Hearty Red Lentil Soup
This hearty red lentil soup is made with simple ingredients like onions, leeks, carrots, celery, crushed canned tomatoes, and red split lentils. A delicious (naturally gluten free and vegetarian friendly) soup that will quickly become a weeknight favorite!
Happy New Year! I’m back after taking a few weeks to enjoy the holiday season with my family, organize my workspace and brainstorm my goals, and take care of a few things that kept me from producing content for this space (hello, camera repair!).
With that said, I’m excited to bring you my first new recipe of 2019! It’s a really good one.
This red lentil soup recipe was developed through pure necessity. The fridge was bare, with the exception of a few celery stalks, carrots, leeks, and some leftover crushed tomatoes, and I had zero desire to head to the grocery store.
A quick glimpse into my pantry confirmed that I had onions, chicken broth, and some of my favorite red split lentils on hand. Red lentil soup, coming right up!
I’m convinced that improvisational cooking can lead to our best creations. Many of my favorite soups, including this carrot soup recipe, have come about due to a similar predicament.
Why You’ll Love This Red Lentil Soup:
The resulting soup was so tasty that I took note of the ingredients, re-tested it, and am sharing the recipe with you today. From start to finish, this soup takes about an hour to prepare.
The ingredient list is relatively short, and you’ll find everything you need at any generic grocery store (including Trader Joe’s, love that!). This soup is hearty, nutritious, flavorful, and best of all, easy to make. It has a lot of sticking power and tastes like something that has been stewing for hours.
To add flavor, I always like to add parmigiano-reggiano rinds to soups. They add so much flavor during cooking and it’s a wonderful way to utilize them. If you don’t have any, feel free to leave them out.
Paired with salad, a crusty slice of bread, or simply enjoyed on its own, this soup makes for a delicious dinner, particularly during these colder winter months. I have a feeling I’ll be making it all season long!
How to Cook Red Split Lentils:
Red split lentils are my all-time favorite lentil to use in homemade soups. I also use them in this slow cooker winter vegetable soup, which many of you love and make regularly!
Unlike other types of lentils (such as French Puy, green, black, and some brown lentils), red split lentils are hulled and, therefore, cook extremely quickly and begin to break down and disintegrate during the cooking process, which I love! They produce extra thick, hearty soups, and become almost creamy in texture.
This quality makes them a poor choice for salads and other preparations where you want the lentils to retain their shape, but makes red split lentils a perfect candidate for soups, dhal, stews, and pureed dishes.
Before using lentils, they should be rinsed under cold water (a fine-meshed sieve is perfect for this!) and picked over to ensure there are no small stones or rocks.
Shopping Note: Red split lentils sometimes go by the name of ‘masoor dal’ and range from orange to more golden yellow in color. Since they are hulled, they are thinner in shape than other lentils. They are available at Trader Joe’s, bulk sections, and most generic grocery stores.
How to Store Red Split Lentils:
Red split lentils, like all other lentils, should be stored in a cool, dry place. Lentils generally have a shelf life of about a year.
Older lentils have a tendency to dry out and can take significantly longer to cook (and can sometimes never break down properly), so try your best to avoid storing them for too long. Red split lentils should cook through in 20 to 30 minutes.
My Favorite Trick for Making Thick and Hearty Soups:
Just before serving this soup, I take an immersion blender (this one is my favorite, affiliate link) and puree a very small portion of this soup directly in the pot.
If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer a large ladleful of soup to a small food processor or blender, puree until mostly smooth, and then transfer it back into the soup.
I use this trick for most soups, particularly bean or lentil soups, because it add heft to the broth and lends a certain ‘creaminess’ to the final texture. You can certainly skip this step, particularly for this soup as the lentils break up quite a bit on their own, but I like doing it all the same.
How to Freeze Red Lentil Soup and Other Make Ahead Tips:
To reduce prep time, feel free to chop your vegetables (and store them in separate containers in the refrigerator) a day or two ahead.
Any leftover soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Like most soups, this red lentil soup can also be frozen for another time. Transfer the cooled soup to freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 4 to 6 months.
Allow the soup to thaw completely in the fridge and reheat over the stove, adding additional broth or water if necessary.
