Moroccan Pea Soup with Za’atar Spiced Croutons

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You didn’t think I could get through two weeks of dry pea and lentil recipes without making soup, did you? I actually wan’t planning on making this, but this weekend was cold and rainy and we were both itching for some comfort food. So soup it was!

I didn’t want to make my standard recipe though – I wanted to spice things up! I took a quick tour of the internet for inspiration and discovered two things: 1) Not a lot of people are writing about split pea soup and 2) Even less are putting fun twists on it.


Finally, I stumbled on a Moroccan chickpea soup in an old cookbook. It looked so good that I immediately decided to go with Moroccan flavors in my soup. I adapted this recipe a lot, using smokey ham hocks, two types of dry peas, and piles of spices, I also made croutons with a za’atar inspired seasoning to give the soup a little something extra.

The result was fantastic — a richly spiced, velvety broth with just a touch of spicy heat. Crispy croutons that were so good I had difficulty not eating them all straight out of the pan. Spicy peppers that allowed each diner to customize their own dish. No, this certainly isn’t your typical pea soup.


Moroccan Pea Soup with Za’atar Spiced Croutons

This fragrant new take on split pea soup uses spices typically found in a Moroccan bazaar. You could substitute store-bought stock if you don’t have time to make your own, but you’ll lose the smokiness that gives this recipe an extra dimension. I wasn’t able to find za’atar (or sumac, which is the main component of the spice mixture) so I improvised with a mixture of lemon zest and spices. You can substitute store-bought za’atar for a more authentic flavor.

For the soup:

  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 8 cups water
  • 3/4 cups green split peas
  • 3/4 cups yellow split peas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1 Tbs black pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • croutons and harissa (below)

Add the water and ham hock to a 5-quart dutch oven or a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. Remove ham hock and discard or save for another use.

Add the peas, bay leaf, celery, onions, garlic, saffron, cayenne, cumin, and black pepper. Cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until peas have softened. Remove bay leaf, and use an immersion blender to lightly puree the soup, leaving some of the peas whole if a chunkier texture is desired. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. Season with salt to taste.

Serves 8.

Approx. 200 calories, 6.5 grams fat, 6 grams fiber, 8.5 grams protein


For the croutons:

  • 4 ounces Italian bread
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 Tbs thyme
  • 1 Tbs black sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbs marjoram
  • 2 Tbs oregano
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200. Cut the bread into small cubes (approx. 1/2-inch square). Put the cubes in a single layer in an oven-safe skillet and bake for 10 minutes to help them dry out. Combine the spices in a small dish or mortar. Use a pestle or spoon to crush and combine the spices. Toss the bread cubes with the oil and the spice mixture. Place the pan over a high burner and toast the crumbs until they are crispy — about 5 minutes.

Top with croutons and harissa.

Serves 8.


For the Harissa:

  • 4 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch coriander
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers. Soak in warm water for 15 minutes to allow them to soften. Place the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Use the side of your knife to mash the two together and create a paste. Chop the chilies. Add the chilis, garlic paste, and spices to a spice grinder or mortar and process until it begins to form a paste. Drizzle in the olive oil


Through June 15, I will be blogging healthy and unique recipes featuring lentils and dried peas under a sponsorship agreement through the USALentil and Dy Pea Council. I will then be choosing my favorite recipe to be in a contest that will be held at Although these posts are sponsored, opinions in them are my own and all recipes are original unless otherwise noted.


I’m sending this post to Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and to Two For Tuesdays

By on June 14th, 2010

About Lauren

Hi, I'm Lauren! I'm a certified plant-based cook and enthusiastic omnivore who loves looking for creative ways to make weeknight meals more nutritious. I'm the author of Heathy Eating One Pot Cookbook and Healthy Meal Prep Slow Cooker Cookbook. I also blog at The Busy Foodie.

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15 thoughts on “Moroccan Pea Soup with Za’atar Spiced Croutons”

  1. Oh, I’m so glad that you added this to our Two for Tuesday blog hop! I have been wanting to make pea soup for a while now and this recipe for it sounds absolutely delicious! What a fun series to be doing – dried pea and lentils – I will definitely be checking out the rest of your posts. I hope to see you at Two for Tuesday next week too!

  2. This recipe was as if you read my mind. This week I had craving for Moroccan food And I was hunting down the recipes when I settled with Chicken which I will be posting soon. But I can’t wait to give this recipe a try. Ham and peas with spiced croutons just sounds perfect. The picture looks so tempting.

  3. I want some of that soup!! It sounds great. What a terrific idea to add lemon zest and spices to the croutons. Many thanks for posting these recipes.

  4. This is amazing!! I love soup ANY season of the year…and you definitely made Pea Soup desireable! I’ve always liked it, but I may just crave your version! Those croutons definitely send it over the top…and I’m so happy to have a recipe to make my own harissa! Thanks so much for sharing your delicious lentil recipe with us at Two for Tuesdays this week =)

  5. You had me so curious what za’atar spice was. I actually haven’t tried sumac, but it sounds like a very interesting blend.

    We had our last snow in the last week of May and it may even snow a little tonight, so I am still in soup mood 🙂

  6. I’ve been making lots of soups lately and this is perfect to add to my repertoire. i assume those are fresh herbs you are using in the soup.

    • I actually used dried, with the exception of the cilantro, since that what I had on hand.

  7. Even though summer is here we still have some cooler days here in the valleys of BC. This soup with it’s tasty croutons would be more than welcome.

    • Its summer here too (although it was much warmer a month ago!) but we were hit with nasty weather all last week. Regardless, this is a lot thinner than most pea soups (this isn’t a “stick to your ribs” soup) so it really didn’t seem inappropriate for the season.

  8. A terrific way to spice up a pea soup, it sounds incredibly aromatic and delicious!

  9. This sounds delicious. It sounds much tastier than your average pea soup, which though comforting, can be a little boring. The harissa also reminds me of the spice swirl I made once to go on soup–just a nice little finishing touch to give soup that extra zing. Thanks for the great ideas!

  10. I’m always up for Moroccan-flavored anything! This soup sounds perfectly flavored. I also love that vibrant yellow color!


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