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Categories Moroccan Bean Dishes, Moroccan Salads, Sides & Dips, Moroccan Soups and Porridges

Moroccan Split Pea Bessara Recipe – Moroccan Split Pea Soup or Dip

An easy, adaptable recipe for Split Pea Bessara, a satisfying Moroccan pureed split pea soup or dip. Although this variation of bessara has lots of flavor on its own, it’s extra delicious when garnished with olive oil, cumin, and cayenne.

Split pea bessara can be eaten as a dip or soup. Photo: Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc

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The word bessara refers not only to this Moroccan Split Pea Soup or Dip recipe but also to a tasty Moroccan dried split fava bean puree that’s prepared in a similar fashion.

For the split pea bessara, the dried split peas are simmered in water with onions, garlic, paprika and cumin before being pureed. Add cayenne pepper to taste.

Although it’s not traditional, I like to replace some of the water with chicken broth for a richer flavor. You can use vegetable broth or all water for a vegetarian version.

The split pea bessara can be made on fairly short notice because the split peas don’t need to be soaked. If making the Dried Split Fava Bean Bessara, you’ll need to allow time to soak the beans overnight. 

In either case, the consistency of the final dish can vary from a soup to a thicker puree which is eaten as a dip. The latter is likely to be served in the north of Morocco as a popular accompaniment to fish.  Moroccan bread (khobz) is usually offered on the side.

Garnish the Split Pea Bessara the traditional way with olive oil, cumin, and perhaps a little cayenne pepper. If you’ve made it extra spicy, consider adding a bit of fresh cilantro and a swirl of creme fraiche or plain yogurt.

For a change, you can reduce the olive oil in the recipe and garnish the bessara with a drizzle of argan oil for a light, nutty flavor that complements the split peas’ natural flavor.

 

Moroccan split pea soup in a black shallow metal dish. The soup is garnished with ground cumin and olive oil. A spoon is in the soup and a partial loaf of Moroccan bread and bottle of olive oil are behind the bowl.

Moroccan Split Pea Bessara - Vegetarian Split Pea Soup or Dip

Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc
An easy, flexible recipe for Moroccan Split Plea Bessara. Adjust liquids and spices to vary the consistency and seasoning.
4.91 from 10 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine Moroccan
Yield 6 servings
Calories 385 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 lb. dried split peas - (about 2 cups
  • 4 cups broth - (chicken, beef or vegetable)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, - chopped
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, - chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, - chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt, - or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, - or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, - or to taste (optional)

For Garnish and Serving

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat for just a few minutes, or until fragrant and softened. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 50 to 60 minutes, until the peas are tender. Stir occasionally while cooking.
  • Use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to puree the soup. (If the soup is quite hot when you puree it, use caution. Fill a blender or processor only one-third to halfway and use a towel to hold the lid firmly in place because pressure from steam can cause hot liquids to splash forcefully upward.) 
  • If desired, thin the puree to a soup-like consistency with additional broth or water. Taste and adjust seasoning. 
  • Serve warm, garnished as desired with olive oil, cumin and cayenne pepper. (All may be offered on the side as condiments.) Thinner bessara is eaten with a spoon, but thicker versions are scooped up like a dip with pieces of Moroccan bread.

Notes

  • Water is traditionally the only liquid used to make bessara, but I like to use some broth for added flavor. You can replace all or some of the broth with water, but adjust seasoning accordingly.
  • If you've made bessara as a dip, the leftovers can be thinned with water and served as soup for breakfast or dinner.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 385kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 19gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 840mgPotassium: 820mgFiber: 20gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 1240IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 61mgIron: 4.3mg

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!Leave a Comment | Mention @tasteofmaroc | 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.
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Melissa Myers

Thursday 19th of November 2020

Ever since I visited Morocco a two years ago, I've been trying to find a recipe for the soup I tried there. It was so wonderful that I asked for the recipe from the restaurant owner, but didn't get measurements. I've been looking for it ever since, sadly, not spelling it correctly and not finding anything, lol. Thank you for posting this, I will be trying it soon.

Christine Benlafquih

Thursday 19th of November 2020

Hope this is the recipe you're looking for! Let me know how it turns out for you.

Chaimae

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

Delicious, authentic, easy to make, and hearty. My husband loved it and couldn't stop eating it throughout the day. Tasted just like the bessara we'd stop and eat while travelling by bus in Morocco on a cold night.

Christine Benlafquih

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

So glad your husband enjoyed it! It's definitely a food that evokes memories for many of us.

Rosetta

Wednesday 26th of February 2020

I personally think that there could be less peas, and maybe if you didn’t purée it it, the texture wouldn’t be as weird, but other than that I liked it. It was fun to make and it was great with bread. I would recommend it.

Christine Benlafquih

Wednesday 26th of February 2020

The final consistency of bessara is up to you, so you can certainly reduce the quantity of peas or increase the broth if you prefer yours thinner. Bessara is traditionally pureed, but if you don't like that texture just cook it longer, until the peas are very tender and break down quite a bit on their own.

Claire

Saturday 9th of December 2017

We are having a cold snap weather wise in London now so this is a perfect reminder of a great cold weather recipe. And I love cumin so I think I need to make this today....

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