This red lentil soup recipe is a delicious warming comfort food widely found in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. You can make it over the fire, on the stove or in an Instant Pot.
The light spiciness makes it ideal to turn into a red lentil and lemon soup perfect for all seasons.
A healthy, quick and easy soup recipe that can be served at any time of day from breakfast all the way to supper.
Do I need to soak lentils for soup
The short answer is no but, I strongly advise you to.
It's always better to at least rinse the lentils and discard any strange looking ones.
It's the pro thing to do and it avoids any impurities ending up in your soup.
Low-quality brands might even include soil or stone which you want to avoid at all costs.
Optionally, also soak it in plenty of water for up to 4 hours.
By rinsing, checking and soaking the lentils before cooking, you are guaranteed a perfect outcome plus the lentils will cook a lot faster too.
If you are pressed for time then make sure to just wash the lentils well before adding to the pot.
What does lentil soup taste like?
The best lentil soup should be rich, delicious and comforting with perfect balance between being filling and light at the same time.
The texture could be smooth if you blend it or kept unblended for a more rustic home-style soup.
Seasonings and spices should be carefully considered and kept to a minimum so that all the flavours work together and does not become a mess of different flavours.
Think about these qualities when making a variation of this or any other lentil soup for that matter.
- Red lentils - Choose a good quality brand even if it's a touch more expensive. cheap lentils tend to cook longer, has an unpleasant powdery texture and might well include unwanted dirt and impurities in the packaging.
- Herbs - The classic Turkish version would include mint which you can easily add. In this recipe, we use cilantro and thyme.
- Veggies - Most great soup recipes start by frying a base of onion, garrot and garlic and so does this recipe.
- Stock - I used pumpkin stock but you could use any vegetable or chicken stock. Even a pale veal or lamb stock would work great.
- Cream - Cream is not a must and you can substitute it for more stock, use coconut milk or any nut or grain milk instead. With cream, it's more luxurious and rich whereas without it's healthier and lighter although still just as delicious. You pick your journey.
- Spices - We keep it classy and to a minimum in this soup. Cumin and smoked paprika provide a gentle warming spiciness without taking over.
Useful equipment for this recipe
Sauce Pan Set
Electronic Kitchen Scales
How to make it
- Cook the base vegetables - Sweat down the onion, carrot, cilantro stalks, thyme leaves and garlic in a touch of neutral cooking oil until soft and fragrant. Make sure to season it with salt when you start cooking. This will help keep it from caramelising.
- Add the spices and tomato paste - Once the base is cooked add the ground cumin, smoked paprika and tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste and spices for a minute on medium heat(no one likes raw tomato paste or spices).
- Add the liquid and lentils - Once the tomato paste and spices are cooked through, add the stock, cream(if you're using) and lentils.
- Simmer - Let the soup simmer gently on medium to low heat until the lentils are completely soft and cooked. Make sure to stir the soup often to prevent the lentils from sticking and burning to the bottom of the pan. If the liquid reduces too much simply add a touch more stock or water.
- Taste and season - Season with more salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed. You can also add freshly squeezed lemon juice at this point if you are making a red lentil soup with lemon.
- Blend(optional) - If you want a smooth red lentil soup then simply blend in a jug blender with the lid vented to avoid exploding hot soup. Alternatively, use an immersion blender.
- Serve - Once the soup is done and you are happy with the seasoning, serve immediately topped with some fresh cilantro, smoked paprika and a drizzle of good olive oil alongside freshly baked sourdough or flatbread.
Soups, stews and curries always taste better the following day when the flavours had time to fully settle and blend together.
That's why this red lentil soup makes a perfect cook-in-advance dish.
It keeps well and it's perfect for when you need to quickly serve a nutritious filling meal.
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Red lentil soup is a very versatile dish and you can easily adjust it to include protein, make it vegan or, give it flavours from other cuisines like Indian, Thai, and North Africa to name a few.
- Vegan red lentil soup - Use vegetable stock as the liquid base and coconut milk or nut milk like cashew to give some creaminess.
- Add protein - Add some smokey bacon or chicken things at the start of cooking and simmer gently until soft. Make sure to cut the pieces bite-sized. Fish or seafood like shrimps can be added at the end of cooking because fish and seafood cook very quickly. Go the extra mile and use a combination of shrimps, scallops and baby squid for a delicious red lentil seafood chowder.
- Make it Thai - Add a spoon of good quality Thai red curry paste or homemade massaman curry paste when the vegetables are halfway cooked. Use coconut milk instead of cream along with a few lime leaves and bruised lemongrass stick. Season with sugar, fish sauce and lime juice to get that signature sweet, salty, sour and spicy combination of that cuisine.
- Indian red lentil soup - Add a spoon of homemade Indian red curry paste when the vegetables are cooked. Use either cream or coconut milk along with some chopped cashew nuts.
- Moroccan lentil soup - Add a pinch of cinnamon along with the cumin and smoked paprika. Add chopped fermented lemon rind or grated black lime 5 minutes before the soup is ready. To finish add a drop of rose water and freshly chopped mint just before serving.
Types of bread to serve with this soup
Few things are more comforting than a steaming warm bowl of soup with some good quality homemade or artisan bread. Get some from your favourite baker or try your hand at one of the following homemade breads.
Frequently asked questions
You can portion and freeze this soup for up to a year if not longer stored airtight.
Simply defrost overnight in the fridge or in the microwave on the defrost setting if you're in a hurry.
It will easily keep for 5 days in the fridge store airtight and provided you only use clean utensils. Licking a spoon and dipping it back into the soup is a common reason for mould growth and spoilage after a few days.
Fixing a thin soup is as simple as carefully reducing the soup a little.
Do not be tempted to add more lentils halfway through cooking as you will end up with some raw and some cooked.
If the soup is too thick simply add a touch of stock, cream or water and gently heat it up while stirring.
Other recipes you might like
You might want to try some other hearty soups or simple, delicious and nutritious ways to cook vegetables.
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