Red lentil soup is comforting, simple, and easy to throw together. It’s my go-to meal when I want something hearty but healthy, when I’m pressed for time, or when I have some last minute company coming over. It’s one of those soups I make over and over again – healthy, simple, and filling.
Over the years I’ve developed a terrible habit of constantly sampling the thing I’m working on in my kitchen. Cooking dinner is alike one long buffet for me. Although I only snack on the vegetables I’m cooking (because I LOVE raw veggies), my stomach is usually full by the time dinner rolls around.
If I was single, without kids, this wouldn’t be a problem – I could just save the food for later. But because eating dinner is important in my house, I always sit down with my husband and my daughter to eat. This leaves me with two option. I can either sit down and not eat anything, giving my daughter the warped impression that mom cooks dinner but never eats it. Or I can eat with my family and end up being overly full.
That’s where this red lentil soup comes in. Red lentils cook so incredibly fast that this soup takes only a few minutes to make. What does that mean for me? Less time for snacking before dinner!
Tips for Making Red Lentil Soup
One of the things I love about this soup is that it bursts with flavor. It has a hint of sweetness from the carrots and an earthy depth from the red lentils and tomato paste. The cumin gives it a touch of heat that’s not too spicy nor too mild – making it a warm, soothing soup. A squeeze of lemon and a bit of minced parsley added right before serving is what makes this soup shine. If you want an extra kick of heat, add more cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Red lentils can take on pretty much any flavor so let your imagination go wild.
The beauty of this soup is that it’s a pantry soup (I always keep all the ingredients on hand). I always start by sautéing the aromatics – onions and garlic – and then add the spices. One trick I’ve learned from Geoffrey Zakarian, chef in New York City, is to let the tomato paste “brown” in the pan together with the spices and other aromatics as well. This can boost the soup flavor in a big way. Letting the tomato paste heat through and then deglazing the pan caramelizes the sugars, making the soup smoother and sweetening the flavor.
Next come the red lentils, which are such a great legume. They cook in a very short time and don’t require any pre-soaking, like other pulses do. Since red lentils fall apart while cooking, they are the perfect addition to this soup. They act as a thickener and provide a velvet-like texture. If the soup is not creamy enough for you, you can always puree half of the soup in a blender.
I should also mention that the flavor of this red lentil soup only improves with time. Go ahead and make a batch to eat throughout the week. If your weather is still snowy and dreary like it is here in Canada, you’ll enjoy eating this comforting soup for sure. It’s pairs perfectly with my this nut and seed bread.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Blender (Vitamix 5200) | 2. Cookware Set (Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 3. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 4. Cutting Board (24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block. Maple) | 5. Measuring Cup (1 Cup, Pyrex, Glass) | 6. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel) | 7. Can Opener (Zyliss, Stainless Steel)
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- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 cup red lentils
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Warm olive oil in a medium-size pot over medium heat. Once the oil is simmering, add the chopped onions and minced garlic, stirring often, until the onions have softened and are turning translucent. This will take about 5 minutes.
Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt. Continue cooking for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and let it "brown" in the pan for a few minutes together with the aromatics and spices.
Add the carrots, red lentils, vegetable broth, and water. Stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-high, and let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes. The time will depend on how quickly your lentils cook. Essentially, you want the lentils to start breaking apart to create a smooth, velvet-like texture.
Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasonings until you’re satisfied with the flavor.
When you're ready to serve the soup, top it with some fresh parsley and an extra dash of cayenne pepper.
Store leftover soup covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. The easiest way to reheat frozen soup is to remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator 24 hours before reheating to thaw slightly. Reheat on a stovetop, adding extra 1/4 cup (60 ml) water/broth at a time if too thick.