This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

This simple red lentil soup recipe is bursting with flavor! It’s hearty and cozy, flavored with aromatic vegetables and lemon.

Red lentil soup

If there’s one food that always satisfies, it’s a great lentil soup. Lentils are one of nature’s wonders: they’re full of protein, shelf stable for years, inexpensive, and make for some of the most satisfying filling meals. Here’s a perfect meal to use them: this simple red lentil soup! It’s deliciously hearty, featuring aromatic vegetables, lemon and a hint of smoked paprika.

What are red lentils? Split vs whole

Lentils are small dried lens-shaped legumes, a plant family that also includes beans, peas, and peanuts. Red lentils are a variety of lentil named for their beautiful orange-pink color. The texture of red lentils breaks down faster than most other lentils: this makes it perfect for making quick soups or dal.

Most red lentils sold at the store are split red lentils, which is what you should use here. Some packages may simply say “red lentils,” but most of what you’ll find in American grocery stores are all split red lentils. Avoid any packages that specify whole red lentils: they cook differently and hold their shape when cooking.

Red lentil soup recipe

Ingredients in this red lentil soup recipe

This red lentil soup is hearty and easy, an ideal easy weeknight meal! It’s a vegan dinner recipe that’s filling and full of plant-based protein. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Vegetables: carrots, onion, celery, garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable broth
  • Water
  • Split red lentils
  • Smoked paprika
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper

All you need to do? Sauté the aromatic vegetables, then add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the lentils are tender. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re cooking it!

How to tell when it’s done

The most important thing about this red lentil soup recipe: don’t overcook it! Cook red lentils too long and they lose their shape and turn into a mush. Sometimes that’s what’s desired, like in this delicious Masoor Dal recipe (Indian red lentils). But in this soup, you’ll want the lentils to be just tender but still hold their shape.

Make sure to keep an eye on the soup: simmer it just 7 to 10 minutes until the lentils are just soft but before they break apart. Keep in mind that some brands of split red lentils are smaller than others, meaning they cook slightly differently. For example, we’ve noticed one brand we buy cooks much faster than others.

Red lentil soup

Garnishes for red lentil soup

This red lentil soup recipe is delicious on its own, but it’s even more perfect with a few garnishes. Here’s what we like to add before serving:

  • Greek yogurt or sour cream: This adds just the right creaminess and a bright tang: it takes this soup over the top!
  • Cashew cream: For a vegan variation, use vegan yogurt or cashew cream.
  • Cilantro: A few leaves of fresh cilantro makes the dish! Or try fresh parsley instead.

Make it a meal: a few side dishes

Try as we might, a cup of red lentil soup always needs a little side dish to make it a filling meal. Here are some of the items we like to pair it with:

What else would you serve with this red lentil soup recipe? Let us know in the comments below.

Red lentil soup

More lentil recipes

Lentils are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet! Here are some other lentil recipes to incorporate into your dinnertime routine:

This red lentil soup recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Red lentil soup

Simple Red Lentil Soup

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


This simple red lentil soup recipe is bursting with flavor! It’s hearty and cozy, flavored with aromatic vegetables and lemon.


  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 celery ribs
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound split red lentils*
  • 1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream (or cashew cream for vegan), for serving
  • Cilantro, for serving


  1. Peel the carrots. Finely dice the carrot, onion, and celery. Mince the garlic.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery, and sauté until the carrots are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the broth, water, red lentils, smoked paprika, lemon zest, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
  4. Bring to a low simmer, then cover halfway and gently simmer until the lentils are just soft but before they start to break apart, about 7 to 10 minutes. Watch closely and taste to assess doneness. The finished soup should be brothy with the lentils just soft; cooking past this point yields a very thick stew which is just as delicious but less soup-like. (If you’d like, you can add handfuls of greens in the last few minutes, like chopped spinach or kale). 
  5. Taste and add additional salt to taste, and a few grinds black pepper. Leftovers can become very thick, so you can add a little water or broth when reheating.


*Most of what you’ll find in stores are split red lentils, even if it doesn’t specify split on the package. Avoid buying whole red lentils. 

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

Keywords: Red lentil soup, Red lentil soup recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I’ve come to love lentil soup from having hated it for years, so enjoy trying new tweaks to my own lentil recipes, had no idea for instance about red lentils or split red lentils, so thank you

  2. I made the recipe as written, except I used 1/2 tsp smoked paprika and the rest sweet paprika, as I am not a fan of smoked paprika. The soup was rather bland, so I believe the “bursting with flavor” must come mostly from the smoked paprika. It was also very thick, even before the lentils were fully cooked, so I would cut back on the amount of lentils. Adding more liquid was not an option as my dutch oven was already full to an inch from the top.

  3. Here’s a silly question from not-a-great-cook: if I pull the pot off the heat after simmering for just the right amount of time, won’t the lentils still break down and turn to mush as I wait for the soup to cool off before storing in the fridge? I’m making this ahead of a girls’ lunch and trying not to ruin it for the re-heating process in a few hours.

    1. Thanks for asking! You should be ok here! The lentils may soak up a bit more of the broth, but they shouldn’t get too mushy. If you want you could pull it a minute before the lentils are perfectly tender to compensate. But our soup was fine after cooling on the stove and storing leftovers!

  4. Made this for dinner this week, SO GOOD! The only thing I changed is that I added less lentils than called for because I wanted a soupier soup. Will definitely make this again!

  5. Loved it! I think recipes like this will really taste like the broth you use, so make it a good one!

    I’ll be eating leftovers this week. Definitely looking forward to it!

  6. I have tried many red lentil soup recipes. However, this is by far the best for nutrition and amazing taste using basic household ingredients. The lemon zest is the clincher. I’ve made this recipe three times in the last 4 weeks and prepared it for parents and aunts. Really in my top 10 of go-to soup recipes 👏🏻

  7. Thank you for the great recipe!
    I added the juice of the zested lemon and some cumin I had and it was very flavourful, and even better, so nutritious too!

See More Comments