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.


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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SonjaRed Lentil Soup

Comments 45

  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.

    1. Sonja

      Interesting — sounds like it wasn’t just a Midwest thing :) I agree – they’re one of my favorites now too!

  2. Katy (KatySheCooks)

    Aha! A friend tweeted me the NYT recipe yesterday — and when I went to the link I thought it sounded like the soup we ate. Can’t wait to make it — I have lots of lentils to go through ; )

  3. 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. :)

  4. 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. :)

  5. 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!

  6. 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

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