Sometimes you just need a hot bowl of thick, filling, tasty soup, and this homemade Red Lentil Soup recipe fits the bill! With bold flavors like cumin, cilantro, garlic, and smoked paprika, this is sure to fill you up and keep you warm from the inside out!
Homemade Red Lentil Soup
My mother has been making lentil soup for years. And for all those years, she's asked me to try it. My mom can definitely be persistent. I can't tell you how many times I've declined. I just was not a big fan of lentil soup ... until I tried red lentils.
Let's go back two years ago when I was trying to establish where to get some good grub in Michigan. In my search, I found lots and lots of great Greek food and Middle Eastern food. There was a place near Ann Arbor that had the most amazing falafel. As I continued to patron the establishment, I found out they also made red lentil soup. I was feeling adventurous one day (and hearing my mothers' voice in the back of my head), and so I decided to try it. And I'm so glad that I did because I loved it.
Naturally, I knew I had to learn how to make lentil soup myself so I could enjoy it at home any time I had a craving, and I'm pleased to say this recipe hits the spot.
Not only does it boast a ton of flavor from the spices in it like cumin, smoked paprika, cilantro, and garlic, but it's super filling from all of the fiber in the red lentils (about 5 grams per cup and 10 grams per bowl) and is super easy to throw together any night of the week clocking in at under an hour from start to finish. Plus, it freezes well for meal-prepping!
But first, let's get the basics nailed down.
What Are Lentils, Exactly?
Lentils are legumes, so they're related to beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts. Like many beans, they've been used in cooking for centuries and are thought to have originated in the East. But they're routinely cultivated and used throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa. You can find lentils in many popular ethnic dishes like Ethiopian stew, Egyptian Koshari, and Indian Dal because of how cheap and filling they are.
There's a wide variety of lentils, but the four most common are:
- Green Lentils: Known for its nutty taste and wide availability. They're more starchy and hold up well after being cooked, but this also means they take a while to prepare — about 45 minutes.
- Red and Yellow Lentils: Known for their sweeter flavor compared to other lentils, this type is commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. They're quicker to prepare than other lentils, but don't uphold their structure well, so they're best for soups like this homemade red lentil soup.
- Black Lentils: AKA beluga lentils, these have an earthy flavor that compliments proteins (especially red meat like beef or pork) or meaty vegetables, like mushrooms, and only require 25 minutes of cooking time.
- Brown Lentils: The most common type, especially for lentil soup, these have a mild flavor and can hold its texture after being cooked. They're a popular choice for veggie burgers and traditional lentil soup.
Lentil are a cheap, nutrient-dense option, with 8 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein, and only 2 grams of natural sugar per servings, as well as high amounts of iron. This means they'll keep you full and satisfied all day long.
How Do You Cook Lentils?
Let's establish something that may seem obvious, but needs to be said ... You cannot and should not eat lentils raw. They contain lectin, which is a protein that will make you sick if it's not cooked.
Many legumes benefit from a good soak for several hours or overnight to neutralize that lectin, but legumes have such a low amount of lectin that they don't need to be presoaked. However, this is a helpful tactic to aid in digestion or reduce cooking time.
So, how do you cook lentils? Start by rinsing your lentils to remove any debris (like you would raw beans), and bring three cups of water to one cup of lentils to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Reduce the heat, and simmer until they are tender, approximately 15-20 minutes. It's truly that simple!
A dish like homemade red lentil soup may sound too complicated or foreign to make at home, but it really only requires a trip to the grocery store for the lentils. Everything else you probably have in your pantry!
- 6 cups chicken stock (homemade, if possible, but low-sodium if store=bought)
- 1.5 cups (or one 16-oz. bag) red lentils , rinsed well
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- ¾ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (can substitute 2 tablespoon dry)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika plus (Plus more to garnish when serving)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
How To Make Lentil Soup
- Cook the Lentils: In a large pot, combine chicken broth, tomato paste, and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 20 minutes
- Cook Your Veggies: While the lentils cook, heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add garlic and onions. Cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Build Your Soup: Add the onion-garlic mixture to lentils and chicken stock. Cook for about 10 more minutes. Then, add the dry seasonings, plus salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend It Up: Carefully transfer mixture to a standing blender and process until smooth. Remove from the blender, and add the chopped cilantro and lemon juice before serving. Garnish with additional smoked paprika and freshly cracked pepper. Enjoy!
What To Serve with Homemade Lentil Soup
I love serving this red lentil soup with fresh or toasted pita, crispy roasted chick peas, oyster crackers, fluffy rice or couscous, and a Mediterranean salad like Fattoush or an easy Lebanese salad.
- Top each bowl with crumbled feta or Cotija cheese for added savory, salty bits.
- Drizzle with some plain Greek Yogurt, coconut milk, or sour cream. Thin it out with your preferred milk, if needed.
- In addition to the cilantro, add some freshly chopped parsley for more herby greens!
- Want more heat? Add some dried red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper with the other dry seasonings.
- Want a more rustic soup instead of a purée? Then blend just have of the soup, and add that back to the pot to mix before serving.
Storage, Freezing, and Reheating Instructions
- Store leftover soup once it has completely cooled in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freeze cooled soup in a freezer-safe, airtight container or plastic bag for up to 3 months. Perfect for batch cooking and meal-prepping!
- Reheat thawed and chilled soup in a saucepan over medium-low heat until warmed through. Add more chicken stock if it's too thick.
More Recipes To Try
If you enjoyed this homemade Red Lentil Soup, then you'll love these other soup and stew recipes:
- Easy and Hearty Beef Barley Soup
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Red Wine Beef Stew
- Minestrone Soup
- Creamy Tomato Soup
Meditteranean Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
- 6 cups (50.79 oz) chicken stock plus more for thinning soup if desired
- 1.5 cups (16 oz) red lentils , rinsed well
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion I like to use sweet onions but use whatever kind you'd like
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- ¾ cup (6.46 oz) fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or 2 TB dry
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika plus more to garnish
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- In a large pot, combine chicken broth, tomato paste, and lentils and bring to a boil
- Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 20 minutes
- In the meantime, heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat and add garlic and onions and continue to cook
- Saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add onion/garlic mixture to lentil/chicken stock and continue to cook for about 10 more minutes.
- Add spices, and salt and pepper to taste
- Carefully transfer mixture to a standing blender and process until smooth
- Remove from blender; add cilantro and lemon juice before serving.
- This soup is very thick; feel free to thin with water or chicken broth.
- Garnish with additional smoked paprika (optional)
- Serve with pita, rice, and/or Mediterranean salad like Fattoush or an easy Lebanese salad.
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