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What is Harira soup?
Harira soup is a traditional Moroccan soup that is made all year long but traditionally is used to break the fast during Ramadan, every night. Harira has vegetables such as onion, celery and tomatoes and herbs such as cilantro and parsley. It has some mild spices and it is high in protein thanks to the meat, lentils, egg and chickpeas. Some variations of Harira soup also include fava beans. It is garnished with lemon juice and more fresh herbs on top. Every family has its own recipe but these ingredients are pretty common in this particular soup.
Even though traditional Harira soup is served during Ramadan, this Moroccan soup is made all year round in Morocco. The ingredients are readily found in the markets and the endless variations make this a very adaptable soup.
Another traditional Moroccan soup during Ramadan is Chorba. It’s a lighter version of Harira and is kind of a Middle Eastern version of chicken noodle soup.
Harira may be my go-to soup in the Fall when the temperature starts dipping. I crave soup all year round but in the Fall, my soup craving go into overdrive.
My seasonal soup cravings:
- Spring – veggie soups, especially tomato
- Summer – broth based soups, especially Asian noodle soups
- Fall – soups with pulses and legumes and potatoes. Or Norway’s national food, Farikal, a lamb and cabbage soup.
- Winter – Senegalese Chicken Soup, Danish Labkovs.
When reading that every family in Morocco has their own recipe for a particular soup, I had to learn how to make Harira soup.
You know this must be an important soup. I couldn’t think of any recipe that every family in America has. Do hamburgers count? Chicken soup, maybe, not really. Most people open a can of soup.
If you can think of an important American recipe that every family in America has, leave a comment. I would love to hear all of the answers.
Harira soup with beef or lamb
Harira can be made with lamb, beef or chicken but never pork, it is forbidden. You may omit the meat altogether, there is plenty of protein without it.
If you make this without meat, you might consider adding fava beans or lima beans. Fava beans are traditional but harder to find. Lima beans substitute nicely.
Without the meat, this soup would be very low in cholesterol which is important if you are watching what you eat. There are many other reasons this soup is healthy.
The vegetables, herbs, chickpeas and lentils make this soup both hearty and a superfood. I can see why it is popular for breaking fast.
The spices also have traditional medicinal applications such as turmeric, cinnamon and chile powder. Cultures have used these for hundreds of years to alleviate inflammation and fight infections.
Anyhow you look at it, this soup is a big winner in my house. It has everything going for it. Highly nutritious and very authentic with a rich history.
Don’t be intimidated by the numerous ingredients in this soup. If you cook from scratch, you already have half of these Harira ingredients in your pantry. If you don’t normally cook from scratch, you will have to buy more ingredients than you would normally do on a typical shopping trip but all of the ingredients are easy to find.
I personally favor lamb but if you can’t find lamb or on a budget, simply substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You can use chicken breast but thighs actually have more flavor and are more moist. It comes down to personal preference.
For a vegetarian or vegan Harira soup, simply omit the meat and add fava beans. For vegans, omit the eggs. The eggs give this a little extra protein and a silky texture.
Harira ingredients can be broken down into four elements:
- Fresh herbs & veggies
Other ingredients that are typically used in authentic Harira:
- Vermicelli pasta
- Orzo pasta
- Hot chili pepper
Every household has their own authentic Harira soup recipe. Sometimes their choice of ingredients is traditional to their own precious family recipe and sometimes it has to do with what they have at hand. Even though there seems to be a large variety of traditional ingredients, the high nutritional value, signature taste and bite feel are very similar to each other.
This soup is built on many layers of flavor which, in my opinion, make the best soups. The skill level for this recipe is intermediate in nature but this is a great beginner cook recipe. You will be chopping herbs and vegetables very small. You will probably get sticker shock when you first buy your spices but that is normal for every beginner cook.
If you can visualize that most of this soup is preparatory and that most of the cooking portion is hands off, you will see that this is actually a very easy soup to make.
I suggest you prep all of the ingredients first, including both the chopping and getting the spices measured and put into one bowl. Cut your meat and have your broth ready. Then…GO!
Remember to have fun and enjoy all of those amazing smells. In fact, my husband emerged from out of nowhere and asked, “Whatcha doing there?”.
I hope you enjoy this amazing soup and may your bellies be nourished and your hearts full.
What to serve with Harira Soup?
- Bread such as Mana’eesh or Naan
- Samosas or Batata Vada
- Moroccan chicken and pineapple kebab
- Cucumber salad
For another fantastic Moroccan soup, be sure to check out Moroccan Chorba.
What soup recipes do you have? Have they been handed down through the family? Please share:)
CONFUSED ABOUT THE DIFFERENT CHILI POWDERS? I’ve got the details in my article What is Chili Powder?
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