Middle Eastern soups make a great starter to any main dish. Soups are particularly popular during Ramadan where they are traditionally served as the first thing to break the fast.
Freekeh soup is among the most popular Middle Eastern soup recipes. It’s a very warm, nutritious and filling soup that is packed with proteins and fibers.
Let me show you how to make freekeh soup with chicken at home.
What is Freekeh?
Freekeh is an ancient grain from the Middle East. It’s made of green durum wheat which is harvested before it’s ripened. The grains are then dried and roasted which gives them their unique roast flavor.
Thanks to the early harvest, freekeh is particularly rich in nutrients. It’s high in proteins, fibers, calcium, magnesium and iron. While freekeh has gained popularity as a “superfood” in recent years, the grain has a long history. It’s said to originate in the Middle East over 4,000 years ago.
Freekeh makes a wonderful alternative to bulgur, couscous and rice. Their usages are similar but freekeh is more nutritious when compared to any type of rice.
Freekeh Soup Ingredients
These are the main ingredients for Middle Eastern freekeh soup.
- Freekeh: Freekeh is the star of this soup. Freekeh is a grain made from green durum wheat. It’s similar to bulgur wheat, but the taste profile is different. Freekeh is a very popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, mostly used in Turkish and Arabic cuisines. For freekeh soup, you need cracked freekeh which you can find in any Middle Eastern grocery store as well as online.
- Chicken: Chicken is another key ingredient to freekeh soup, although you could also make this soup vegetarian. Chicken makes it more nutritious and it’s what most people prefer. If you’re making a very large quantity, you could use whole chicken. For just a few servings, chicken breast is the best option.
- Onion: Onion is the foundation of most soups and stews and this one is no exception. A small yellow onion is enough.
- Olive oil
- Spices: You’ll need the following ground spices: turmeric, Baharat (Middle Eastern spice blend), salt and pepper. For the best result, you’ll need a few cloves and bay leaves. If you don’t have Baharat, you can substitute it by adding ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon, as those are the three main spices in Baharat.
- Water: Water is the foundation of most soups. Use normal tap water. Stock isn’t required. You’ll need water to boil the chicken and for your soup.
- Lemon: I usually serve lemon as a garnish. That’s because some people just want a few squirts of lemon, while others like their soup to be more sour. Serving it as a side is the safest choice.
Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.
How to Make Freekeh Soup
Step 1: Cook the chicken
Start off by preparing the chicken. For freekeh soup, the chicken is traditionally cooked in hot water. Add plenty of water into a large saucepan. Place the whole chicken breast inside (it shouldn’t be diced beforehand). Add bay leaves and cloves. Turn on the stove on high heat and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce your stove to medium heat and boil the chicken for about 20-25 minutes. Skim any white residues inbetween.
Step 2: Wash the freekeh
While the chicken is cooking, wash your freekeh (in a large bowl or under running water) to remove any dirt. Drain the water and set the washed freekeh aside.
Step 3: Prepare the onion
Peel an onion and finely chop. Set aside.
Step 4: Remove chicken from saucepan
Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the saucepan. Discard the water, the bay leaves and cloves. Place the chicken on a plate. Let it cool for a couple of minutes while you proceed with the next steps.
Step 5: Fry the onion
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. You can use the same saucepan which you used to boil the chicken. Once the oil is heated, add the onion and fry it for about 3-4 minutes until translucent.
Step 6: Add freekeh and spices
Add the washed freekeh and the ground spices (turmeric powder, baharat, salt and pepper) to the saucepan and stir well. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Don’t add any water just yet. The idea is to briefly fry freekeh and spices to release the flavor of the spices before adding the water.
Step 7: Add water
Now it’s time to add the water. It’s best to add hot water from the tab to bring the soup to a boil faster (instead of cold water). Bring the soup to a boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat slightly (low-medium) and cook the soup for about 25-30 minutes.
Step 8: Shred the chicken
The cooked chicken will have cooled by now. Shred it into small pieces. You can do so by hand or by using a knife. Shredding it by hand is the preferred option so you can more easily have a mix of smaller and larger pieces for your soup.
Step 9: Add chicken to soup
Once the freekeh has boiled for about 20-25 minutes, add the shredded chicken to the saucepan. Cook it for another 5-10 minutes. The total cooking time will be about 35 minutes (that’s when the freekeh will be perfectly tender).
Step 10: Serve
Pour the soup into small bowls to serve. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley (optional). Serve with fresh lemon.
How to Serve Freekeh Soup
Soups are a popular starter in the Middle East, especially during the month of Ramadan (the fasting month). Soups are a great way to hydrate your body after a full day of fasting. While shorbat addas (lentil soup) is by far the most popular soup in Levantine countries, freekeh is a wonderful alternative. Serve freekeh as a starter before any Middle Eastern main dish.
Serve freekeh soup with fresh cut up lemon. Some people like to keep it natural, others prefer a more sour taste with more lemon.
Storage & Make Ahead
Freekeh soup is a great dish to make ahead of time. Let the soup cool completely after cooking. Then transfer it into airtight containers and keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can warm it up in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
- 150 g (1 cup) freekeh
- 450 g (1 lb) chicken breast
- 1 liter (4 cups) water for the soup
- 1 onion yellow, small
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp baharat Seven-Spice blend
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves
- 1 lemon for serving, optional
- Add hot water to a saucepan. Add the chicken breast (whole pieces) to the saucepan, together with the bay leaves and cloves. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and boil for 20-25 minutes. Skim any white residues inbetween.
- In the meantime, wash the freekeh in a large bowl and drain the water. Set aside.
- Peel and finely chop the onion. Set aside.
- Once the chicken is done, remove it from the hot water and place it on a plate. Let cool. Discard the water, bay leaves and cloves.
- Heat olive oil in a saucepan (in which you cooked the chicken before). Once it’s heated, add the onion and fry for 3-4 minutes until translucent.
- Put the washed freekeh in the saucepan. Add the ground spices (turmeric, baharat, salt and pepper). Don’t add any water just yet! Stir well and fry for another minute to allow the flavors to unfold.
- Add hot water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 25-30 minutes.
- While the freekeh is cooking, shred the cooked chicken by tearing it into small pieces (by hand or cutting it with a knife).
- Add the shredded chicken to the saucepan. Stir well and boil for another 5-10 minutes (the total cooking time should be about 35 minutes). Your freekeh will be perfectly tender by now.
- Pour the soup into small bowls. Serve with fresh lemon (optional).
- Freekeh: Freekeh is a grain made from green durum wheat. For freekeh soup, cracked freekeh is the best option. You can find it at any Middle Eastern grocery store.
- Chicken: When making a very large quantity, you could use a whole chicken. The boiling time is significantly longer though (over 1 hour). I generally stick to chicken breast as that’s the most convenient choice when making up to 10 servings.
- Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice blend, also known as Seven Spices. You can find it in any Middle Eastern grocery store or online. If you don’t have Baharat, you can substitute it by adding ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon.
- The amount of water can be adjusted to your liking. I prepare it with the amounts in this recipe card when I serve it as a starter or during Ramadan. You can make it more runny by adding more water, or less runny by adding less water. Adjust the spices accordingly (add more spices if adding more water).
- The nutritional values are rough indications. They can vary according to the exact weight, type and brand of your ingredients.
Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.