HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Your best lentil soup recipe?

  • m

I have been making different versions of lentil soup, and so far my favorite is Emeril's (cringe). I need some new ideas though - I like them all! I've been looking for a great harira recipe, as well as a truly French version, but throw them all my way... Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I use a vegetable stock (onions, carrots, leeks, mushrooms, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns) because i tend to make a big batch (consider that lunch for the week) and I try to keep the amount of animal products in my diet down.
    I saute a good amount onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, (sometimes mushrooms, sometimes bacon if im feeling that way - bacon goes great in lentil soup. I know adding a ham hock while it simmers is popular, but I have never done it) then add the veg stock and lentils. Cook that until the lentils are done, and I like to puree mine with an immersion blender - just because i prefer the texture that way.
    I typically stir in some vinegar before serving, most of the time sherry, but red wine works well. I like balsamic, as well, but that is admittedly, a little unusual.
    I've added uncooked, cubed tofu to the soup right before i serve it plenty of times and really like that. I tend to do that more when i do not puree the soup for some reason.
    Another thing I have enjoyed is mixing some wasabi in soy sauce and adding that right before serving.
    I have thought about throwing in some baby spinach before I eat it, but never have...maybe this week.
    Lentil soup freezes well, if you did not know that already...when i make it, I tend to make about 4 quarts worth at a time and freeze what I wont eat in a week. It makes getting an extremely healthy, homecooked lunch or dinner ready super quick.

    I am excited to see what ideas other people have...great idea for a post.

    4 Replies
    1. re: dcole

      +1 on using vinegar for serving. A dash of balsamic against the earthiness of the lentils is terrific. I'd imagine the same could be said for a fresh squeeze of lemon.

      1. re: monavano

        +1 on using vinegar for serving. A dash of balsamic against the earthiness of the lentils is terrific.
        try sherry vinegar. it has that perfect balance of acid & sweetness - not as sweet as balsamic, not as bracing as lemon.

      2. re: dcole

        You make yours like mine, and I have added spinach. It's good and does add to the broth. Chard too. I love sherry in these kinds of soups.

        1. re: dcole

          My favorite is Gordon Hamersley's curried lentil soup that was in the Boston Globe many years ago: saute chopped bacon, onions and carrots. Add lentils and curry, then chicken broth or stock and herbes de Provence. Simmer for about 45 minutes.

          Canned or boxed broth works fine in this recipe because of the strong flavor of the curry.

        2. My favorite lentil soup is admittedly not healthy with addition of bacon fat but I must say it tastes great.
          In a 4 qt dutch oven, saute 1 diced yellow onion in 3 Tbsp bacon fat. Add lentils for quick stir with onions then chicken stock/broth, salt, and black pepper. Sometimes I add diced carrots,celery, etc but most of the time just the lentils and onions. My family likes a thicker lentil soup so I adjust the broth as well. On top of a thick lentil soup serve a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.

          1 Reply
          1. re: foodseek

            Mine is pretty much yours, but I always add carrots and spinach or chard, and sometimes potatoes. I prefer low sodium chicken broth as the base with a dash of soy sauce and brandy or cognac. No yogurt or sour cream. When my boys were little the go-to meat was Oscar Mayer hot dogs (because they had a smoky taste), but now Andouille sausage or any of the wonderful organic chicken sausages (available in delicious flavor combos) take center stage. Can't say as I've tried lemon or balsamic vinegar (I wonder how apple cider vinegar would taste?) but may have to make a batch this weekend just to do that. Perhaps the most delicious lentil soup I ever had was made by a British friend. When I asked her for the recipe she said she just threw in whatever she felt like..."Oh, and a bit of Vegemite!" Didn't taste as good the time I made it, but I didn't know how much to use and I haven't dared try again. If anyone can clue me in on that, please do!

          2. Here's a link to a suggestion made in another thread on this topic. The thread overall is good, but the recommended Madhur Jaffrey recipe for lentil soup is very simple and truly outstanding:


            1. I've had success with the Hearty Lentil soup recipe from Cook's Illustrated (easily Google-able). I substitute turkey bacon for the pork bacon, and it's still very good. Freezes really well, too.

