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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.
4.80 from 68 votes
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
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




Marjorie Darjany

Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

I made the soup today and we loved it. It was a vegetarian version, but full of flavor! I added cubed sweet potato and will continue to do so. I also added cayenne because we wanted more heat. Would you have suggested more ginger instead? It was pretty time consuming, but we will have at least two meals from it.

Christine Benlafquih

Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

So glad you liked the soup! I've been making it vegetarian in recent years, too. I like to notch up the ginger and black pepper for flavor and heat, but cayenne should work well if you're otherwise happy with the flavor. And although not traditional, you might consider garnishing with your favorite chili oil or hot sauce, keeping in mind that they might slightly alter the flavor of the soup. Do whatever you like to make it your own!

Sanna

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Hi.. at what stage do we add the celery?? I can't find it in the instructions...

Christine Benlafquih

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Hi Sanna. The chopped celery is added along with the parsley and cilantro in Step 2 of Make the Soup: "Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, chopped herbs and 8.5 cups (2 liters) water."

Kathy

Saturday 12th of February 2022

Your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of ginger. Does that mean fresh grated ginger? 1 T of ground dried ginger seems like a lot. Thanks.

Christine Benlafquih

Saturday 12th of February 2022

Yes, I use a tablespoon of dried ground ginger. (Fresh ginger is not traditionally used in Moroccan cooking for couscous, tagines, stews, etc.) I like couscous broth to have a robust flavor, but if you prefer mild seasoning you can certainly reduce the amount of ginger and/or pepper. I personally feel it compromises the end result, though. You can always try using my recommended measures and make notes to adjust the seasoning next time if you find it's more than you like.

Kathryn

Sunday 30th of January 2022

I haven't tried it yet but it looks absolutely delicious, but is there anything I can substitute for cinnamon? Me and my family are allergic to cinnamon.

Christine Benlafquih

Sunday 30th of January 2022

Not everyone uses cinnamon in their harira, so you can omit the cinnamon without any problem and there's no need for a substitution. I'll edit the harira recipe to mention that it's optional.

Sobia

Monday 11th of October 2021

This is the perfect recipe:) For Authentic Moroccan Harira soup!! Delicious every time! Thank you

Christine Benlafquih

Monday 11th of October 2021

Thank you, Sobia!