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red lentil soup recipe in bowl with spoon and cilantro elizabeth rider

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

  • Author: Elizabeth Rider
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Chop, Simmer
  • Cuisine: Indian-Inspired


This traditional red lentil soup recipe with lemon is the best lentil soup we've ever tried! It's full of nutrients, fiber, protein, and hydration. You'll want to make it over and over again.


Units Scale
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, grated on a box grater (about 1 cup)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped including the juices (or 10-12 grape tomatoes, whatever looks good)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1.5 cups red lentils
  • 4 cups (1-quart) chicken stock or veggie stock (or bone broth for more protein)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, more or less to taste (3+ teaspoons if your stock is low-sodium)
  • a few spins of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 large or 2 small lemons; zest it first)
  • garnish: whole cumin seeds dry-toasted or toasted in ghee*, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, freshly chopped cilantro (or parsley or chives if you don't like cilantro)


  1. Preheat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and let it heat up for 30 seconds. Add the onion, carrot & tomatoes (including any juices of the tomatoes); sauté 7-10 minutes until the veggies are soft and the oil has taken on the red color of the tomatoes. It’s important the tomatoes are fully cooked before adding the lentils—you’ll know they’re done when the oil is slightly red.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add the garlic, cumin, a few spins of freshly cracked black pepper, and a teaspoon of sea salt. Cook 1-2 minutes until very fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  3. While the onions and tomatoes cook, rinse the lentils in a strainer or colander under cool water for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Add the lentils to the pot and give them a quick stir into the oil, then add the stock and water (6 cups of liquid total). Add another teaspoon of sea salt and bring to a rolling simmer, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the red lentils are very soft. No need to puree; red lentils break down as they cook.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. The lemon is key, don’t skip it. Always add lemon juice off the heat. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To serve, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly chopped cilantro or chives, and a few pinches of the toasted whole cumin seeds, if desired. Keeps in the fridge, covered, for up to 5 days. Freezes well ungarnished.

*To toast the cumin seeds, heat a small skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat then add 1-2 teaspoons of dry whole cumin seeds. Toast them dry for about 4-5 minutes until very fragrant. If it's popping loudly or smoking the pan is too hot. The cumin seeds should be lightly toasted in 4-5 minutes. Move them to a plate or bowl to cool for a few minutes. They're great dry-toasted, and you can elevate them even more by adding an equal amount of ghee (clarified butter) to the pan after 1 minute of dry toasting. This will lightly fry the seeds in the ghee and give you a wonderful soup garnish. 

Keywords: red lentil soup recipe, red lentil recipe