Green Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Indian Spices
Green Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Indian Spices. A flavor-packed comforting lentil soup recipe!
Oh, lentil soup! One of my absolute favorites. All I need in the world is a good bowl of soup, and a crusty piece of bread. I could live on the stuff.
I’ve talked about my love of lentil soup (and side of grilled cheese) before. My mom makes one of my favorite lentil soups ever. It is Italian-icized (as is the case with most of my family’s dishes) with the addition of leftover parmigiano-reggiano rinds in the broth and good-quality canned tomatoes. It was one of my favorite dinners growing up.
Today’s green lentil soup with coconut milk and Indian spices is the polar opposite of that version. It is a little exotic and mysterious, but just as addicting and comforting.
Every now and then, I have to remind myself to break out of my soup routine and make something really unique and different. This green-lentil soup is that and more. The recipe is barely adapted from one of my older (yet well-loved) cookbooks, Once Upon a Tart.
The cookbook, based on the two authors’ cafe in New York City, is chock full of satisfying and comforting soup, tart, pastry, and sandwich recipes.
This lentil soup is rich and creamy, yet still manages to be light and delicate, if that makes any sense at all. It also uses my favorite type of lentil: lentilles de puy, more commonly known as a French green lentils. They become tender in a relatively short amount of time (20 to 25 minutes), but don’t lose their shape, unlike most other lentil varieties.
The soup gets its creaminess from the addition of full-fat coconut milk and, wait for it…GHEE!
Is yesterday’s crazy-long butter post starting to make sense now? I’ve actually been wanting to do that for a while. I mean, why wouldn’t I want to talk about butter for paragraphs and paragraphs on end?
Exactly. But really, there was a reason behind the madness, and it was in preparation for today’s recipe.
What’s the fun in posting a recipe that calls for ghee (or at least recommends it, don’t worry, it can easily b e substituted with regular butter), if–and I’m not making any assumptions–you don’t know what it is, how to make your own, or have never even heard of the stuff. That is not helpful in the slightest.
Now that you know how to make ghee, you’re probably wondering how it is incorporated into this recipe?
Well, warm and cozy fall spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg, are toasted and warmed with a touch of melted ghee and stirred into the soup just before it is finished cooking. I kind of love it.
It makes the spices stand out more (maybe I’m imagining it, but it at least seemed that way!) and makes for a very fragrant and intoxicating soup! The combination of the ghee, spices, and coconut milk are the perfect trifecta.
Make this soup for a crowd and I guarantee you everyone will be scratching their heads, wondering what is in it that makes it taste so darn special, and even better…coming back to you to ask for a copy of the recipe.
Also, as is the case with practically all soups, this one tastes even better on day two or three!
Green Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Indian Spices
- 3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves finely chopped
- 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1½ quarts (6 cups) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1½ cups French (Puy) green lentils rinsed and picked over
- 2 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter, or unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- pinch ground nutmeg
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup (240 mL) full-fat coconut milk
- kosher salt
- Heat the unsalted butter in a large soup pot. Add the diced onion and garlic, and sauté over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and translucent. They will reduce in volume significantly.
- Add the fresh thyme and turmeric, and continue to sauté for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture is very soft and fragrant.
- Add the stock and lentils and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender yet still hold their shape.
- In a small saucepan, heat the ghee (clarified butter or melted unsalted butter) over low heat. Add the spices and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or so, until the butter is fragrant. Watch the pan, as it can quickly go from fragrant to burned if not careful.
- Add the spiced butter mixture to the soup. Pour in the coconut milk, stir everything together, and heat the soup over medium heat for 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
82 Comments on “Green Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Indian Spices”
Thank you for the recipe! It was AMAZING!! I tried using my homemade cashew milk instead of coconut and it was really good!! I also made jeera rice along with this and it felt like I was eating at an authentic Indian restaurant!! I really recommend making jeera rice and trying this combination!
I can’t wait to try this combo! Thank you for the great feedback, I really appreciate it!
This is ridiculously DELICIOUS!!! Can it be frozen?
Absolutely! Just leave a little space at the top of the container and allow to thaw in the refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours before rewarming gently. You will probably need to add a touch of water/vegetable broth to thin it!
Do you need to soak or prep the dried lentils beforehand?
I am so excited to try this recipe!!
No, these are Puy lentils, they cook in a very short amount of time and never need soaking. Hope this helps!
I have made this soup so many times. I am not a lentils fan but this soup is something that I crave for. This recipe is a keeper!
So happy to hear that! Thank you!
Hi there! I love to make soups, but I find it hard to get the full flavor. I made this recipe today, and it is amazing! Full, vibrant flavors… and very filling. I loved infusing the ghee/ butter with the spices. I am going to use this technique with other recipes. Thanks so much!
So glad you enjoyed it!
This is delicious! Definitely a keeper, even if it was a bit too exotic for some of my family members’ tastes. (Which means more leftovers for me; hardly a tragedy!)
