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

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.
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 fava bean dip that’s prepared in similar fashion. For the split pea bessara, the dried split peas are simmered in water and broth with onions, garlic, paprika and cumin before being pureed. Add cayenne pepper to taste.

Use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version. The dish can also be prepared with dried chick peas, but you’ll need to allow time to soak them overnight. The split peas don’t need to be soaked.

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 bessara the traditional way with cumin and olive oil 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.
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4.84 from 6 votes

Moroccan Split Pea Bessara - Vegetarian Split Pea Soup or Dip

An easy, flexible recipe for Moroccan Split Plea Bessara. Adjust liquids and spices to vary the consistency and seasoning.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine: Moroccan
Keyword: Moroccan bessara, split pea bessara
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 385kcal
Author: Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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.
Calories: 385kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 840mg | Potassium: 820mg | Fiber: 20g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1240IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 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.

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Christine Benlafquih

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 About.com (now The Spruce Eats) from 2008 to 2016.


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  • 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….

  • 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.

    • 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.