Classic Moroccan Harira: Tomato, Lentil, and Chickpea Soup

Classic Moroccan Harira

The Spruce 

  • Total: 2 hrs 25 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins
  • Cook: 105 mins
  • Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
275 Calories
12g Fat
29g Carbs
13g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 275
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 16%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 27mg 9%
Sodium 849mg 37%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 11%
Dietary Fiber 5g 16%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 13g
Vitamin C 24mg 119%
Calcium 56mg 4%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 657mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Harira is a classic Moroccan comfort soup made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, fresh herbs, dried spices, and meat, making it a filling and satisfying dish. Although served year-round, it is particularly popular for breaking the fast during Ramadan. It can be offered as an appetizer or main, depending on the serving size, and is usually served with lemon slices (or lemon juice), crusty bread, figs, and a honey-rosewater flavored pastry called chebakia.

There are many variations on harira, and recipes are often passed down from generation to generation. Some versions feature broken pieces of vermicelli and smen—a preserved butter with a Parmesan-like taste. Harira is typically made with chicken, lamb, or beef, but some variations of this recipe skip the meat to be vegetarian and vegan. Make it gluten free by replacing the vermicelli with rice noodles and skipping the flour.

For this recipe, we use a pressure cooker for a shorter cooking time; to adapt for simmering on the stove, follow the directions for the traditional stockpot method. To make it easier, soak the chickpeas and lentils overnight.

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1/2 pound lamb (or beef or chicken, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces)

  • 6 large tomatoes (peeled, seeded and pureed)

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon yellow food coloring)

  • 1 bunch parsley (no stems, finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup)

  • 1 bunch cilantro (no stems, finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup)

  • 1 stalk celery (with leaves, finely chopped)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger

  • 1 large onion (grated)

  • 1 handful dried chickpeas (soaked overnight and peeled)

  • Optional:

    1 tablespoon smen

  • 11 cups water (divided)

  • 3 tablespoons dried lentils (soaked overnight)

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste (mixed into 1 cup water)

  • Optional:

    2 tablespoons rice

  • 2 tablespoons vermicelli

For Thickening the Soup:

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 cups water

  • Garnish:

    1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this soup is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking. Before starting, be sure your chickpeas and lentils are soaked, the herbs are cleaned and chopped without any large stems, and the tomatoes are pureed in a blender or food processor. Alternatively, stew the tomatoes and pass them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin.

Brown the Meat

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for classic Moroccan harira

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  2. Heat up the cooking oil in a 6-quart or larger pressure cooker. Add the meat.

    Meat in a pressure cooker
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  3. Cook for a few minutes, stirring to brown all sides.

    Browning the meat
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Make the Stock

  1. Add the pureed tomatoes, kosher salt, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, celery, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, onion, chickpeas, and smen (if using). Stir and add 3 cups of the water.

    Ingredients in the pressure cooker
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  2. Cover tightly and heat over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and release the pressure.

Make the Soup

  1. Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, and the remaining 8 cups (2 quarts) of water. If at any point there's an oily surface forming on top of the soup, simply skim it off and discard. This can happen because of the meat's fat, if left on.

    Lentils and stock
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  2. Have the rice or vermicelli at hand, if using, but don't add yet.

    Vermicelli outside the pot
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  3. Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking.

    If adding rice, cook the soup on pressure for 30 minutes. Release the pressure and add the rice. Cover and cook with pressure for an additional 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired.

    If using vermicelli, cook the soup on pressure for 45 minutes. Release the pressure, and add the vermicelli. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes or until the vermicelli is plump and cooked. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired.

    Covered pressure cooker
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Make Soup Thickener

  1. While the soup is cooking, make a soup thickener by mixing together the flour and water.

    Flour and water
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  2. Mix well, but if the mixture is not smooth, pass it through a sieve to remove lumps.

    Mixed flour and water
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Finish the Soup

  1. Bring the soup to a full simmer. Slowly, and in a thin stream, pour in 1/4 of the flour mixture. Stir constantly and keep the soup simmering so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom or cooks up in lumps.

    Adding flour mix to the soup
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  2. Add another 1/4 of the flour thickener. You will notice the soup beginning to thicken when you've used approximately half the flour mixture. The thickness of harira is up to you.

    Soup simmering
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  3. Simmer the thickened soup, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes to cook off the taste of the flour. Remove the soup from the heat, serve, and garnish with some chopped parsley.

    Classic Moroccan Harira
    The Spruce
  4. Enjoy.

Can I Cook the Harira Without a Pressure Cooker?

Yes. Here's how:

Use an 8-quart stockpot. Follow the directions above, but adjust the cooking time as follows:

  • In the "Make the Soup" section, partially cover the pot, bring to a simmer, and cook for double the suggested pressure cooker times—either 60 minutes if using rice or 90 minutes if using vermicelli. Watch the level of the liquid and add a little more water if necessary.
  • Proceed with thickening the soup according to the recipe, or try the egg thickening method below.

Thickening with Egg

In place of flour and water, 2 or 3 beaten eggs may be used to thicken harira:

  • Beat the eggs with 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Add the eggs in a thin stream to the simmering soup, stirring constantly. You will see some cooked strands of eggs in the soup as it thickens.

Shortcuts


Here are some helpful tips to reduce the prep time:

  • Process the cilantro, parsley, and celery together in a food processor or blender. Add the peeled and seeded tomatoes and blend until well pureed. Add the onion and process until the onion is reduced to small pieces. Add to the browned meat.
  • If you plan to cook harira frequently, it’s helpful to prep large amounts of key ingredients in advance, like soaking, peeling, and then freezing chickpeas, or chopping an ample supply of parsley, cilantro, and celery, freezing them together in batch-sized amounts. Additionally, peeling, seeding, and stewing tomatoes for freezing can reduce prep time.