Harira – A Moroccan Stew That Will Delight and Satisfy


On a cool winter’s night, there is nothing I enjoy more than a nice hot rich bowl of stew. It sounds simple, and perhaps it is, but to me that is comfort food. Sure, I know how to make a pretty good beef stew. I’ve been known to turn out a delicious chicken stew. Croatian manestra makes a regular appearance. Ground turkey and tomatillos become a delicious chili — there is some in my freezer now. And in a pinch, I can turn out an excellent clam chowder, the traditional New England seafood stew.  

But several years back, I discovered what has become a new favorite. I’m talking about the Moroccan lamb and lentil stew called Harira. Fresh vegetables and chunks of lamb (or beef) slow cooked in a tomato base. Warmed with rich and deep spices, and thickened with lentils and orzo pasta. The flavors are simply the best and this is now the number one go to meal on cool winter nights.  

Harira Ingredients

Harira Background

Harira is believed to have originated in Morocco, and is popular throughout North Africa. Although it is eaten year round, it is particularly associated with Ramadan, where it is a common meal. Its ease to make, and ability to keep well and reheat well make it particularly suited to this use. 

I’ve never been to Morocco (although it is certainly on the travel list), but I have come to really love the food from there. The rich flavors are unlike most anything else you’ll eat. The cuisine of Morocco is an eclectic blend of Mediterranean, Berber and Arabic cuisines. Whenever I get the chance to dine at a good Moroccan restaurant, I grab it. I’m also fortunate to have spent some time working with a chef from Morocco, where I learned a number of dishes and techniques that I apply in my home cooking.  

Seasoned Vegetables

The closest I’ve come to Morocco was visiting the south of Spain in the Andalusia region. For nearly a thousand years, this part of Spain was ruled by an Islamic dynasty originally from Morocco. On our most recent trip to Spain, we stayed in the Albaicin in Granada, to visit the Islamic palace of the Alhambra. Like many of the cities in Andalusia, Spain, Granada is still shares influences of their time under Islamic rule. That extends to the cuisine. There are dishes in Andalusia that come straight from North Africa. 

How I Discovered Harira 

While in Granada, we went to a Moroccan restaurant along the river. It was there that I tried Harira for the first time. It stood out on the menu because it included chickpeas — which I have a particular affinity for.  I was instantly taken in by the dish and decided that I needed to learn to make this myself. I took notes on the dish I was eating in that evening so that I could remember what made it special. When I returned home from Spain, I almost immediately set out to find a recipe for Harira.

Harira Browning Meat

If you’ve read this blog long enough, you probably know what happens next. I found dozens and dozens of recipes, and no two were alike. Some I had a hard time seeing how they would produce anything like the meal I had in Spain. Others looked promising, and worth further exploration. But of course, all of it reminded me that everyone’s “authentic” is different. Different regional variations. Various twists through family lore.  Different taste preferences. It all add up to ‘similar’ but ‘different’.

Things that most recipes had in common were chickpeas, lentils, a tomato base and some form of pasta. Typically, the pasta was a vermicelli broken into small pieces. But the dish I had in Spain used orzo, which I think I simpler an achieves the same end.  

Harira Meat and seasoning

The lentil together with the pasta provide thickening “magic” that turns this dish from a soup to a stew (in my mind). The lentils almost completely disappear once cooked. The pasta just absorbs liquid and releases starches.  

Easy to Make – Delicious to Eat

As stew go, this is pretty simple to make, which is another thing to love about it. The basic steps are to sweat the vegetables, brown the meat, add the spices, and add tomatos and stock. Wrap it up by adding your chickpeas, lentils and pasta and letting the whole thing simmer for about thirty minutes. Adjust the spices and add kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Top with some chopped parsley, cilantro, or both.  

