This Moroccan harira soup is the perfect warming detox recipe. It is completely vegetarian and vegan but filling thanks to the red lentils, chickpeas and loads of vegetables like broccoli, carrots and parsnips. It’s so jam-packed with hardy, healthy ingredients it can double as an anti-inflammatory stew.
When she was in her 20’s, my mother lived in Morocco, which had a huge impact on her cooking. Growing up, my comfort foods included her baked fish with preserved lemons, kefta tagine, and lots of hearty soups like this harira recipe.
Harira soup is a Muslim staple for breaking the daily fast during Ramadan. It is usually packed with legumes like red lentils and chickpeas, and often times includes meat and broken spaghetti noodles in the rich tomato broth. In other words, it’s a kitchen sink soup that can be made in advance, reheated easily after dusk or before dawn, and is full of protein and fiber that is sure to keep you full for a long day of fasting.
I usually turn to harira when I’m looking to clean out my vegetable drawer or need a simple detox soup that is easy to digest. As I explained in this recipe for the Indian detox staple kitchari, lentils and chickpeas are the easiest to digest when they are cooked down to mush and included in a mononutrient dish. For this reason, I’ve kept this Moroccan harira soup meat-free, with lots of winter vegetables like broccoli, parnsips, and carrots to bulk up the meal. It’s based on a vegan harira I developed for Tasting Table almost 10 years ago!
You can use any type of lentil in this harira, but I particularly love red lentils because they are quick-cooking and only take 15 to 20 minutes to become a porridge like consistency. If you need more red lentil recipes, you can see other incarnations in this other super comforting Moroccan red lentil soup recipe and also this red lentil curry.
What else can I add to this Moroccan harira soup?
In terms of vegetables, a leafy green would also be delicious in this detox soup. You can add chopped kale, chard or spinach towards the end of cooking—even frozen greens will work well. If broccoli isn’t your thing, you can substitute cauliflower, though I love the pop of green it adds. To the carrots and parsnips, you can also add shredded cabbage. It’s not traditional at all but I do love it in my detox recipes.
Finally, if you didn’t want to keep this Moroccan soup vegan, you could brown a pound of ground chicken or turkey at the beginning of this recipe before adding the carrots. Red meat is more traditionally used in harira, but since I don’t have a pressure cooker, I prefer a leaner protein when experimenting at home. Chicken thighs also work well if you want to turn it into more of a Moroccan stew. And if you’re a lamb person, you might love this Moroccan lamb chili recipe.
What can I serve with harira soup?
This is truly a meal in a pot, so you can enjoy the harira soup as is without any additions. When my gut is feeling up to it, I have a side salad. Sometimes I’ll top it with half a diced avocado since it complements the cilantro and lemon so well. A dollop of plain Greek yogurt also works if you aren’t dairy-free. Finally, when I’m not enjoying this soup as a detox recipe, I like to add a little extra heat with some hot sauce, chili crunch or cayenne in the spice blend.
With health and hedonism,
Moroccan Harira Detox Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium carrots finely chopped
- 2 medium parsnips finely chopped
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 small head broccoli cut into tiny florets (about 2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
- In a large pot set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the carrots, parsnips and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, cumin, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon and salt and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is fragrant, 1½ to 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute more. Stir in the chickpeas and lentils. Pour in the stock, stirring any browned bits up from the bottom of the pot, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook for 5 minutes more, until just tender (they will continue cooking off the heat).
- Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and half the cilantro. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cilantro.