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Spiced Red Lentil Soup recipe

Spiced Red Lentil Soup recipe

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  • Dish type
  • Soup
  • Bean and lentil soup
  • Lentil soup
  • Red lentil soup

A winter-warming chunky soup with a cinnamon edge.

Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK

5 people made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 125g red lentils
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 750ml vegetable stock

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:45min ›Ready in:1hr5min

  1. Chop vegetables (chunky or fine, depending on preference).
  2. Put the olive oil in a large pot and gently fry the spices in it, until they become aromatic.
  3. Add vegetables and lentils to pot and stir to cover with spices. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Sieve tinned tomatoes and place into a measuring jug. Add enough vegetable stock to them to make 1.2 litres total.
  5. Add tomatoes/stock to pot, along with bay leaves. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 40min or until lentils and potatoes are cooked. Add more stock or water if necessary.

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Spiced Red Lentil Soup

When I come up with an idea I love, I am devoted to it with singular focus. My world seems to shift to send me a steady stream of inspiration as if everything else in my vision falls away. The idea occupies my mind constantly: its hunger follows me to the grocery store, while I’m reading a magazine, while I’m talking to friends. I become obsessed, overtaken by the mechanism of doing this interesting thing. My first cookbook, “Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals,” was that once: an idea that haunted me and caused me to write endless lists of dishes and techniques that would suit it. These are ideas that cause me to lose sleep, to interrupt my functioning life with a key word as it flits across my brain writing it down is my only relief.

I suppose it’s something like instinct, this creative madness. I am required to listen. It doesn’t look like the trope of the tortured artist rather, we are intertwined and bound inextricably together for a time until it finally releases me, usually after it’s given a life of its own. I love this way of making things. I view it as a part of me with pride, similar to personality or heritage. Through it, I am my best: happy, inspired, centered. And feeding people I love.

I’ve now written about the arrival of this idea for my soup club and its book of the same name of its recipes extensively. (Here on Food52, again here on Food and Wine again here on The Kitchn and here on Bon Appétit, and for the past three weeks on this very blog.) The truth nested in the project is in that very instinct (or madness) that is still holding tight. I made the book, now I have to get it in the kitchens of people who will love it. This is the part where, in my other published cookbooks and children’s books, I step away and let experts handle it. But I can’t let this one go just yet, it means too much to me. It demands that I know who picks it up and why in ways my other books haven’t. It is a project that is asking for more, to dig deeper into this well of creativity of mine, to push beyond what I owe my obsession. It has given me a new vision of what my work could look like after it releases me and another idea has taken hold.

The soup I’m sharing today is from the first widely available product of my creative process, my “Twenty-Dollar, Twenty Minute Meals.” I remember not having used red lentils very much before this recipe, other than intellectually cataloguing its uses in Indian cuisine. I was in the Park Slope Food Co-op early one morning perusing their bulk aisle and decided to fill a bag of the salmon-colored lentils and take it home. The form of the meals that came through this fast and cheap editorial idea had already been established—the bare minimum of prep as to not waste time, coupled with bold flavor—so the recipe spilled out onto my notebook quickly.

In adapting this recipe for this post, following my own words bound in a book I wrote (something I never do), I admired its similarities and differences to the soups I’ve toiled over for the past two years. It was as if I was lovingly comparing my sons, while at the same time comparing the versions of myself that made them. What they both have in common, however, is this creative fever that comes through me, holding tight until it takes me somewhere altogether new: somewhere otherwise unknown within myself, beyond anything I ever thought possible.

Red Lentil Soup with Browned Spices
Makes 4 bowlfuls

This recipe is directly adapted from my first cookbook, “Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals” (Workman 2013) because it suits the season and my new cookbook. The spices sizzled in oil – a “tarka,” which just sounds fancy— can be browned in butter, as they were in my original recipe. Whether using oil or butter, though, this method adds richness and depth to a very simple soup. Serve topped with Greek yogurt, if desired.

