Creamy Red Lentil Soup

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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 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!

red lentil soup in white bowl
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4.92 from 34 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


  • 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.



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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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.


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.


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.


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.

    June Pumford

    When I don’t need the whole can of tomato paste, I measure out 1 Tbls “blobs” & put on wax lined cookie sheet & put in the freezer. When frozen I put them in freezer bag & save for next use. Many recipes call for 1-4 TBLS & it is good to have them in the freezer.


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

    Megan Gilmore

    I’m so glad to hear that, Alex! Thanks for letting me know.


    Easy, quick and very tasty! I reduced the salt to 1 teaspoon after reading some of the other comments and it tasted right to me. I also served it with cauliflower rice to make it extra hearty. This will be in my fall/winter soup rotation for sure!


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.


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


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!


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


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


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.


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. 👍

    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!


      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?


Made the soup today with no adjustments. It is delicious!



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.



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!

Rachel Lozoff

Would this work without the tomato paste? I avoid tomatoes for inflammatory reasons. Looks like such a yummy soup though! I’m a huge fan of all of your recipes.

MEgan W

I make a lot of lentil soups. This one is hands down the BEST! Thanks for another great recipe, Megan!! I made mine in the instant pot. 12 minutes with 10 minute natural release. Besides that I followed the recipe to a “T”.

    Megan Gilmore

    I’m so glad you love it! Thanks for sharing the Instant Pot timing, too!


Super yummy! I used brown lentils by mistake but it was still ok. And didn’t add the coconut milk because it was low on salt already. I used Tamari on my own bowl of soup.


It would have been glorious exactly to your recipe but I’m a sucker for anything spicy so I added a tbsp of Harissa paste along with the coconut milk. Perfection!!


A keeper! Easy to make. Delicious. I cut the cayenne pepper in half.Also started with just 1 teaspoon of salt. At end, added a few shakes of Spike (no salt spice mix) & just a tad more salt, along with a few grinds of pepper. I’ve made this twice now, and know that I will be making it again!


The best food (really!) I’ve ever made and eat.


Very delicious! I made the butter chicken and the lentils too, perfect Indian dinner 🥘

Lizzy Santos

So much flavor. I followed your IP instructions, hemp milk (water and hemp seeds in the vitamix) I didn’t have any tomato paste so I used a 15 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes.


    Simple, delicious, and perfect for cooking for anyone with a variety of food restrictions!


Delicious. I made only half of the recipe because it was just for me and at end didn’t use the coconut milk. But it was perfect and super easy to make.. Thanks Megan

Kim De Lutis

This soup is a hit! It’s fast, easy, and the cayenne pepper gives it a kick, so be careful if you don’t like hot! I think it’s perfect.

Kayla Clark

This is my go to soup to meal prep and freeze. It heats bak up really well, and is so flavorful and delicious on a cold winter day!


This is one of my favorite recipes from Detoxinista. We make it weekly! I’ve also made it multiple times for friends and family and they ALL ask for the recipe or the leftovers!! Definitely a winner in our house.


Yum! Creamy! So good!

Mary Allen

Yum! We really enjoyed this soup! Had some cornbread with it.


A staple in our house now. So yummy and easy.


Thank you for sharing this delish and healthy recipe! My hubby is out of town, and making a dish for one can be so daunting…I mean, I ALMOST ordered an entire pizza for just me tonight. BUT instead, I quickly whipped up this meal, and I’m grateful I’ll have dinner tonight and leftovers! I did juice half a lemon and add it for some freshness, and it was perfect! Thank you for keeping me off the ‘za and onto something healthier and still enticing! 🙂

Elena R Farley

This is my favorite red lentil recipe I have found since I’ve been vegan! Love it! Bold and smooth.

Claire Grothen

This soup is so delicious. I omitted salt and coconut milk because I’m always trying to reduce sodium and fat intake. I didn’t miss them at all. I have made this soup many times now.

Leigh Morant

This is soup has quickly become a family favorite. I’ve made it once a week for a month now. So easy and quick and made with basic pantry staples. Shhh… I will admit that I usually taste and add an extra tablespoon of brown sugar at the end of prep. Thank you Megan Gilmore for another vegan home run!


Very flavorful! For Instantpot version, cook on high for 10m plus 10m natural release, reduce water to 3 cups, stir in coconut milk after cooking is done. I included the juice of 1 small lemon at the end to brighten up the flavors.

I also reduced the cumin to 2 tsp because I felt like 1 tb might be too much.


Just finished making this and it is delicious! I followed the recipe, except I used lite coconut milk (canned). I think I will serve it on brown rice because I have some cooked in the fridge. Will definitely be making this often this fall and winter.


I made it again! Still the best food ever!

alex gardner

Love this soup! So delicious and wonderfully simple ingredients.


Made this tonight & both of us loved it. Used more spices as we like spicy food; added 1/2 red bell pepper, 2 small Russet potatoes & 1 can of chickpeas + more liquid. Used 1/2 organic chicken broth & 1/2 water along with 1/2 cup of heavy cream as we’re out of coconut milk. It was delicious & I’ll definitely be making it again. It’s another recipe that can easily be changed & have other veggies added to it depending what’s in season. TY for another super recipe!


This turned out great! The only change was to add a little acid (lemon juice or ACV)

Jessica Allossery

I think using chicken or veggie stock would add more flavor as we felt our soup was a little bland. We served over rice and added sauteed roasted red pepper sausages – and it was delicious! Turned out great 🙂


Thoughts on leaving out/replacing cilantro?


Delicious! I used an immersion blender when all ingredients were tender. Very creamy and delicious! It’ll be a regular in our home!

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