Want to try a new spin on lentil soup?

The recipes in this post were developed by Kate Sherwood, The Healthy Cook. Have a comment, question, or idea? E-mail Kate at healthycook@cspinet.org.

Enjoy this simple, delicious, and amazingly versatile soup tonight. Then pack your bags. The recipe makes 9 cups, so you can be in Greece tomorrow, Mexico the day after, then India.

Click here for a printer-friendly version of these recipes.

How to make a simple lentil soup

Don’t worry if you don’t use all the soup. It freezes beautifully.

Time: 50 minutes
Makes 9 cups

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
½ lb. (1¼ cups) black, green, brown, or red lentils, or yellow split peas, rinsed and picked over
1 15 oz. can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1½ tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large heavy pot over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Sauté the onion and carrots until lightly browned, 5–7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

2. Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 25–30 minutes (15–20 minutes for red lentils or yellow split peas). Remove and discard the bay leaves.

3. Optional: For a smoother consistency, purée some or all of the soup with a hand blender. (See the variations below.)

4. Season with the salt and pepper.

Per serving (1 cup):

  • Calories: 170
  • Total fat: 6 g
  • Sat fat: 1 g
  • Carbs: 22 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Total sugar: 3 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Sodium: 340 mg

How to make the variations

Got leftover lentil soup? Jazz it up with these toppings. Each variation makes 4 servings.

Greek Lentil Soup

This variation is best when the soup is first made—still brothy and unpuréed. 

Bring 3 cups of the basic soup to a simmer in a medium pot. Stir in 4 cups of baby spinach, kale, or arugula and ¼ cup minced fresh dill. Top each cup of soup with a pinch of lemon zest, a bit of dill, and a scattering of sliced scallions.

Per serving (1 cup soup + toppings):

  • Calories: 140
  • Total fat: 5 g
  • Sat fat: 0.5 g
  • Carbs: 19 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Total sugar: 3 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Sodium: 300 mg

Mexican Lentil Soup

Purée 2 cups of the basic soup in a blender with 1 chipotle in adobo or 1 tsp. chipotle powder. In a medium pot, bring the puréed soup plus 2 more cups of the basic soup to a simmer. Top each cup of soup with a few thin slices of fresh chile pepper (try jalapeño, fresno, or serrano), 1/8 of a sliced avocado, and a few fresh cilantro leaves. 

Per serving (1 cup soup + toppings):

  • Calories: 200
  • Total fat: 9 g
  • Sat fat: 1 g
  • Carbs: 24 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Total sugar: 4 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 8 g
  • Sodium: 380 mg

Indian Lentil Soup

Purée 4 cups of the basic soup in a blender with 1 serrano or jalapeño pepper. In a medium pot, bring the puréed soup to a simmer. In a small pan, gently heat 4 dried chiles (try Szechuan), 2 chopped cloves garlic, ½ tsp. smoked paprika, and ½ tsp. curry powder in 2 Tbs. olive oil until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Top each cup of soup with one of the dried chiles, a few slivers of ginger, and a drizzle of the spiced oil.

Per serving (1 cup soup + toppings):

  • Calories: 240
  • Total fat: 13 g
  • Sat fat: 2 g
  • Carbs: 24 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Total sugar: 4 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Sodium: 350 mg
Photos: Kate Sherwood/CSPI.

The recipes in this post first appeared in the December 2020 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


Find this article interesting and useful?
Nutrition Action Healthletter subscribers regularly get sound, timely information about staying healthy with diet and exercise, delicious recipes, and the inside scoop on healthy and unhealthy foods in supermarkets and restaurants. If you don’t already subscribe to the world’s most popular nutrition newsletter, click here to join hundreds of thousands of fellow health-conscious consumers.

Have a comment, question, or idea?
Send us an email at comments@nutritionaction.com. While we can’t respond to every email, we’ll be sure to read your message.