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Moroccan Split Pea Bessara - Vegetarian Split Pea Soup or Dip



Moroccan Split Pea Soup (Bessara)

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

The word bessara refers not only to this Moroccan Split Pea Soup or Dip recipe, but also to a tasty Moroccan Fava Bean Dip. In this version of bessara, split peas are simmered in broth with onions, garlic, paprika and cumin before being pureed. Add cayenne pepper to taste.

Use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version. The dish can also be prepared with dried chick peas, but you'll need to allow time to soak them overnight. The split peas don't need to be soaked.

Garnish the bessara with fresh cilantro or a small swirl of creme fraiche or plain yogurt. The latter are especially good if you make bessara on the spicy side. Or, you can reduce the olive oil in the recipe, and garnish the soup with a drizzle of argan oil for a light, nutty flavor that complements the split pea's natural flavor.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.


  • 1 lb. (500 g) dried split peas
  • 6 cups (1.5 liters) beef, chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste


In a large pot, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat for just a few minutes, or until fragrant and softened. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 50 to 60 minutes, until the peas are tender. Stir occasionally while cooking. If you'd like a thicker consistency bessara to offer as a dip, remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to reduce the liquids a bit more.

Puree the soup in batches* in a blender, adjust seasoning, and serve. Thinner bessara is eaten with a spoon, but thicker versions are scooped up like a dip with pieces of Moroccan bread.

*Note: If the soup is quite hot when you puree it, use caution; fill the blender only halfway and hold the lid firmly in place. (Pressure from steam can cause hot liquids to splash forcefully out of the blender.)

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