Moroccan Harira Makes Merguez Meatballs Mandatory

Harira SoupWe really enjoyed this chickpea- and lentil-laden North African soup, whose “sophistication” (per Daniel Boulud) can be found in its “haunting taste and rich textures.” We were also happy to find an alternative way to use merguez beyond grilling the sausage and stuffing it into some sort of bread. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Boulud’s version of harira uses merguez mini-meatballs, which not only gave us a deliciously different way to use them but also gave Steve a frisson of nostalgia for SpaghettiOs. (We assure you harira is way, way better than SpaghettiOs.) The layers of spice, seasoning and textures of bean and lamb stayed delicious for several meals, and made us think merguez meatballs may have to become a regular part of our repertory. Ramadan, here we come!


(adapted, slightly, from Daniel Boulud’s recipe in Elle Decor)

  • 1/2 lb. uncooked lamb merguez sausage
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped carrot
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped fennel
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 t. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t. ground coriander
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/2 of a 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • Quart of chicken stock
  • 1/2 c. dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
  • 1/3 c. dry French green lentils
  • 1-1/2 oz. vermicelli or spaghetti, broken into bite-size pieces
  • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Generous handful of cilantro leaves, chopped fine
  • Generous handful of parsley leaves, chopped fine
  • 1 lemon, each cut into wedges and seeded

Remove sausage meat from the casings and roll into small, approximately 1/2″ diameter, meatballs.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add half of the meatballs and sear on all sides until brown. Remove the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels. Clean out pan, discarding the fat that has accumulated. Add a bit of olive oil and cook remaining meatballs, adding them to the plate with the others. Cover meatballs and refrigerate. Do not discard the fat in the pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the diced vegetables and garlic to the sausage fat. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened.  Add the spices and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Then add tomatoes, stock and chickpeas. Season again with salt, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until chickpeas begin to soften a bit. Add lentils and continue to simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until chickpeas and lentils are tender. If too thick, add some more stock. Add the crushed pasta and reserved meatballs, and continue to cook on low until noodles are tender, about 5 or 10 minutes. Stir about the scallions and about half of the chopped cilantro and parsley into the soup. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

Top individual servings of soup with remaining cilantro and parsley and serve with lemon wedges.


  1. Yes, I couldn’t agree more and that sounds delicious!
    When I go to the Moroccan stall in West London for harira, it’s vegetable based, so I have to buy their picante merguez sausages in Moroccan bread as a chaser 😉

  2. Oh wow…must make this soup. Flavors are seemingly complex, exactly how I like my soups. Can’t say I have ever heard of merguez sausages though. Perhaps it is something now available to us out here. Sounds wonderful.

    • We’ve often enjoyed merguez in Europe, and I was surprised to see them at our Whole Foods. The butcher said they make them occasionally when they have a surfeit of lamb. You could make a mix yourself (and for this recipe wouldn’t need to do the whole casings thing): http://bit.ly/Mu1Wy5.

    • So I did make this soup for dinner tonight and it was delicious! We both loved it, and I really enjoyed using merguez sausages; I hardly ever cook these sausages, as all I used to know was grilling them and adding to a couscous… and I am way too lazy to make couscous, it is so much work! I suspect this soup was meant to be for 4 people, but Pierre loved it so much that after we had seconds he then had thirds and fourths, and then there was no soup left!

        • I actually would have enjoyed a little more heat, and my butcher’s merguez aren’t too spicy, but after the sweet potato experience, these were perfect. And the flavors were quite perfect. So thank you for finding the recipe… and taking the time to share it!

  3. Harira is one of the best dishes ever. It is incredibly comforting as well as interesting in its complexity. I will be giving this version a try it sounds really delicious.

    This is a lovely post, great pictures

    • Thanks so much. It really is a lovely recipe, for which I can take little credit. (Except for locating it. I wouldn’t otherwise have thought to look for recipes in Elle Decor. Long live the Internet!)

    • Rain would be a blessing for us at this point. I’m halfway through my second week of working from home (something I don’t do very well—possibly in large part because my “desk” is the kitchen table).

  4. Hi Michelle, love the stew, love the merguez meatballs & that delicious description of stuffing piles of bread with the sausages. I’m for all the above! It’s not much longer till I’ll have to relinquish summer days over to autumn days. Then I’ll be the one searching for recipes of stews …

  5. Michele and Steve – This looks very tasty. Yes, I am sold by the many layers of flavors here, and the beautiful burst of green from fresh cilantro and parsley. No, actually, it was the Spaghetti O’s comparison that won my heart. 😉 It seems that Ramadan is in June… who could wait until then to make this tasty soup? It is snowing quite a bit here in New Mexico; seemingly perfect weather for a hearty and hot meal. Take care – Shanna

  6. Lovely harira, especially with the merguez. I’ll be heading to London at the end of the month, hopefully including some markets and to get more of the harira Mad Dog mentions. Thanks for reminding me to make it at home, I haven’t done so for many years.

  7. Merguez—my favorite sausage. I love the little meatballs in your harira (seriously, I’m squeeing over the cuteness, and I’m not usually swayed by “cute”).

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