Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup made during Ramadan to break the daily fast, and is served after eating dates and milk. It is traditionally made with lamb, but the lamb can be omitted to make it vegetarian for a hearty meal as well. I prefer it without lamb.
My first harira was out of a box (yes they really do make a boxed version!) Back in the day, when my husband and I were just boyfriend and girlfriend, he and his brother were making Ramadan dinner with boxed harira. They were going on and on about harira and after trying the boxed version, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. Then it hit me. “Your Mom doesn’t make it out of a box, does she?” You can already guess the response. So, that weekend, I printed a bunch of recipes, bought the ingredients and made my first harira. I reeeally liked this guy and already thought he was the one, so of course I wanted to impress him in every way I could. My husband and his brother gulped it down. “It’s great” they reassured me. I was relieved. “But it doesn’t taste anything like harira.” And so it evolved with every try—less tomato, more spice, more cilantro, more water. We were invited to friends’ houses where I sampled more hariras and was able to further refine my own.
There are many, many variations of harira but this one is my favorite–developed by myself after trial and error and in conjunction with many picky Moroccan taste buds over the years. I even like it better than my mother-in-law’s and trust me, I don’t do anything better than my mother-in-law when it comes to Moroccan cooking.
1 medium sized onion
3 sticks of celery
1 T ginger (powder)
1 T paprika
1 t turmeric
1 t cinnamon
Pinch of crushed saffron threads
1 pound lamb cubes (omit to make vegetarian)
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
¾ small can tomato paste
1 tomato-grated or finely chopped
½ cup lentils
1 can chickpeas (outer shell removed)
4 cups of water (approx)
Optional: spaghetti broken into small pieces
Pinch of Salt
Serve with lemon wedges
Simmer the onion and celery in olive oil until soft (about 5-7 minutes) in a big soup pot. Add the lamb and the spices. Stir together for about 1 minute, until spices are fragrant. Add all remaining ingredients except spaghetti and cook on medium-high. (Note: I put the cilantro and parsley leaves in the blender with water to save myself many minutes of chopping them down to miniscule.) Allow to bubble then reduce heat to low for at least 40 minutes but better for a good hour or more. In the last 10 minutes, add spaghetti pieces (no more than 1 inch long), if desired. Salt to taste. Serve with lemon wedges.
Notes and Modifications:
Many hariras use flour to thicken up the soup at the end. I think the soup is plenty hearty and doesn’t need the flour. Some hariras also mix in an egg at the end which is a flavorful addition. Again, I don’t think it’s necessary though since the soup is already so tasty and hearty.
Serve with fresh lemon wedges and some bread. It’s a meal in itself–you won’t be hungry after! Enjoy and Ramadan Mubarak!