Harira is a classic Moroccan lentil and chickpea soup with fresh herbs and loads of warm spices. This satisfying vegetarian soup is even better the next day, so it is the perfect make-ahead pot to feed a little crowd. I typically serve it with lemon slices and warm pita bread.
What is harira?
Harira soup is a hearty tomato-based Moroccan soup made with legumes like lentils and chickpeas, fresh herbs, and warm spices including turmeric, cumin and cinnamon. It is typically thickened with broken vermicelli pasta or rice. This tasty lentil and chickpea soup is served in Morocco and other parts of North Africa anytime of the year, but it is especially associated with the month of Ramadan and is served most often to break the fast.
Harira, pronounced hah-ree-rah, gets its name from the Arbic word حرير"harir" which literally means silk, a fitting description of its velvety texture. I can't wait for you to try it!
One of the things I love about this popular soup is that there are many variations of it, depending on what legumes you have on hand. I used a combination of green lentils, red lentils, and chickpeas (canned chickpeas are a great shortcut option). I took some liberties by adding things like celery and carrots (the carrots are a nice idea because they add a subtle sweetness). And in place of vermicelli pasta, I used long grain rice (or basmati rice) which makes this recipe gluten free.
Harira soup is not always vegetarian, many recipes incorporate small chunks of boneless lamb. I might try that option sometime, but like my black eyed peas recipe, red lentil soup, and many other bean dishes we eat on the Mediterranean diet, this is another dinner that is hearty and satisfying without the addition of meat.
This harira recipe is even better the next day when the flavors have had time to meld. It will get pretty thick as it sits in the fridge, but you can just add a little bit of liquid as your warm up your leftover harira soup.
The decidedly warm North African flavors in this harira soup recipe is what makes it different from another lentil soup or chickpea soup. Here are the spices I used:
- Ground turmeric
- Ground cumin
- Ground ginger
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground black pepper
- Pinch of Cayenne (Tip: you can skip the cayenne and stir in a little bit of homemade harissa paste. It's next level delicious!)
How to make harira: Step-by-Step
(scroll down for the print-friendly recipe and complete ingredient list)
- Cook onions, celery, and carrots
Garb a large pot or Dutch oven (this is the one I use) and cook up the chopped onions, celery and carrots in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until softened a bit (about 5 minutes). Season with kosher salt and add the garlic and spices and cook another minute or so (your kitchen will smell amazing)
- Add the tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas
At this point, add in the tomatoes (crushed tomatoes from a can), tomato paste (this really amps up the flavor and gives the soup some good color), both green and red lentils, and drained chickpeas (I used chickpeas from a can). Add the chopped cilantro, and if you do end up using some harissa paste, this is where you stir it in. Add a pinch of kosher salt and give everything a good stir to combine.
- Add the liquid and cook
You can use low sodium vegetable or chicken stock (7 cups, or more if you like it more brothy). Bring the soup to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cover and let simmer until the lentils are fully cooked and very tender (about 45 minutes). Make sure to check the soup occasionally to adjust the liquid; it will get thick but you want to make sure you can still pour it (plan to add a little bit of water or more stock and adjust the salt as needed).
At this point, stir in the rice (or broken vermicelli) and cook another 15 minutes.
- Serve with Lemon Wedges
Don't underestimate that fresh squeeze of lemon to wake all the earthy and deep flavors in this soup up! Cut up one or two lemons into wedges and have those available next to the soup.
You don't need much else to serve next to this hearty soup, but a little warm pita bread won't hurt.
Allow the soup to cool off before storing. Pour leftovers in tight-lid containers and store in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Remember, this lentil and chickpea soup will thicken as it sits in the fridge; it is the nature of legumes. You can add a little bit of water to loosen the soup as you warm it through. Warm over medium heat, stirring regularly.
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- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped
- Kosher salt
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 14- ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup green lentils, rinsed
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 1 14- ounce can chickpeas
- 7 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably low-sodium
- ¼ cup long grain rice, rinsed or ¼ cup broken vermicelli
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- In a large Dutch Oven, heat 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, celery, and carrots. Season with kosher salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until softened.
