There is nothing worse than coming home after a long workday and trying to find a healthy, easy recipe.
This lentil soup recipe has been a major win in my household for any weeknight. It’s quick, has the most delicious flavor, AND is packed with vital nutrients.
What’s not to love?!
This lentil soup recipe is incredibly easy to make and so inexpensive. It is seriously one of my favorite main dishes to make for a quick dinner.
Even with organic ingredients, you can make a giant pot of soup that will feed 6-8 people for less than $10. Sign. Me. Up!
What are lentils? Lentils are legumes, similar to peanuts and soybeans. The pulse (dry, edible seed) is what we traditionally think of as a lentil.
Lentil Soup Is a Nutritional Powerhouse
Lentil soup combines the nutrients, protein, good carbohydrates, and fiber in lentils with the antioxidant power of veggies, herbs, and spices. Adding a little healthy fat from the extra virgin olive oil rounds it out into a perfectly balanced meal.
Lentils are especially high in B vitamins and minerals like iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc. This soup recipe is also low in sodium and contains little-to-no saturated fat.
In fact, many nutritionists consider lentils one of the healthiest superfoods that you can eat, especially on a tight budget.
Lentil soup is so flexible and can be made in a huge variety of ways. While I prefer to make this soup on the stovetop to bring out each ingredient’s flavor while sauteing, you can just throw it all in a slow-cooker and come home to a great meal.
When paired with the other ingredients and optional vegetables, this lentil soup is packed with vitamin A, B vitamins, and dozens of minerals. I call that a win!
Choosing Which Lentils to Use
I like to use the small dark green lentils (aka French lentils) because they’re sturdy and cook quickly. Regular green lentils are also fantastic here (I buy mine on Thrive Market at a great price.)
All lentil varieties work great in this recipe and are very nutritious, so try different types (red, green, etc.) and find what you like best.
Red lentils cook down extra soft, while green and black lentils will hold more bite. Brown lentils also cook quickly but lose their shape more than green lentils, resulting in a more mushy soup.
Do lentils need to be soaked? Unlike other pulses, it’s not necessary to soak lentils before cooking them. You may still choose to soak them for benefits to the cooking time or to make them easier to digest. Really, it’s up to you.
Lentils need a little more cooking time if you don’t soak them, but it’s generally not a problem. If you haven’t had time to think ahead, still give them a good rinse in a fine-mesh colander and inspect them for any hard shells or rocks, as lentils are stored in big drums and can accumulate dust particles. But i’s totally ok if you don’t have time to soak them.
On the flip side, lentils will cook faster if you soak them. Soaking lentils can also make them easier to digest. If you find that lentils make your tummy grumble or give you gas, then consider soaking them for 12-24 hours.
Always discard the soaking water and rinse the lentils before proceeding with cooking.
Are Lentils Gluten-Free?
Lentils are naturally gluten-free. However, always make sure to read your labels—some lentils may be processed in a facility that processes items with gluten.
Lentils vs. Rice
Are lentils better than rice? While each has its own distinct taste and texture, I prefer using lentils more, as they are healthier and contain more protein. Lentils are also slightly lower in carbohydrates and higher in dietary fiber than rice.
Ways to Customize This Recipe
Think of this lentil recipe as a guide and method to making lentil soup— it’s absolutely delicious as written—and super flexible, too.
Feel free to add any herbs, spices, or veggies that you’d like and make it your own. If you’re adding extra veggies, add an extra 1/3 cup of liquid for every 1/4 cup of veggies you add. You can also eye it and add liquid (water or stock) as needed.
I love to make a side dish of cornbread or crusty bread to go with this lentil soup recipe, which pairs beautifully.
Here are a few ideas on how to customize this lentil soup:
How to Make This Lentil Soup Vegan
To make this recipe a completely vegan lentil soup, simply substitute the chicken broth for vegetable broth or vegetable stock.
How to Add More Protein To This Lentil Soup
Use protein-rich bone broth (aka long-simmered chicken stock) to add even more protein to this dish. You can make your own, which takes 12-48 hours, or find it at most grocery stores.
How to Add More Flavor
If you aren’t looking for a vegan dish, in particular, a quart of chicken stock deepens the flavor of this dish (I recommend it!). You can find quarts of high-quality chicken stock at just about any store. I prefer organic, but choose what you can.
Flavor Variation Ideas for Lentil Soup
Red Lentil Soup With Lemon
Red Lentil Soup with Turnip and Parsley
Vegetable Lentil Soup
Turmeric Lentil Soup
Carrot & Coriander Lentil Soup
Lentil Potato Soup
What can I add to lentils for flavor? Again, this recipe is delicious as written, but if you’re like me and make it almost every week in the cooler months, then here are some ideas to mix it up and add more flavor:
Swap out the cumin and oregano for 2 teaspoons of your favorite curry powder or turmeric for a delicious curried lentil soup dish. If you want a slightly smoky flavor, try adding ½ teaspoons of smoked paprika.
