Low-Carb Harissa Spiced Chickpea and Chicken Soup

Chickpea and chicken soup
Kristy Del Coro, MS, RDN, CDN

Nutrition Highlights (per serving)

Calories 258
Fat 9g
Carbs 29g
Protein 18g
View All
Total Time 60 min
Prep 30 min, Cook 30 min
Servings 6 (2 cups each)

Warm up winter with this recipe for Moroccan spiced soup. Whether cooking for one or a crowd, this soup can become one of your favorite go-to one pot meals. It can easily be made in advance and simply reheated before serving.

Cumin and coriander give the soup a fragrant aroma and the North African chili paste, harissa, adds the perfect combo of spicy heat and sweetness. Chickpeas are a great source of filling fiber and protein—these along with the chicken and spice flavors make for a satisfying meal. You'd never guess that it's under 300 calories per serving and low-carb!

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound raw skinless chicken breast (about 1 large breast)
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 small lemon
  • 1 large sprig parsley
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups small diced onion (about 1 large onion)
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups small diced carrot (about 3 large carrots)
  • 2 cups small diced celery (about 4 stalks)
  • 2 cups small diced fennel (about 1 large bulb)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons mild harissa paste (will vary depending on the spiciness of harissa)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, unsalted (2 15-oz cans, drained and rinsed)
  • 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

  1. To prepare poached chicken, place chicken breast and aromatics (coriander seeds, bay leaf, lemon, and parsley) in a small pot. Add 2 cups cold water (should be enough to cover the chicken by about 1-inch) and bring just to a simmer over medium-high heat to the point where bubbles begin to form at the edge of the pot. Lower heat to medium-low to maintain proper temperature. Cook until chicken breast reaches an internal temperature of 165F, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of chicken breast. When cooked, immediately remove chicken from pot, transfer to a plate or cutting board, and let cool.  Once cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces which will be added to the finished soup. Reserve about 2 cups of shredded chicken.
  1. Meanwhile, while the chicken is cooking, start to prepare the soup. Add olive oil to a medium stockpot over medium heat; add onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes until translucent.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, fennel, and salt; stir and cover, continuing to cook until the vegetables start to soften (about 10 minutes).
  3. When vegetables have started to soften, stir in the harissa, cumin, and coriander and cook for a minute or two until they become aromatic.
  4. Gently mix in the cooked chickpeas and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add shredded chicken to the pot and mix well. If necessary, bring soup back up to temperature for a couple of minutes to warm chicken; however, be careful to not cook for too much longer to prevent overcooking vegetables.
  6. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  7. Divide into bowls and top with chopped mint and parsley.

    Ingredient Variations and Substitutions

    This soup is very versatile! Make this dish vegetarian/vegan by simply omitting the chicken and it won't lack in any flavor.

    For a heartier meal, add 3 cups cooked bulgur wheat to the finished soup (or 1/2 cup cooked bulgur per individual bowl) to create more of a stew consistency.

    Keep in mind this will increase the carbs slightly but this is a great complement to the chickpeas and if you opt to make this dish vegetarian, the bulgur makes it a more balanced meal, adding protein and fiber. If you want to keep carbs in check, reduce your portion of soup to 1 1/2 cups when mixing with the bulgur.

    Harissa is a hot chili pepper paste commonly used in North Africa. If you haven't tried harissa before, you may soon find yourself using it with everything you make! It can be used as a condiment in place of ketchup or hot sauce or as in ingredient in a cooked dish such as this soup.

    Harissa can be purchased online but is also available in many grocery stores. There are different versions, each varying in spice intensity, so make sure you taste the one you purchase and start by adding the smaller amount in this recipe and then increase as you like. If for some reason you cannot find harissa, you can add red chili flakes or use another chili-based paste, but you may want to increase the amount of cumin and coriander and salt to make sure the flavor still comes through.

    This recipe calls for unsalted vegetable stock. Store-bought stock is perfectly fine, or make your own by filling a pot with water and adding leftover vegetable trim from chopping onions, garlic, celery, carrots, fennel, etc. along with parsley stems, 1 to 2 bay leaves, and black peppercorns. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes and strain.

    Kosher salt has less sodium by volume than table salt so cut the salt in half if using fine table salt.

    Cooking and Serving Tips

    If you make this soup from start to finish, it is best to start poaching the chicken slightly in advance or while the soup is cooking to save on time.

    If you want to do some prep in advance, the soup can be made entirely without the chicken the day before and then reheated with the shredded chicken before serving.

    Alternatively, the chicken can be made the day before, shredded, and stored in the refrigerator, ready to add to the soup as the last step.

    Although this recipe only calls for 1 to 2 chicken breasts, you can easily poach more and use leftover cooked chicken in a sandwich or salad.

    If you opt to make your own vegetable stock, prep all of the vegetables for the soup the day before and use any leftover trim (including peels from onions and carrots) to make your stock.

    Nutrition Facts
    Servings: 6 (2 cups each)
    Amount per serving  
    Calories 258
    % Daily Value*
    Total Fat 9g 12%
    Saturated Fat 1g 5%
    Cholesterol 35mg 12%
    Sodium 678mg 29%
    Total Carbohydrate 29g 11%
    Dietary Fiber 7g 25%
    Total Sugars 12g  
    Includes 0g Added Sugars 0%
    Protein 18g  
    Vitamin D 0mcg 0%
    Calcium 120mg 9%
    Iron 3mg 17%
    Potassium 767mg 16%
    *The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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