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The Absolute Best Lentil Soup

Ease is the name of the game.

The Kitchn
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Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk.

Lentil soup is a culinary wonder. It’s creamy without any dairy, satisfying and protein-packed without any meat, and easy to make from a handful of kitchen staples. Essentially, lentil soup is everything we need right now. This lentil soup recipe is a few years in the making: Having been disappointed by too many lentil soup recipes to count, I set out to make the absolute best one.

Ease is the name of the game for this soup. There is a bit of soothing chopping and a few cans to open, but no need to bust out the blender. After it simmers for about 20 minutes, you’ll be rewarded with a creamy soup with just a little bit of a tender bite from the lentils and carrots. Here’s how to make the best lentil soup at home.

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Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk.

The Best Lentil Soup Starts in Your Pantry

Lentils are a quick-cooking pantry staple beloved for their versatility — they can easily become the base of salads, flavorful faux-sausage patties, and gorgeous dals. There are three common types of lentils: green, brown, and red. Red lentils work best for this soup, as they cook quickly but not quickly, and they break down a bit in the broth, adding to the soup’s creamy texture. If you don’t have red lentils on hand, green lentils are a wonderful substitute, but may take a few more minutes of cooking. Black lentils hold their shape when cooked, so they’re best saved for salads.

While the base of this soup as written is made with carrots, onions, and garlic, don’t be afraid to use what you have on hand. Finely chop a sweet potato in place of the carrot, and use garlic and onion powder if you need to. Water can even be used in place of the broth in this recipe. Finish the soup with fresh or frozen baby spinach (or even baby kale), or skip the greens all together. This soup is infinitely adaptable to whatever you have at home right now.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots 
  • 1  medium yellow onion 
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups dried red lentils (about 1 pound) 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce 
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth 
  • 5 cups baby spinach (about 5 ounces) 

Instructions

  1. Peel and dice 2 medium carrots and 1 medium yellow onion. Mince 4 cloves garlic.

  2. Place 2 cups dried red lentils (about 1 pound) in a fine-mesh strainer. Pick through the lentils, discarding any broken or discolored ones. Rinse under cool water until the water runs clear, about 1 minute. Set aside to drain while you cook the vegetables.

  3. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the carrots and onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, 1 tablespoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  4. Add the lentils, 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce, and 6 cups broth, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally until the lentils are tender, 18 to 22 minutes.

  5. Remove from the heat and stir in 5 cups spinach until wilted. Serve immediately.


Meghan Splawn is a food editor and recipe professional with a deep love of photography. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn't I Just Feed You.