Moroccan harira soup is famous across the middle east and known to be one of the best soups you'll ever have! It's hearty, zingy, and nutritious; the perfect winter soup. Keep reading for my easy recipe with a few short cuts!
The components of Harira Soup
Moroccan Harira soup is known to be a staple soup served in Morocco, especially during the month of Ramadan. Unlike many other middle eastern countries who enjoy Lentil soup when breaking their fast, Moroccans enjoy Harira!
It's delicious and substantial, which makes it perfect for breaking a long day of fasting.
It's typically made with meat. Either chicken, beef, veal, or lamb will work, but it is most commonly made with red meat. Along with the meat, the tomato-based soup features brown lentils, chickpeas, either vermicelli noodles or rice, and aromatics like parsley, cilantro and celery.
The spices are simple but work so well together: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon. These three spices create a zingy but warm combination of flavours. Finally, never skip the squeeze of lemon!
During Ramadan at my house, we mostly have lentil soup. But since discovering harira, the two will definitely be on rotation.
Ingredients you'll need to make Harira
The ingredients for the soup are quite straight forward. But here are my notes for each ingredient:
For the meat, you can use veal, lamb or beef. I personally prefer veal for the most tender meat and best flavour.
The aromatics include onions, celery, parsley and cilantro. I personally don't like cilantro (shocking, I know), so I only use parsley. But a combination of the two will work perfectly for cilantro fans.
The spices are simple but wonderful together: ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric. These are the traditional spices used in harira. If you love heat, feel free to also use cayenne pepper.
The legumes and carbs are chickpeas, brown lentils, and vermicelli noodles. Make sure you use brown lentils and not red lentils, because the former will melt away and won't be intact.
Also, here we use canned chickpeas to make this process faster. But you can also soak and pre-cook dried chickpeas if you like.
As for vermicelli noodles, the kind used in harira soup are actually not rice noodles, but in fact vermicelli pasta. The term Vermicelli usually refers to various thin pasta - much thinner than regular spaghetti. They can be tricky to find, so feel free to swap these with the same amount of rice, which will help thicken the soup towards the end.
Harira soup is a tomato-based soup, so fresh tomatoes are used, or you can replace with tomato sauce. You'll also need tomato paste. For the cooking liquid, chicken stock works best, preferably homemade! But feel free to also use vegetable or beef stock.
How to make Harira: step by step
Start preparing your ingredients by finely dicing the onions, cutting the veal (or beef) into small cubes (about ¼ inch in size), as well as washing and draining the lentils and canned chickpeas.
In a soup pot (I use a heavy bottom Dutch oven), start by heating the olive oil then searing the veal until browned. Once the meat is browned, add the onions and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes until they soften and caramelize.
TIP: If the meat ends up releasing a lot of water, ensure you allow the water to cook off and get the meat browned for maximum flavour!
Add the spices to the pot and cook them for 2-3 minutes to release their flavour. Then, add the tomato paste and also cook it for 2-3 minutes.
Next, add the broth and the washed and drained lentils. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
TIP: Feel free to use vegetable stock. Or to use half water half stock, if you don't have the full amount.
While the soup is simmering, blend the tomatoes, celery and parsley (or cilantro) until liquified and it forms a salsa. Make sure you save a bit of the parsley for garnish.
Traditionally, the tomato is peeled by submerging it in boiling water until the peels soften and are easy to remove. Feel free to do this, but I find that after blending, you don't notice the peels at all!
Add the salsa along with the drained and washed chickpeas to the pot. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Finally, add the vermicelli noodles to the pot and allow it to cook for 10 more minutes until the noodles soften and plump up. Now you're ready to serve. Garnish with parsley or cilantro and a squeeze of lemon.
One last thing a lot of recipes call for when making Harira is a flour and water slurry to thicken the soup. I find that I never have to resort to this as a thickener, since this recipe does not use too much extra liquid, and the legumes and noodles end up thickening it perfectly.
Tips for Maximum Flavour!
Here are a few notes on how to make this soup extra flavourful:
- To add extra depth to the soup, ensure that you caramelize the meat first. If you find that the meat is overcrowded and ends up releasing a lot of water, cook the water off and get to the perfect browned bits.
- Use enough onions and ensure you allow enough time to cook the onions down and caramelize them as well. These are important layers of flavour!
- Use fresh tomatoes, especially when they're in season, to make this soup extra delicious
How to store and reheat Harira
This soup stores beautifully in the fridge. Simply place leftovers in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Since the soup contains a lot of legumes and noodles, it will naturally thicken in the fridge. When reheating it, add a bit of water and heat on the stove top until its hot and loosens in consistency.
How to freeze Harira Soup
Since the soup contains noodles, it is not recommended to freeze it. The noodles will turn to mush and really impact the consistency of the soup. However, if you plan to freeze your batch of harira soup, simply skip the noodles.
Without the noodles, it's a perfect soup for freezing. You can always add the noodles when you re-heat it.
Place it in an airtight container and freeze for up to a few months. When ready to heat, thaw it in the fridge overnight, then heat it over the stove top, adding a bit of water as needed to loosen the consistency.
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Authentic Moroccan Harira Soup
- 350 g Veal or beef cubes skip if vegetarian
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper more per preference
- 2 teaspoons salt more per preference
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional for heat
- ½ cup brown lentils
- 800 ml chicken broth (can be half water)
- 540 ml chickpeas (1 can)
- ⅓ cup vermicelli pasta, short noodles substitute with rice if unavailable
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 cup parsley or cilantro packed, more for garnish
- Juice of 1 lemon more per preference
- Start by finely dicing the onions, and prepare the veal (or beef) by cutting it into small cubes (maximum ¼ inch in size)
- In a soup pot, heat the olive oil. Then, sear the veal on medium high heat until its nicely browned. If it starts to steam and release water (due to overcrowding), simply allow the water to cook off until the meat starts to brown
- Next, add the finely diced onions to the pot and continue to cook the onions with the veal, until the onions are translucent and lightly golden. This will take 5-7 minutes
- Next, add the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Then, add the tomato paste and allow it to cook and caramelize for 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock to the pot, along with the washed and drained brown lentils. Cover the pot and allow it to cook for 15 minutes.
- While the soup is cooking, prepare the salsa mixture by blending together the tomatoes, celery, and parsley or cilantro (whichever one you are using) in a blender. See notes if you dislike tomato peel.
- After 15 minutes, pour the tomato salsa back into the soup pot, and add the washed and drained chickpeas. Cover and allow to cook for another 10 minutes.
- lastly, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if required. Then, add the vermicelli noodles and cook the soup a further 10 minutes until the noodles soften and plump up.
- Serve the soup hot, with more parsley/cilantro for garnish and lemon slices for a final squeeze of lemon. Enjoy!
- Traditional Harira soup is made with meat, but feel free to make this a completely vegetarian soup by skipping it. It will still be delicious and hearty. You can also replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
- If you dislike tomato peel (but really there's no need because it does get blended up really well if you use a high-powered blender), feel free to peel your tomatoes. Do this by submerging them in boiling water for a few minutes. Then, the peel should come off quite easily. Then proceed to the blending step.
- If you can't find vermicelli noodles, feel free to replace them with medium or short grain rice.
- If you enjoy spicy soups, feel free to increase the amount of black pepper, or add some cayenne pepper to your preference.