What Is Harira And What Does It Taste Like?

Have you ever heard of harira? If you haven't, you'll want to get to know this warming Morrocan chickpea and lentil soup — stat. Chock-full of legumes as well as tomatoes, lamb or beef, and fragrant spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger, harira is eaten year-round but also hugely popular for breaking the fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan (via The Spruce Eats).

One thing we love about harira is its versatility. The soup almost always uses lentils, but other than that, it varies widely: some cooks swap in fava beans for the chickpeas; some sizzle coriander, cumin, and smoked paprika into the soup; some leave out the meat for a vegetarian version of the dish (via Cook's Illustrated). Whatever the version, harira is a hearty, deeply flavorful soup-slash-stew which offers sweetness from its long-cooked tomatoes, spice from its variety of flavorings, and bright acidity in the form of the abundant fresh lemon juice stirred in at the end of cooking. For fast-breaking, it's often served alongside chebakia, Morrocan pastries flavored with sesame and cinnamon and twisted into the shape of a flower.

Harira variations to make at home

There are many ways to cook harira at home. First things first, you'll want to start with some dried lentils and some dried chickpeas, both soaked overnight. The Spruce Eats starts with cubed lamb or beef, which gets seared in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Puréed tomatoes are added, as are the soaked legumes, along with a bounty of flavorful spices including ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and black pepper. In this case, the soup is thickened using a mixture of vermicelli pasta as well as a flour-and-water slurry (via The Spruce Eats).

A recipe from Cook's Illustrated takes a different approach to harira, omitting the meat and utilizing canned, not soaked, chickpeas, for a soup whose ingredients you're likely to have on hand. The recipe also swaps in different spices: "cumin and cinnamon for warmth; smoked paprika for depth; coriander for nutty, floral notes; and a tiny bit of crushed red pepper for a hint of heat," as they describe as this version's taste.

Whichever way you choose to make your harira, it's an easy-to-make yet immensely satisfying soup that pays off big in the flavor department. Whether you're breaking your fast or sitting down to dinner accompanied by some fresh bread, harira is a staple you'll want to add to your cooking repertoire.