I combined it with your slow cooker green lentil soup recipe in that I included carrots and ginger. I also added an extra pinch of some of the “baking” spices after getting overwhelmed by the scent of the turmeric at first. Having tasted it now, I probably could have simply trusted the recipe, but I also have no regrets!
So glad you enjoyed it!!! Thanks so much for the review!
This was really good!
Hello! I made this recipe this morning as written, thinking it was similar to a recipe I had lost from long ago. While it was delicious, I wondered what could be missing – perhaps you forgot to add? It needs 2 Teaspoons of Coriander and 1-2 Teaspoons of Cumin. Try it next time-I think you’ll agree wholeheartedly!
Hi Dorinda. No, this is the original recipe – you might have me confused with another blog. It is not meant to include either of those spices, but happy to hear that you enjoyed your own adaptation.
well i’m one to normally alter recipes to get better flavours BUT you have absolutely nailed it! amazing flavours in both soups i have made from your site, made the green lentil one and one other.
I’ve been making this soup for a couple years now (this recipe) and it is outstanding everytime! Especially great when there isn’t much in your pantry. Sometimes I add paneer, cayenne, fresh lime juice or carrots… but the original recipe on its own is amazing. 👏
So happy to hear that!
I made this tonight and it was so delicious!! Very creamy, but also nutty from the lentils
– thank you!!
I made this soup today and I was snowed in so I had to use the ingredients I had on hand. I substituted coconut oil for ghee and allspice for the other spices. It was soooooo good! Best soup I ever made. Thanks!
Just made this and it was fabulous! I am vegan so I used olive oil instead of the butter and ghee, and it still tasted fabulous!
So glad you enjoyed it! It’s one of my favorite soups! (And great tips on how to adjust it to be vegan 🙂 )
I just made this with no chicken or chicken broth (Used mild yellow miso for broth) Used sunflower oil instead of butter or ghee and it was great! I didn’t even add any salt and it was good.
We just made this recipe (we followed the recipe exactly other than adding a tomato as we do when we make tarka dal) and it was so tasty! Ridiculously delicious actually. Thank you so much for the recipe. We will be making it again to impress guests!
So thrilled to hear that! It’s one of my FAVE soups!
I made this yesterday and it was amazing– I followed the recipe exactly except I added carrots
So thrilled to hear that! It’s one of my favorite soups!
Just tried this recipe and am very satisfied. I’ve tried a number of lentil soups similar to this, but this has the best flavor by far. Thank you!
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I prepared this soup last night to use up some ingredients. It came out very good.
One step that was interesting to me was the ghee infusion. I cook soups reguarly and did not understand what the purpose of this step was.
I googled around and found an article that cleared it all up for me. Anyone else who was baffled by the step should read Monica Bhide’s article on NPR.
The Crackling Spices Of Indian Tempering
From the article:
“Tadka translates as “tempering.” It is a method widely used in Indian cuisine, in which whole or ground spices are heated in hot oil or ghee and the mixture is added to a dish. Hot fat has an amazing ability to extract and retain the essence, aroma and flavor of spices and herbs and then carry this essence with it when it is added to a dish. American cooks are familiar with tempering as a way of heating and cooling chocolate. No relation.
Indian tempering is done either at the beginning of the cooking process or as a final flavoring at the end.”
The temperature had just dropped and it was raining outside and I thought to myself – SOUP!
I’ve made this recipe many times for my family and refuse to give them the recipe, and I always get the bug-eyed expression from my guests, as they keep shoveling it in. My next door neighbors are old, frail and set in their ways, so when I told them I was making lentil soup with coconut milk and warm spices they answered in unison, “No thanks.” So, I filled a bowl and knocked on their door. The old man barely touched his finger to it then raised it to his lips and his eyes grew wide – “Honey, you gotta taste this” he said to his wife. They asked me to please bring another bowl. I mean, how cute is that?
Did you soak the lentils overnight before adding to the soup?
Nope! This recipe uses the French green lentils, which don’t need to be soaked in this situation, as they cook relatively quickly and easily. Hope this helps! They are my favorite go-to lentil for this reason.
I will try this delicious sounding recipe tonight but I am confused about instruction #5 where you say to add the mixture to the soil….please explain.
Oh my goodness! That is the strangest typo I’ve ever discovered in a recipe. By soil, I mean “soup”. I’m going to fix the recipe shortly! Thank you so much for letting me know! Hope you like the soup Kathleen!
It still says soil ? But I know what it means now:) Will make this asap for tomorrow evening, it’s so cold now!!! Br!!!!
Oh my goodness. That’s a very unfortunate auto correct. Ha! Thanks for pointing it out – I’ll fix it now. I had to transfer all of my recipes to a new platform a few years ago and I’m pretty sure that was something that happened in the process without me realizing it.
Rachel Green from Friends may have put soil in it ?
