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In Tunisia, soup is rich and bright
Milk Street Bowtie Chickpea and Harissa Soup (Lablabi)

Chickpea and Harissa Soup (Lablabi)

1 hour

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Chickpea and Harissa Soup (Lablabi)

Free

This brothy-bready Tunisian chickpea soup gets punches of flavor from garlic, tomato paste and cumin.. And instead of using stale bread—as is common in Tunisia—we got better texture by toasting chunks of crusty bread in olive oil to make croutons. Toasted ground cumin is used in the soup as well as on it; to be efficient, toast it all at once. In a small, dry skillet over medium, toast 5 tablespoons ground cumin, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute, then transfer to a small bowl. To make soft-cooked eggs for serving, bring 2 cups water to a simmer in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add the desired number of eggs, cover and steam over medium for 7 minutes. Immediately transfer the eggs to ice water to stop the cooking,

8

Servings

Tip

Don't forget to soak the dried chickpeas. They need to soak for at least 12 hours before cooking.

1 hour

2 cups dried chickpeas
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons ground cumin, toasted
6 tablespoons harissa paste
3 quarts low-sodium chicken broth or water
8 ounces crusty white bread, sliced ½-inch-thick and torn into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
harissa paste, to serve
2 tablespoons ground cumin, toasted
8 soft-cooked eggs, peeled and halved
1/2 cup drained capers
1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lemon wedges
For the soup:
  • 2

    cups dried chickpeas

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 5

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1

    large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)

  • 6

    garlic cloves, minced

  • 2

    tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2

    tablespoons ground cumin, toasted

  • 6

    tablespoons harissa paste

  • 3

    quarts low-sodium chicken broth or water

  • 8

    ounces crusty white bread, sliced ½-inch-thick and torn into bite-size pieces

  • 2

    tablespoons lemon juice

To garnish:
  • harissa paste, to serve

  • 2

    tablespoons ground cumin, toasted

  • 8

    soft-cooked eggs, peeled and halved

  • ½

    cup drained capers

  • ½

    cup chopped pitted green olives

  • ½

    cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • ½

    cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Lemon wedges

Directions
  1. 01
    First, soak the chickpeas. In a large bowl, combine 2 quarts water, the chickpeas and 1 tablespoon salt. Let soak at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain the chickpeas and set aside.
    See Demo
  2. 02
    In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it browns, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cumin and harissa, then cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chickpeas and broth, then bring to a boil over high. Reduce to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the chickpeas are tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
    See Demo
  3. 03
    Meanwhile, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, combine the bread, the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is crisp and light golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the croutons cool in pan, then transfer to a bowl. When the chickpeas are tender, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
    See Demo
  4. 04
    To serve, place 2 to 3 tablespoons of croutons in each serving bowl. Ladle chickpeas and broth around them, then drizzle with oil. Garnish to taste with harissa and cumin, then top each portion with 2 soft-cooked egg halves and 1 tablespoon each capers, olives, parsley and cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.
    See Demo
Tip: Don't forget to soak the dried chickpeas. They need to soak for at least 12 hours before cooking.
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Reviews
Key H.
May 18, 2022
I now make this weekly
Instead of broth or water for this soup, I use the liquid the chickpeas have cooked in. I don’t always have bread for croutons, cooked grains like farro or bulgur are a nice texture here but couscous would also work well.
Charles W.
July 23, 2022
Addictive!
Amazing depth of flavors, well worth the effort and it keeps well for several days.
Michele R.

When the photo of this dish made the cover of a Milk Street magazine many months ago with sub-title "Best Soup in the World", it looked so delicious and with that title in mind we made it a couple of days later. We took homemade chicken stock out of the freezer for the base and we loved the seasonings and the genius idea of the croutons in the bowl first. What we discovered was as much as we enjoy chickpeas as ingredient in many things and love them in hummus made from scratch , we didn't enjoy chickpeas as the main ingredient of this dish. But we so liked all other elements enough that we saved the recipe for "try again". That was last month and we took the not traditional path of subbing Great Northern beans (Rancho Gordo brand) for the chickpeas. We enjoyed it. A lot. Great Northerns tend to really take on the flavors of what they're cooked in also tend to hold their shape when cooked so they turned out to be a good alternative. The flavors even improve overnight if you want to make it up to before garnish step and refrigerate to reheat. It is "ahhh..." worthy when garnished so "company's coming" worthy too.

