In Morocco, harira — a thick, spicy soup of legumes, vegetables, warming spices, and often meat — is a popular dish for special occasions. But there's no reason you have to wait for a holiday to make this one-pot meal. My vegetarian (actually vegan) version of harira soup comes together in about 40 minutes, and it just happens to be gluten-free!
What is Harira?
According to the Food Lover's Companion**, harira is "a thick, spicy Moroccan soup traditionally served on special occasions, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan at sundown after a day of fasting. Harira typically consists of lamb or chicken, celery, chickpeas, garlic, lentils, onions, rice, tomatoes, noodles (such as vermicelli), and water. It's flavored variously with seasonings including cinnamon, coriander, ginger, paprika, pepper, saffron, turmeric, and salt."
For my vegan version of this hearty stew, I studied the Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup on Analida's Ethnic Spoon, as well as a few other traditional recipes, then made alterations to omit any animal-based ingredients and keep it gluten-free, too (why not?!). I also amped up the warming spices and gave the option of a mild version (with just paprika) or a more traditional, spicy version (with harissa or dried red chile flakes).
Carrots and celery are the classics, but you can experiment with any vegetables you like. Try celeriac or chard stems instead of the celery. Swap out the carrots for the same amount of diced sweet potato, pumpkin, or parsnips. Stir in baby spinach or chopped chard leaves instead of (or in addition to) the cilantro and parsley.
Use spicy harissa sauce or dried red chile flakes instead of the paprika, and feel free to increase the amount (I wouldn't add more than 1 teaspoon). Then, serve the finished harira soup with more harissa sauce on the side.
Well . . . I guess that depends on the kid. You'll notice that the recipe uses paprika, but offers the option to swap that out for spicy harissa sauce or dried red chile flakes. If you use only paprika, then the soup is 100% mild (my 5-year-old son wasn't sure at first, but he loved it after I told him the veggies and plant-based protein would power up his superhuman strength).
Yes! Let it come to room temperature, then divide it among airtight containers or large zip-top bags, seal, and freeze for up to 3 months.
How to Make Vegetarian Harira Soup Even Quicker
The recipe below comes together in about 40 minutes, including prep, but if you're in a rush, here are some ways to shave off a little more time:
- Chop the onion, celery, and carrots in a food processor. Peel the carrot and cut it into big (2- to 3-inch) chunks. Quarter the onion and discard the skin. Wash the celery stalks, trim off the tops and bottoms, and cut the stalks into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Combine the vegetables in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until they are chopped into roughly ¼-inch pieces.
- Rinse the rice and lentils together. Since you'll dump them into the pot at the same time, there's no reason why you can't combine them in one fine-mesh sieve and rinse them together. Just make sure you stir as you rinse them so all the grains/legumes get nice and clean. (The chickpeas are added later in the recipe, so they will need to be rinsed separately.)
- Measure out all the spices ahead of time. Before you start cooking, or while the pot heats up on the stove, measure the 1 teaspoon of salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and ginger into a ramekin or small prep bowl. That way, when you're ready for them, all you have to do is dump them right into the pot!
Looking for other soup and one-pot meal recipes? Check out the Every Night Meals recipe archives.
Vegetarian Harira Soup (Moroccan Vegetable Soup with Chickpeas and Lentils)
- Cutting board and knife
- Dutch oven or soup pot
- Wooden spoon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced (¼-inch pieces; about 1 cup)
- 3 large carrots (about ¾ pound), finely diced (¼-inch pieces; 1½ cups)
- 3 or 4 celery stalks, finely diced (¼-inch pieces; about 1 cup)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika (or harissa or dried red chile flakes, if you like it spicy)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed and picked through
- ⅔ cup long-grain white rice, rinsed
- 2 quarts low-sodium vegetable broth or stock
- 1 (15-ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 packed cup fresh parsley leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
- 1 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Place a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Let it heat up for 2 minutes or so, then pour in the olive oil. When the oil sloshes around the pot easily, add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Sprinkle the vegetables with the cornstarch, stir for 1 minute, and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt, the black pepper, turmeric, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir for 1 minute, add the rice and lentils, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 more minutes. You'll notice a brown coating on the bottom of the pot; that's OK! Just keep stirring for the full 2 minutes so the spices do not burn.
- Pour in the broth and tomatoes and add most of the parsley and cilantro (set aside ¼ cup of the chopped fresh herbs for garnishing later). Increase the heat to high and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. As soon as the liquid begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium and partially cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and rice are tender.
- Stir in the chickpeas, lemon juice, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Taste and season with more salt, lemon juice, or black pepper as desired.
- Portion the hot soup into bowls, top each with some of the reserved fresh parsley and cilantro, and serve with a ramekin of harissa sauce for those of us who like some extra heat.
*Recipe adapted from this one by Analida's Ethnic Spoon.
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