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This looks amazing and the spices + the coconut milk= wow! Gorgeous photos too! 🙂
Oh! and you can a a 1/4 tsp of red chilli powder or 1/2 tsp of whole black pepper to make it slightly spicier.
we make this in south india and have it over rice. In north India it’s called dal but it’s made with cow’s milk -since coconuts aren’t really available there. You can always use coconut oil instead of butter and cream/milk instead of coconut milk.
Would a hint of curry or cumin further enhance what seems to be a delicious recipe, or will it be too much?
Also, if green lentils can’t be found, will it still work with regular lentils? Would the recipe need to be modified in any way?
Not sure how it would taste with curry or cumin but you could always try it with a little to see how it tastes. If you use a different type of lentil you may need to adjust the cooking time for the soup.
Made this soup last night. Delish! Do you per chance have the nutrition information?
Hi Shauna! So glad you enjoyed it! Unfortunately, I don’t have the nutritional information, as I don’t really calculate that for my own recipes. There are a lot of resources out there (via Google) that can be used though! Sorry I can’t be more helpful.
Since you don’t say to cover it, I assume it’s to summer uncovered for the 25-30 min?
Yes! I’ll edit the recipe and make a note. Thanks for asking Kirsten! Hope you like it!
My boyfriend made me this soup on Friday (after I not-so-subtly hinted at how much I wanted to try it…) HOLY MOLY flavour town! I have always been a HUGE lentil soup fan but this may be one of the best I’ve tasted. And even better the next day! We decided to use better than bouillon instead of low-sodium broth and that was a mistake, it was way too salty. But now we know for next time!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Neila! Thanks for your comment! And I totally agree, I wouldn’t use better than bouillon for soups (or almost anything?). It has so much sodium that I think it is near impossible for dishes not to come out not crazy salty, unless you dilute it an insane amount.
This soup looks so incredibly comforting and warm!!! Definitely adding this to the list of must try recipes.
Laura — Cassidy made this last night and it was delicious!!! I even had puy lentils in the cupboard already, which was a miracle. Yum yum!
Yay! That’s great! You put Cassidy to work 🙂
What a gorgeous looking soup! It looks like a bowl of comfort. I love coconut milk with Indian flavours, and the lentils are a bonus. We make soup for dinner on Sundays, and this is definitely in the cold weather lineup. Thanks for sharing the recipe!
Thanks so much Katie! Please report back if you try it!
I just finished making this soup. It’s very good. I didn’t make the ghee. Too lazy. I will make it and add it next time.
This sound looks and sounds incredible! I love everything about it!
Thanks for your nice compliments about our Davidsonlentil soup, Laura! Can’t wait to try this one and loved the “butter” post!
This looks so warm and comforting. I love lentils, but I’ve never had lentil soup. One of my favorite things in life is dredging crusty bread through creamy soup. Can’t wait to try this!
Oh, you must make lentil soup! I think you’d absolutely love it, especially if you love lentils 🙂
I have tried making lentil soup but it keeps failing on me! Maybe I should try out this recipe!
Oh no! What’s happening? Happy to troubleshoot! 🙂
This is the recipe for Dhal Tadka. This is not a soup. I’m not sure why you’d would call it a soup. You could use the real name.
This recipe, which is adapted from a cafe’s cookbook recipe, uses French green lentils and is intended to be eaten as a soup.
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Simple and perfect, I just added coconut milk to my shopping list so I can make this one evening soon. Yum!
Oh yay! Thanks Emma! Let me know how it turns out!
I’m pretty sure I want to take a bath in this soup! And ghee.
Haha! That sounds..messy (but delicious).
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LOVE Indian food their and soups are fantastic. This looks so inviting and good. I really like that you bloomed the spices and created the bagaar oil blend. It makes it!
Ooh! I didn’t know there was a name for the oil/ghee blend! Thank you for such an informative comment Kevin!
I lived in India one summer, and we had lentil soup all the time. This one has the exact same color, and brings me back to those days! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Oh, that makes me so happy! And I can’t believe you lived in Indian for an entire summer, that must have been incredible!
The first lentil soup I ever ate was bright and lemon-y. It was uh-mazing, but I like yours with the cinnamon and cardamom. Warmer flavors. And the coconut milk…everything is better with coconut milk! As always, your pictures are stunning. That red fabric is lovely.
This soup is totally screaming my name! I could seriously eat soup every single day, even through the summer. It’s the best. I really love the coconut milk + the spice blend….so.much.flavor.
I think you’d really like it!!! I could eat soup every day too, actually!
I think indian soups are some of my favorite. I made a creamy one the other day and am so making this one soon! Looks so good!
Oh man, such a yummy looking soup. In fall I tend to go heavy with the spices, so this suits me perfectly!
Soups also remind me of family dinners, nothing is more comforting to me than soup and fresh bread. I love the spices on your version, I could add coconut milk to everything if I was let loose!!!!
Same! Totally agree with you (about family dinners and coconut milk, haha!)