Red Lentil Soup With Lemon

Red Lentil Soup With Lemon

A light, spicy soup with a bold red color that takes less than an hour to make.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch of ground chile powder or cayenne, more to taste
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


  1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
  3. Add broth, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
  4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.
  5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.


  • Nestle hunks of cod loin in the soup to gently poach for five minutes or so before serving. Delicious!
  • Leave out the cilantro and give people sumac to sprinkle on top.
  • Increase the garlic and cumin and added coriander.

Major variations:

  • I did add a 1/2 cup extra lentils and more carrots. The lemon (added zest as well) and cilantro added nice flavors.
  • Put in a handful of rice along with the lentils.  It binds the soup and makes it silky.  Not too much, or it gets a bit gummy.  For 7 C. water (no broth), I use about 1/4 C. of rice, and 1 1/2 C. red lentils.
  • I add 1/2 cup of bulgur at the same time as the lentils.  It gives the soup a nice body.  Also substitute a 15 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes for the tomato paste. The bulgur and red lentils are what’s known as “vospov khema” in Armenian cuisine.  Meatless and out of this world.
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