July 15, 2024

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Ultimate Harira (Moroccan Chickpea & Lentil Soup)

6 min read
Ultimate Harira (Moroccan Chickpea & Lentil Soup)

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The national soup of Morocco, harira is a chickpea and lentil soup with tender beef or lamb.  This “ultimate” harira recipe takes the flavor to greater heights.  This comforting soup with an incredible flavor profile will absolutely WOW your taste buds!

harira recipe moroccan soup chickpeas lentils beef lamb rice traditional

Once upon a time I had plans to publish the recipes for the national dishes of countries around the world.  Not all of them (195 countries is a lot!), just my favorites.  It’s still a goal and over time I’m featuring more.  Today I’m adding another dish to that lineup:  the national soup of Morocco:  Harira!  And I can virtually guarantee that you will not find a more flavorful harira recipe anywhere.  This is harira on flavor steroids!

What Is Harira?

It’s a chickpea and lentil soup that’s made with either beef or lamb.  There are as many versions of harira as there are cooks, but traditionally it’s a very simple and fairly light soup (ie, consisting of more broth than substance) because it’s generally eaten as a starter to prepare the body for a larger meal to follow.   It’s simplicity also extends to its method of cooking in that most everything is simply thrown into the pot at once – no frying, no sautéing, no browning, no adding ingredients in sequence.  Because the soup is pretty watery, flour or cornstarch is traditionally added at the end to create a slightly thicker consistency.

Though it’s eaten throughout the year, harira is the most commonly eaten food during the fasting month of Ramadan.  The general manager of one of Marrakech’s most legendary hotels and restaurants noted that  “Ninety-nine percent of Moroccans eat harira every day during the 29 or 30 days of Ramadan.”  That’s a lot of people eating a lot of harira!

Harira to Morocco is like Boeuf Bourgignon to France in that it’s as much a household name as anything.  Every child and adult in Morocco is familiar with harira and it’s served in practically every home throughout the country.  No wonder it’s Morocco’s national soup.

harira recipe moroccan soup chickpeas lentils beef lamb rice traditional

The “Ultimate” Harira Recipe

I wanted to step things up several notches:  more complexity of flavor and more bulk for an overall more hearty and satisfying soup that can be enjoyed either as a starter or as a main dish while maintaining the integrity of traditional Moroccan ingredients.

So if you’re looking for a harira recipe with a remarkably delicious depth of flavor that will make your taste buds sing, this is it.

harira recipe Moroccan lentil chickpea soup stew beef lamb garbanzo beans ramadan

“Secret” Ingredients for Making the Most Flavorful Harira 

Preserved Lemons

This harira calls for preserved lemons.  If you’ve never experienced preserved lemons you are missing out – big time.  The flavor they contribute can best be described as concentrated lemon without the tartness.  The preservation process creates more complexity of flavor and the preserved lemons are fabulous both in savory and sweet dishes.

Many specialty shops carry them but the good news is that they’re extremely easy to make.  All you need is lemons and water and some patience.

Check out our recipe for homemade Preserved Lemons.

homemade preserved lemons recipe

Harissa

It’s sounds a lot like “harira” but it’s not a soup, it’s a condiment.  We’re going to add some of it to our harira to add more flavor, more depth, some color and just a touch of “kick.”  Harissa is a chili paste that’s used in Morocco and throughout the Middle East and is comprised of chiles, garlic, olive oil and a variety of flavorful spices.

While you can buy it in speciality stores, nothing beats the flavor of homemade.

Check out our recipe for homemade Harissa.

harissa recipe homemade chili paste garlic

Moroccan cuisine if fascinating.  Because Morocco has been highly interactive with other nations for centuries, influenced by many other cultures, Moroccan food is considered one of the most diversified cuisines in the world.  The country’s art, architecture, music and literature also reflect these different influences.   The intricate detail in Morocco’s architecture and art and the bright colors that adorn the goods in their markets is likewise reflected in the thoughtful complexity of its cuisine.

Moroccan food has always been among my favorites and once you’ve tried this soup I think you’ll feel the same way.

morocco blue buildings
shutterstock

moroccan tagines
shutterstock

Harira Recipe

Ready to make some of this famous Moroccon soup?

Let’s get started!

This soup requires little in the way of prep work and everything can be done well in advance such as chopping the meat, onions, celery and garlic and slicing the olives.

Heat the oil in a pot over medium high heat and brown the beef.  Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside.  Leave the browned bits in the pot, those are going to give our harira tremendous flavor.

Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent and they turn golden, 6-8 minutes.browning beef and onions

Add the celery, garlic and ginger and cook for another two minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, preserved lemon and harissa.

adding celery tomatoes and spices

Let the mixture simmer for a couple of minutes then return the beef to the pot with the chickpeas and lentils.

adding chickpeas and lentils

Add the broth, bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for one hour.

Add the rice, cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

adding broth and rice

Stir in the olives, cilantro and parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste and more harissa if you prefer it spicier.

harira recipe moroccan soup stew recipe beef lamb chickpeas garbanzo beans lentils ramadan

This soup tastes even better the next day as the flavors have had time to deepen.  Note though that the lentils and rice will absorb more of the liquid so you will have to add some broth to thin it out.

Alternatively, if you plan to make this dish ahead, you follow the directions to simmer the soup for an hour and then the next day you can add the rice and simmer it for the remaining 30 minutes.

harira recipe Moroccan lentil chickpea soup stew beef lamb garbanzo beans ramadan

Whether you eat it immediately or as leftovers you are going to LOVE this soup!

harira recipe Moroccan lentil chickpea soup stew beef lamb garbanzo beans ramadan

Garnish the harira with some chopped cilantro and celery leaves and with a lemon wedge per serving to squeeze in some lemon juice if desired.

Harira is traditionally served with a side serving of dried dates.

Enjoy!

harira recipe Moroccan lentil chickpea soup stew beef lamb garbanzo beans ramadan

harira recipe moroccan soup chickpeas lentils beef lamb rice traditional

Moroccan Harira

Kimberly Killebrew

The national soup of Morocco, harira is a comforting soup that bursts with flavor and will absolutely “wow” your taste buds!

Print Recipe

Prep Time 15 mins

Cook Time 1 hr 45 mins

Total Time 2 hrs

Course Entree, Main Dish

Cuisine Moroccan, North African

Servings 6 servings

Calories 449 kcal

Ingredients 

 

Instructions 

  • Heat the oil in a pot over medium high heat and brown the beef. Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside. (Leave the browned bits in the pot, those are going to give our harira tremendous flavor.)

  • Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent and they turn golden, 6-8 minutes. Add the celery, garlic and ginger and cook for another two minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, spices preserved lemon and harissa (if using) and let the mixture simmer for a couple of minutes.Return the beef to the pot with the chickpeas and lentils. Add the broth, bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for one hour. Add the rice, cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.Stir in the olives, cilantro and parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and more harissa if you prefer it spicier.
  • Garnish with some chopped fresh cilantro and celery leaves. If you like, serve the harira with lemon wedges to squirt in some lemon juice. Harira is traditionally served with a side serving of dried dates.

Notes

This soup tastes even better the next day as the flavors have had time to deepen. Note though that the lentils and rice will absorb more of the liquid so you will have to add some broth to thin it out.
Alternatively, if you plan to make this dish ahead, you follow the directions to simmer the soup for an hour and then the next day you can add the rice and simmer it for the remaining 30 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 449kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 1304mg | Potassium: 1793mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1320IU | Vitamin C: 23.8mg | Calcium: 130mg | Iron: 7.7mg

Keyword Harira, Moroccan Chickpea Lentil Soup

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet March 25, 2016

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