Heavenly Harira

This post represents an important landmark: my first experience cooking traditional Moroccan food. ((I’m not counting my forays into couscous-themed dishes back in the US. Couscous and vegetable curry, though delicious, does not Moroccan food make.)) After nearly three weeks of walking through my apartment building, surrounded by tantalizing smells, I finally learned how to make harira, one of the most delicious soups I’ve ever tasted. And lucky you, I’m going to post the recipe! (Courtesy of Mustapha, whose family I dined with last week.) He turned up with the most charming grocery list I’ve ever seen (click for full view):

After a quick trip to the grocery store, we spent a couple of hours cooking together in my kitchen. Notebook at the ready, I took down every detail of this recipe, including Mustapha’s jokes. (He was concerned that I would put those in the blog.) This soup is usually the first thing served during iftar, ((Remember, that’s the evening meal you break your fast with during Ramadan.)) and it’s a Moroccan specialty.

Heavenly Harira


  • 1 small can tomato paste (70g or 2.5oz)
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1/2 can chickpeas ((We used canned chickpeas to save time, but most Moroccans buy dried ones and rehydrate them. If you decide to used dried chickpeas, add two hours to the simmering time.))
  • 2/3 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup rice vermicelli
  • 1 cup parsley
  • 1 packet saffron (1/2 tsp) ((It comes in packets here. Turmeric is often used as a low-cost substitute, but it will produce a very different flavor. If at all possible, stick with saffron.))
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 bouillon cube ((Chicken, beef, or vegetable. )) or 1 cup chicken stock ((Mustapha says, “If you have leftover chicken and boil it down to make stock, the soup will be even more delicious.”))
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Chop the parsley. Rinse and drain the chickpeas (if using canned) then remove the skins. Rinse your lentils in cold water.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot. Add the chickpeas to the hot oil, stirring frequently. Add your lentils, reduce heat to medium/low. Rinse the rice in cold water, then add to the pot. Keep stirring!

In a small bowl, blend the tomato paste with 2 tablespoons of cold water until smooth. ((Mustapha says, “This is so there are no lumps of tomato paste in the soup!”)) Mix into the pot. Add saffron. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and stir well. (This is where it starts to smell very good.)

Add the pepper, parsley, cumin, paprika, ginger, and vermicelli. Add another 2.5 cups of water and bring to a boil. (At this stage, neighbors will be knocking on your door demanding to know why you are torturing them with delicious smells.)

Crumble in your bouillon cube. Simmer for 10 minutes. If it’s too thin, dissolve 2 tablespoons of flour in 1 cup of warm water. Squish any lumps and add the mixture to your soup. I usually find that I don’t need to do this, as the soup is pretty thick on its own at this point. ((Mustapha says, “Some people like soup very thick, but I like it thinner. You can add water until it’s exactly the way you want it. Also, sometimes it thickens after refrigerating. Add more water and some spices, heat it up, and it will be perfect.”)) Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until everything is cooked. (Taste the lentils and chickpeas, as they’ll be the slowest to cook.)

Serves four, but they’ll be coming back to your house every night asking for more.

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