Here on the east coast, the temperatures have started to drop (it’s 27°F or -2.7°C as I type this), so I’ve been cozying up to all of the warming comfort food. While I don’t shy away from indulgent comfort food like Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells, I also like to throw in some less heavy dishes that are still comforting and cozy. Like this Spicy Instant Pot Carrot Harissa Soup.
Let’s talk about all the reasons I like this soup.
First of all, this is a very, very creamy soup, which means it feels satisfying and even indulgent, even thought it’s just soup. Of course it’s even better when you have a crusty piece of bread for dunking purposes, IMHO. At the same time, it’s a very nourishing soup that’s made with vitamin-rich carrots and peppers, anti-inflammatory ginger and garlic, and healthy fats from tahini and coconut milk.
Secondly, this soup is intensely flavorful, with a nice marriage of smoky and spicy aromas. Most of the spiciness and smokiness come from harissa, a Tunisian chile paste that's smoky and spicy and is made with dried chilies, spices, garlic, and olive oil. I love this brand, but Trader Joe’s also sells a decent one. I am pretty generous with the harissa, so this soup has a real kick to it. If you are sensitive to spicy food, use less harissa (about 1-2 tablespoons instead of 3 tablespoons).
While I am not always a fan of smoky food (it reminds me of smoked meat TBH), the smokiness from the harissa and roasted red bell pepper work nicely in this soup because it’s well balanced by the spiciness, sweetness from the carrots, creaminess from the tahini and coconut milk, and acidity from the lemon juice. Speaking of acidity, I’m a firm believer in finishing most cooked dishes with a bit of acidity, such as freshly squeezed citrus or some sort of vinegar, as the acid brightens and freshens up the heaviness and richness. So don’t skip the squeeze of lemon juice at the end!
Another plus for this soup: it is ridiculously easy to make thanks to the Instant Pot. After you roast the bell pepper and lightly sauté the aromatics, the Instant Pot takes care of the rest of the cooking. It’s a breeze to make soups in the Instant Pot, so if you’re looking for more Instant Pot recipes, you can find some here.
Finally, this soup makes an excellent choice for a weekly meal prep because the leftovers will stay good for at least 5 days in your fridge.
I don’t have much else to say about this Spicy Instant Pot Carrot Harissa Soup, so I hope you enjoy this easy recipe!
What you need to make this recipe
Spicy Instant Pot Carrot
Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo
1 large red bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil + more for roasting the bell pepper
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds (~680g) carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons (~45g) harissa sauce
1 bay leaf
2 1/4 cups (~532mL) low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup (~64g) high-quality tahini
1 (13.5-ounce) can lite coconut milk (~400 mL)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Garnishes: chopped scallions and cilantro
Roast the bell pepper. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Lightly brush a sheet pan with olive oil and place the bell pepper on top. Roast the pepper for 20 minutes, then using a pair of tongs, flip the pepper over and roast for another 20 minutes. Once the pepper is charred in spots, remove from the oven and cover it with a glass bowl or place in a resealable plastic bag. Steam the pepper for 15 minutes. Once steamed, roughly slice the pepper and remove the seeds.
While the pepper is roasting, prepare the soup in the Instant Pot. Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot. After a few minutes of heating up, add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, followed by the onion and carrots and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and a few turns of black pepper. Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and paprika, and cook for 1-2 minutes, coating the vegetables in the spices. Select the Cancel setting.
Add the harissa sauce, bay leaf, vegetable broth, tahini, coconut milk, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine.
Select the Pressure Cook or Manual button at high pressure and set the cook time to 10 minutes. Make sure the sealing vent is set to Sealing.
Once the timer goes off, perform a quick pressure release by carefully turning the sealing vent from Sealing to Venting. Give the soup a stir and taste for seasonings.
Transfer half of the soup to a stand blender and blend until the soup is creamy and smooth. Repeat with the remaining soup. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to purée the soup directly in the Instant Pot. Garnish the soup with scallions and cilantro if desired.