Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup

Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup Recipe

I'm deep in the middle of a streak where I cook primarily from other people's cookbooks. Every now and then it's a groove I fall into, sometimes lasting a few weeks, other times a month or two. There's something creatively energizing, and at the same time, relaxing about following a recipe written by another cook or writer I admire. I like to mix it up a bit by alternating between recipes from new volumes (like the one today), and recipes from older titles (the Sopa Verde from last week). It's a practice that tends to shake out the creative cobwebs for me. So, that's where my head was at when I turned to a stack of books the other night. I was asked to bring a soup for a group of friends getting together for a casual, coastal overnight in beautiful west Marin. There were a number of recipes that were contenders, but a spicy chickpea soup from Yotam Ottolenghi's upcoming cookbook, Plenty More, caught my attention. It features a seductive, red harissa broth fragrant with cumin, coriander, and caraway, and enough chickpeas and bulgur to make it work as a main course. An herb-whipped feta is the crowning dollop. We enjoyed it after an invigorating stroll along the coastline just as surfers were catching the last waves before sunset - I popped off a few snapshots along the way...

Plenty More Chickpea Soup RecipePlenty More Chickpea Soup RecipePlenty More Chickpea Soup RecipePlenty More Chickpea Soup RecipePlenty More Chickpea Soup Recipe

That first shot (and the one with the surfers and fishing boat) is looking south toward the Golden Gate - people surf, paddle board, swim, and fish from the shore. The clouds were settling in, and they weren't just coastal fog and mist, we had a few hours of real rain - but none since.

Plenty More Chickpea Soup Recipe

I really like this soup with a finishing squeeze of lemon juice, or a sprinkling or chopped olives. I had it the next day with a poached egg for dinner, with a swirl or arugula pesto (Deborah Madison's Marjoram Sauce would be nice too). Just play around with whatever you have on hand to give a generous pot of soup a few twists for a nice series of meals.

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Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup

A few notes - scale back the harissa a bit if you are sensitive to heat (or if your harissa is on the spicy side). Yotam wrote this recipe using bulgur (as you see it below), but because I had cooked farro on hand, I took the liberty of swapping that in, in place of the bulgur. I imagine brown rice could be a welcome substitute too.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, cut into 3/8-inch / 1-cm dice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3/8-inch / 1-cm dice
4 celery stalks, cut into 3/8-inch / 1-cm dice
2 tablespoons harissa paste
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups / 500 g drained cooked chickpeas (canned are fine)
4-5 cups / 1 liter+ water
3/4 cup / 100 g coarse bulgur wheat
3 teaspoons fine grain salt, or to taste
black pepper, to taste

Creamed feta paste

3 1/2 oz / 100 g feta, broken into large chunks
1/4 cup / 60 g crème fraîche
1 cup / 15 g cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup / 15 g mint leaves
1/8 teaspoon fine grain salt

to serve: mint, cilantro, and/or celery leaves

Put the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until translucent. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and continue cooking for another 8 minutes. Add the harissa, cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring well. Gently mix the chickpeas into the vegetable mixture--you don't want them to break down--along with most of the salt and plenty of black pepper. Add most of the water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the bulgur, put in a small saucepan, and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. Drain, refresh under cold water, drain again and set aside.

To make the feta paste, put the feta, crème fraîche, cilantro, mint, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a small food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes, until a smooth, creamy paste forms. Keep in the fridge until needed.

Before serving, add the cooked bulgur to the soup and bring to a gentle simmer. Divide the soup among bowls, add a spoonful of feta paste to each bowl, top with some herbs, and serve at once.

Adapted slighty from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 30 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I spent much of 1967 in the coastal town of Bolinas. Living back in New York, I miss the fog, ice plants and remarkable beauty of Marin. Nice to see the photos.

Donna J

This looks like such a warming soup for fall. I love spicy soups, and this one looks different than anything I've tried before.

I cannot WAIT to get my hands on Plenty More; so jealous! In the meantime, this looks like a winner, and just the thing for these chilly evenings. Warming broth + beans + whipped feta? Yes, please!

Just in time for the downturn in British weather!!!!! This will feature heavily over the coming months. Thanks for posting

Viva la cumin especially when paired with chickpeas--it doesn't get any better in flavor!

I will definitely be making this one. Sounds like a perfect winter meal. Might add some diced squash for a mock-Tagine.


Another winning recipe of Ottolenghi's, no doubt. Love the harissa broth and your idea to top leftover with a poached egg.

This looks so hearty and satisfying. It's going on next week's family dinner menu:)

I have all of Ottolenghi's cookbooks and can't wait to get my hands on this one. Thanks for the recipe. Also seems fitting because he gave you a really nice shout out in a UK paper saying that your 'Super Natural Everyday' is one of his inspirational cookbooks of choice! (and one of my faves as well!)


I'm such a fan of your curated selections of wonderfully delicious recipes. Thank you. Some of my favorite meals this past year have come from your site.


I love this! We've been on a soup kick at our house lately (including an adaptation of your cauliflower soup with mustard croutons whereby the mustard is dolloped into the soup at the end... delicious!), so this will fit the bill. I always have bulgur on hand, so I'll probably follow the original instruction. As an aside, your photos in this post are really moving. Something about the stillness in motion of the stormy ocean... Very touching.

Nice uplift for a chickpea and Bulgur soup with harissa. The flavors must be very comforting for the chilly weather. The scenic snap through the woods is amazing!!

That soup is all I want right now, love using harissa, the spicier the better. I also love finishing most soups and sauces with a squeeze of lemon juice. Just brings out the flavours, no? And what absolutely beautiful pics from the surfers in the bay. Looks like it could be somewhere tropical on a moody day.

This both looks and sounds fantastic! Over the last few years I have enjoyed discovering new food in all the cookbooks that had until that point been pretty much just neglected. The ingredients in this is so warming with the lovely spices, delicious! Thanks for the inspiration :) x

That was one of the recipes that really caught my attention – attracted by the substantial nature of chickpeas and the fragrance of harissa. I can see myself cooking a lot from this book, much like the previous. Thank you for sharing these beautiful textured images – they are very inspiring yet calming, perfect to set the mood in these early fall days. x

I imagine this soup must have been just perfect after your walk by the sea and a cool, refreshing breeze of coastal wind!

I'd love to try this. But harissa is something new to me. Where do I purchase it, what is it, and can I substitute? Looks like a lovely place to enjoy a bowl of hot soup.

Hi Annie - you can buy it at many grocers - for example, I'm not sure where you live, but Whole Foods would have it. Or, even better, you can easily make a batch yourself - along these lines.


Swoon all around. The seductress soup. The rain. The peekaboo shot through a moss draped tree. Loving these recipes with color vibrato!

This looks so hearty and warm! Love the use of harissa. I was looking at the photos, thinking wait that looks like farro, not bulgur, then I saw your note on your recipe :) I imagine it would work well with either- thanks for sharing!

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