Add a chopped sweet potato (chop it into ½ inch cubes) plus 1 cup more water or stock to add a little sweetness and texture.
Add a giant handful of fresh baby spinach and let it wilt in. Or, saute up some heartier greens like kale or rainbow chard before adding to the soup.
When craving more veggies, I love to add zucchini and squash to make this a lentil vegetable soup. If you have extra carrots that you need to use up, add a few more chopped carrots with additional stock or water (see ratios above) to turn this into a carrot and lentil soup.
Because this soup is so versatile, garnish with fresh parsley, cilantro, or add a dash of red pepper flakes for an added kick. If you tolerate dairy, try adding a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for an extra boost of flavor.
I also love adding a squeeze of lemon juice if I think the soup needs a little zip. Plus, this also adds a dash of vitamin C, so why not?
Once you get the hang of it, making this easy lentil soup recipe will be in your weekly rotation. Enjoy!
Tip for Making the Best Lentil Soup
There is honestly no perfect way to make this soup, and that is what I LOVE about it. However, I have found a handy tip for making this the best lentil soup:
Do not overcook the lentils.
Whether this is your first time making lentil soup or your thousandth time, I cannot stress this enough. Make sure to not overcook the lentils, or else they will become extremely mushy.
That will not affect the taste of this yummy soup, but the mushy lentils thicken the soup and give it a different, less pleasant consistency.
How to Make Lentil Soup in an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker
I like this recipe best on the stovetop because following each individual step brings out the most flavor from each ingredient.
However, if you’re in a rush, toss all of the ingredients into a slow-cooker or pressure cooker (I love my Instant Pot for times like this) and set it on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Blend part of the soup if desired before serving.
This easy lentil soup recipe is a family favorite! It’s super flexible and always delicious.
How do you make lentil soup from scratch? You’ll just need 6 cups of liquid total. Use up any stock or broth you have on hand with water if needed (e.g., 3 cups stock with 3 cups water). The more stock you use, the more flavor it will have.
See the notes below for ideas and flexible substitutions. If you like this lentil soup recipe, please leave a star rating in the comments below for other readers in our community (thank you in advance!).
1-quart vegetable stock (or chicken stock or bone broth)
2 cups filtered water
1 ½ cups lentils, rinsed (soaking is optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow or white onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped or grated
3–4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (aged balsamic also works)
1 teaspoon sea salt (I use Real Salt), more or less to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (about 5 spins in a pepper grinder)
Optional: 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (or one 12 oz. can of organic diced tomatoes)
Optional: Any greens you’d like to add, look for something in season and at a reasonable price at the store. Spinach is always a great option and has a mild flavor. We like 1 handful of greens per serving.
Spread the lentils out on a large sheet tray and pick out any debris (aka anything that doesn’t look like a lentil). Legumes are harvested and stored in large quantities, and sometimes little rocks or other things make their way in the bag.
Rinse your lentils well in a fine-mesh strainer before using them.
If you choose to pre-soak your lentils (I don’t, but many people do):
Pour the lentils into a large bowl and cover with purified water by 2 inches.
If you’ve thought ahead enough, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave it on the counter for 12-24 hours.
Drain the lentils and rinse them well before using them.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
Add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery with a big pinch of sea salt and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes.
Lower the heat down to medium-low (to prevent the garlic from burning) and add the garlic, cumin, oregano, another pinch of salt, and a few spins of freshly ground black pepper.
Stir and let cook another 2-3 minutes until the mixture is very fragrant. (Be careful not to burn the garlic—turn the heat down to low if necessary, as garlic burns easily.)
Add the bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, a few more spins of black pepper, stock, water, and rinsed lentils to the pot and bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. The amount of salt you need will depend on what type of stock you use; start with one teaspoon and add more later to taste if desired. If your stock is not salted, you may need up to 2 (or more) teaspoons).
Add the tomatoes (if using).
Let the pot simmer for about 40-50 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
Once the lentils are tender, turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.
Discard the bay leaf before pureeing and serving.
Depending on how you like the texture, use a handheld immersion blender to blend 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup. Skip the blending if you prefer a firmer soup texture. If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree 2 cups of the soup in a regular blender or food processor; include some of the soup’s liquid to blend smoothly. Or, blend the whole thing up in a high-speed blender (in batches) to make a silky smooth lentil soup.
Lentil soup keeps in the fridge for about 5 days and freezes well in an air-tight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Be very careful when blending hot mixtures. Never fill the blender/food processor more than 1/4 the way full, as hot liquids expand when blending.
If waiting longer than one hour to serve, leave the soup pot on the stove but turn the burner to the lowest setting. You can leave it on the stove for 2-4 hours. If it gets too thick, just add another 1-2 cups of water. This recipe is really that flexible.
Keywords: Lentil Soup Recipe, Lentil Recipe
Have You Made This Lentil Soup Recipe?
I can’t wait to hear from you and how you like this recipe. Make sure to comment below and give it a star rating.