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!
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.
How to Make It
How do you make red lentil soup from scratch? All you have to do is sauté a few veggies to get started, then 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.
Tips for Cooking Lentils
Do you need to soak red lentils? Red 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!
- Sweet Potato & Lentil Curry
- Lentil, Kale & Quinoa Stew
- Instant Pot Red Lentil Curry
- Lentil Salad
- Vegan Meatloaf
- Instant Pot Vegan Chili
Perfect Red Lentil Soup
- 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
- 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.
- 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?