Lentil Orzo Chickpeas

Like with any dish, the making benefits greatly from having prepared all of your ingredients before you begin the cooking. For my vegetables, that means chopping about a cup and a half of onion, three quarters of a cup of celery and several garlic cloves. For the meat, I generally choose lamb, but beef is nice too. I cut into cubes about three quarters of an inch in size. As for cut of beef, this is where a cut that benefits from slow and low cooking can be a star. For lamb, I will use a leg of lamb roast. When using beef, I go for a chuck roast. In either case, look for a cut that has just a bit of fat marbled throughout the cut.  

Harira in Pot

Other Ways to Enjoy Harira

I always make more than the Elegant Baker and I can eat in a single meal. We love the left overs from this, typically having it a second time two to three nights later. What is left then, we freeze in portions large enough for a meal for two. This way, we typically get four or five meals out of a single batch of harira. In fact, like many meals that have ’tomato sauce’ in the, harira typically taste better the after it has sat for a day or two. The leftovers are better than the original meal. Somehow, the spices are deeper and warmer, and the meat a bit more succulent. I’m sure there is sciencey reason for this, but I don’t know what it is — I just know its true. And harira benefits from sitting for a day.  

If you are looking for a meatless stew, Harira also transforms quite easily into a vegetarian stew. Skip the meat and add an extra cup of chickpeas. And of course use vegetable stock. For vegan, omit the butter and use a plant based oil to finish the stew.  

Harira Overhead

No matter how you like it, I hope you give harira a try. It is the epitome of what I aim for here at mezze & tapas — simple, healthy and delicious. Enjoy!  

Harira Overhead


Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Moroccan
Keyword: Chickpeas, Lamb, lentil, Pasta, Tomato
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12
Harira – a Moroccan Stew of Chickpeas, Lentils, Pasta and Lamb provides a hearty, healthy and simple meal for cool evenings
Print Recipe


  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 Stalks Celery Medium Diced
  • 1 Large Onion Medium Chop. about 1 1/2 c
  • 3 Cloves Garlic minced
  • 2 Tbs Ras Al Hanout Spice Blend
  • 1 lb Lamb or Beef cut into small cubes
  • 1 14 oz can of Fire Roasted Diced Tomato
  • 4 cups stock Beef, Lamb or Veal
  • 2 cups cooked Chickpeas
  • 1 cup Red Lentils uncooked
  • 1/2 cup Orzo or broken up vermicelli
  • 1 Tbs Unsalted Butter Ghee or Smen
  • 2 – 3 Tbs Parsley Chopped
  • 2 – 3 Tbs Cilantro Chopped
  • Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper To Taste


  • Heat a 5 qt Dutch Oven or other large pot over medium high heat
  • Add Olive Oil
  • Add Celery, Onion, and Garlic and sauté until beginning to soften
  • Add 1 Tbs of Ras Al Hanout to vegetables and stir to fully coat. Cook for about one minute until spice blend is very fragrant
  • Coat Lamb or Beef Cubes with remaining Ras Al Hanout, Salt and Pepper and toss to evenly coat
  • Add Meat to Dutch Oven and brown for several minutes until there are no large spots of “pink” meat remaining on the surfaces
  • Add about 1/3 of the can of diced tomatoes. Using a stick blender, puree the remaining tomatoes in the can.
  • Add the tomato puree and about 3 1/2 cups of the stock, and stir to fully combine.
  • Heat to a gentle simmer
  • Add chickpeas, lentils, orzo and butter. Stir to combine and return to a simmer
  • Let simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes until lentils and orzo are cooked through
  • The stew will be very thick. If necessary, add remaining stock and return to a simmer
  • Stir in parsley and cilantro
  • Check for seasoning/taste and add Salt and Pepper to taste


If you have time, you can cube the meat a day ahead and add salt, pepper, and 1 TBS spice blend and let marinate in the rub for a full day before using
Vegetarian Variation: Use Veggie Stock in lieu of Beef Stock and increase Chickpeas to 3 cups

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