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed if desired
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 cup peeled and sliced fresh ginger (from a 4-inch piece)
2 teaspoons curry powder, homemade (there’s one in the book!) or store-bought
Kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)

1 / In a large, heavy pot, stir together tomatoes, lentils, garlic, ginger, curry powder and 5 cups water. Season generously with salt (about 2 teaspoons). Cover and bring soup to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer soup, covered, until lentils are tender and have broken apart (about 15 minutes). While soup comes to a boil, combine coriander and mustard seed in a mortar use a pestle to smash and grind spices together until the coriander cracks. (Alternatively, add place dried seeds on a cutting board and crack with a small, heavy skillet such as cast iron.)

2 / While soup simmers, heat oil a small skillet over medium heat until hot. Add cracked spices to hot oil. Cook spices, swirling pan occasionally, until the seeds are toasted and fragrant (about 1 to 2 minutes). Stir half of flavored oil and spices into soup with lemon juice. Season soup with additional lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve soup drizzled with remaining spiced oil (or stir full amount of oil into pot before serving).

Recipe Summary

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups dry lentils

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat cook and stir onion and garlic until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in carrot and celery cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, about 8 more minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper mix in chicken stock and lentils.

Bring soup to a boil and reduce heat to low simmer until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.

Weekend Recipe: Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

El Niño requires a few things on the winter checklist. Raincoat? Check. Waterproof shoes? Check. Spicy, comforting soup? Check -- courtesy of this Cook's Illustrated recipe! For additional heat and spice, serve the soup with harissa, the North African chili sauce.

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices
Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 10 ½ ounces (1 ½ cups) red lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried mint, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

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America's Test Kitchen

Local And Seasonal: Harissa

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, and lentils and bring to simmer. Simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft and about half are broken down, about 15 minutes.

Whisk soup vigorously until it is coarsely pureed, about 30 seconds. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and extra lemon juice to taste. Cover and keep warm. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Thin soup with water, if desired, when reheating.)

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet. Remove from heat and stir in mint and paprika. Ladle soup into individual bowls, drizzle each portion with 1 teaspoon spiced butter, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.

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Before we get started, a few words about the ingredients. It’s important to use red lentils, as opposed to another variety they cook quickly, add wonderful flavor and thicken the soup nicely. They won’t hold their shape once cooked — that’s okay, they are intended to break down and give the soup a hearty texture. And Garam Masala is a fragrant Indian spice blend typically containing peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. It’s available at most large grocery stores (McCormick makes it as part of their Gourmet Collection), but if your regular supermarket does not carry it, you can always find it at Whole Foods or just substitute curry powder.

Begin by chopping the vegetables and apple. I use a food processor if you do the same, be sure to roughly chop the vegetables first, so that they process evenly. And be sure process only until the mixture is roughly chopped, not puréed.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the Garam Masala and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Add the vegetable/apple mixture.

Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is softened.

Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, lentils, ginger and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are tender and starting to break down.

Stir in the chicken and fresh lime, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle generously with fresh chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.


Heat the oil in a 6-quart (or larger) Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the curry powder or garam masala and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the broth, tomatoes and their juices, lentils, celery, carrot, garlic, cayenne, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently to keep the lentils from sticking skim any foam as necessary. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils, carrots, and celery are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

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Good tasting soup. My rating reflects the following changes that I would do in making this soup again. I would increase the cumin and coriander to add more flavour. Love the oil drizzled on the soup, a must in making this soup.

I doubled the lentils, cumin, coriander. Used gr.cumin and Aleppo peppers in the oil. This was very good soup. A hand blender makes slick work of blended soups like this.

This soup was great on its own, but the spiced oil put it over the top. I used red chili flakes instead of fresh chili.

Unlike others, I thought this soup had a really nice balance of flavors. I would not accuse it of being bland. I used a minced Thai chili AND additional cayenne pepper to get it to my desired heat level. The lentils detract from some of the heat so I might use 2 Thai chilis next time. I'm looking forward to leftovers tomorrow!

I LOVE this soup. I have made it many times, and everyone always wants a second bowl.

I made this with just what I had in my cupboard. I only had one red onion, so I added 1 potato to take the other onions place and to make it thicker and more filling. Worked great! I can't believe people thought this was bland. Maybe the potato helped, but I didn't even need the salt and pepper, so tasty!

not bland at all! yum! such an easy and healthy and delish recipe! definitely use whole spices for the spiced oil

I liked the flavors in this soup and it was easy to make. However, it wasn't very filling. Maybe next time Iɽ add more lentils to give it more bulk. We ate ours with some purchased Garlic Naan, and that was really good combo.

