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Perfect Red Lentil Soup (Vegan!)

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This Red Lentil Soup is bursting with flavor and couldn’t be easier to prepare. I love that it’s loaded with plant-based protein, while also being low in calories for a healthy, fiber-packed meal. Once you taste it, it’s hard to stop going back for more!

red lentil soup in white bowl

Benefits of Lentils

Lentils are an affordable source of plant-based protein, and red lentils are one of my favorite varieties because they cook so quickly.

Here are a few more benefits:

  • Lentils are an excellent source of iron and protein, providing essential and non-essential amino acids that the body needs to build protein. (source)
  • The polyphenols found in lentils have anti-inflammatory effects and may help to improve blood sugar levels. (source)
  • Eating 1/3 cup of lentils each day may help to improve cholesterol levels. (source)

Red lentils are one of the faster cooking lentils, becoming tender in as little as 15 minutes, and if you choose to use split red lentils, you can lower the time to just 5-7 minutes.

red lentil soup with coconut milk and cilantro added in

How to Make Red Lentil Soup

This soup requires a bit of vegetable chopping to get started, then you’ll just need to saute them until they start to soften. Stir in the seasonings, lentils, and water and bring the soup to a boil.

Red lentils become tender in about 15 minutes, so this soup cooks relatively quickly. I like to stir in a bit of coconut milk and fresh cilantro at the end, which adds a nice creaminess and punch of flavor.

Keep in mind that the added cayenne pepper gives this soup a kick. I love the added spice, especially when it’s cold outside because it will warm you up from the inside out! But, if you don’t love spicy food or want to serve this to children, you can cut the cayenne in half or leave it out all together.

Do You Need to Soak Red Lentils?

Lentils don’t require soaking the way dry beans do before cooking, but soaking them may help to remove some of the anti-nutrients found in their outer coating. If you find that lentils give you any stomach discomfort, try soaking them for 2-4 hours, drain the soaking water, and the rinse well before cooking them in fresh water.

Another option to help remove some of the lectins found in lentils is to pressure cook them. To cook this soup in your Instant Pot, you can combine all of the ingredients in your pressure cooker and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Refer to my Instant Pot Lentil Soup for more details.

More Lentil Recipes

If you need more ideas to use up the lentils in your pantry, try one of these fan favorites!

red lentil soup in white bowl
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4.78 from 9 votes

Perfect Red Lentil Soup

This creamy Red Lentil Soup is quick & easy to prepare, featuring protein-rich lentils and a hint of spice.
Course Soup
Cuisine gluten-free
Keyword red lentil soup
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 197kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 2 carrots , chopped
  • 2 celery stalks , chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional; omit if you don't like spice)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro , chopped
  • freshly ground pepper , to taste

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, and saute the onion, carrots and celery until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Add in the garlic, cumin, cayenne, and tomato paste, and stir briefly, about 1 minute.
  • Add in the water, lentils, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Simmer until the lentils have expanded and are tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Once the lentils are tender, stir in the coconut milk and cilantro. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding more salt and some freshly ground pepper, if desired. Serve warm.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. This soup will thicken in the fridge, but it will thin out again when it's heated. You can always add an extra splash of water, if needed, to thin it to a consistency you like again.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 197kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 710mg | Potassium: 589mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 3742IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 4mg

Recipe Notes:

  • If you want to swap the red lentils for another variety of lentil, keep in mind that green, brown, and black lentils will take longer to cook. I’d recommend leaving out the salt in that case, to make sure the lentils get tender first, and extend the cooking time until the lentil you use is tender. Then, you can season with salt to taste.
  • You can omit the coconut milk if you don’t like it, but it does add a really nice creaminess. Use almond milk, oat milk, or hemp milk if you prefer.

If you try this recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it! And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too. We can all benefit from your experience!

Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite way to use lentils?

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Comments

Sharon

Am I able to use another milk besides coconut milk?

    Megan Gilmore

    Yes, I think any other milk would work! It just won’t be quite as creamy with something like almond milk or oat milk.