Red Lentil Soup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions medium dice
- 2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only rinsed well and medium dice
- 3 medium carrots roughly ½ lb, medium dice
- 5 celery stalks (about 6 ounces) medium dice
- 2 large garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1½ cups red split lentils rinsed
- 1 can (15½ ounces) crushed Italian tomatoes
- 1 to 2 parmigiano-reggiano rinds
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 quarts (8 cups) low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for serving (optional)
- In a large soup pot, melt the butter and extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until lightly bubbling. Add the onions, leeks, and generous sprinkling of kosher salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions and leeks are soft and translucent in color, about 10 to 15 minutes. I place the pot lid on askew, to help trap moisture and ensure the ingredients sweat, soften properly, and don't gain too much color.
- Add the carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Continue seasoning the soup lightly with salt and pepper as you add the remaining ingredients. Add the lentils, crushed tomatoes, parmigiano-reggiano rinds, bay leaves, and chicken broth. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly simmer, uncovered, for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, or until the vegetables are tender and the lentils have cooked through and broken down quite a bit. The soup should be thick and hearty.
- Blend a small portion of the soup with an immersion blender (or transfer a large ladleful of soup to a small food processor or blender, and puree until roughly smooth). This step is optional, but creates a wonderful texture.
- Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. If it tastes at all flat, feel free to add a small squeeze of lemon juice (however, I like it just as it is!). Before serving, remove and discard the bay leaves and parmigiana cheese rinds. Serve hot. Garnish with freshly grated parmigiano cheese, if desired.
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).
- Make Dairy Free: Substitute the butter for extra virgin olive oil, and omit the parmigiano rinds.
- Make Vegetarian: Use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.
49 Comments on “Hearty Red Lentil Soup”
Another delicious recipe, Laura! We didn’t have Parmesan rinds (dang cross-country move had us discard our stock), and it still turned out flavorful and rich. A wonderful hearty dinner soup.
So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you Brianna! Really appreciate your reviews and feedback.
I love this recipe! I’ve made it numerous times and it always turns out delicious!
I cannot find split red lentils will just the regular red work? Will it still break down? Thanks
They are not the same – and it’s hard to say without seeing a picture of the options you can find! You can send me an email with more information, but I would try to find split otherwise the cook time and texture will be different.
I’ve been making this soup for about a year and I cannot sing its praises loud enough. Very forgiving if you’re missing one of the veg (I rarely have leeks so I just add more onion) and very welcoming to additions ( I often add Mozza balls or tiny egg dumplings). My husband, who hates tomatoes and lentils, says he could eat this soup twice a week.
Excellent ,loved it easy to make. I am definitely going to make it again my daughter loved it my husband loved it.
I love this so very much! I sook up some tortellini to toss into the bowls to complete the meal!
Love this soup in the winter!
hey, you said 1 1/2 red lentils, but didn’t define which measurement…cups? bags?
THANK you for bringing this to my attention! This is a recipe plugin omission from a recent website update and I was able fix it (I was not aware that this was missing until you told me).
It should be cups and it has been fixed!
This is a keeper! It’s a delightful fall recipe. Simply and delicious.
So glad you enjoyed it!
I highly recommend this soup for anyone craving a tasty, easy to make comfort soup. The only change I make, is I use 1 clove of garlic, 1 onion and 3 leeks. I do use an immersion blender as we like our soups thick.
This soup has become a family favourite! Thank you so much. It is absolutely delicious. I always pair it with homemade sourdough bread ?
It’s one of our personal favorites too! So glad you enjoy it!
I made this soup with a few modifications because of food sensitivities, but the final product was still excellent. I think the blending at the end to create a thicker, creamier soup was a key component to the great mouth-feel of this soup. I have to eat low “FODMAP” so I could not use onion or garlic, but I replaced that flavour with 2 cloves of Star Anise which added a beautiful pop to the soup.
Hi, this soup sounds really good. Would this work in a crock pot?
I haven’t tested this particular recipe in a crock pot (it really comes together quickly on the stovetop because red lentils cook very quickly), but it definitely should. However, I really recommend cooking it on the stovetop for best flavor or at the very least, sautéing the ingredients on the stovetop before setting and forgetting it. I have a feeling you might need to adjust the broth quantities a bit, and unfortunately I can’t offer a specific adaptation right now. Let me know how it goes!
Hi, would love to make this but I’m from the UK so we don’t have cups! Is that the equivalent of 2 litres? Seems a lot of liquid! Thanks 🙂
It is the equivalent of 1.89 liters! It sounds like a lot, but the soup yields quite a bit and the soup will thicken considerably as the lentils cook. Hope this helps!
