Why It Works
- Adding a thickening agent known as “tadwira” (mixed cornstarch and water) towards the end of the cooking process allows you to control how thick the harira will be.
- Adding fresh cilantro at the very end of the cooking process preserves its fresh flavor and bold aromas, which are key to a successful harira.
Harira is a soup enjoyed across Morocco. Though different regions and families have their own special way of making it, the soup typically contains tomatoes, celery, pulses such as chickpeas or lentils, spices, cilantro, and cornstarch. Harira is often prepared with red meat, but some versions are made with chicken, eggs, or can be vegan. This version features both lentils and chickpeas, and is finished with a drizzle of beaten egg to form little wispy egg bits in the thickened soup.
Derived from the Arabic word “harir,” harira translates into “silk,” which describes the consistency of the soup. Towards the end of the cooking process, harira is thickened with a mixture of cornstarch and water—called “tadwira”— that gives it its distinctive smooth and silky texture. The tadwira is poured into the soup and immediately stirred in to quickly incorporate it, then simmered until the starches gelatinize and thicken the broth. If more is needed, more can be added, little by little, to get the correct final consistency (though this recipe produces a soup base that’s thick enough from the vegetables not to require extra cornstarch).
Harira is famously served during Ramadan to break the fast, since a bowl is a nutrient-packed meal in itself. It’s very common to make batches of harira big enough to feed the whole family, along with unexpected guests, for several days.
Though the soup is typically tomato-based, its flavor isn’t the defining one. Instead, it’s complemented with warm spices such as turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. The cilantro added at the very end of the cooking process adds freshness and balances out the cooked vegetal flavors of the soup. The final touch that makes all the difference? A squeeze of fresh lemon juice for acidity and brightness. Fragrant and herbaceous, harira is as satisfying as it is nourishing.