Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup

How is it that lentils are conspicuously absent from the traditional Midwest American diet? Neither Alex nor I remember eating them much (if ever) as children. It’s a shame, since they’re delicious and bursting with nutrition, not to mention budget-friendly.

Just looking at their bright, happy color can cure any case of the winter blues (though we’re had such a mild winter here in Indiana there’s not much need)!

The unfortunate part of red lentils is that cooking them takes away much of the beautiful color – but the end product is completely worth it!  (We found adding some paprika did help to liven up the color a bit.) While this soup is quite simple to make, it turns out with a complex and delicious flavor.

What takes the cake in this recipe is the garnish – don’t skimp on this one! We found that the combination of crunchy toasted almonds, fresh cilantro, and tangy lemon juice took the soup to a new level.

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We enjoyed this as a first course for a lovely dinner with friends, but know we’ll be making it again soon for an easy weeknight dinner. Since the leftovers reheat well, it is also a great option to take to work for lunch.

Other recipes with lentils:
Lentil Tacos
Lentils and Pearl Couscous with Mint

Red Lentil Soup

Serves 4
Adapted from The New York Times

What You Need
1 1/2 cups red lentils (soaked, if possible – see below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
One yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
2 carrots
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 liter vegetable broth
Sliced almonds
2 lemons
Fresh cilantro

What To Do

If possible, soak the lentils prior to cooking – place them in a large bowl and cover with several inches of cold water for about 12 hours or so. If you don’t have time, this step is optional – you’ll just have to cook the lentils a bit longer in Step 5.

Chop the onion. Finely dice the 4 cloves garlic. Chop the 2 carrots. Chop a bit of cilantro (if using for a garnish).

3  In a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes.

4  Add the tomatoes, 3 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds pepper. Saute for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5  Add the broth and lentils. Bring to a simmer, then cook until the lentils are soft – about 10 to 15 minutes if soaked, or around 20 to 30 minutes if unsoaked. When the soup is done, puree it using an immersion blender (or regular blender).

6  While the soup cooks, toast the almonds – in a dry pan over medium heat, heat the almonds, stirring occasionally, until browned – about 3 to 4 minutes (make sure to watch them constantly so they do not burn).

7  When the soup is done, dish the soup into bowls. Garnish with toasted almonds, fresh squeezed lemon juice, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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45 thoughts on “Red Lentil Soup

  1. Cara

    I didn’t grow up eating lentils in New England either, and now they are one of my favorite foods. I was just thinking that we hadn’t had anything with lentils in a while and that it’s time to get them back on our menu! This soup looks gorgeous.

    Reply
  2. Wendy

    I’m a Southerner, and I had never had lentils (honestly, had rarely even heard them mentioned) until I made your lentil tacos. Another region where they’re mostly absent, I think! You’ll just have to head up the revolution. :)

    Reply
  3. janet @ the taste space

    I love lentils and this is one of my favourite ways to cook them. This recipe is a definite winner. I like how you switched things up a bit by including paprika with the almond topping. I should try that next time. :)

    Reply
  4. Adrienne @ Boysenberries

    I am from southern ontario and I ate alot of beans growing up but literally cooked with lentils for the first time a few weeks ago!

    Reply
  5. Heidi @ Food Doodles

    Beautiful soup! I love red lentils but don’t use them often enough. I don’t remember having any kind of lentils very much as a kid either. I’m determined that it will at least be a little different for my kids :D

    Reply
  6. Tammy D

    The only thing I knew about lentils until a few years ago was that Jacob and Esau got into a tiff in the Bible over lentil stew.
    I will have to try this recipe. It looks awesome!

    Reply
  7. Sara {Home is Where the Cookies Are}

    This looks fantastic! My husband had a bad experience with lentils almost a decade ago, and he refuses to eat them. HOWEVER – the fact that these are pureed and have the benefit of his favorite flavor profile. . . now we could be on to something! I am in love with this soup already – thanks!

