Turn hangry into happy in less than one hour with this healthy, easy one-pot red lentil soup. It's the kind of delicious soup that can cure a cold, help a broken heart, and make you feel like a million bucks.
On those days when your stomach's yelling, 'Feed me, now!' and your energy's shouting, 'But make it quick!', turn to Healthy Red Lentil Soup. It's a no-fuss, full-flavor, nutritious dish where the lentils are cooked until they are tender and can be blended to create a smooth and creamy texture. This soup is delicious with a slice of crusty bread garnished with fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, or Lemon Pistachio Gremolata.
Why you'll love this soup
- This is a one-pot meal, making it incredibly easy to prepare.
- It is delicious any time of year!
- It's made with easy-to-find ingredients.
- This dish can be prepared quickly since red lentils are one of the fastest-cooking types of lentils.
- It's a nutritious meal because lentils are a rich fiber, iron, and protein source, containing essential and non-essential amino acids the body needs. And of course, I have to mention its amazing health benefits, like boosting your immune system and improving heart health.
- Great for batch cooking.
- Low in calories and high in protein.
- This soup is versatile. Check out the variations below for ideas.
And if you think lentils can be a little "tooty fruity", don't worry - I've got a solution! You can get your gut buddies used to the gassiness by chowing down on even more lentils. It's like a gassy boot camp for your microbiome. And if you really want to minimize the toots, give those lentils a good soak before cooking, at least 3-4 hours.
- Onions - Use a yellow or white onion for the best flavor.
- Garlic - There is something special about fresh garlic in this dish. Fresh garlic has a more complex flavor profile compared to dried garlic so I would not use dried garlic as a substitute.
- Cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper - These add a spicy, smoky flavor to the mix.
- Tomato paste - This is an essential ingredient for adding deep, umami, and rich flavor to the soup.
- Vegetable base paste - I use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable concentrated base paste. I can control the depth of flavor I want much more easily than with a carton of broth. Alternatively, substitute the water and the vegetable paste called for in the recipe card with 4 cups of homemade or store-bought vegetable broth.
- Carrots - Substitute with sweet potato.
- Red lentils - Soaking lentils for a few hours is recommended but unnecessary.
- Salt and pepper
- Lemon zest and lemon juice - Don't skip this ingredient. It really livens up the taste.
- Parsley or Cilantro - Use these as a garnish or cut up about ¼ cup and add to the soup when it is done cooking.
This soup is so easy to make and is great for batch cooking for the week.
Start by putting one tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable broth in a pan. Heat it up and toss in your onions. Stir them around until they look kind of see-through or translucent. This should take about 5 minutes.
Next, add garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Stir them in for about 30 seconds. But watch out for your spices. They can burn fast, so be ready to put in a little water or broth if you see that happening.
Stir in tomato paste until it changes from bright red to darker red. This takes around 3 minutes. If stuff sticks to the bottom of the pot, add a little water or broth to scrape it up. It makes the soup taste even better.
If you've have vegetable base paste, add it and cook for 3 minutes. Then add water, carrots, and lentils, bring to a boil, and simmer for 35-45 minutes with the lid on. (No paste? Use 4 cups of vegetalble broth instead to substitute the water and vegetable paste in the recipe)
Halfway through, check if the soup is as thick or thin as you like. If you want it soupier, just add more vegetable broth.
When the lentils are soft, turn off the heat. Add lemon juice and the zest from the lemon. Don't skip this step!
Then add salt and pepper to really amp up the flavor.
Mix your soup with an immersion blender if you like it a little smooth. Or you can put some of it in a regular blender and then put it back in the pot.
Last step: make it look pretty. Add some parsley or cilantro, and lemon wedges on top before you eat. I sometimes add ¼ cup of cilantro and mix it into the whole soup to give it a fresh herby taste.
One of the things I love about this soup is that it is delicious with just a few simple ingredients. But you can use this simple recipe as a base and create variations using a few tweaks, changing the flavor profile easily. Here are some examples:
- Creamy Red Lentil Soup: If you want a little bit of indulgence, stir in a can of coconut milk at the end of cooking for a creamy texture. It's especially delicious when you've pureed the soup.
- Vegetable-packed Red Lentil Soup: Sauté chopped celery along with the onions. Throw in some kale or spinach at the end for extra nutrients.
