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This easy lentil soup is only 7 ingredients and simple to meal prep as a lunch or dinner recipe! It’s one of our top cheap and delicious healthy meal prep ideas.

Lentil soup in bowl with cumin, olive oil, salt and lentils in background.
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Every year we go through a “lentil soup phase” where we eat the same soup on repeat because it’s easy, satisfying, and extremely economical. Sometimes it’s this red lentil soup, or curry lentil soup, or the smoky lentil soup from our cookbook.

But we’ve just discovered the lentil soup that outshines them all: it’s only 7 ingredients, plant-based, perfect for meal prep, and extraordinarily delicious. We sent it to a recipe tester who said, “How is this SO delicious AND so easy to make?” If you’re looking for easy, healthy budget-friendly meals: this is a game changer.

The 7 ingredients for this lentil soup

We’ve developed several lentil soup recipes over the years: this one with a tomato-based broth, one with curry, one with red lentils, and an Italian lentil soup. But this new recipe is our favorite yet. I created it for a friend with dietary restrictions, and after recipe testing I learned this simple rule: a great lentil soup recipe works even without broth.

Ingredients for lentil soup: lentils, olive oil, cumin, celery, carrots, garlic, and onion.

Purchased vegetable broth can be expensive, especially if you have to buy two quarts of it for a single recipe. This lentil soup is just as satisfying as soups with broth using only water and salt! There are 7 ingredients you’ll need this easy lentil soup recipe (except salt and water):

  • Dried green or brown lentils: Avoid other types of lentils for this soup recipe. Green and brown work the best (packages labeled “lentils” are usually one of the two). Red lentils cook faster and could become mushy, and French or black lentils don’t have the right texture for this recipe.
  • Carrot, celery, and onion: This common trio of aromatic soup vegetables gives the earthy flavor to this soup.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic is always key to a savory flavor of a soup, especially if it’s vegetarian or vegan (it can mimic some of the umami of meat).
  • Olive oil: Olive oil is essential for sautéing and browning the vegetables, though you could swap in butter or ghee if desired.
  • Cumin: Cumin adds savory, earthy notes that make for a straightforward yet intriguing flavor. (It also tastes great with double the quantity of curry powder!)
  • Optional garnishes: We like serving with fresh ground black pepper and a sprinkle of grated Pecorino cheese. You can also add chopped parsley for color!

According to the New York Times, guidelines for the Mediterranean diet suggest eating legumes 2 to 3 times per week. This lentil soup recipe is a simple and delicious way to do it!

How to make lentil soup: step by step

This lentil soup recipe is a simple matter of chopping vegetables, sauteing them, then adding lentils and simmering for 30 minutes. There’s no need for special equipment: just a pot and a few vegetables. You’ll be surprised at the hearty, delicious flavor: and it’s so satisfying and filling! Here are a few tips for the process:

Lentil Soup Step 1

Step 1: In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes until tender.

Lentil Soup Step 2

Step 2: Add the water, lentils, cumin, and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.

Lentil Soup Step 3

Step 3: Taste and add additional salt as needed. Serve in bowls with finely chopped parsley or grated Pecorino Romano cheese, if desired.

You can eat this soup immediately, or refrigerate it immediately if you’re making it for meal prep. For exact steps and quantities, go to the full recipe below.

Lentil Soup Recipe in bowl with spoon.

Variations on lentil soup: curry, coconut milk, and more

This lentil soup recipe is so simple that once you try it, you’ll probably put it right into your regular rotation! It’s the ideal vegetarian dinner and plant based or vegan dinner idea. It’s a great template recipe that you can use and then mix and match spices according to what you have on hand and what you’re craving. Here are a few variations we’ve done:

  • Curry powder: Substitute the cumin with 2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder.
  • Coconut milk: Want a creamy spin? Stir in ½ can full fat coconut milk, or more to taste.
  • Potatoes: Add 1 small diced, peeled potato and add it to the vegetables after sautéing 5 minutes. Sauté for 3 more minutes before continuing the remaining steps.

Meal prep and storing leftovers

This lentil soup recipe is ideal for meal prep because it tastes even better over time! We make up a big batch for the week and it stores well. It’s a great healthy dinner idea that’s vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free! Here are a few make ahead tips:

  • Make and store this lentil soup for up to 1 week refrigerated. The flavor just keeps getting better!
  • The lentils soak up water during storage, so you can add slightly more liquid. If you’re making this for meal prep, the lentils will soak up some liquid over time: you can simply add a splash of water and a pinch of salt to your bowl before serving.
  • You can also freeze lentil soup. Place it in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
Lentil Soup recipe in bowl with cumin and olive oil in background.

