Moroccan-style Lentil and Chickpea Soup

September 01, 2012

Moroccan Lentil Chickpea Soup

Lentils and chickpeas are widely used in the Moroccan cuisine in dishes infused with traditional spices and herbs that give them their distinctive taste. I often cook with either lentils or chickpeas, but it wasn't until I found Holly S. Warah's recipe on her Arabic Zeal blog that I actually thought of combining the two. Holly's Moroccan-style Lentil Soup with Chickpeas is the very definition of comfort food. It is wonderfully aromatic, soothing, rich, deeply satisfying and nourishing.

The soup is fragrantly seasoned with ginger, turmeric and cumin, the indispensable spices of Morocco. Tomatoes add an extra layer of richness, while harissa - the North-African hot chili paste - gives it a spicy edge that offsets the sweetness of the soup. A splash of lemon juice gives it a subtle citrus note and the final sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley adds extra flavour and a beautiful colour contrast.

The recipe is blissfully simple and thrifty, using ingredients that are widely available (except for harissa, which can easily be replaced with chili or cayenne powder, though not with the same result). Serve this soup warm, with crusty bread and a lemon wedge, and I guarantee you will relish every mouthful. If you're interested in healthy cooking you'll adore this soup. It provides high amounts of protein and fiber and is packed with minerals and vitamins.

Moroccan Lentil Chickpea Soup

Fascinated as I am with the Arab world, I once embarked on the ambitious endeavour to check all the 120+ UAE and GCC blogs listed on Fooderati Arabia and that's how I found Holly's beautiful blog. It instantly captivated me with its simple, user-friendly design and warm colours. Arabic Zeal explores the region's culture, books and diverse cuisines, but it doesn't stop there. The blog also features social and gastronomic events, art and literature festivals, travel, film reviews and more. It showcases the traditional and modern sides of the Arab lifestyle.

Foodwise, Holly's blog is a growing collection of regional specialties with authentic flavours and traditional methods of preparation, as well as new recipes inspired by her travels. Holly's riveting posts are a proof of her extraordinary writing skills, as is her award-winning short story My Brother's Wife. On a more personal level, Arabic Zeal explores the complexity of a cross-cultural life, seeking to balance the modern, American lifestyle with the traditional, conservative Arab ways of living.

Holly is a constant presence in her "virtual home" through her comment replies and the open dialogue that she encourages. I often visit Arabic Zeal as it alleviates the nostalgia I feel when I remember my stays in the Middle East. I'd like to share with you some of my favourite recipes from Holly's blog:
  • Fattoush - the refreshing, colourful, crunchy Lebanese salad that's full of flavour and nutritious
  • Ma'amoul (nut-filled and date-filled versions) - delicious stuffed pastries that are beautifully shaped with wooden molds - easily veganized using non-dairy butter and milk
  • Ataif (qatayef) - delicate, half-moon shaped pancakes with various fillings, that can be deep-fried or baked and drenched in a sugar syrup scented with rosewater, orange blossom water or both.

All that being said, here is the wonderful lentil and chickpea soup recipe, published with the kind permission of Holly S. Warah:

Moroccan-style Lentil and Chickpea Soup
Serves 6 - 8
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped

  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • 1 cup orange lentils (also known as red lentils), picked over and rinsed - 1 cup = 250 ml
  • 1 can (400g) whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 can (400 g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) water plus 1 vegetable stock cube (or 6 cups ready-made vegetable stock)

  • 1 Tb freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp harissa paste
  • chopped fresh coriander or parsley to garnish

Although orange (red) lentils cook fast, I like to save cooking time by soaking them for 20-30 minutes in water barely covering them.

Heat the oil in a large pot or casserole. Add the garlic and let it sizzle for a few seconds to infuse the oil, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and cook for a few minutes to soften. Meanwhile, finely chop the tomatoes and keep aside (don't discard the liquid). Don't be tempted to use a blender to get the job done faster, the odd tomato chunk will make a beautiful colour contrast. Add the ginger and spices and stir to coat the vegetables well.

This is where Holly offers a slow cooker alternative, please check her post for details.

To continue cooking on the stovetop, add the lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes (plus the liquid) and water plus veggie cube (or the vegetable stock) and bring to a boil. Season with black pepper and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered for 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the lentils are mushy. If you prefer not to pre-soak the lentils, the soup will need additional cooking time.

If you notice that the soup thickens before the lentils are cooked through, you can either add more water or just cover the pot for the remaining time. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed.

Moroccan Lentil Chickpea Soup

Allow the soup to cool down until it no longer burns the mouth and add the lemon juice and harissa paste. This chili paste is really hot stuff, a little goes a long way, so start with 1 teaspoonful and see how you like it, then add more if you want. The harissa I found at a local supermarket was very mildly hot, so I ended up adding 4-5 teaspoonfuls to get that spicy edge.

Serve garnished with fresh herbs, and crusty bread and lemon wedges on the side. For those who like it spicier, offer more harissa.

Enjoy and spread the magic!:)

Like this recipe? Share it with your friends and come back for more.



Very nice. I appreciate how clear the recipe is and that you describe the background. Lots of pictures as well as explanations for spices and the recipe is meat and dairy free!

Especially the links to the companion foods is very cool.
Thank you!

Vegan Magic

Thank you so much, I deeply appreciate your kind words. They make every effort put into this post worth it:) I'm grateful that you took the time to read the entire post. Give this soup a try, you'll love it:) Thanks so much for the comment!

