North African Chickpea Soup (Lablabi)

Tunisian Chickpea Soup

I've always been fascinated by the tantalizing and robust flavors that are so distinctive of Mediterranean cuisines. There is a vibrancy about so many of the dishes that are native to this considerable expanse of land with varying traditions and characteristics. As a vegetarian, I also find there is a wealth of dishes that are perfectly suited to a vegetarian diet, and ones that are easily adapted to suit such preferences.

This Tunisian chickpea soup, known as Lablabi, is one such example, and as I enjoy soups no matter the time of year — and certainly chickpeas, which are one of my favorite legumes — I thought that I would share this easy-to-prepare soup here. Lablabi is commonly served over small chunks of stale crusty bread, and always with plenty of toppings, notably harissa. Traditionally served for breakfast, in addition to other toppings, a poached or soft cooked egg is added to the hot soup so that the soft yolk bleeds into the the broth. The egg is not necessary at all, unless you so please, and it's enjoyable anytime of the day.

There is a bit of heat in the brothy chickpeas, which are simmered with garlic and spices, but the real kick comes from harissa, which is swirled onto each serving. One of the most interesting aspects of this dish is that it can be served with different garnishes so that each diner can add what is most pleasing to their palates and also use more or less harissa as desired.

Despite the strong and robust flavors present, it is actually a fairly light soup, but serving it up with some crusty bread makes it a complete and satisfying meal in itself, as do the toppings that adorn each bowl.


Harissa is a Tunisian fiery paste made with hot chilies, garlic, olive oil and seeds and spices such as cumin, coriander, and caraway. Sometimes sun-dried tomatoes are included as well. It is easy to make at home, but there are plenty of prepared varieties that can easily be purchased at the supermarket. No matter whether you make you own or purchase it from an outside source, do taste it before adding it to your dishes so you know what you are dealing with. Sometimes just a little is A LOT.

Note: Use 2 (14 oz) cans of chickpeas instead of the dried chickpeas if you wish to skip the steps of soaking and cooking the chickpeas. Just drain and rinse the canned chickpeas and proceed with the second step.

North African Chickpea Soup (Lablabi)North African Chickpea Soup (Lablabi)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Tunisian
Published on May 29, 2019

Easy to make spicy and brothy North African chickpea soup with an assortment of colorful and delicious toppings

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas (3 cups cooked or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Suggested toppings:
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons harissa, to taste, thinned with a little water
  • roughly chopped roasted red peppers
  • handful of pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 to 4 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and cut into strips
  • 2 to 3 green onions, sliced
  • finely chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • olive oil
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • Rinse the chickpeas and soak in several inches of water for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the chickpeas are tender, about 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

  • Heat the olive oil in the same saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chickpeas, paprika, cumin, chili powder and oregano. Stir for about 1 minute and then pour in the vegetable stock or water and stir in the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes until the chickpeas are buttery soft. Stir in the lemon juice.

  • To serve, scoop some of the chickpeas with their broth into serving bowls, swirl in some harissa, top with some roasted red peppers, a few olives, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions or fresh herbs, and drizzle in some robust olive oil. Crack some black pepper over the bowls to finish. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the liquid, or serve cubes of the bread in bowls and scoop the brothy chickpeas over top if desired, and proceed with adding toppings of choice.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

North African Chickpea Soup (Leblebi)

Other Mediterranean soups to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Vegetarian Harira (Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Stew)
French Lentil Tomato and Harissa Stew
Lentil Minestrone with Swiss Chard and Arborio Rice
Spicy White Bean and Turnip Soup
Fakes - Greek Lentil Soup

Audio accompaniment: Coil - Going Up

No comments: