Roasted Garlic Chicken Soup with Harissa

I rarely cook Arabic food. I grew up eating it, so my standards are high. I’m afraid that my flavor memory won’t match my cooking. Basically, have no faith in my ability to cook like my mom. And, to top it all off, my mother never gave me her recipes. So, I’ve spent a good chunk of my youth trying to get her recipes right. But don’t worry, as I get them, I will post them. Because I have a heart. Unlike my mother. 

Roasted Garlic Chicken Soup with Harissa |
Roasted Garlic Chicken Soup with Harissa

What makes this recipe so very Arabic is the harissa. So please don’t skip it. If you insist on buying a pre-made paste I won’t judge you (too hard). But I will ask that you try it sometime. It keeps well in the fridge and is freezable. I like to make it the day before to give the flavors a chance to get friendly with each other. In addition to the dollops that you will put into this garlicky soup; harissa is great on pretty much everything.  Here is a short list:

  • Shakshuka (eggs poached in a spicy fragrant tomato sauce)
  • Mixed with greek yogurt (or lebneh) and used as a dip for kabobs and grilled meats.
  • Diluted with olive oil and used as a marinade for salmon, whole chicken, or leg of lamb. 
  • Diluted with olive oil and a bit more lemon and made into a killer salad dressing. 
  • Mix a few spoonfuls into sautéed shrimp or on clams/mussels while they steam.
  • To top burgers. Dip french fries into. Mix into homemade mayo. Into sour cream. CREAM CHEESE. 
  • Added to butter. As in compound butter. 
  • Add to any tomato based sauce to give it a kick. 
  • Roasted harissa potatoes, anyone?


See? This stuff is like magic. 

As far as the soup, hopefully by now, you know the drill. The best tasting soup will be made with a broth made by you. It’s not that hard, especially if you have a pressure cooker. Plus, don’t you want to be cool? Bone broth is hip now. I highly recommend you stop being squeamish and make that broth with some chicken feet, necks, and any other chicken scrap you can find. The more the merrier. Are you brave enough to use chicken heads? For more info on being the best broth maker you can be, read here

Also, roast extra garlic while you are at it. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I had just done eight heads. Like the harissa, they too, freeze well and add a ton of flavor to otherwise meh foods. 

Roasted Garlic Chicken Soup with Harissa |


Roasted Garlic Chicken Soup with Harissa
Serves 4
A garlicky and subtly spicy chicken soup that warms and nourishes. Made with an authentic homemade harissa paste fragrant with whole toasted spices, roasted peppers, and bright lemon juice.
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 25 min
Total Time
1 hr 35 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 25 min
Total Time
1 hr 35 min
For the Harissa
  1. 1 roasted red bell pepper
  2. 1 roasted Anaheim chile
  3. 1/4 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds
  4. 1/4 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
  5. 1/4 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds
  6. 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  8. 1 small jalapeño, roughly chopped
  9. 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  10. 3 level tablespoons tomato paste
  11. juice from 1.5- 2 lemons
  12. 1 teaspoon of salt
  13. 1 tablespoon olive oil + a little for covering
For the Soup
  1. 3.5 rounded tablespoons of roasted garlic paste, from 3 medium heads of garlic
  2. 1.5 tablespoon of butter
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 2 cups of finely chopped leeks, from 2 leeks, tops and outer leaves removed
  5. 1 cup finely chopped celery, from 2 stalks of celery
  6. 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot, from 1 peeled carrot
  7. 1 pinch of salt
  8. 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  9. 1 cup white wine
  10. 6 cups warmed chicken broth
  11. Chicken reserved from broth making** or 1 lb chicken thighs cut into chunks
  12. 5 small red potatoes, cut into rounds
  13. salt and black pepper to taste
  14. handful of roughly chopped parsley and cilantro, for garnish
Roast Peppers and Garlic
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel excess layers of garlic off. Cut top portion of garlic heads off and place on a large square of parchment lined aluminum foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil and lightly tent the garlic square shut. Place the foil tent on a silpat lined baking sheet. Lightly coat the bell pepper and Anaheim chile with olive oil and add to baking sheet as well. No need to tent the peppers.
  2. Roast garlic for about 30-40 minutes. Checking the chiles at the 15 minute mark to make sure they don't burn. Chiles will be done at around 20-30 minutes. Pull them out and place in a covered bowl to let them steam a bit before you peel. Peel and deseed the chiles and set aside. When garlic is golden brown take out and let cool before you remove all of the garlic and pound into a paste.
To Make Harissa
  1. In a dry skillet over medium high heat, toast the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds for about 1-2 minutes until very fragrant. Remove and grind into a powder with a mortar & pestal.
  2. Return pan to stove and heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add red onion and allow to cook until edges turn brown, about 10 minutes. Add jalapeño and garlic and let cook for an additional 4 minutes. Stir as needed.
  3. Add red onion mixture to a blender along with the roasted red bell pepper, roasted Anaheim chile, ground spices, tomato paste, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. The paste should be thick. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. *See notes for harissa storage.
To Make the Soup
  1. In heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium high heat. Add chopped leeks, celery, and carrot. Add a pinch of salt and allow to cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Don't allow to brown.
  2. Lower heat to medium low and add roasted garlic paste and thyme. Stir gently and allow to cook for about 3 minutes. Careful to not let paste burn or stick, lowering heat as needed. Then add white wine and let simmer on low for 5 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth and bring to a light simmer then lower heat to medium low, add chicken* and potato rounds. Allow to cook covered until potato is tender and chicken is cooked through (if starting with raw).
  4. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. If soup tastes a bit flat that is a good indication it needs more salt. Add herbs and serve with harissa or stir in a good 1/4 cup before serving.
  1. * Harissa can be made the day before. Lasts for about 3 weeks in the fridge in a sealed glass jar. Freezes well in ice cube trays. Lasts for 3 months in the freezer. Before storing, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top.
  2. ** I typically make my chicken broth with a whole chicken, so I have meat leftover to use in soups. Please see this post for instructions on how to make chicken broth.
nutrients, you fools!

Feel like telling me how much of a jerk your mom is? Leave that drama in the comments. You guys are the best. 

11 comments on Roasted Garlic Chicken Soup with Harissa

  1. Probably won’t be using chicken heads or fish heads in my broth’s. My mother was a great cook, nothing like coming into a wonderfully smelling kitchen, opening a pot on the stove, being greeted by beef heart or beef tongue. She did use chicken feet in her chicken broth, but I didn’t want to know about it.

  2. Although she grew up with a great cook, my mother didn’t cook much. She made hamburgers, the occasional pot of soup, meatloaf, spaghetti with sauce poured on straight from the jar and broiled meat. For veg, she opened cans and dumped the contents, cold, onto our plates. No baking. Ever. Oreos and Drakes snack cakes were all we knew.
    When I asked her to impart her limited wisdom, she replied, “I learned to cook after I got married and so will you.” I learned from the Food Network.
    See? It’s not just you. :)

      1. They couldn’t cook, either, lol. My one grandmother’s lack of kitchen prowess was legendary – hamburgers were blobs of ground beef cooked until there was no moisture left – and my other one actually had someone else cook for her!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: