When you are looking for a hearty, healthy meal with just the right amount of everything, look no further than lentil soup. The great thing about lentils is that they are full of protein, cook up quickly, and add a special kind of heartiness to any dish. I add them to many vegan or vegetarian dishes for a little extra oomph. But, this is not a strictly vegan recipe, you can add beef broth, or even bone broth if that’s your preference.
The Easiest Lentil Soup Recipe
The best thing about this lentil soup recipe is that you probably have everything you need already in your pantry. You don’t have to fancy it up, the beauty is in the simplicity of the ingredients. Lentils are legumes like beans, but they are so tiny and cook up so fast that you don’t have to presoak them. Which means you can have a quick, healthy meal in about 30 minutes.
- 2 cups dry lentils
- 2 quarts vegetable stock
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (or more)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Vinegar or lemon juice
- In a large stockpot, add the olive oil, onion, and salt, sauté on medium-high heat until onions are soft, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, celery, carrots, and bay leaf. Sauté for about 2 more minutes.
- Add the lentils and broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender, puree until desired consistency. I like about half the lentils to be pureed and half to remain whole. You can also take about half the soup and puree it in a blender if you don’t have an immersion blender.
- Add more salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving stir in vinegar or lemon juice to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a light salad and bread.
This recipe is so simple and makes a lot, but it freezes well. And it gets better as the flavors blend over time. You can freeze any leftovers and have a meal ready to go on a busy weeknight. Simple reheat on medium and add a little vinegar or lemon juice to freshen up the flavor.
Build on the Basic Lentil Soup Recipe
While I love this recipe as it is, you can easily add a little Asian or Middle Eastern flair if you like to mix it up sometimes. Any type of lentil works, too, so try black, green, or even red for something a little different.
Curry and Lentils
I almost always have garam masala on hand, an Indian spice mix that includes black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and coriander. Garam masala means “hot mixture,” so if heat isn’t your thing, sprinkle it in lightly at first. If you don’t have this spice mix on hand, try a little cumin, cardamom, coriander, and anti-inflammatory turmeric. I like to add diced cauliflower to the vegetable mix as well. Black or red lentils stand up best to these intense flavors.
If you like a little Asian flavor, seasoning your soup with freshly grated ginger, and spicy chili pepper flakes will add depth to the soup. Adding a mixture of cloves, cinnamon, anise, salt, and pepper combined with soy sauce or tamari completes the Asian flavor profile. Any type of lentils works well with these flavors, I usually use brown, but you can also try black or green.
If you are going this route, definitely use lemon juice instead of vinegar in the base recipe above. Yellow or red lentils are your best choice since they provide a more neutral background for the seasonings. Add cumin, turmeric, and parsley while the soup is cooking, and swirl in mint and lemon zest before serving. If you like it spicier, add a dash of cayenne pepper.