Moroccan Split Pea Soup – ”Bissara”
There are many versions of the split pea soup, but the version I like – if not the only version I like – is the version I grew up eating in Morocco. The Moroccan split pea soup – or Bissara – is a hearty, healthy, and delicious soup full of flavor. The steps to make this pea soup are simple, the ingredients are a handful and you will be amazed at the deliciousness you will be able to create.
Growing up in Morocco, this soup was part of our weekly menu, especially during the cold season. It’s the salty equivalent of a comforting hot chocolate. The combination of creamy peas, spices, aromatics, and rich olive oil is heaven to the body and soul.
And that’s not all.
You can have this comfort dish without feeling one ounce of guilt. All the ingredients are nutritious and immunity-boosting. The creaminess comes from the peas, and the only fat is olive oil.
The Bissara split pea soup is very popular in Morocco. In the northern cities of the country, like Tangier and Tetouan, it is part of the breakfast menu, served with homemade bread, black olives, and natural goat cheese. It gives people living in these cold cities what their body needs to combat the cold: healthy energy and immunity-boosting properties.
Do Split Peas Need to be Soaked Before Cooking?
I like to soak my split peas for at least a couple of hours, sometimes overnight, before cooking them. The soaking process makes them more digestible and slightly shortens the cooking time. Of course, you don’t have to soak them, but they might need more time before they are completely tender.
A good thing to know is that this split pea soup recipe can be made either by using split peas, dried fava beans, or a mix of both. The cooking process will stay exactly the same. So use whatever you have at home. As I can’t find dried fava beans where I live, I often make my Moroccan Bissara with split peas.
The fava bean version will have a light beige color and will taste different with a delicious nutty aftertaste. So it can be a great way to change things up and diversify your recipe.
How To Make this Split Pea Soup?
To make this Moroccan split pea soup, you will need no peeling, no grating, or sauteing. It all comes down to cooking the split peas and garlic in hot water, mixing in a food processor, and adding the aromatics. And that’s it!
I told you, it’s really easy.
If you have an instant pot or any other pressure cooker, you can speed up the cooking process quite considerably. Otherwise, a simple saucepan filled with hot water will do the trick. Just make sure you watch it, to avoid overflowing.
You can also cook the split peas in a crockpot or slow cooker. It will take between 8 to 10 hours, depending on your device.
Spices are a must in this recipe, especially cumin and paprika, bringing the best out of the split peas. If they are not fresh or fragrant enough (this happens when they have been open for months), try to get fresher ones. If you can’t, just add more quantity. You should be able to smell them in the soup.
The other two important ingredients are olive oil and garlic. They both are good antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, perfect for winter, or when fighting a cold. So using virgin olive oil and fresh garlic will give this soup powerful immune-boosting properties.
Here are the detailed steps to make my family’s Moroccan split pea soup.
Split Pea Soup Easy Moroccan Recipe
- Pressure cooker, slow cooker or regular saucepan
- Food processor
- 1.5 cups Split peas, natural & preservative-free soaked for at least 1 hour, drained
- 4 cups water
- 2 medium-sized garlic cloves, peeled and grated
- ¼ tsp extra hot chili powder or any spicy powder (red-pepper, habanero, etc.). Add more if you like spicy hot flavors.
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground paprika
- 3 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- ½ tsp salt adjust according to your taste
- If you are cooking in a pressure cooker, place the split peas, garlic, and water in the pot. Cook for 8 minutes on high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally.
- If you are cooking in a slow cooker, it should take between 8 to 10 hours until the peas are cooked and tender.
- If you are cooking in a saucepan, double water quantity and cover halfway to avoid overflowing. Cook on medium heat until tender (approximately 45 to 60 minutes), skimming the bubbles that rise to the surface. If you experience overflowing, try to cover the pot halfway. Add more water if it evaporates: There should be enough water to create a soup consistency when blending everything together later on.
- Once the split peas are well cooked and tender, let the entire mixture cool down a bit.
- Pour the mixture into a food processor. Add salt, pepper, cumin, paprika and ground hot pepper, then blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water.
- Pour the mixture back in your pot, add the olive oil and heat for a couple of minutes, blending the oil to the soup. If it's too liquid, let cook a few more minutes until the water evaporates and it has the consistency you like. That's also the perfect time to adjust salt and spice dosage. If you can't taste the cumin, add more until you smell it in the soup.
- Pour back into your sauce pan and let simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Serve hot. Decorate with a pinch of paprika, cumin and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Moroccan split pea soup is delicious with fresh bread, fetta cheese, and/or some black olives.
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creamy, healthy, yummy
thank you! it was a real success!
hearty and full of flavor
this is a really good comfort soup, but healthy with no extra fat. It’s full of flavors and honestly, one of the best soups I had. thank you Safa, I just got myself your ready-to-laminate recipe cards and I am so excited
Response from Moroccanzest
aww thanks, Lisa. Hope the laminated recipe cards will save you plenty of time in the kitchen and help you make delicious Moroccan dishes ♡ – xx
my favorite pea soup so far
i followed the exact steps and ingredients, the soup turned out great, thank you so much for sharing your family recipe!
really really good
the best soup for winter, creamy yet healthy.
Perfect spice blend
Actually tried the recipe but used lentils. I recommend this too!
Response from Moroccanzest
aww, thank you, Joan! and yes, you are totally right, in Morocco, we use the same spice blend for lentils -xx
best healthy soup I ever had
the creaminess of this soup is unbelievable. You would think it’s full of fat but no, it’s very healthy, very nourishing, and most importantly, DELICIOUS. thank you safa for this recipe
best soup ever
just tried it and it was delicious. thank you so much for this recipe
we loved it, it was flavorful, creamy and filling. thank you so much
best split pea soup
I don’t usually like split peas but here, they are creamy and fragrant. even my husband who is not a soup-guy loved this recipe. thank you Safa
Response from Moroccanzest
So glad you and your husband enjoyed this Moroccan split pea soup, Katt. The secret lies in the spices and aromatics. They bring the best out of the split peas. -xx
Best soup in winter!
Amazing recipe — love it! I would love to see more recipes on Moroccan soups and easy to make Moroccan breakfast.
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