This is quite possibly the simplest and most delicious lentil soup I've ever eaten. My husband and son adore it. Don't change a thing -- it's the balance of spices that makes it heavenly.

Lovely, complex, subtle, very impressive for such a simple preparation. I use veg stock.

I followed the recipe as shown and agree with the reviewer who said this soup was rather bland.The hot oil is a must as it really adds to the flavor and kicks the spice up. I did not have pappadams so served the soup with grilled pita bread which was nice. I would definitely make this again but would increase the spice as suggested by other reviewers

My husband and I love this recipe, it is very easy, inexpensive, and delicious. I tend to increase all the spices to taste.Our favorite lentil soup recipe!

Yum & more yum. I increased the cumin & added more cayenne. Also tried with a spoon of yogurt & that was excellent. The next day cold out of the fridge is yum as well!

I followed the recipe to a T, including spiced oil, and it was just ok - not great or fantastic, just ok. Really bland and dull. Had to doctor it with hot sauce to give it a bit of a kick. It's amazing how something with all these great ingredients can come out so underwhelming.

Great soup for a snow day. DO NOT skip the hot oil! It is the step that transforms this soup and gives it depth and a nice zing. I strained mine (the hot oil blackened everything instantly)and poured it into the rest of the soup. Stick to the freshly grated ginger, I don't think you'll get the same taste from a powdered ginger. I only wish Iɽ been able to find some pappadams to complete it, had to settle for pita instead.

Make this dish as directed, including the spiced oil! I used crushed dried red peppers instead of fresh, and the result was terrific: The oil is a typically Indian addition, and it adds a delicious depth of flavor, plus a mild kick from the peppers. I didn't have poppadoms, but I'm certain they are the perfect accompaniment. This is the best Indian red lentil soup I've tasted, and it's all made from pantry ingredients. Perfect for a cold day.

I made this recipe exactly as shown, minus the spiced oil (instead I just sprinkled some turmeric atop of it). I was getting a little anxious toward the end of cooking time because it looked. well. just unappealing and really watery (not my favorite soup texture). After blending, however, a nice texture and color was achieved. I made brown basmati rice with the intention of spooning the soup/stew over it. Instead, everyone added the rice to the soup which gave it a wonderful flavor and a much more favorable texture (for me at least). Served it with the naan bread recipe on Emeril's web site (but did partially whole wheat. it's a good recipe, but not really authentic). All in all, I would definitely make this again but will do some research into other spices and ingredients I can add to make it more authentically Indian (and thus a little more multidimensional and exciting on the palate).

Great soup! I made a few changes depending on what I had at hand . used my curry spice mix instead of the recommended spices being out of coriander and ginger. I added also added more galic. I skipped the blender too. Be great to use it as a topping for rice also. YUM!

I really enjoyed this soup! I did not bother with the spiced oil or the pappadams. the soup is delicious on its own. and very easy and quick.

Delicious and simple. i almost didn't puree it because i like a lumpy soup, but in the end i did and i didn't regret it. this is, by far, my favorite lentil soup recipe. (i used vegetable broth instead of chicken and it was fine). i didn't bother with the spiced oil and just had it with some homemade bread. i'll definitely make this again soon on a cold night.

This was a quick and easy recipe. I thought it was pretty good but my husband loved it.

We love this soup, and the leftovers are even better! I add chopped carrot along with the lentils and blend the whole thing right in the pot with my immersion blender. The spiced oil is a must, as is lots of fresh coriander.

Delicious! A fabulous precursor to tandoori chicken and vegetable patties with coconut ice cream topped with mangos for dessert!

Hmmm. What to say? We HATED this just off the stove, deemed it inedible and went out for ice cream to stave off hunger. Later when cleaning lentil cement off the dishes (rinse quickly or forever suffer the consequences!) it tasted "hmm, better . " so I decided not to discard. Today for lunch? Pretty good! Can't explain the reaction: we LIKE soup, we LIKE cumin/corinader, we LIKE lentils. I know soups often improve overnight but have never before encountered something going from inedible to otherwise. And I used homemade broth from the freezer and quite typically, only 1 T fat. So . will try again but not plan to serve the first night and THEN see what the reaction is.