- Spicy Red Lentil Soup: Add diced jalapeño peppers or red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.
- Moroccan-style Red Lentil Soup: Add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger, and a pinch of saffron to the soup for a Moroccan-inspired flavor.
- Indian-style Red Lentil Soup: Add ¼ teaspoon of garam masala and turmeric to the soup for an Indian-inspired flavor.
- Add a medium-sized potato or sweet potato: I love this soup with sweet potato. I like it so much that I debated whether to include it in the recipe instead of carrots. If you want to add them, add a diced potato when you add the lentils. You may need to add a ¼ to ½ cup more water or veggie broth if you're adding both the carrots and potatoes.
- Crusty Bread: Serve the soup with a slice of crusty bread for a hearty and filling meal.
- Naan or Pita Bread: These are also great options. I like to lightly coat each side with spray oil and cook them in a pan until they reach the desired level of golden brown.
- Salad: Pair the soup with a side salad for a refreshing and light contrast. Try this Greek Salad or Caesar salad.
- Vegan Yogurt: Top the soup with a dollop of plain vegan yogurt for a creamy addition.
- Roasted Vegetables: Serve the soup with a side of roasted vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, carrots, or sweet potatoes.
- Fresh herb alternatives: Garnish the soup with mint instead of parsley or cilantro.
- Grilled Cheese: Pair the soup with a classic vegan grilled cheese sandwich for a comforting and delicious meal.
Bowl empty after devouring this delicious Red Lentil Soup? Try these other soups!
For more information on red lentils visit Guide to Red Lentils on a Plant-Based Diet.
Don't skip adding zest and lemon juice. This soup pops with fresh flavor with a little bit of lemon and its zest. As a matter of fact, I recommend almost always zesting a little lemon anytime a recipe calls for lemon juice - it takes up a notch.
Red lentil soup can support weight loss, including belly fat reduction, due to its high fiber and protein content, which promote fullness. However, losing belly fat requires a balanced diet and regular exercise. No single food directly targets belly fat.
Red lentil soup is nutritious and rich in protein, fiber, and nutrients like iron and folate. Paired with veggies and spices, it's flavorful and healthful. Just remember to watch for added sodium in broths or stocks.
Yes, you can make red lentil soup ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to five days. You may need to add some water or broth to thin it out when reheating because the lentils really soak up the liquid.
Red lentil soup can be customized to your liking. You can add different vegetables, such as sweet potatoes or spinach, or adjust the spices to your taste. See the post for variations.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion (chopped, ~250 g)
- 4-5 cloves garlic (minced; or 2 tbsp pre-minced)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (or chili powder)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 teaspoons vegetable base paste (or use 4 cups of premade vegetable broth in place of the 4 tsps of vegetable base paste and 4 cups of water)
- 4 cups water
- 3 carrots (~150 g)
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from half a lemon; to taste)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- parsley or cilantro (garnish)
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and sauté until onions are translucent.
- Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add tomato paste and sauté until caramelized, about 3 minutes. If necessary, add a little broth or water to scrape and remove any dark bits on the bottom of the pot. This is all flavor.
- Add the vegetable base paste and sauté for about 3 minutes. This brings out its flavor.
- Add water, carrots, and rinsed lentils. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
- Cover the pot and simmer for 35-45 minutes until the lentils are tender.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add lemon zest and lemon juice.
- Serve with lemon wedges and fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish.
- Use a blender or immersion blender to blend the soup to the consistency you desire. See the post for more variations.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. Use an app like Cronometer for a precise nutrition profile.
For an oil-free version, use vegetable broth instead of oil to saute your vegetables.
Incorporate a ¼ cup of chopped cilantro or parsley into the soup for a delicious herby flavor.
Don't skip the lemon juice or zest. They add so much delicious flavor to this soup.
Store the soup in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You may need to add more vegetable broth or water to thin out the soup because the lentils love to soak up the liquid.
Cooking time for lentils may vary depending on where you live. I live in the high altitude of Colorado, and it sometimes takes 45-50 minutes for my lentils to cook to my desired consistency.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern-Inspired
- Diet: Vegan
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 234
- Sugar: 5
- Sodium: 650
- Fat: 4
- Saturated Fat: 1
- Carbohydrates: 37
- Fiber: 16
- Protein: 13
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: red lentils, soup, easy, quick