              1 Reply
              1. I once had a lentil soup that had oxtails in it -- it was absolutely delicious -- anyone know of such a soup or have a recipe for one?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sarah

                  I've never done it with oxtails, but I use a recipe that I found in my mom's v old Betty Crocker? cookbook. It is very easy. Just make a beefy broth with shanks, onion and whatever aromatics you have around. Once you're happy with the broth, add washed brown lentils. I'm planning to try it soon with little green French lentils. I usually add whatever vegetables I have around: brussel sprouts, cauliflower, etc.

                2. I have two favorites. Lentil, Pancetta and Oregano Soup, using the French green or Puy lentils - https://gourmettraveller.wordpress.co...
                  I usually just use bacon, but it is better with the prosciutto.

                  and Molly Katzen's Lentil Soup with a Hint of Fruit, using red lentils - http://www.molliekatzen.com/recipes/r.... Everyone I've fed this one loves it.

                  1. I've never used a recipe for lentil soup, but mine demands a ham bone that has cooked itself to death in a pot of water, then strained, added carrot and celery slices with little bites of ham and the lentils, and a good grinding of black pepper.
                    I make it so rarely that I haven't ever made any other style of lentil soup. When I want it, this is the one I crave.

                    1. Just made a RRay soup w/ lentils, escarole, fresh rosemary, garlic, onions, carrots and sausage. Sorry I don't have the connection - got the recipe from a neighbor's magazine. Really good - could use some more garlic in the end product IMHO, but excellent.

                      1. I *love* this Red Lentil Soup with Lemon:


                        It's best with all the ingredients, but I usually leave out the cilantro just for ease. I also really like it with parsnip in addition to the carrot. I have made this "for the week" and then eaten almost the whole thing myself in one go more than once.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kazhound

                          I've been making virtually the same lentil soup, so quick and delicious:

                          I also really like the Cook's Illustrated variations on lentil soup, particularly the hearty lentil soup and the lentil and escarole soup.

                        2. Lentils, chicken stock, spicy Italian sausage (browned and in big chunks), and a bay leaf.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: wyogal

                            I use pancetta and not prosciutto for this Marcella recipe. Sometimes I use water and not stock.

                            It is excellent:


                            1. re: erica

                              yes - erica - I concur - I didn't use that recipe but the one directly from Marcella's Essential's book - also used pancetta - - a great flavor - a great soup - my only problem is I hadn't realized it only feeds 4-6 and next time, while going thru the effort, I will definitely double the recipe - I love pulling out a treasure from the freezer!

                          2. Mine is Lentil Sausage Soup- it's a Barefoot Contessa recipe. We love it and it freezes well. I have tripled it for a group meal and made a 4th batch using veggie stock and mushrooms in place of the keilbasa. It's very hearty and has the vinegar option others mentioned.


                            1. I like lentil and sausage too. The other morning I made one with a base of roasted tomatoes, sauteed onion, stock, and a splash of sherry, and hit it with the immersion blender, then cooked the lentils until they were almost dry, added kielbasa and poached an egg on top. The yolk ran over the lentils when I pricked it. Kind of a weird breakfast, but it was just what I wanted :-)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jvanderh

                                Mine is so simple. Onions (leeks if I have them), carrots and celery (lots of leaves), . 2 cans of Hunts tomato sauce, 2 Knorr beef bouillion, water. After it has cooked for 30 minutes or so, I then boil tubettini pasta in a separate pot and add to the soup. I'll also throw in a rind of Parm if I have it.

                              2. I make red lentil soup all the time... Middle Eastern flavors. So simple to prepare, can be made in advance and freezes well. Usually I serve it with homemade pita chips and some kind of vegetable side dish. Let me know if you'd like the recipe.

                                3 Replies
                                  1. re: Joebob

                                    The measurements aren't so precise, but I'm sure you can get a feel for the flavors.

                                    3/4 glass red lentils
                                    Put the lentils in a soup pot, and cover with water by 1-2 inches. Bring to a boil and then simmer until lentils are very soft and have disintegrated. The lentils will be a yellowish color.

