Persian Pomegranate Soup

January 23, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Pomegranate soup starts out like a classic chunky bean soup recipe, with browned onions, garlic, beans, and barley, all cooked in stock. But then all of a sudden, the ingredients screech off the familiar path into wild territory, with cumin, turmeric, dried mint, and most exotic, tart ruby pomegranate syrup, following one after the other into the pot. This is a vegetarian pomegranate soup, a deliciously unfancy Iranian dish that’s probably been around since the domestication of pomegranates.

Luckily, these days, you can find pomegranate molasses not only in Middle Eastern grocery stores, but in gourmet and natural markets as well. If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, you can always buy the juice, which is widely available, and cook it down into a syrup.

Whenever I cook with pomegranate molasses, I prefer to use brands that don’t contain sugar, because I like the pure taste of the fruit on its own and I prefer to control the amount of sweetener that gets added, but unsweetened molasses can be harder to come by. If you can’t find pomegranate in any form, a generous splash of lemon or lime will lift up the earthy flavors of beans and barley. To find dried mint, you will likely need to visit an Indian or Arabic market, or seek it out online; it’s a magical ingredient that imparts food with a savory herbal flavor, sweeter than parsley and more pronounced and fragrant than coriander.

Once you have all of the ingredients, this is an easy recipe. Like any hearty winter soup or stew, this dish gets better the longer it sits, so if possible, make it the day before serving.

Featured In: Pomegranate Stars in This Homey, Vibrant Bean Soup
Louisa Shafia

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for topping
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup yellow split peas
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup mung beans
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1 large beet, diced small
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 12 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1 bunch chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup labne or thick yogurt
  • Seeds of 1 pomegranate
  • Salt and pepper
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat and cook the onion for about 10 minutes until it starts to brown, stirring often. Add the garlic, beans, barley, beets, spices, and 2 teaspoons salt. Stir well with the cooked onions, then add the stock or water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, until the beans and barley are tender.
  2. While the soup is still simmering, stir in the dried mint and pomegranate molasses, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm topped with a splash of olive oil (if you like) and a dollop of yogurt, and a generous scattering of cilantro and pomegranate seeds.

More Great Recipes:
Soup|Persian|Bean|Beet|Cilantro|Mint|Molasses|Pomegranate|Barley

Reviews (1) Questions (0)

1 Review

Robin February 21, 2018
The recipe author is correct, at first this started out as the blandest, most uninspired barley/lentil mess imaginable. But oh man, add that pomengranate molasses, that mint! that glorious mint! and the whole thing becomes the most unusual but addicting soup ever. I stood over my dutch oven constantly having to taste it, and as I ladled in my mason jars for safekeeping and our soup supper deliveries, I thought the small town only eat white bread people would need mops for the brain explosions this soup was going to cause in their eat in kitchens. <br />A few tweaks of course: <br />reduced the salt a bit, mostly for health reasons but also because I almost compensated with some Saltopia smoky salt, just a pinch or two though. <br />Added frozen chopped spinach for some greens, no one in my soup kitchen deliveries gets enough vegetables. <br />Did not have all the dried mint, so I subbed in a few minced fresh mint leaves from the kitchen sill, it harmed the soup not one bit. <br />And lastly, in small-town Minnesota, you can bet I had to make my own pomegranate molasses, which I highly recommend!<br /><br />perfect with some crusty warm bread, a slice or two of good cheese on the side, and a glass of red wine or white, and a nice vegetarian supper is to be had by all. <br /><br />Also, the cost, outside of the pomengrante juice was not prohibitly expensive. I paid 2.50 for some POM Wonderful, but in hindsight since pomengranate molasses is so good and can be used for so many other things, I am going back for the RW Knudeson 5.28 jug later and make a vat of the stuff! <br /><br />