    Reply
  8. marissa @ the boot

    here in italy they love their lentils! they serve them simply with a small pasta, but i’ll have to make a batch of this for my in-laws, it will open their lentil horizons like whoa! (i love your blog!)

    Reply
    1. Sonja

      Thanks! Checked out your blog — very fun, and so jealous of you being located in Italy! We went there on our honeymoon and fell in love (with the country that is) :)

      Reply
  9. Audrey

    This looks so delicious! Lentils have recently become one of my favorites. I will definitely be making this to bring to lunch next week!

    Reply
  10. Anagha

    Red Lentils and many other varieties of lentils form a staple of Indian food. Growing up, I ate lentils almost at every meal.

    Reply
  11. Adam

    Gorgeous photo! Lentils are one of our favorite ingredients for a good hearty soup so we just might make this soup next time we are in the lentil mood.

    Reply
  12. Julia

    All of the flavors sounds fantastic in the soup! I never remember eating lentils as a kid either… my kid won’t be able to say the same though, we eat them, and love them!

    Reply
  13. Tessa

    I just made this soup and it was so good that I ate too much! As I sit here in my food coma, I wanted to thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
  14. Cass @foodmyfriend

    It’s getting to be quite cold again in Australia now so this lentil soup is perfect for me right now. I always make a huge batch and then freeze it in portions for when I’m feeling cold, lazy and hungry.

    Reply
  15. Sarah

    I just made this and it moved to the top of my favorite soups! The lemon and cilantro really perfected the blend of flavors! I’m so happy I found your blog, it’s exactly how I’ve been trying to cook and eat…. I can’t wait to try another recipe.

    Reply
  16. Jen

    I love the pictures yu took of the red lentils. I just made a big batch of red lentil soup and will try to cook more with them. They are so good for you.

    Reply
  17. Allison

    I made this soup for my boyfriend (a bit of a carnivore) and he LOVES it! It is so good! I subbed in a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies which gave it a bit of an extra kick!

    Reply
  18. Ceren

    Hi! The soup’s on the stove and I thought I could leave a comment while I wait :) Lentils may not be midwestern thing (I live in Ohio) but it definitely is a Middle Eastern thing (I am originally from Turkey). As a child I remember eating lentils -red and green alike- every week. It was a staple. And it really is delicious with lemon. Soups may be better suited to winter but I am making this (though it is June) because my two-year old loves it when I soak bread bits in soup and it’s a great way to get him to eat something nutritious. Glad I found your site!

    Reply
  19. Tiffany

    My friend and I made this last night. We made it without the garnishes and forgot the lemon. It is my new favorite soup. I suppose next time when I use all of the ingredients it will be even better!

    Reply
  20. Cat

    Thanks! This recipe is absolutely delicious! We cook it at least once a week (and those additions of lemon, nuts and coriander on top makes it even better) – great idea!

    Reply
  21. Cheryl

    I don’t care for lentils, I eat them only for health’s sake. I just made this soup and it is crazy delicious, I can’t imagine how good it will be tomorrow. Thanks for posting this recipe.

    Reply
  22. Alison

    I just wanted to say thank you for this recipe! I’m new to cooking and have been searching the internet for easy, healthy recipes to try – without much success. So far, this is one of the only recipes I’ve made again and again. Whenever I get discouraged by one too many “meal fails”, I turn to this soup because it has always turned out absolutely delicious! Usually I don’t bother to blend it. Tonight I’m going to try adding some spinach before serving. I haven’t tried any other recipes from this website yet but maybe that should be next! :)

    Reply
    1. Sonja Post author

      This is so great to hear, Alison! We’re so glad this soup has worked so well for you as an easy and healthy meal! Let us know if you find anything else you enjoy — or have ideas on other items you’d like to see! So glad to connect.

      Reply
  23. Anika

    I just made this soup and I agree with the couple: the garnish really takes this soup to the next level. Absolutely terrific!

    Reply

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