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.

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 they’re budget-friendly. Just looking at their bright, happy color can cure any case of the blues. One of our favorite ways to eat lentils is in soup, though of course they’re fabulous on nachos and in tacos as well. Here’s a recipe that’s basic but with flavor beyond your dreams: our favorite creamy red lentil soup.

Related: 15 Best Lentil Recipes

Red Lentil Soup

Why red lentils?

Red lentils named as such from their beautiful orange-pink color. Of any of the lentil varieties, the texture of red lentils breaks down the quickest. This makes it perfect for a creamy, pureed soup like this red lentil soup.

Another great recipe with red lentils? This Masoor Dal (Indian Red Lentils). Masoor dal translates as “red lentils” in Hindi. It comes out cozy and nuanced, with just the right amount of gentle flavoring.

Tips for the best red lentil soup

This red lentil soup is incredibly easy to make! Here are a few tips to consider when you make it:

  • If time, soak the lentils. If you think of it, 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.
  • Don’t skimp on the garnish. What takes the cake in this red lentil soup recipe is the garnish! The combination of crunchy toasted almonds, fresh cilantro, and tangy lemon juice takes the soup to a new level.
  • An immersion blender is helpful, but a standard blender works. To make this red lentil soup extra creamy, puree the mixture using an immersion blender. Or, use a regular blender and be careful when pouring the hot soup in! 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!

How to store red lentil soup

This vegan lentil soup reheats incredibly well and can be enjoyed for days after you first served it. Honestly, the flavor gets better the longer this soup sits in the fridge! To store this red lentil soup, let it cool almost to room temperature on your counter before spooning it into a sealed container. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

You can also freeze this red lentil soup in mason jars or single-serving containers and reheat it in the microwave as a quick grab-and-go lunch. Or pop the mason jar of frozen soup into your lunchbox, and take it to work!

red lentil soup

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.

Need an immersion blender?

An immersion blender is also called a “stick blender” or hand blender. It’s useful for making pureed soups like this red lentil soup because you can place it right into the pot instead of transferring hot soup to a blender and then back.

Get it: Immersion blender | Amazon

This red lentil soup recipe is…

Vegan, plant based, dairy free, vegetarian, and gluten-free.

Related: Try using our Homemade Vegetable Broth for this recipe!

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Red Lentil Soup


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

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.  


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ½ 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

Instructions

  1. If possible, soak 1 ½ 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.

Notes

Adapted from The New York Times

  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: red lentil soup

Looking for more easy lentil recipes?

Looking for more vegan soup recipes? 

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.

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51 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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. :)

  3. 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. :)

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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!)

    1. 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) :)

  10. This looks so delicious! Lentils have recently become one of my favorites. I will definitely be making this to bring to lunch next week!

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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! :)

    1. 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.

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

  25. This soup turned out great! I roasted cauliflower and added it to the top for a garnish. Absolutely delicious – even the meat eaters in my family enjoyed and felt fulfilled!

  26. Hey, guys! Thanks for the recipe! I made it today and have one question. Why do we put the tomatoes before the lentils? Tomatoes are acidic and basically stop the cooking process for the lentils. My lentils never really softened, thanks God for the blending…. Obviously, the recipe works for a lot of people, but could you explain a bit?

    1. Hi! We never have any issue with the tomatoes causing the lentils not to cook. You could try soaking the lentils next time for a fast cooking. Any chance you are at higher altitude? This can affect cook time.

  27. Just made this today and it is very good. I cut back a bit on the garlic and added one small cane of coconut milk. Really nice served over some rice.
    Thanks fo a good and quick recipe.

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