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have been craving lentils and have a brand new bag of red split lentils. I think I’m going to use your recipe but take it in an Indian direction as that seems to be the flavor I am craving most.
Go for it!! Definitely love when people adapt recipes to make them their own.
This soup was absolutely delicious! I didn’t have the Parmesan rinds to put in the soup, but I put parm flakes on top and it really elevated the flavour! Did not have leeks, so I just used onion. I will make it again and again. Thank you!
So happy to hear that. We actually made it last night as well (and I regularly substitute the leeks with additional onion!). Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!
This.was.amazing.!!! Best soup I’ve ever made and it’s a quarantine soup! Cut portions in half, made it vegan, added roasted carrots and no leeks…but baby! This hit all the spots! Thank you! Be well!
Thanks for a delicious recipe! I made it this week “Q style” as I put it in cooking during a quarantine with what is on hand as I can’t run to the store for a missing ingredient. I even had leeks on hand so this worked out well and it made such a big pot this will be enjoyed at lunch for a number of days. We love soups that have a nice variety of vegetables.
I made this soup last night and it was amazing. I left out the cheese as I didn’t have any in the house but the result was still absolutely delicious. I’ve made lots of (really nice if I may say so myself) soups in my life but this one is of another level 🙂 So full or flavour and a nice thick creamy like texture (as I blended it). My son (10) fully agreed and requested to have this for dinner every day from now on 🙂
Thank you so much for this recipe, I’m off to discover and try more of your recipes straight away!
So happy to hear that (and so glad your son loves it too!). It is one of my favorite soups and we make it all the time. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and review!!! Stay safe and well.
This was SO good!! I used green onions instead of leeks, no bay leaves or parmigiano, and added garlic/poulty-blend, cumin, and a touch of mustard seed for spices because that’s what I had on hand. Wow-best lentil soup I’ve had. Thank you!
I did it!! I worried about how the soup would turn out. I don’t normally cook with beans or lentils. My “Red” lentil soup looked like a pot of gold. I added tomato paste to try and make it red but it didn’t make the soup red. Lol I’m proud of my Golden Soup!
Thank you for the recipe!
Ha! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the soup. It is called red lentil, because that is the name of those types of lentils, but it is more of an orange golden hue than red, haha. Thanks for taking the time to leave a review.
I make lentil soup on a regular basis but never tried adding tin of tomatoes garlic or leeks. Sounds a tasty alternative can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks for the idea.A
Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe! It was easy to make and turned out great! Perfect for a cold dreary Seattle day 🙂 thank you!
Yay! So glad you enjoyed it! We’ve been having a lot of dreary days here in Chicago too and soup always cheers me up 🙂
Did you actually measure the 1.5 C lentils by volume or weight? I noticed the package says 1/4 cup is 35g, but when I measured out 35g, it was slightly less than the 1/4C mark on my measuring cup. I’m thinking of using 210g (6 quarter cups × 35g), but not sure if your recipe used weight or volume. It would be closer to 318g if measured by volume… so I’d be off quite a bit if I used the package’s measure of a cup…
Hi Rose! The lentil were measured by volume (using measuring cups) – if I measure by weight – as I do with my dessert recipes – I’ll always list the gram measurements in recipes. Either way though, it shouldn’t affect the recipe very much either way.
I made this soup for my family and they loved it . It is great soup on days when we are vegetarian. I skipped the cheese . It was very tasty . I love all your recipes, illustrations and prep is relatively easy. Your website has been great find for me . I can’t wait to try the other recipes.
This is truly delicious, I usually tend to adjust recipes to my taste but I followed this to the letter and is perfect. Thanks for sharing.
So thrilled to hear that Gabrielle! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!
Loved this! Didn’t have leeks so I used green onion as a substitute. I loved how thick it was after putting it into the food processor. Will definitely make again! Thank you.
So thrilled to hear that you enjoyed it Maria!!! Green onions could totally work. Alternatively, you could always just add another regular onion too, but I love the addition of flavor that leeks provide.
Love the nutritional information!
Delicious! one of my favorite soups! Do you recommend these lentils?
I haven’t tried these particular lentils, but it’s a cheap affordable (well reviewed) one from Amazon. I would just buy Trader Joe’s or the bulk ones at Whole Foods if you’re buying from the store.
Beautiful photos love that copper pot where is it from?!
Thanks Betsy! It is a Mauviel 6.75 quart oval pot, I got it during my recent trip to Paris, France last spring. I absolutely love it. I keep it on display in my kitchen daily, and it is a dream to cook with.