Freekeh Vegetable Soup

Cookbook ClubSoupMiddle EasternFreekeh

Simple ingredients come together to make a deeply satisfying and nourishing soup. Freekeh, smoked wheat, adds a character and body while vegetables like kohlrabi, carrots, and zucchini boost the nutrition and flavor factor.

Soup is a year-round dish for me, but I’m also one of those people who carries a sweater even in the triple-digit heatwave of summer. You never know when someone might be a bit too aggressive with the air conditioning!

When it comes to soup, I like it hearty and loaded with vegetables and this Freekeh Vegetable Soup from the cookbook Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen by Adeena Sussman checks all the important boxes for me.

“It’s not all palm trees and hot beaches; Tel Aviv has a winter, too, bringing hard rain and strong winds that practically make you beg for a bowl of soup,” Adeena writes in Sababa.

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A Cookbook Worth Treasuring

Sababa is one of the most used and tattered cookbooks in my home. I’ve made more than 20 recipes from it in the six weeks I’ve owned it, and I have yet to find one that didn’t work or I didn’t absolutely love. The book was published in 2019, and I stumbled into it through our 2020 Summer Cookbook Club.

WHAT IS FREEKEH?

Freekeh is readily available in most grocery stores and Middle Eastern food markets in the US. In standard grocery stores, you are likely to find it in the health food, global food, or grain sections of the store.

“Freekeh (smoked, cracked wheat) adds both body and flavor to this [soup]. Though most wheat in Israel is imported, a small amount is harvested locally every spring,” Adeena writes in Sababa. “In Arab communities, prized young green wheat is picked and dried in the field over wood to create freekeh (pronounced “freaky” in Israel), a beguiling grain that can be used a million ways (though some of the freekeh I buy here is local, much of it is imported from Turkey). If you throw in a little extra, its starch makes the soup grow thick, so that one minute you have a normal broth and the next you’re looking at almost-porridge . . . but in the best possible way. The freekeh adds just a wisp of smoky flavor, as though a blown-out match had passed through each spoonful for a second.”

A dutch oven with vegetarian soup with freekeh along with a ladle and two bowls.

SWAPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

This soup, like most soups, lends itself well to substitutions.

If you can’t find freekeh try:

  • Bulgur
  • Quinoa (although the soup won’t be as thick)
  • Small pastas like orzo

Vegetables:

  • Kohlrabi for potatoes
  • Yellow summer squash for zucchini
  • Parsnips for carrots

CAN YOU FREEZE FREEKEH VEGETABLE SOUP?

Although I think most soups freeze well, I draw the line at soups with tender summer squash like zucchini. Freezing breaks them down a little too much for my taste. If you skip the squash, this soup would freeze beautifully.

MORE GREAT SOUP RECIPES!

LEARN MORE ABOUT ADEENA SUSSMAN AND ISRAELI COOKING

If you’re looking for more great recipes, check out Adeena Sussman’s book, Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen. Autographed copies are available in our Simply Recipes Shop.

Freekeh Vegetable Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8

Freekeh Vegetable Soup recipe from Sababa by Adeena Sussman, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Adeena Sussman

Ingredients

  • 1 cup freekeh (cracked or whole)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium kohlrabi, rind and tough outer membranes peeled off, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth, plus more if needed
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 Parmesan rind or 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh za’atar or oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • Chopped fresh herbs (za’atar, parsley, chives, or scallions), for garnish

Method

1 Prep the freekeh: Place the freekeh in a medium bowl, cover with cold water, and set aside.

2 Sauté the vegetables: Heat the olive oil in a large (4- or 5-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 8 minutes. Add the kohlrabi and carrots and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 minutes; season generously with salt and black pepper. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.

3 Assemble the soup: Drain the freekeh, rinse it with cold water, and add it to the pot. Add the broth, zucchini, Parmesan rind if using, za’atar, salt, and the cayenne.

4 Cook the soup: Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the soup is thickened, 25 to 30 minutes (or a few minutes longer if you’re using whole freekeh instead of cracked freekeh).

5 Serve: Remove the Parmesan rind, season with more salt and black pepper to taste, divide among bowls, garnish with herbs, and drizzle with olive oil.

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Summer Miller

Summer Miller is the Senior Editor for Simply Recipes based in Nebraska. Her work has appeared in Bon Appetit, Eating Well, Grit, SAVEUR, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, among others. Her first book is New Prairie Kitchen (Agate Publishing, 2015).

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A dutch oven with vegetarian soup with freekeh along with a ladle and two bowls.Freekeh Vegetable Soup