HOW TO: Make your own Moroccan Harira Soup

This is a Hipmunk post from Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads

I’ve already been in Morocco for several weeks and with two more to go, I’ve reached a point of being comfortable in the country but still excited to see more. I’ve become at ease with the chaos – a very different chaos from that of Asia or South America – and have enjoyed the bargaining (with a smile! Always with a smile) and the myriad of foods on offer. 

Yesterday I posted on the colourful, magical Djemaa el-Fna on Legal Nomads, Marrakesh’s main square and the gateway to the old city (Medina). In constant movement, the square changes with the hours and is most busy at night, when food vendors set up to compete with the snake charmers and the ladies imploring you to get henna on your hands and feet. Of all the foods, I’ve enjoyed the fragrant harira soup stands the most.

Spice market from the souks in Marrakesh 

In Morocco, harira is traditionally consumed as a break-fast after sundown during the days of Ramadan. A thick tomato-based broth full of flavour, the variations on recipes for harira abound, but most contain the same building blocks: lentils, rice, tomatoes, lamb and fresh herbs and spices. To that foundation, many add thin noodles and flour to thicken the soup, or remove the lamb and make a vegetarian version for a light appetizer.

Simmered with cinnamon and coriander, topped with fresh parsley and served with of a hunk of fresh bread, it makes for a terrific meal regardless of day. And while soups are historically associated with Ramadan – see this great post on the variety of soups that are used around the world – harira remains a staple of Moroccan cuisine regardless of the time of year. 

Recipe for harira soup, from the kind woman at a streetside stall in Marrakesh:

(As a result of her not measuring anything, I’ve done my best to approximate what I watched her do while cooking.)

 1 lb. lamb, cut into small cubes (ground lamb can be used as an alternative)

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp of Moroccan saffron (“racine moulue” – not the crazy expensive stuff)

1/2 cup each of fresh chopped parsley (flat leaf) and coriander

2 tbsp butter

2 onions, chopped into cubes

1 can of tomatoes (2lb sizes) chopped (note: 5 large ripe tomatoes with skin removed, seeded and chopped into cubes, can be used instead)

1/2 cup of lentils

1 cup of chickpeas (preferably bought dried and soaked overnight. The 1 cup measurement should be the soaked version)

1/4 cup rice

1 tbsp of flour

salt and pepper to taste

Optional for celiacs (people with gluten intolerance): 2 eggs, beaten with a squeeze of lemon juice, to thicken the soup.


-Take a large soup pot and add the meat, lentils, spices, butter, onion and fresh herbs and 7 or 8 cups of water and stir over high heat until the pot is brought to a boil. Include the chickpeas if you have soaked them overnight. If you are using canned chickpeas, you’ll add them later.

-Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. If you are using canned chickpeas, add them after the 30 minute simmer is up.

-In a bowl, dissolve the flour in 1 cup of water and then add to the soup pot after it has simmered, stirring frequently. Add your tomatoes now, as well as salt and pepper. 

-Raise the heat again and when your soup is back to a boil, add your rice. Lower heat once more to a simmer for another 30-45 minutes.

-For those with celiac, don’t add the flour and when ready to serve and the soup is at a steady simmer, stir the eggs into the broth slowly, to create nest-like strands of egg that will thicken the soup.  

-Serve with fresh parsley, lemon wedges and a bowl of harissa to season.

Harira in Djemaa el-Fnaa

With the lamb, the soup makes for a perfect warm snack on a fall or winter afternoon. Bon appetit!


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