Simple Red Lentil Soup – A Couple Cooks

This simple red lentil soup recipe is bursting with flavor! It’s hearty and cozy, flavored with aromatic vegetables and lemon.

If there’s one food that always satisfies, it’s a great lentil soup. Lentils are one of nature’s wonders: they’re full of protein, shelf stable for years, inexpensive, and make for some of the most satisfying filling meals. Got a bag of split red lentils? Here’s exactly what to make: this simple Red Lentil Soup! It’s deliciously hearty, featuring aromatic vegetables, lemon and a hint of smoked paprika.

What are red lentils? Split vs whole

Lentils are small dried lens-shaped legumes, a plant family that also includes beans, peas, and peanuts. Red lentils are a variety of lentil named for their beautiful orange-pink color. The texture of red lentils breaks down faster than most other lentils: this makes it perfect for making quick soups or dal.

Most red lentils sold at the store are split red lentils, which is what you should use here. Some packages say red lentils and some say split red lentils: most of what you’ll find in American grocery stores are all split red lentils. Avoid any packages that specify whole red lentils: they cook differently and hold their shape when cooking.

Ingredients in this red lentil soup recipe

This red lentil soup is hearty and easy, an ideal easy weeknight meal! It’s a vegan dinner recipe that’s filling and full of plant-based protein. Here’s what you’ll need:

Vegetables: carrots, onion, celery garlic Olive oilVegetable brothWaterSplit red lentils*Smoked paprikaLemon zestSalt and pepper

All you need to do? Saute the aromatic vegetables, then add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the lentils are tender. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re cooking it!

How to tell when it’s done

The most important thing about this red lentil soup recipe: don’t overcook it! Cook red lentils too long, and they lose their shape and turn into a mush. Sometimes you want that, like in this delicious Masoor Dal recipe (Indian red lentils). But in this soup, you’ll want the lentils to be just tender but still hold their shape.

Make sure to keep an eye on the soup: simmer it just 7 to 10 minutes until the lentils are just soft but before they break apart. Keep in mind that some brands of split red lentils are smaller than others, meaning they cook slightly differently. One brand we buy cooks much faster than others.

Garnishes for red lentil soup

This red lentil soup recipe is delicious on its own, but it’s even more perfect with a few garnishes. Here’s what we like:

Greek yogurt or sour cream: This adds just the right creaminess and a bright tang: it takes this soup over the top! Cashew cream: For a vegan variation, use vegan yogurt or cashew cream.Cilantro: A few leaves of fresh cilantro makes the dish! If you’re a hater, try fresh parsley instead

Make it a meal: a few side dishes

Try as we might, a cup of red lentil soup always needs a little side dish to make it a filling meal. Here are some of the items we like to pair it with:

What else would you serve with this red lentil soup recipe? Let us know in the comments below.

More lentil recipes

Lentils are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet! Here are some other lentil recipes to incorporate into your dinnertime routine:

This red lentil soup recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.


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This simple red lentil soup recipe is bursting with flavor! It’s hearty and cozy, flavored with aromatic vegetables and lemon.

3 large carrots
1 medium yellow onion
3 celery ribs
6 garlic cloves
¼ cup olive oil
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 pound split red lentils*
1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Greek yogurt or sour cream (or cashew cream for vegan), for serving

Cilantro, for serving

Peel the carrots. Finely dice the carrot, onion, and celery. Mince the garlic.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery, and sauté until the carrots are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the broth, water, red lentils, smoked paprika, lemon zest, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Bring to a low simmer, then cover halfway and gently simmer until the lentils are just soft but before they start to break apart, about 7 to 10 minutes. Watch closely and taste to assess doneness. The finished soup should be brothy with the lentils just soft; cooking past this point yields a very thick stew which is just as delicious but less soup-like. (If you’d like, you can add handfuls of greens in the last few minutes, like chopped spinach or kale). 
Taste and add additional salt to taste, and a few grinds black pepper. Leftovers can become very thick, so you can add a little water or broth when reheating.


*Most of what you’ll find in stores are split red lentils, even if it doesn’t specify split on the package. Avoid buying whole red lentils. 

Category: SoupMethod: StovetopCuisine: Soup

Keywords: Red lentil soup, Red lentil soup recipe

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