Craving a warm bowl of lentil soup? This Mediterranean-style recipe is easy to make! Simmer nutritious brown lentils with sauteed vegetables, herbs, and spices until tender. Then puree the flavorful mixture until smooth and top with fresh tomatoes and parsley.
A comforting bowl of lentil soup is super easy to prepare on the stovetop. These flat and spherical shaped legumes tenderize quickly when simmered in a flavorful broth, so no precooking is needed. This healthy vegetarian soup is packed with fiber, protein, and nutrients in every spoonful.
To develop the Mediterranean flavors, carrots, onions, celery, garlic is sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil. Cumin, coriander, and paprika are traditional spices that when bloomed in the oil, enhance the flavor of the soup. A portion of the soup is pureed, reserving some whole lentils to stir back in right before serving for a nice contrast of texture.
How to make lentil soup
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, saute onions, celery, and carrots.
- Saute garlic, thyme, and spices until fragrant.
- Add lentils, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, and pepper, bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender.
- Remove 1 cup of lentils and reserve.
- Add more broth to the pan, puree using an immersion blender.
- Stir in reserved lentils, and season with salt and pepper.
- Top with diced tomatoes and parsley.
This soup can be made with any type of lentils. However, I recommend brown or green because they have a deliciously mild and earthy flavor with creamy texture when pureed. They also hold their circular shape when cooked. This allows for a smooth base, with hearty pieces suspended in the soup.
If you want a super creamy and smooth texture, use red lentils as they completely break down when cooked.
Do you have to soak lentils before cooking them?
No! Compared to other dried legumes like black beans, kidney, or garbanzos, you do not need to soak them before cooking. The small, flat and round shape of the lentils have a large surface area, so they cook a lot quicker than larger, thicker beans.
Green, brown, black, or French lentils can be soaked to reduce the cooking time by about half, but it’s not necessary since they cook in less than 40 minutes in the soup.
Enhancing the flavor
Lentils are very mild and bland in flavor, so they need a little help by using vegetables, spices, and herbs. I like to add a mirepoix, a combination of onions, carrots, and celery when making soups or stews. Sauteing them in high-quality olive oil, along with garlic and thyme, adds strong aromatics to the soup.
A trifecta of bold spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika adds color and earthy flavor. I like to squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the soup right before eating. It adds a bit of bright acidity to the dish.
For a contrast in textures
To make the soup more interesting, I like to create a smooth and creamy texture by pureeing it with an immersion blender. You can also use a countertop blender to create an ultra-silky consistency. For a contrast in texture, reserve a cup of diced vegetables and whole lentils to stir back into the soup.
Can this be made in a slow cooker?
Yes! Saute all of the vegetables, herbs, and spices, then add them to the Crock-Pot. Cook under the lentils are tender, 7 to 9 hours on low setting, or 4 to 6 hours on high setting. Follow the instructions on pureeing, add more liquid and salt/pepper as needed.
Storing and freezing
This soup can be stored in individual portions or a large airtight container for up to one week. Make sure that the soup is cooled down completely before refrigerating. Small containers can also be frozen for up to 30 days.
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Bloom the dried spices
Blooming the cumin, coriander, and paprika in olive oil coaxes out the fat-soluble flavors. This process ensures that their flavors are bountiful in aroma and actually contribute to the taste of the lentil soup. Just be careful to briefly cook the spices in olive on a moderate heat so they don’t burn.
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, (30ml)
- 1 cup diced yellow onion, (138g), ¼-inch dice
- ½ cup diced celery, (74g), ¼-inch dice
- ½ cup diced carrots, (74g), ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic, (10g)
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, (1g)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
- 1 cup diced tomatoes, (150g), ¼-inch dice, divided
- 1 cup dried lentils, (180g, 6 ¼ ounces), brown or green, picked and rinsed
- 6 cups vegetable broth, (1.4 ml), divided, plus more as needed
- 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, (5g), ⅛ ounce
- Lemon wedges
- Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the onions, celery, and carrots. Saute until vegetables are tender and onions or translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add garlic, thyme, cumin, coriander, and paprika. Saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Add ½ cup tomatoes and lentils, stir and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add 4 cups of vegetable broth, bay leaf, and black pepper, bring to a boil.
- Cover pot and reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 to 35 minutes. Most of the broth should be absorbed.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard it.
- Remove 1 cup of the lentil mixture from the pot, reserve.
- Add 2 cups of broth to the pot. Use a stick immersion blender and process until the soup is mostly smooth. Alternatively, lentils and broth can be processed in a blender.
- Add more vegetable broth as needed.
- Taste the soup, add salt and pepper as desired.
- Simmer over medium heat until hot.
- Add the reserved lentils and remaining chopped tomatoes and parsley, stir to combine.
- Serve soup with lemon wedges.
- Serving Size: 1 cup (240ml) of lentil soup.
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