45 In Soups

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
What You Need
  • 1½ cups red lentils (soaked, if possible)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds
  • 1 lemon
  • Fresh cilantro, to garnish
What To Do
  1. If possible, soak 1½ cups lentils prior to cooking: place them in a large bowl and cover with several inches of cold water for about 12 hours. If you don’t have time, this step is optional; the lentils will just need to be cooked a bit longer in Step 5.
  2. Chop the onion. Mince 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, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, 3 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add 1 quart broth and the lentils. Bring to a simmer, then cook until the lentils are soft, 10 to 15 minutes if soaked, or 20 to 30 minutes if unsoaked. When the soup is done, purée it using an immersion blender (or regular blender).
  6. While the soup cooks, toast the almonds in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes (make sure to watch them constantly so they do not burn).
  7. To serve, dish the soup into bowls. Garnish with toasted almonds, fresh squeezed lemon juice, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Adapted from The New York Times


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  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    February 29, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    This sounds lovely! And I have red lentils!

  • Reply
    February 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    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
      February 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm

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

  • Reply
    Lauren @ Healthy Food For Living
    February 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Lentils were absent from my diet growing up as well – which is somewhat surprising given my health-conscious pseudo-hippie parents – but I can’t get enough of them now! This soup looks simply delicious… consider it pinned ;).

    • Reply
      February 29, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      Haha, not even hippie parents served lentils? :) Thanks — and let us know if you try it out!

  • Reply
    Katy (KatySheCooks)
    February 29, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    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 ; )

    • Reply
      February 29, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      Haha, yes it is! With several tweaks :) We’ll have to try the recipe you posted too — looks delish!

  • Reply
    March 1, 2012 at 12:01 am

    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
    janet @ the taste space
    March 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

    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
    Adrienne @ Boysenberries
    March 1, 2012 at 9:27 am

    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
    Heidi @ Food Doodles
    March 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    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
    Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum
    March 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Hey! I’ve been eating lentils all week … I’m posting the recipe tomorrow. And I can’t wait to try this soup. Love the photos (as always)!

    • Reply
      March 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      Aww, thanks! Looks like we’ve got that connection down… :)

  • Reply
    jackie @ marin mama cooks
    March 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    So funny that you posted about red lentils. I just picked up some the other day and was looking for recipe inspiration. I found it here! This soup looks creamy & healthy.

  • Reply
    Tammy D
    March 1, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    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
      March 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Haha! I don’t know if this recipe is ‘give up your birthright’ good, but it may be close :)

  • Reply
    Sara {Home is Where the Cookies Are}
    March 2, 2012 at 6:53 am

    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
      March 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      Ooo, great! Did you end up trying it out on him?

  • Reply
    marissa @ the boot
    March 2, 2012 at 7:42 am

    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
      March 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      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
    March 2, 2012 at 9:21 am

    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
    March 2, 2012 at 11:00 am

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

  • Reply
    March 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    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
    March 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    This soup looks delicious. I will have to try this one out. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    March 3, 2012 at 9:51 am

    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
    March 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    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
      March 7, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      You are so welcome! And I don’t think you can eat too much of a lentil soup :)

  • Reply
    March 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Oh, yum! I could eat lentil soup every day. And sometimes I do. And I did grow up with them–one of the benefits of West Coast living, maybe? I made this red lentil soup the other day and so far it is my favorite: http://emmycooks.com/2012/03/02/the-best-red-lentil-soup-of-2012/ I’ll have to try yours!

  • Reply
    Cass @foodmyfriend
    March 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    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
    March 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    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
      March 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      Oh, wonderful! I’m so glad you liked it, and the blog!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    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
    March 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    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
      March 13, 2012 at 7:51 am

      That sounds great with the additional chilies, yum.

  • Reply
    June 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    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
    October 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    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
      October 14, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      Awesome, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Nancy S
    October 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Made this today, and served it with coconut jasmine rice! It was so delicious!

  • Reply
    November 4, 2012 at 12:28 am

    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
      November 4, 2012 at 9:30 pm

      That’s awesome! Thanks for letting us know you enjoy it :)

  • Reply
    November 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    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
    September 5, 2013 at 12:51 am

    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
      September 8, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks for letting us know it worked out! Glad you enjoyed.

    • Reply
      September 19, 2013 at 9:51 am

      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
    January 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

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

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