Lately, I've had a craving for some comforting lentil soup. So I created a recipe that still uses traditional brown lentils and yet goes in a more smoky direction with the spices. I've also added spinach, potatoes, a hint of tomato paste, and of course, lots of garlic!
Lentil Soup, My Favorite Way to Prepare This Little Legume
My fondness for lentils has definitely grown over the years from what it once was.
When I was a kid, my mom would prepare a pot of lentils from time to time, a very simple and thick sort of lentil “stew”, with lots of garlic, diced potatoes and a squeeze of lemon at the end to give a hint of brightness.
And while I didn't actually mind these lentils because I ate them with thick slices of soft, warm bread slathered with lots of butter—one of my absolute favorite things—I wasn't necessarily the biggest fan of them either.
It wasn't until I was more into my adult years that I really began falling in love with these hearty little legumes, and all the deliciousness they had to offer.
These days, my favorite way to use lentils is in making a delicious lentil soup. There's no soaking required for lentils, and after a quick rinse and pick-through to make sure there's no little pieces of debris in with them, they're ready for the soup pot!
And because lentils absorb flavors so well, the options for creating unique flavors profiles are never-ending. Various spices, seasonings, and other little ingredients will give a lentil soup recipe like this a big pop of flavor, making for an exquisitely comforting and well-rounded complete meal rich in protein, fiber, potassium, and folate.
A while back I made this tasty Fragrant Curried Lentil Soup using red lentils (which turn quite yellow when cooked), with a hint of coconut cream and lots of spice. It's my take on one of my favorite things to get when I go out to eat at an Indian restaurant—dahl—which is a thick, spiced lentil dish.
How to Make Lentil Soup Taste Amazing!
- I love the flavor of both olive oil and butter, and like to use a combination of both as the starter for my lentil soup.
- I then like to load up on the aromatics—ingredients like diced onion, lots of garlic (lentils really benefit from this), some finely diced veggies like carrots and celery, and some warm, fragrant spices such as cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika for a rich, smoky aroma.
- Next I toss in a peeled and diced russet potato to add more texture and depth to this vegetarian soup.
- And finally, once the ingredients are gently simmered together for a short while—about 35 minutes—I finish this lentil soup off with a couple of good fistfulls of baby spinach leaves, some fresh herbs, a generous squeeze of lemon (for that brightness!), and an extra drizzle of good olive oil for added richness.
It's a warm, cozy, thick and hearty pot of soup that needs nothing else apart from hunks of soft, warm, buttered bread to serve along with it!
Tips and Tidbits for Lentil Soup:
- Use good old-fashioned brown lentils, or get colorful: While this lentil soup recipe calls for traditional, easy to find brown lentils (I like to buy them out of the bulk bin in my market), you can certainly use the red lentils (which become golden in color once cooked), or your preferred variety.
- For a little extra protein: This lentil soup is vegetarian, but you can certainly add cubed or shredded chicken, and substitute chicken stock for the vegetable stock.
- If things get a bit too thick: Often times lentil (or other bean soups) will substantially thicken up, especially overnight; if this happens and the soup becomes a bit too thick, simply thin it out with a little water or stock.
- Make it spicy, if you'd like: This soup tastes really delicious with some added “fiery-ness”, so feel free to add extra cayenne pepper in, or some red pepper flakes, or even hot sauce!
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
• Olive oil (4 tablespoons, divided use)
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 medium-size onion, finely diced
• 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
• 1 rib celery, finely diced
• 6 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• Black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• Pinch or two of cayenne pepper
• 4 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 medium-size russet potato, peeled and diced small
• 1 pound brown lentils, rinsed and picked through for little debris/pebbles
• 7 cups vegetable stock
• 1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
• 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
• 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• Squeeze of lemon
-Place a medium-size soup pot over medium-high heat, and add in the butter and about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; once the butter has melted and the oil/butter is hot, add in the diced onion, carrot, and celery, and saute for a few minutes until tender.
-Add in the garlic, and once aromatic, add in a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, plus the smoked paprika, cumin, and coriander, and cayenne, and stir to combine.
-Add in the tomato paste and stir that in to incorporate, then add in the diced potato and the lentils, and stir those in, as well.
-Add in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then cover and lower the heat to gently simmer the soup for about 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and the soup thickened
-Finish the lentil soup by stirring in the baby spinach leaves just until wilted, the cilantro and flat-leaf parsley, a squeeze of lemon for brightness, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil; then, ladle into bowls and enjoy with some warm bread, if you'd like!