                                    While the lentils and water are cooking, finely mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and fry in a small skillet in olive oil. When you add the spices and lemon juice to the soup, add the fried garlic. Simmer another few minutes, stirring, to make sure the flour doesn't clump.

                                    To make the pita chips- slice pita (regular or whole wheat) into wedges and place in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. Spray the tops with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and cumin. Bake for about 10 minutes or till crisp and browned in a 400 degree oven. Store cooled chips in a ziplock bag or container.

                                    Hope this helps!

                                    Add to lentils splash of lemon juice, cumin, salt, white pepper. In a small bowl or juice glass mix together a spoonful of flour and a few spoonfuls of water. Add this to the soup pot.

                                    1. re: cheesecake17

                                      Sorry to be so stupid, but when you say "...the spices..." you mean just cumin, salt, white pepper? That's all? No zatar, etc?

                                1. I do a lentil-sausage-curry soup. It had a proper recipe at one point, but now I just sort of improvise (I don't think the original version even had the curry).

                                  Sautee the sausage to cook/render out the fat (I have used many types of sausage in this soup and find that anything with a bit of heat will work nicely -- if it's dried, just cook long enough to render out the fat. If it's fresh, cook the sausage through at this point). Remove the sausage and cut into chunks.

                                  Sautee some aromatics and any veggies you want in the sausage fat. I always use onion and a ton of garlic and then whatever combination I happen to have of carrots/celery/bell pepper/mushrooms etc.

                                  Once these are soft, add some lentils (I prefer lentils that keep their shape somewhat, but any kind will do) and chicken stock (or beef stock or veggie stock -- I think the original recipe called for water).

                                  Then I add salt, pepper and generic curry powder to taste (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on what I feel like and how flavorful the curry is). Sometimes I add the sausages back in here, sometimes I wait right until the end. And I almost forgot the lime juice! I squeeze either half or a whole lime into the mix at this point.

                                  Then I cook it until the lentils are soft, adjusting whatever needs to be adjusted as I go along. My general starting ratio is 1.5 cups lentils to 4-6 cups stock. If it's too thick, I add some extra water. The other measurements are pretty much all eyeballed.

                                  1. Here's a blog adaptation of my favorite from Peter Berley's Fresh Food Fast:

                                    I love a classic Greek lentil soup too, but this one is a nice change.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                                        No--I just wanted to find a proper link to the recipe since the book is not searchable on Amazon. It looks like a faithful reproduction.

                                    1. I'm getting lots of good ideas here.

                                      I have a lentil soup recipe with white wine, pancetta (I use a good bacon) and chestnuts. Really good.

                                      We just had a thick lentil soup (more like a stew) my SO made with carrots and cilantro. The cilantro gave it a little different kick. Also really good. That recipe came from a Jacques Pepin book on healthful cooking.

                                      1. I have an Italian recipe that calls for small pasta to be added. Haven't made that one in awhile, I think I will have to give it a go.

                                        1. I don't eat meat anymore so my versions are vegetarian.

                                          With brown lentils I saute garlic and onions with some dried herbs (provencial or italian blend works well- and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Add lentils, chopped carrots and diced potatoes. Sometimes I add a cup or so of canned diced tomatoes. Add vegetable broth or water. Cook until tender. Sometimes I add a little half and half before serving which is very good.

                                          For red lentils, I make them Indian style. I saute lots of sliced onions, and I do mean lots- with garlic and ginger. Add curry powder and a pinch of garam masala and red pepper flakes. I usually cook in water but you could use broth. I serve these over basmati rice with raita ( plain yogurt mixed with fresh cilantro, chopped seeded cucumbers and chopped fresh tomatoes. Sesaon with salt, pepper and a pinch of cumin). Really simple but so good.

                                          1. I like to do a Middle Eastern thing with my lentil soup - I saute my aromatics with lots of za'atar and then add some pomegranate molasses at the very end, just until I get that hit of acid in the background.