Sides to make it a meal

This lentil soup is more filling than most of our vegetarian and vegan dinner recipes, since lentils have a solid amount of protein. Add a salad and you’ve got a satisfying meal! Here are a few sides we like to pair:

Or, browse these 20 cozy sides for soup for more ideas! Let us know what you think in the comments: we hope you’ll find it’s a simple meal prep idea for lunch or dinner.

More lentil soup recipes we love

Dietary notes

This lentil soup recipe is vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

What kind of lentils should I use for soup?

There are many lentil varieties, but brown lentils are a popular choice for soup because they hold their shape well and cook quickly. You can also use green lentils, which cook even faster. Avoid red lentils, which will disintegrate more and create a thicker soup: go to this Red Lentil Soup instead.

Do I need to soak the lentils first?

Soaking lentils is not necessary: they cook day of in just 30 minutes. It is more helpful to soak dried beans before cooking, which can shorten the cook time. See How to Cook Black Beans.

Can I freeze lentil soup?

Yes! Lentil soup freezes very well. Allow the soup to cool completely, then store it in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

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Lentil soup

Easy Lentil Soup (7 Ingredients!)


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x

Description

This easy lentil soup is only 7 ingredients (excluding salt and water) and simple to meal prep as a lunch or dinner recipe! It’s one of our top cheap and delicious healthy meal prep ideas.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) dried green or brown lentils
  • ½ tablespoon ground cumin*
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Optional garnishes: Freshly ground black pepper, finely chopped fresh parsley, grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Instructions

  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes until tender.
  2. Add the water, lentils, cumin, and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are tender (if not tender, keep cooking a few more minutes). Taste and add additional salt to taste (we usually add another ½ teaspoon) and fresh ground black pepper. 
  3. Serve immediately with grated Pecorino Romano cheese if desired, or refrigerate for meal prep. The soup lasts up to 1 week refrigerated and leftovers taste even better (you can also freeze them for up to 3 months). Leftovers may soak up extra broth, so you can add a splash of water and pinch of salt if the texture becomes too thick. 

Notes

*If desired, you can change up the spices. This soup is great with 2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder (and a half can of coconut milk, if you like). You can also substitute other spices like dried tarragon, dried oregano, and more. 

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Soup
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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13 Comments

  1. Deborah Butcher says:

    Why don’t you list the amount of sodium in your nutrition facts? I have to limit my sodium to 1500 mg a day.
    Thank you,
    Deborah

    1. We know many people watch their sodium intake closely, so to be extra careful, we don’t include sodium in our recipe information. This is because ingredients like canned tomatoes and cheese can vary in their sodium content, and we wouldn’t want to give you inaccurate info!

      If you want, you can still get an estimated sodium breakdown! Just pop the recipe into this handy website: https://whisk.com/recipe-nutrition-calculator/

      This way you can check with your own ingredients. Thank you for reading!

  2. Amanda says:

    The soup was fabulous! My husband made it and in his words: “Really simple. Really delicious!” And my kids loved it too! My son took one bite and said, “Wow, that’s really good!” And then pounded the rest of it. So, it’s a massive win over here!

  3. MariBeth Fair says:

    I made the lentil soup yesterday! Of course I didn’t have any celery, so I used extra onions and put in a sweet potato. I used curry powder and 1/2 can coconut milk. It was delicious! Very hearty and filling. Thank you so much for the easy and yummy recipe.

  4. Michele Sullivan says:

    Why can’t your recipes be downloaded to my Pinterest account? That saves pen and paper. Thank you.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      They should be able to! Have you tried the Pinterest button in the recipe card?

  5. Grace Stanphill says:

    Looks like a great recipe. I wish you included nutrition facts for those who track their macros.

  6. Bec Andrew says:

    Sounds amazing! Would you say it’s freezer safe?
    Thanks :)

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Yes, you can freeze it for up to 3 months!

  7. Christine says:

    Making this right now! I had to substitute the celery and carrots for a frozen bag of mixed veggies and I added three diced baby red potatoes!

  8. Renata says:

    Why is this SO delicious AND so easy to make?? We used 9 cups of water and simmered for 30 minutes. No need to add any more water or salt.

    We both really enjoyed this soup a lot and were both surprised at how flavorful it is.
    Thank you for yet another truly wonderful recipe that we will have on repeat here!

  9. Tracy Purvis says:

    How long do I cook this in an instant pot? I do not own a Dutch oven.
    Thank you,
    Tracy

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      You can just use a large pot here: no need for a Dutch oven! It’s just nice if you have one. If you’re looking for an Instant Pot lentil soup, we have a different version of a recipe here: https://www.acouplecooks.com/instant-pot-lentil-soup/ Good luck!