Harira is a North African soup made with tomatoes, legumes and lots of spice. This hearty, nutritious dish is a staple during Ramadan where it is served at Iftar, the evening meal when Muslims break their daily fast. Jews from Morocco adopted the recipe as a traditional break-fast dish after Yom Kippur, and it has become popular in Israel and across the diaspora.
Recipes for harira vary from family to family, and can be made with lamb, beef or vegetarian, as you’ll find here. This soup is intended to be thick and stew-like. Some cooks thicken their harira with beaten egg, a flour slurry or the addition of red lentils that break down as they simmer. Cinnamon, ginger and turmeric are added for complexity and warming heat. Tomatoes, whether fresh or canned, are essential to harira and offer sweetness and acidity, which pairs perfectly with starchy chickpeas, lentils or fava beans. Noodles like vermicelli are also added to harira for extra heartiness. While there are ample ingredients, this soup is simple to make and it can be prepared on a stovetop, in an Instant Pot or in a slow cooker.
Harira is often served with hard-boiled eggs, bread, dates and dried fruit. It is most often a starter but is filling enough to be a meal in and of itself.
Note: This recipe is best made at least one day in advance of serving, which makes it ideal for preparing a break-fast meal in advance. It will last for up to a week in the fridge, but will thicken in the refrigerator, so you may need to add water when reheating.
- 3 Tbsp oil
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
- 2 stalks celery, diced small
- 1 large yellow or white onion, diced small
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp harissa paste, or 2 tsp harissa spice blend (or to taste)
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- ¾ cup dried chickpeas (soaked overnight), or 1 (15 oz) can
- ½ cup French green lentils, rinsed
- ½ cup red lentils, rinsed
- 6 medium tomatoes, or 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 8 cups vegetable stock, or water with 1 added bouillon cube
- ¼ bunch fresh parsley, stems and leaves chopped fine
- ¼ bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves chopped fine
- 1 cup fine egg noodles or vermicelli
- salt, to taste
- lemon slices, for serving (optional)
- olive oil, for serving (optional)
- For stovetop: Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced carrot, celery and onion to the pot. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until starting to soften. Add the minced garlic to the pot and sauté for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the harissa, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, pepper and salt to the vegetable mixture. Stir until everything is well coated and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste to the pot, stir and sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Add the soaked chickpeas (if using canned chickpeas do not add them at this point) and stir. Add the green lentils and red lentils to the pot. Stir everything so that it is well coated in the tomato paste mixture.
- Add the diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, chopped parsley stems and chopped cilantro stems to the pot, then increase the heat to high. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for 60-90 minutes, or until the chickpeas are tender and the soup is starting to thicken.
- Add the noodles and simmer for 15 minutes. If using canned chickpeas, add them along with the noodles. Taste and season as needed, add more liquid if needed. Turn off the heat and add the freshly chopped parsley and cilantro.
- For Instant Pot or slow cooker: Combine all of the ingredients except the noodles in a pot and cook according to the manufacturer’s recommendation for soups and stews. Add noodles to the soup after it is cooked; simmer for 15 minutes or you cook the noodles separately and add them to the soup when serving.