2 cups water
  • lemon wedges and cilantro (optional) - for garnish

Instructions
 

Ahead of Time – Prep Ingredients

  • Soak the chickpeas overnight. The next day, drain and peel them. This is easily done by pressing chickpeas one-by-one between your forefinger and thumb or by rubbing all of the chickpeas vigorously in a kitchen towel. (The prepped chickpeas may be be frozen until needed.)
  • Pick through the lentils to remove any stones and debris; set aside until ready to use. 
  • Stew the tomatoes then pass them through a food mill to make a puree; discard the skins and seeds. Or, cut the tomatoes into quarters and process them, with or without skin, in a food processor until smooth. (The pureed tomatoes may be frozen until needed.)
  • Grate the onion or process it to a thick pulp in a food processor. (The grated onion may be mixed with the pureed tomatoes and frozen until needed.)
  • Wash the celery and finely chop it. Set aside. Remove and discard large pieces of stem from the parsley and cilantro. Wash the parsley and cilantro and leave to drain thoroughly before chopping finely by hand or in a food processor. (The chopped herbs may be mixed together and frozen until needed.)

Make the Soup

  • In a 6-quart or larger pressure cooker or stock pot, brown the meat in the oil over medium heat. Add the soup bones, peeled chickpeas, pureed tomatoes, grated onion, spices, smen (if using) and 3 cups (710 ml) of water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook with medium pressure for 25 minutes (or simmer for 50 to 60 minutes).
  • Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, chopped herbs and 8.5 cups (2 liters) water. Bring to a boil and cover.  Continue to step 3 or step 4.
  • If planning to add rice, cook the soup with medium pressure for 30 minutes (or simmer for 60 minutes); add the rice, and continue cooking with pressure for another 15 minutes (or 30 minutes by simmering). 
  • OR if planning to add broken vermicelli, cook the soup with pressure for 45 minutes (or simmer for 90 minutes) before stirring in the broken vermicelli. Continue simmering for a few minutes until the vermicelli is tender.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning. Thicken the soup to a silky, cream-like consistency by gradually adding the tedouira (flour and water mixture), stirring constantly to ensure that it’s well blended. Use only as much as is needed to make the soup as thick as you like. 
  • Simmer the soup for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that forms on the surface. 
  • Remove from the heat and serve. 

Notes

  • A skin will form on the soup as it cools. This can be stirred and blended back into the soup.
  • When reheating the soup, use medium or low heat and stir frequently to avoid lentils sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
  • If you’d like to freeze the soup, do so before adding the thickener and preferably before adding the rice or broken vermicelli. Allow it to cool completely before freezing. On the day of serving, thaw the soup over low heat then resume cooking from where you left off. 
  • Cinnamon is optional and can be omitted. While many Moroccan cooks use it when making harira, not everyone likes it. On a personal note, I do prefer harira with a small amount of cinnamon as indicated in the recipe. It’s very subtle and complementary to the overall flavor of the soup when used conservatively.
  • Lemon wedges may be served on the side for those who like a squeeze of fresh lemon juice as a condiment for the soup. If desired, garnish with a little fresh parsley or cilantro.
  • Blending the flour and water tedouira ahead of time will help ensure that it’s lump-free when adding it to the soup.
  • To make gluten-free harira, you can use cornstarch, tapioca starch, or another substitute for the flour to thicken the soup at the end of cooking.

Nutrition

Calories: 330kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 16gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 1304mgPotassium: 811mgFiber: 7gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 1505IUVitamin C: 25.4mgCalcium: 52mgIron: 3.1mg

Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate obtained from online calculators. Optional ingredients may not be included in the nutritional information.

Tried this recipe? We’d love to know!Mention @tasteofmaroc or tag #tasteofmaroc!
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About the Author

Christine Benlafquih is Founding Editor at Taste of Maroc and owner of Taste of Casablanca, a food tour and culinary activity business in Casablanca. A long time resident of Morocco, she's written extensively about Moroccan cuisine and culture. She was the Moroccan Food Expert for The Spruce Eats (formerly About.com) from 2008 to 2016.

Recipe Rating




Chelle

Sunday 28th of April 2024

Thanks for the recipes! I went to Morocco last week and came home with spices and the desire to try cooking some of the delicious foods we ate in Marrakech. Today we used your recipes to cook harira, kefta and khoubz. We followed your instructions closely and everything came out delicious. I am looking forward to trying more of your recipes - couscous with seven vegetables is up next. Thanks again!

Christine Benlafquih

Sunday 28th of April 2024

So glad you're having success with the recipes! Thanks for letting me know.

Megan

Tuesday 19th of March 2024

No cumin? This is as close to my mother in law's recipe I've found, but I know she puts in some cumin. Regardless, delicious!

Christine Benlafquih

Wednesday 20th of March 2024

No, I've never made harira with cumin. It could be a regional thing.

Janet

Monday 11th of March 2024

Lived in North Morocco for years this is the recipe a Moroccan lady taught me to make. I also use a stock cube. The only ingrediant I cannot find in the UK is kraffis, I know this is still a type of celery but not quite the same. Love it when Ramadan comes around because I make this every couple of days for the month. Enjoy.

Janet

Tuesday 12th of March 2024

@Christine Benlafquih, Thank-you. I will try to find this because I think it does make a difference. Also it also makes the Harira smell lovely to.

Christine Benlafquih

Monday 11th of March 2024

The celery (krafes) traditionally used in Morocco is Chinese celery, which has much thinner stalks and stronger flavor than regular celery. You might be able to find it in an Asian market.

Lily

Friday 8th of March 2024

I was first introduced to Harira when I met my Moroccan boyfriend and fell in love with it, and am definitely going to make it at home as a surprise for him during this Ramadan. This may sound a little silly but I was wondering if the nutritional value you added in the end is equivalent to the whole batch or just a portion? Also what is the serving size? Thank you for sharing your recipe, I am so excited to try it!!!

Christine Benlafquih

Friday 8th of March 2024

Hi Lily. The nutritional information is per serving, or one-sixth of the recipe.

Nicole

Thursday 7th of March 2024

Our family was exposed to Harira on a trip to Morocco and all of us, including kids ages 8-14 love it. This site's recipe is the best of the many we have tried in the last year. I am recording my tips here to make it easier for my kids to replicate and/or for weeknight cooking using canned chickpeas, canned tomatoes, and prepared chicken broth because on weeknights we don't have time to cook chickpeas from dried and stew bones in water. 1. Heat olive oil in a large pot: brown the ground meat, celery, onions and spices. I like to use fresh 1 "thumb" of grated ginger rather than dried (not specified in the recipe) Sautee for ~10 minutes. 2. Add 2, 14oz cans of pureed tomatoes, and the chopped celery, cilantro and parsley. 3. Add 1/4 cup dried lentils and 6 cups of prepared chicken broth (because we didn't use the soup bones in step 1). Follow the remaining steps 3 and on in the recipe above.

The spices/salt/pepper ratios in this recipe are perfect, make our home smell delightful, and dinner is devoured.

Christine Benlafquih

Thursday 7th of March 2024

Thanks for sharing your tips!