Red lentil soup was comfort food in college, and this was a great way to reminisce without the stress of papers and exams. I found the oil to be somewhat superfluous, and I didn't bother to puree the soup as the lentils pretty much disintegrate anyway once you cook it thoroughly. A good crusty bread and a green salad make this a complete meal.

Moroccan Spiced Lentil & Chickpea Soup

Guys I need to make a confession. I think… I have finally done it – and by it, I mean make not only the heartiest but also the tastiest soup I’ve ever made!

I know, that’s a big and bold claim but I honestly think I have nailed it with this Moroccan Spiced Lentil and Chickpea Soup.

As you know I absolutely love comfort food and this delicious warming bowl of goodness combines rich and wholesome lentils with one of my favourite ingredients – chickpeas… which is then completely coated in a lightly spiced tomato sauce turning it into one of my all-time favourite recipes.

This dish takes simple ingredients and turns them into the perfect combination of different flavours and textures. The base is created by using a combination of household spices (cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, smoked paprika and chilli) to create a real depth of smokey flavour that the whole family can enjoy and bulked out with earthy pulses and grains to keep you full and happy.

Cumin is actually one of my secret ingredients in a lot of dishes including chilli’s, curries and soups – it adds this almost bitter smokey flavour that other spices just can’t bring to the plate that adds layers of flavour and just completely transforms a dish.

Is it weird to have a love obsession with a spice? – because if it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right! But please don’t be scared about all the different spices that this recipe has, they perfectly balance each other out and means you’re able to easily adjust to your own heat and spice preference.

I absolutely love spicy food after travelling around the Middle East for many years, so I tend to always add in an extra pinch or two when I make this dish. Also, feel free to skip a few of the scarier and more intense spices if you are making this for a family of little ones.

I remember making something similar to this dish every Sunday a few years ago in preparation for batching up, storing and taking to work for lunches during the colder months. It meant I always had a super chunky, filling and nutritious lunch packed with nutrient-dense veggies and fibre packed pulses to help power through the afternoon. But don’t get the wrong idea, this soup is definitely not like the rest. It’s a complete meal in one mouth-watering bowl. Due to the inclusion of all of the different vegetables and pulses this dish can be eaten and enjoyed as a delicious lunch but can also be used for dinner as a simple winter warmer dish or enjoyed with the whole family.

I normally serve it with some quick and simple flatbreads (I have a quick step by step tutorial on how to make the best effortless flatbreads here) as they are the perfect vehicle for soaking up and scooping up all that gorgeously rich liquid and topped with a drizzle of tahini when serving in the evenings for an extra special hit of creaminess. There is something very incredible that happens when the dressing melts into the warm soup and enhances all those rich and warming flavours in the bowl that you just have to try.

The recipe is super simple to create and because it’s cooked all in one pan, makes the washing up a breeze! I always make sure to make extra portions when creating this recipe because the flavours are even better the next day once they have had a chance to develop and infuse all the wonderful components, plus it freezes and keeps really well making it the perfect meal-prepping dish. Just portion out and freeze in jars or individual portions and thaw overnight in the fridge – it can be kept in the freezer for a few weeks.

It’s also super adaptable meaning you can use up any leftover veggies in the fridge or swap out for your favourite ingredients.

  • Swap out the chickpeas for butter beans or another white bean variant.
  • Use mung beans instead of red lentils for an earthier flavour but still super wholesome and nutritious dish
  • Add a swirl of coconut yoghurt or a drizzle of tahini dressing for extra creaminess and luxury.
  • Use tinned tomatoes if you don’t have any fresh, just reduce the amount of additional liquid needed.
  • If you can’t get hold of harissa paste, you can make your own, or use siracha or an alternative hot sauce.

If you like this recipe, why not give one of my other Moroccan inspired recipes a try? My ultra-special Moroccan inspired ‘fish’ ballswith a Freekeh salad and rich tomato sauce is the perfect mid-week treat.

I really hope you love this delicious soup as much as I do make sure to post and tag with @rebelrecipes #rebelrecipes if you make this dish so I can see and repost your gorgeous creations!

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