Lentil soup is a nutritional powerhouse.
It combines the nutrients, protein, good carbs and fiber in lentils with the antioxidant power of veggies, herbs and spices. Adding a little good 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 and zinc. Many nutritionists consider lentils one of the healthiest things you can eat, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
This soup is incredibly easy to make and really inexpensive, even with organic ingredients you can make a giant pot of soup that will feed 6-8 people for less than $10.
I like to use the small dark green lentils (a.k.a. French lentils) because they’re sturdy and cook quickly. All lentil varieties are great and very nutritious, try different types (red, green, etc.) and find what you like best.
Think of this recipe as a guide and method to making lentil soup; add any herbs, spices or veggies that you’d like and make it your own. Once you get the hang of it you won’t even need to refer back to a recipe.
- 1 quart vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
- 2 cups purified water
- 1.5 cups lentils, soaked and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped or grated
- 3-4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (aged balsamic also works)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon course black pepper
- Optional: 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (or one 12 oz can organic diced tomatoes)
- Optional: Any greens you’d like to add, look for something in-season and a good price at the store. Spinach is always a great option and has a mild flavor, you’ll need about one handful of washed greens per person.
- 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.
- Pre-soaking really depends on personal preference; it helps soften the lentils faster but is not always necessary. If you want to soak, 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 8 to 12 hours. If you haven’t thought ahead, soak them while you’re preparing the rest of the soup until you’re ready for them, a little soaking (even just an hour) is better than none.
- Drain the lentils and rinse them well before using.
- While the lentils soak, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, cumin, oregano and pinch of both salt and black pepper to the pot. Stir and let cook another 3-5 minutes until the mixture is well combined and very fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic–turn the heat down if necessary.
- Add the bay leaf, rest of the salt and pepper, stock, water and soaked, 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.
- Add the tomatoes (if using) and let the pot simmer for about 40-50 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
- 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 ⅓ to ½ of the soup. Or skip the blending if you like 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 the soup’s broth to blend smoothly. Be very careful when blending hot mixtures and never fill the blender/food processor more than ¼ 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 water. This recipe is really flexible.
- Optional: Add one handful per person of chopped greens, like spinach or kale, to piping hot soup a few minutes before serving for even more flavor, nutrients and fiber. Add them last once you’ve turned off the heat so you don’t kill all of their nutrients, the greens will wilt from the heat of the soup in just a few minutes.
Happy soup making!