Harira is a comforting Moroccan soup that features chickpeas, lentils, and plenty of deep flavors from harissa paste and toasted spices. Typically, Harira soup includes ground meat, but this easy version is vegetarian (and vegan) friendly! Even better– it mostly makes use of pantry staples, so it’s easy to stock up ahead of time and make this delicious soup whenever the craving hits.
NOT THE SAME OLD SOUP
Lentil Soup might not typically strike you as the most exciting of dishes, but when you add in chickpeas and warm Moroccan-inspired ingredients, suddenly things get a lot more interesting. Like, “genuine flavor explosion”, “I can’t stop eating this,” “I actually made this myself?!” type of interesting.
Harira– with its abundance of onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and harissa— is anything but short on flavor. It’s also not low on healthy ingredients. Or filling ingredients, for that matter! In fact, it really is the ultimate “Super Soup” to perk you up in the colder seasons. Or perhaps I should say that it’s “souper”. Get it?
Alright, on second thought, I think I’ll stick to “Super Soup”.
Make this delicious, hearty soup all winter long to keep you cozy and warm — and to get some nutritious meals in between all of those holiday sweets. It’ll be one of the tastiest things you slurp on all season.
WHAT IS HARIRA?
Harira is a thick, traditional Moroccan soup that is most typically made with lamb or lamb broth, vegetables, and legumes. However, just like most long-standing traditional dishes, there are tons of different authentic versions with a whole variety of ingredients. Some use chicken instead, some feature boiled eggs, and some– like this one– are entirely vegan-friendly (as long as you nix the optional yogurt topping, that is).
Harira is made and enjoyed year-round, but is most commonly eaten to break the fast of Ramadan!
HARIRA SOUP INGREDIENTS
While the standard method would involve making pretty much everything from scratch, my version of Harira Soup involves some shortcuts that keep it from being a fussy recipe. Most notably, this recipe mostly makes use of ingredients you can keep in your pantry, so it really is an “anytime” sort of meal!
Here’s what you need:
- Onion, Celery, and Garlic. These are your aromatics. You can’t really keep them in the pantry (sorry) but odds are you often have them on-hand!
- Cumin, Turmeric, Cinnamon, and Ginger. Today’ not the day to close the spice cabinet. These four spices give the Harira its characteristic warm Moroccan flavor.
- Salt. I know, “Doesn’t this belong with the other seasonings above?” Sort of. But I wanted to make a special note of salt, which is often under-utilized by home cooks for things like soup. Because there is a lot of liquid going on here, you need a generous amount of salt to bring out all of those awesome flavors you’re working so hard to develop. Be sure to salt your soup multiple times as you cook (and to taste each time before adding more, of course!)
- Canned Crushed Tomatoes. A lot of recipes call for fresh tomatoes, but crushed canned tomatoes (one of those pantry ingredients we talked about) make everything easier, and give you a lot more control over the thickness of your soup.
- Harissa. Harissa is a condiment that can be likened somewhat to a North African version of sriracha. The majority of its flavor comes from chili peppers, but it tends not to be excruciatingly hot, and also has other earthy, nutty, and even sweet notes to balance the paste. You can usually find it in the international aisle of the grocery store, and it keeps very well in the fridge.
- Vegetable Stock, Broth, or Water. If you want this recipe to stay completely meat-free, opt for one of these options for your liquid ingredients. If it’s not a major concern to you, then you could also use lamb or chicken stock. Whatever you have on hand will work.
- Dried Lentils and Canned Chickpeas. This soup is all about the legumes. Both of these ingredients get velvety soft and creamy as they cook, and they’re also quite filling and good for you. Best of all, you can keep them in the pantry for ages so you can have this soup whenever you want!
- Cilantro and Lemon Wedges. These ingredients add fresh, zippy flavor to the soup, so that it’s not bogged down by the heavier, richer-tasting components.
- (Optional) Greek Yogurt and Toasted Almonds. These toppings aren’t really traditional, but they’re delicious none-the-less. Greek Yogurt isn’t common in Morocco, but they do have Raib, which is similarly thick. I like topping my Harira with a bit of yogurt to tame the heat from the harissa and serve as an additional tangy, creamy element. While Greek Yogurt might not be very common in Morocco, almonds definitely are, and topping your Harira with toasted almonds will give it a little crunch that’s a nice addition.
You can very easily switch ingredients up here– add in meat if you’d like, throw in extra vegetables, toss in some fava beans, use more fresh herbs– feel free to customize as you’d like!
HOW TO MAKE HARIRA
I like to make my Harira on the stovetop in a large dutch oven, but you can also make it in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, if you’d prefer.
To make Harira in a slow cooker, add all of the ingredients except for half of the cilantro and the toppings. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours, or until the lentils are creamy. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and serve with desired toppings.
To make Harira in a pressure cooker, saute the aromatics in oil in the base of the pressure cooker. Add the spices and continue to cook until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients except for half of the cilantro and the toppings. Cover and bring to high pressure for 15 minutes. Release naturally. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and serve with desired toppings.
WHAT TO SERVE ON THE SIDE
Harira soup is fantastic on its own, but it also is delicious with vermicelli mixed in (which is common in some versions of the soup), ladled over rice, or– my favorite– served with flatbread to scoop up all of the lentils!
Moroccan flatbread usually is called Rgaïf (or Msemen when referring to the square-shaped variety), but it’s difficult to find in the US. I tend to eat mine with a different pan-fried flatbread instead: naan.
If you’d like to make your own naan from scratch to go with your Harira, you can use one of my all-time most popular recipes, here.
Harira will keep for about 5 days in the fridge, so you can easily make it in advance and pack for work lunches throughout the week. Odds are, it won’t last that long. It really is so ridiculously delicious and comforting, you’re going to find yourself slurping down several bowls in no time.
MORE WARMING SOUPS
- Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup with Chorizo
- Lemon Garlic Chicken Orzo Soup
- Irish Baked Potato Soup with Corned Beef and Crispy Leeks
- Thai Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup
- Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup with Crispy Prosciutto
Adapted from Epicurious
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced, plus celery leaves, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon harissa, plus more for serving
- 8 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, divided
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Lemons wedges, to serve
- Greek yogurt and toasted almonds, to top (optional) (see note)
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, harissa, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. Continue to cook until fragrant and toasty, about 1 more minute.
- Mix in the crushed tomatoes, celery leaves, harissa, stock, and half of the cilantro, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Add the lentils and chickpeas and season generously with salt. Cook for 30 more minutes, taste, and adjust harissa and seasonings as needed. Continue to cook until the lentils are soft. The soup should thicken, but if it gets too thick, add more stock or water as needed. Be sure to add extra salt along with the extra liquid.
- Mix in and top with the remaining cilantro, and serve warm with lemon wedges. Top with greek yogurt and toasted almonds, if desired.
Note: If making this recipe to be vegan-friendly, leave off the Greek Yogurt topping.