                                            1. I'm surprised this one hasn't surfaced. It's quick and easy and people rave about it and while apricots sound weird with lentils, they pretty much dissolve into the soup and pretty much just give it a sweet/tart depth of flavor.

                                              Apricot Lentil Soup
                                              3 tablespoons olive oil
                                              1 onion, chopped
                                              2 cloves garlic, minced
                                              1/3 cup dried apricots
                                              1 1/2 cups red lentils
                                              5 cups chicken or vegetable stock stock
                                              3 roma (plum) tomatoes - peeled, seeded and chopped (I used canned this time of year)
                                              1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
                                              1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
                                              salt to taste
                                              ground black pepper to taste
                                              2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

                                              Saute onion, garlic, and apricots in olive oil. Add lentils and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add tomatoes, cumin, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer 10 minutes more. Add lemon juice. Puree 1/2 of the soup in a blender, then return to the pot. Serves about seven.


                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: chicgail

                                                That sounds fantastic. I'm going to remember it. My SO is on a lentil kick (very welcomed) so this will get a try.

                                              2. My go-to lentil soup "recipe" is just the basic lentil soup recipe - sauteed sausage of some sort, onions, celery, carrots, veg or chicken stock (homemade if I have it) and lentils. I usually throw in some sort of herbs - thyme and bay being my favorite and other seasonings like pepper and salt. Then near the end I add some beer and a peeled and cut up sweet potato and simmer until the sweet potato is done. Best lentil soup ever!

                                                1. maya, why cringe at emeril? he sees like such a great generous guy! even tony bourdain came to respect and embrace him after he visited him in NO and saw the great way Emeril took care of his staff=family after the hurricane.

                                                  speaking of cringing( you might, i don't know) i have long liked the Progresso canned Lentil soup. Sometimes to jazz it up I add 1/4 c. minced ginger sauteed in oil, plus some tomato paste and Sun brand Madras curry powder, and simmer awhile to blend flavors.

                                                  1. Count me among those who find her prose precious, but Heidi Swanson has one recipe that I usually follow (minus dairy) when I feel like having beluga lentils: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/... . A bit of smoked paprika is nice if the fire-roasted tomatoes aren't available.

                                                    For red lentil soup, I don't have a recipe per se -- but as many other people here, I either curry it and make it smooth and lemony-fresh or I make it with chunks of veg and leaves of green and flavouring more reliant on thyme and bay than curry and cumin. This balsamic discussion is giving me ideas, though.. delicious ideas!

                                                    1. from Williams-Sonoma Soup for Supper:; indian red lentil soup

                                                      1 1/2 c red lentils, wash/drain/sort/saute with 1 large chopped onion in butter<-season with gr coriander/cumin, 2 tsp fresh grated ginger (don't skip this) 1/2 tsp gr turmeric - you can skip this if you hate turmeric, pinch cayenne. 6 c water/chicken or vegetbale broth. bring to boil/simmer until lentis are soft 30-40 minutes. Puree, stir in 1 1/2 c diced tomatoes -reheat, salt/pepper/fresh cilantro. voila .

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. After eating delicious lentil soup while in Turkey, I knew I'd have to try to make some at home. This Iraqi recipe is the closest I've found. It's easy to make and everyone I've shared it with has loved it. It's delicious! All you need: red lentils, onion, garlic, carrot, potato, celery, lemon, cilantro and spices. The lemon juice and salting to taste at the end make the dish. http://www.sooogood.org/iraqi_food_re...

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: mmmmmmmmmgood

                                                          MMMM, i'm going to make this; thanks so much for the link. But do you think he uses whole turmeric, cumin, etc or ground?

                                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                            I never even thought about it. I always have used ground, and cooking the spices makes them quite tasty. Let me know if you try it with any whole spices....

                                                        2. I make a vegetarian farro (spelt) and lentil soup, served with homemade croutons and a drizzle of fruity olive oil, it's a crowd pleaser, here is my recipe http://madonnadelpiatto.com/2009/01/1...

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: madonnadelpiatto

                                                            My goodness, we have a celebrity in our midst. Nice of you to drop by, Letizia :-)