Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils

Healthy and hearty slow cooker winter vegetable soup with split red lentils.  This comforting vegetable soup recipe is prepared in a slow cooker for maximum ease and finished with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped parsley, and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese. 

Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils - an EASY, healthy crock pot vegetarian soup that requires no cook time and is packed with fresh vegetables and red lentils!

Today marks a big day! This slow cooker winter vegetable soup with split red lentils is the first slow cooker recipe to ever make an appearance on the blog. Vegetable soups are my jam. Cue the confetti and break out the crock pots!

A bunch of you have been asking (for some time now) that I share slow cooker recipes and while I always want to oblige any recipe requests that you throw my way, I didn’t actually own a slow cooker machine until about six months ago.

It is probably the one kitchen appliance that I’ve held out on over the years.

Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils - an EASY, healthy crock pot vegetarian soup that requires no cook time and is packed with fresh vegetables and red lentils!

Can I confess something? For a long time, I didn’t quite get what all of the fuss was about. Feel free to hate me a little bit.

I’m an adamant believer in sauteing and browning (hello flavor!) and felt like I would be betraying my favorite Dutch oven, because I’m weird like that.

On the other hand, the idea of throwing everything into a slow cooker in the morning, leaving the house if need be, and coming back to a fully prepared dinner was incredibly appealing. Who wouldn’t love that?! The good news? You can get slow cookers with stovetop-safe inserts, which allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds.

This soup can be prepared two ways: you can either choose to saute the onions beforehand (which will help maximize their flavor) or you can just throw them into the slow cooker with the remaining ingredients, turn the machine on, and walk away. I’ve tried it both ways and the soup still comes out great.

Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils - an EASY, healthy crock pot vegetarian soup that requires no cook time and is packed with fresh vegetables and red lentils!

Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils - an EASY, healthy crock pot vegetarian soup that requires no cook time and is packed with fresh vegetables and red lentils!

This soup is all about the vegetables and it is packed with them.

Onions, celery, carrot, zucchini, chopped canned tomatoes, and finely thinly sliced savoy cabbage. Yukon gold potatoes are added as well (no peeling required) to help bulk it up just a bit. My mom actually made a very similar soup for us when we were growing up, and I always loved it.

Hearty and extremely filling, yet you don’t feel weighed down at all. It’s the perfect soup to enjoy on a cold and dreary winter day – especially if you have access to good crusty loaf of bread.

Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils - an EASY, healthy crock pot vegetarian soup that requires no cook time and is packed with fresh vegetables and red lentils!

One important tip that I realized after testing this recipe a few times was the importance of fresh (or at least, as fresh as possible!) split red lentils.

Yes, all lentils at the store are dried. But if you’ve been hanging onto a mason jar full of split red lentils for, um, maybe a year – I blame the move – please don’t use those ones for this recipe.

Older dried lentils tend to dry out even further and will take significantly longer to cook and get tender, so try to find a fresh bag of them at the grocery store or choose them from a bulk bin that gets refreshed often (i.e. not the bag of lentils that has been sitting in your convenience store for three years on the top shelf).

I love split red lentils, because they are delicate and small, yet break down in the cooking process and help thicken the soup. They also are incredibly good for you and contain lots of fiber and protein.

Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils - an EASY, healthy crock pot vegetarian soup that requires no cook time and is packed with fresh vegetables and red lentils!

Don’t forget to fish the soup by drizzling it with a touch of olive oil, sprinkled parsley, and a generous pile of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

It’s the final important touch.

Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled, and diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and chopped into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup split red lentils
  • 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes (with their juices)
  • 2 pieces of parmigiano-reggiano rind
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus more
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 cups finely sliced savoy cabbage, reserved for later
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley (or basil), for garnishing
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, for garnishing

Directions:

  1. If you own a stovetop-safe slow cooker insert: Heat the olive oil in the insert over medium heat on the stove. Add the onion and celery and saute until tender, 5 to 7 minutes, before transferring to the slow cooker and continuing with the instructions below.
  2. If you do not own a slow cooker with a stovetop-safe insert (or wish to skip step one): Place the insert on the slow-cooker base (this recipe will fit a 4-quart capacity slow cooker). Add the olive oil, onion, celery, carrot, zucchini, potatoes, split red lentils, chopped tomatoes, parmigiano rind, bay leaves, thyme, chicken stock, kosher salt, and black pepper. Stir together. Cook on high heat for 4-6 hours, or until the red lentils are tender (or alternatively, cook on low heat for 8-10 hours).
  3. In the last hour of cook time (or 2 hours, if you are cooking over low heat), add the thinly sliced cabbage. Remove and discard the dried bay leaves and any tough thyme sprigs. Adjust the seasoning to taste salt and pepper - you will most likely need to be liberal on the salt for this soup!
  4. Serve the soup and top each serving with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley, and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Tips For Success:

  • Older lentils tend to dry out and might take significantly longer to cook.
  • Try to find a bag at the grocery store or choose them from a bulk bin that gets refreshed often (i.e. not the bag of lentils that has been sitting in your convenience store for three years on the top shelf).

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