Kerry Brian Davidson

Nice, love lentils and chickpeas,

Vegan Magic

Glad you like it, Kerry:) Thank you for visiting again:)

Lara Martin

This sounds so yummy, but I have a quick question for you. Living in the Arab world, as I do, this one is very similar to dishes we find out at restaurants. It's good, but I am wondering can you offer any suggestions of additional veggies that hold up well that I can add to sort of add some diversity to it? I can't go too crazy, since a lot of veggies are sometimes hard to come by but was thinking I could get spinach, add at the last minute. Or I could add okra? What do you think?

Vegan Magic

Hey Lara, it's great that you like the soup and want to make it richer. This is quite a versatile recipe and it would definitely withstand the addition of more veggies. I'm thinking even a little coconut milk would enrich the flavour.

If you like spinach, you could add it, though I generally use spinach with potatoes, they go really well together. I sometimes add chopped kale to soups and curries, towards the end. Red peppers are my first choice in chickpea dishes and eggplant would work too, I think I would prefer to add it mashed after grilling for a stew-like consistency.

My only experience with okra wasn't the best one. I guess if you got the hang of how to cook it, it would be a great addition.

Thank you so much for the suggestions and for the comment:)


awesome! very easy to make

Vegan Magic

I'm so glad you enjoyed the soup, Addie:) Thank you very much for the feedback, much appreciated.


I made this soup last night and it was a big hit with the whole family with everyone going back for seconds!!! There were no leftovers. Taste was amazing, brilliant texture and thickness and beautiful aroma! Thoroughly enjoyed making it!!! I didn't use canned chickpeas or lentils as i had fresh at home. Definitely a 10 out of 10 in my books!! The harissa paste put a nice zest to it! My father and put a little more in as we like more spice. Thank you so much for sharing!!

Vegan Magic

Charlotte, I couldn't be happier to know the soup was such a success. Thank you so much for the feedback, I greatly appreciate it.

Go Vegans

Vegans are angels, nice recipe and for saving Animals ^_^

Vegan Magic

Thank you so much for the thumbs-up! Your page totally rocks, I'm going to share it.


Hello Adriana,
Thanks for sharing this soup. Love your photo & your description. I also like the idea of adding spinach. Yum! Looking forward to exploring your blog more. Thanks, Holly (ArabicZeal)

Vegan Magic

Dear Holly, thank you so much for your kind words, I am truly happy you like the post. And thank you again for your generosity in letting me share this wonderful recipe. Looking forward to more of your delights:)

Jessica Andrea

One day I was skimming through these recipes and what really caught my eye was this Moroccan Style Lentil & Chickpea soup. I am a huge fan of both of those and thanks to my love for this combination of flavors and worldly cuisines I decided to give it a shot. We surely eat with our eyes first and this recipe did not disappoint! In fact, I've converted non lentil eaters into LENTIL LOVERS! Very much do I recommend this recipe.

Vegan Magic

Thank you so much for this amazing feedback, Jessica Andrea:) Nothing makes me happier as a food blogger than to know the recipes I share make others happy:) Moroccan food never fails to amaze me and this soup in particular was incredibly delicious, way beyond anything I had expected. I hope you find more inspiring recipes on my blog to try. Thank you again for taking the time to comment, I deeply appreciate it.


wonderful soup ~ exact same recipe from the 'Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker' book I pretty much live by ;)

Vegan Magic

Thank you for your comment:) I haven't read the book, I found the recipe on Arabic Zeal and as I understand it is an adaptation of the one in the book. Either way, this soup is incredibly delicious, I greatly enjoyed it.


Delicious soup will be regular in our house now ... Thank you :)

Vegan Magic

A very delicious and filling soup indeed. Thank you so much for the feedback. I hope you try and enjoy the other lentil soup recipe on the blog.


Hi I was skimming thru the comments & thought to add my 2 cents about okra. I'm from New Orleans where okra is a key ingredient in the legendary gumbo. So many New Orleans recipes came afrom North Africa where okra is popular & are combined with French cooking techniques. "Gumbo" means mixture, so it's literally a combination of cultures.

Being vegan doesn't mean okra is going to be appealing to Americans though LOL. However, the way it's generally used is sliced into small circles and sautéed at the bottom of the soup pan before other ingredients are added. Gumbo generally begins with a "roux" which is flour & oil gently cooked together to make a brown paste. More oil can be added to this & the okra is then gently sautéed with the roux. This absorbs some of the silvery, sticky "slime" of the okra that so many folks dislike. Once you have that layer going, you then sauté the chopped carrots/celery/onion that also start most French soups. After that you can add your liquid/broth, then layer in your lentils & chickpeas, fresh or canned tomatoes & whatever vegetables to simmer as you like.

I also find smoked paprika a miracle ingredient for soups.

...and also I love to add a tablespoon or so of coconut milk per serving. I add this at the very end right before serving the soup, or when reheating the soup. Personally i don't like to cook coconut milk too long, so I add it at the end.

Sorry for the long comment, but I was just speaking to a cousin in New Orleans recently who has household help from North Africa who are very fond of okra. They sauté it in garlic & simmer in spicy tomato sauce [harissa used here if available], & serve over rice or cous-cous. I doubt if it will ever be a popular vegetable in the US though!

Feel free to edit this long comment!

Thanks again for all your excellent recipes.

Vegan Magic

Gioconda, thanks so much for your input. I tried cooking okra once and of course it came out bad, so never tried again. The list of ingredients you mentioned sounds really good and I second you on the smoked paprika, I add it to anything savoury:) I also use a lot of coconut milk in cooking, absolutely love the added flavour to curries.

Sharon Tredinnick

I add a couple of silverbeet leaves rinsed and chopped for an extra bit of colour and veggie boost.

Vegan Magic

Sharon, thank you very much for your comment and recommendation. I never used silverbeet leaves in cooking, this sounds like a great idea.

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