Bea

This sounds lovely. I do get confused when a recipe calls for coconut milk. Do you mean the coconut milk drink? Or canned coconut milk? Thanks for the clarification.

    Megan Gilmore

    I used full-fat canned coconut milk in this recipe, but you can use the boxed drink version for a less-creamy result.

Lulu

If trying this in the instant pot, how long would you estimate and on which setting?

    Megan Gilmore

    I would cook it for 10 minutes at high pressure (I use the manual or pressure cook button) and then let it naturally release for 10 minutes before moving the steam release valve to venting to release the rest of the pressure.

    Megan Gilmore

    I usually cook lentil soup for 10 to 15 minutes at high pressure (depending on how soft you want the veggies) with a 10 minute natural release after that.

Rachel

Made this last night and it’s so good! Only change that I made was I used the whole can of tomato paste, because I didn’t want to store it. My husband didn’t mind the extra tomato flavor. Thanks so much for another hit! This one will be added to our weekly rotation this winter.

Alex

Great, simple recipe. My 8 year old loved it too and asked for a second helping!

Erin

Wow, this is the best red lentil soup I’ve ever tasted! I used your suggestion and swapped almond milk for the coconut milk, because that’s what I had.

Laurie

This red lentil soup is delish. Thanks for sharing!
Your recipes are all great and easy!

Aurora

Like the soup, just need to season better only because seemed bland, blended for my toddler .

Ernest Lee Woods

Seriously perfect! No additions needed! I almost proposed to Meghan, but then i remembered i was happily married and she gives of her recipes freely!

Ea

Way too much sodium! I’m going to leave out most of the salt and hope it tastes okay.

    Donna Wetherell

    I delete salt in all recipes

Rebeca

I just made this. Delicious! I didn’t use the coconut milk and also added 2 sausages. It’s a perfect soup that give you opportunity to make some personal changes. My husband loved it.

Noreen Bookman

What can I do in place of tomato paste? The only ingredient I don’t have

Erica

Delicious and simple to make.
I omitted celery and coconut milk. I added about 1 teaspoon of Trader Joe’s Onion Salt after it was cooked. I ate it with warm Naan bread and olive oil.

Kelly

Due to my special diet and coronavirus lack off canned goods in store, I Can’t find tomato paste at store as I need a no salt added what can I use to substitute? No salt added tomato sauce, no salt added crushed or diced tomatoes.
Please help as would like to make this recipe. 👍
Thanks

    Megan Gilmore

    I think the tomato sauce would be most similar. You might want to add a little more of it to taste, since it’s not as concentrated as tomato paste. Hope you enjoy the soup!

      Kelly

      Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Oh no just realized we don’t have tomato sauce. Might just have to wait til stores have more canned goods to try this recipe. We only have diced and crushed tomatoes no salt added and marinara sauce no salt added in our pantry. By the way absolutely love and use regularly your IP cookbook. Do you think you will release anymore IP printed cookbooks?

Diane

Made the soup today with no adjustments. It is delicious on this cloudy pandemic quarantine day!

Thanks

Jackie

I love this soup and all your recipes. I don’t have cilantro today.Do you think I can use fresh parsley instead? Or should I just leave the green out? It’s chilly so feel like making soup.

    Megan Gilmore

    I think parsley might be too overpowering in flavor, so I’d just leave it out! It’s still delicious without it.

Greital

hi,

I tried this one for my 6 years old kid, and he loved it ❤.

I ate from it too, and it was delicious 😋.

But I made some changes 😇

I added one butternut squash (I chopped it in small pieces and saute it with the onion, carrots and celery, in the 1st step).

Also, instead of 1/2 cup coconut milk, I just put 2 tablespoons of it.

and of course I didn’t make it spicy, since it’s for my kid.

Thanks alot, this is the 2nd recipe I tried from your website and it’s perfectly delicious 😋

Dene' Mansaray

Is there an Instant Pot version of this?

    Megan Gilmore

    I think you could cook this in the Instant Pot for 10 minutes at high pressure, with a 10-minute natural release after that. Hope you love it!

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