David K.

This is the best soup in the world. It's awesome! I was surprised to find that the eggs (we hard boiled them) are excellent in it as well. We all love to put out own touch on it with lemon, cilantro, olives, and/or eggs. Definitely use the dried beans, makes a huge difference.

Jeffry B.

Terrific dish, especially for chickpea lovers. Made my own harissa and broth and used my Instapot to cook the chickpeas. Great flavor and texture.

Kelly G.

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Elizabeth C.

This soup looks delicious. Could another bean be substituted without compromising the recipe? I love garbanzo beans, but sadly they do not like me.

Lynn C.

Hi Elizabeth -

Since this is a traditional Tunisian chickpea soup, we never tested it with other types of legumes. However, it looks like another reader posted above that they tried and liked it with Great Northern beans.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Mary S.

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MARY P.

The flavor of this soup is outstanding. I used Orrington Farms vegan "chicken" flavored broth base. I had problems with the chickpeas not getting soft. They were fresh from the store, and I soaked them in plenty of water on the counter for about 14 hours. It still took almost 3 hours of cooking for them to become soft. Not sure where I went wrong, but luckily I was making this ahead. For the eggs, I cracked them into the simmering soup for a few minutes as I was too lazy to mess with soft-boiling them - this worked great but not as photogenic as the soft cooked eggs.


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Chickpea and Harissa Soup (Lablabi)

Get Ready to Cook

8

Servings

1 hour

Tip

Don't forget to soak the dried chickpeas. They need to soak for at least 12 hours before cooking.

For the soup:
  • 2

    cups dried chickpeas

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 5

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1

    large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)

  • 6

    garlic cloves, minced

  • 2

    tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2

    tablespoons ground cumin, toasted

  • 6

    tablespoons harissa paste

  • 3

    quarts low-sodium chicken broth or water

  • 8

    ounces crusty white bread, sliced ½-inch-thick and torn into bite-size pieces

  • 2

    tablespoons lemon juice

To garnish:
  • harissa paste, to serve

  • 2

    tablespoons ground cumin, toasted

  • 8

    soft-cooked eggs, peeled and halved

  • ½

    cup drained capers

  • ½

    cup chopped pitted green olives

  • ½

    cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • ½

    cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Lemon wedges

Step 1 of 4

Soak and drain the chickpeas

2
quarts water
2
cups dried chickpeas
1
tablespoon kosher salt

First, soak the chickpeas. In a large bowl, combine 2 quarts water, the chickpeas and 1 tablespoon salt. Let soak at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain the chickpeas and set aside.

Step 2 of 4

Cook and simmer

2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1
large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
6
garlic cloves, minced
2
tablespoons tomato paste
2
tablespoons ground cumin, toasted
6
tablespoons harissa paste

In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it browns, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cumin and harissa, then cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chickpeas and broth, then bring to a boil over high. Reduce to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the chickpeas are tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Step 3 of 4

Prepare the croutons

8
ounces crusty white bread, sliced ½-inch-thick and torn into bite-size pieces
3
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½
teaspoon kosher salt
2
tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, combine the bread, the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt.


Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is crisp and light golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the croutons cool in pan, then transfer to a bowl.


When the chickpeas are tender, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Step 4 of 4

Garnish and serve

Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
Harissa paste, to serve
2
tablespoons ground cumin, toasted
½
cup drained capers
½
cup chopped pitted green olives
½
cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
½
cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lemon wedges

To serve, place 2 to 3 tablespoons of croutons in each serving bowl. Ladle chickpeas and broth around them, then drizzle with oil.


Garnish to taste with harissa and cumin, then top each portion with 2 soft-cooked egg halves and 1 tablespoon each capers, olives, parsley and cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.

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