This creamy red lentil soup is an easy vegetarian dinner recipe that’s ready in under an hour. Serve it with a side salad or fresh bread for a full meal.
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 they’re budget-friendly. Just looking at their bright, happy color can cure any case of the winter blues (though we’ve 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 red lentil soup is quite simple to make, it turns out with a complex and delicious flavor. What takes the cake in this red lentil soup 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.
Tips for making this red lentil soup
This red lentil soup is incredibly easy to make, but there are a few key things you can do to make the prep work even easier. If you have time, make sure to soak the lentils in a bowl of water overnight before you make this recipe. Soaking the lentils cuts down the cooking time and means you have less hands-on time to worry about when making this soup.
To make this lentil soup extra creamy, we pureed the mixture using our immersion blender. However, if you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender (just be careful when pouring the hot soup in!). And if you don’t have access to a regular blender, just eat this soup chunky! You could also experiment with grating the onion, garlic, and carrots before cooking them to make this soup smoother. And instead of diced tomatoes, you could use pureed tomatoes (just make sure they’re plain tomatoes without added seasonings). We’ve only ever made this red lentil soup with our immersion blender, so I can’t speak to how well these swaps will work, but I imagine the flavor will be just as good!
We enjoyed this as a first course for a lovely dinner with friends, but I 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.
Looking for more easy lentil recipes?
- Lentil Tacos
- Lentils and Pearl Couscous with Mint
- Lentil and Rice Summer Salad
- Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with French Lentils
- Lentil and Goat Cheese Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
This recipe is…
Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free.Print
- 1 1/2 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
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- 1 lemon
- Fresh cilantro, to garnish
- If possible, soak 1 1/2 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.
- Chop the onion. Mince 4 cloves garlic. Chop the 2 carrots. Chop a bit of cilantro (if using for a garnish).
- 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.
- Add the tomatoes, 3 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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
Keywords: red lentil soup
About the Authors
Cookbook Author and writer
Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Cookbook Author and photographer
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious.