Chicken-Chickpea Harira

Suvir Saran's web exclusive recipe

January 3, 2011

I first tasted this soup in Fes, Morocco, where it was made with lamb. Since then I have tasted it with beef, lamb, and chicken. The latter is exceptional in dark-meat form, even winning over people who say they don’t like dark meat. Chickpeas help spread the dish to a larger number of people without needing to add more meat. Chickpeas also give it great texture and fiber, making it as nutritional as it is delicious. Turmeric and saffron are both added—each for color but the turmeric for its savoriness, the saffron for its nice aroma and flavor. The two types of tomatoes used here are for both taste and thickening.


  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 large red onions, finely diced
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups boxed or canned chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, toasted and finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon Toasted Cumin Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro


1. Heat the olive oil with the peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon stick in a large pot over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the onions and cook until they’re soft and lightly browned around the edges (about 3 to 5 minutes), stirring often.  Add the chicken and cook until the meat releases its liquid and the pan dries (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.

2. Mix in the turmeric, Aleppo or cayenne pepper, and salt and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the diced tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes release their juices (about 3 1/2 minutes), stirring often and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the chickpeas, the boxed or canned tomatoes, and the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes. Stir in the saffron, Toasted Cumin Powder, Garam Masala or ras el hanout herb blend, and cilantro. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Makes 8 servings