- Add the garlic and spices and cook for a couple of 1 to 2 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cilantro, lentils (both green and red), and chickpeas. Add a dash more kosher salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
- Add the broth and raise the heat. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then turn the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes or until the legumes are fully cooked and very tender (check occasionally and plan to add more stock or water. The soup will be thick, but it should not be too thick that you cannot pour it. Make sure to adjust the salt as you add more liquid.)
- Stir in the rice and cook for another 15 or until the rice is fully cooked.
- Serve with lemon wedges.
- Homemade harissa paste makes a great addition to flavor this soup. If you have it, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons in step #
- Leftover and storage: Once the soup has cooled completely, transfer to tight-lid containers and store in the fridge. If stored properly, it will keep for 3 to 4 days. This soup will get pretty thick as it sits in the fridge, you can add a little water as you warm it through. Warm over medium heat, stirring regularly.
- Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including lentils, olive oil and spices used in this recipe.
Hi. Great recipe. At what stage should I add the Harissa?
Hi, James! You add the harissa paste with the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cilantro, lentils, and chickpeas.
Such a flavorful and nourishing dish! Trader Joe's was out of red lentils, so I just used green along with brown rice, and it was plenty. I also added chickpeas at the end because I didn't think they needed to be cooked as much as raw lentils. Also added harissa for a nice touch of spice. Will be making this again!
Made this tonight. Oh my goodness - the flavours are so amazing and fragrant. My son was not pleased that we were having a soup/stew without meat but he ended up loving it. I followed the recipe to a tee but might have put in a bit too much cayenne and harissa as I found it super spicy. The family loves spicy so it was okay for them. Thanks for another great meal. Oh, and I used the noodles instead of the rice.
This soup is so delicious & hearty- have made it several times!
This soup is my very definition of a comfort food - it is delicious, filling, and exceptionally satisfying! It would be great if it looked prettier, but I don't care because it is so delectable and hits the spot when I want something comforting. I added some green peas and some greens that I grow inside, and it was perfect. I will be making this again and again! Thank you Suzy for such a perfect recipe.
I made this tonight for myself and my mother and really enjoyed it! The only changes I made to it was not using cilantro and lemon (we didn't have any) and used half as much of cayenne powder. I made it on a stove top oven, which worked fine. The only way it could be better is if it had more flavor, so I'm excited to try it tomorrow. When I make it again, I will add more cumin and possibly add corn in it. 🙂
We love this soup! The flavor and texture are wonderful. I've been making it every other week throughout the winter, and made more to deliver to both my daughter and brother when they were sick. I like to use cherry tomatoes cut in half & fried a bit & also put in 1/2 cup of a wild rice mix.
Yum! Thanks for sharing, Janet!
This soup is absolutely delicious!!! My husband and two year old son loved it.
In what step do you add the harissa? The recipe says step #?
Hi, Ruth. You can add it in step three, when you add the cilantro.
The Haiija is a lovely recipe. All the flavors blend well together.
Can you please tell me how to make this with an instant pot or on a stove top as I don’t have a Dutch oven 🙏
Hi, Kristina. This recipe is actually written for the stop top. A dutch oven is just a fancy term for a big pot :).
What is your opinion of using Hawaij as a seasoning for the soup. I just bought a bottle of New York Shuk Hawaij and I think it would work well. However, I want an expert's opinion.
Hi, Stuart. A lot of the spices in Hawaij are similar to what we use in this recipe, so I can see it working well here. It's just not something we've tried ourselves. Would love to hear your thoughts if you give it a go!
Absolutely delish! We included some beef for stew because my partner needs extra protein, but it is certainly not necessary for a delightful stew. In the past, I have made the mistake of using chicken broth in similar recipes, and the chicken flavor just overwhelms everything good here. Vegetable stock lets all the flavors stand out nicely. The only other change I made was to finish with a spoonful of capers instead of a squeeze of lemon. This recipe is immediately entering the KEEPERS file..... Yum!!!
Awesome! Thanks for the feedback, Lindsay!
Delish!! Hits the spot.
I used 1/2 tsp chili flakes in place of harissa.
Thank you for this!