Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup Recipe

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.

Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup

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.

101 Cookbooks Membership

Premium Ad-Free membership includes:
-Ad-free content
-Print-friendly recipes
-Spice / Herb / Flower / Zest recipe collection PDF
-Weeknight Express recipe collection PDF
-Surprise bonuses throughout the year

spice herb flower zest
weeknight express

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!

Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.


There are some good examples in Yayhooray's The Specialness of Handmade Things threads: one and two.

black friday abercrombie playlist

I made this soup last night for dinner and leftovers for lunch this week. I would definitely use 1 tablespoon of harissa instead of two - over ambitious. I didn't have caraway seeds and substituted with fennel seeds, nice addition to the flavor profile. Also I had to add a little olive oil to the herb feta paste, otherwise my little food processor would not have broken it down. This recipe is wonderful galore!


Harrisa broth?! Yum, sounds delicious. Your photos always make me home sick–so beautiful!

Kate @ ¡Hola! Jalapeño

I made this soup last night. After the success of the last soup we wanted to try more. It has the potential to also become a keeper in our house with two changes - 1. We cooked the vegetables for the stated length of time but they were still way too crunchy. Next time I will dice a little finer and cook a little more. 2. Check your Harissa! The one I bought was killer hot. Good thing I tried it before putting it in. 2T would have killed us. In our case 3/4 teaspoon was plenty. Easy adjustments. Will definitely make it again. Lovely photos. Thanks Heidi.


I think chickpeas with spices are a perfect mixture. I love the addition of harissa and bulgur to this one - it sounds utterly perfect :)


I'm such a big fan of Ottolenghi's recipes. Can't wait to try this soup and get my hands on his new cookbook!

genevieve @ gratitude & greens

This turned out amazing. I made a few adjustments simply out of necessity. Instead of carrots, I used butternut squash roasted with olive oil and sumac. I swapped out quinoa for the bulgur. I also added a teaspoon or so of pilpelchuma. Warms you right to the core. Thanks for sharing.


The landscape looks sooooo....amazing. I love anything with chickpeas especially chickpea salad. Delicious looking soup.

Indian Food

This looks so wonderful! I too am inspired after a few weeks of cooking from other peoples' cookbooks, especially if I'm going through a creative rut :) Love that feta topping!

Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)

Heidi you are such an inspiration!!This is one delicious looking soup!


This looks delicious - thank you for sharing! My sweetheart has a mint allergy though - even the smell makes him squirm. Any suggestions for a substitution?


Husband made this last night for us -- added some chopped kale and then a spritz of lemon to each bowl. Just perfect. Thanks, as always.


P.S: Heidi, you probably saw this already, but in case you didn't, there is a lovely mention about your blog and delicious quinoa patties (a staple around here, btw) inside Plenty More, page 215. x


I love anything chickpea, so this soup looks perfect to me. I especially love the addition of whipped feta at the end. I have never had whipped feta, but I have a feeling I will soon want to make it often and add it to everything.

kristie @ birchandwild.com



hey heidi! just wanted to write in and say how much i appreciated this recipe! i've been a big fan of yours for years now and thought i should share a little bit about myself. currently i am a peace corps volunteer serving in cameroon. i have spent the past year in a small, mountain top village where i work as an agribusiness volunteer. in my village, eating local and fresh is taken to a whole new extreme as poor road networks mean you only eat what is grown in village on a seasonal basis. this lack of variety has meant getting creative as my options for fruits, vegetables, and grains are very limited. luckily though onions, garlic, carrots, and celery are pretty constant, and i was able to use white beans and rice. my mom just sent me coriander and caraway in a care package and i was able to make a fairly successful (and very tasty) cameroonian version. thanks for keeping me inspired in the kitchen! i always check your site when i am able to get internet! -calla

HS: Love reading this Calla! So happy it worked out - I'll be sure to tell Yotam you were cooking his recipe in Cameroon as well :)

Cameroon Calla

This soup looks delicious and perfect for the cold weather! Will have to try to find some harissa and make some this week.

Anjanee @ Fig & Honey

Deelicious looking soup! Will definitely give this one a go with our seaweed :)

Mara Seaweed

I just made this but my feta paste turned into blue cheese paste with plain yogurt instead of creme fraiche, and no mint. A squirt of fresh lime juice and it was a perfect Fall meal.


This looks beautiful and so does the landscape. I'll bet it tastes amazing!

Grant @ The Sushi Knife Store

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 other peoples recipes they give me something I may have missed. Love this one.


Today was a soup day in San Francisco...at least over here in the Sunset. Burrrr. That soup and feta paste looks amaaaazing! Can't wait to make it. :)


Two soup recipes in a row!!:)


Fabulous recipe! I want to eat it now. I had a look at the book last weekend and loved it, probably more than the first. Thank you, Tracy

Tracy Wood

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.

Stacey @ Bake.Eat.Repeat.

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

Ryan @ Borough 22 Brownies

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.

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

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.

Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table

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.


Such a gorgeous and humble soup. Perfect for fall!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

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

Jules @ WolfItDown

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!


Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.

More Recipes

101cookbooks social icon
Join my newsletter!
Weekly recipes and inspirations.

Popular Ingredients

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of its User Agreement and Privacy Policy.

101 Cookbooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Any clickable link to amazon.com on the site is an affiliate link.