You can have comfort food and health food at the same time with Lentil Soup! Here’s how to make the best lentil soup that’s budget-friendly, hearty, and makes the most of humble ingredients. It is a must-try for any soup lover!
Why You’ll Love This Easy Soup
- Cozy and Complex. Like all of my best soup recipes, this one starts with aromatic vegetables and herbs at its base, slowly sautéed to build complex flavor.
- Budget-Friendly. Lentils, canned tomatoes, and carrots are all inexpensive ingredients, making this an excellent budget recipe.
- Healthy. Lentils are a powerhouse of vitamins, protein, and fiber. This soup contains a colorful mix of veggies, providing diverse vitamins and delicious flavors to boot.
- One-Pot Winner. Is it just me or does dinner taste better when there are fewer dishes to wash? If you agree, check out more of my one-pot recipes.
- Plant-Based Power. Looking to cook meatless meals more often? Lentil soup is a filling vegetarian recipe that satisfies meat-eaters too.
- Freezer-Friendly. This recipe yields a generous batch. Future you will thank current you for freezing portions for fast, healthy dinners to come.
Choose your favorite method; you really can’t go wrong!
How to Make Lentil Soup
- Veggies. The holy grail of slowly sautéed onions, garlic, and carrots.
- Herbs and Spices. Fresh thyme and bay leaf enhance the earthiness of the lentils and overall warmth of the dish.
- Tomatoes. Bust out those pantry staples; it’s soup season. The tomatoes add to the broth flavor and liquid needed to cook the lentils.
- Lentils. Quick-cooking, inexpensive, and nutrient-packed, lentils are a staple food all around the globe. This soup works well with brown or green lentils (also called lentils de Puy).
- Broth. Vegetable broth keeps this dish vegetarian, but chicken broth could be used otherwise. Use low sodium to keep the soup from getting too salty.
- Kale. A sturdy leafy green, it is ideal for soups because it holds up to simmering. If you have nutritious kale leftover, make this Kale Soup!
- Sherry Vinegar. One of the final notes that really brings this soup symphony to life.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Optional for a bit of heat.
- Honey. To balance out the acidity and round it all out.
- Parmesan. Freshly grated Parmesan is stirred in at the end to add some creamy, cheesy delightfulness, plus more to top your bowl and make you smile and feel fancy. To make the lentil soup vegan, simply omit it.
- Sauté the Onion. Take your time here.
- Add the Carrots and Herbs. If you can swing it, use fresh thyme for the best flavor.
- Bring to a Simmer. Add the tomatoes, then let it get bubbly.
- Add Lentils. They’ll drink up all of the flavors.
- Puree. Just a little bit to thicken the soup. I like to use an immersion blender.
- Add Kale. Let it simmer for a bit to become tender.
- Finish It Off. Serve hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan. ENJOY!
- Mediterranean. Swap the thyme for a handful of fresh parsley, and add ¼ teaspoon turmeric or coriander and 1 teaspoon of cumin to taste; omit the Parmesan.
- Indian. See my Curried Lentil Soup.
- With Sausage. Start the recipe by browning 1 pound of ground Italian sausage (or turkey sausage). Remove to a plate, then stir back into the soup at the end.
- With Bacon. Cut bacon into pieces, and start the recipe by browning the bacon in your pot. Once cooked, remove the bacon to a plate, then add it back in at the end. Saute the vegetables in the bacon drippings.
- To Store. Lentils soup will last for up to 5 days in refrigerator, stored in airtight container.
- To Reheat. Reheat in Dutch oven on stove on medium-low heat until hot, or in microwave.
- To Freeze. Great for a freezer meal, this soup can be stored in airtight, freezer-safe storage container (I love using Ziplock bags and laying them flat to freeze) for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Veggies can be prepped in advance to save on cooking time the day of. Peel and chop carrots and garlic, then store in container in fridge the day before cooking the lentil soup.
What to Serve With Lentil Soup
While the soup in itself is a complete and filling meal, a salad and/or bread would make for a classic combo.
- Bread. A must with soup to dip and mop. Crock Pot Bread or No Knead Foccacia would work wonderfully.
- Salad. Try this soup with a side of Arugula Salad, Winter Salad or Beet Salad.
- Simple Protein. Try Air Fryer Chicken Breast or Baked Salmon.
- Whole Grains. Bulk up your servings of healthy carbs with brown rice, farro, or quinoa.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. My most treasured kitchen tool. This is also a great option and easier on the wallet.
- Wooden Spoon. My preferred tool for sautéing and stirring.
- Ladle. Serve it up!
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Pick the Right Lentils. For soup, choose firmer lentils that hold their shape during a longer simmer time, such as brown or green lentils (also called lentils du Puy). Red lentils and yellow lentils are very delicate, so while they are great for Indian curries like dal, they become mushy in soup and are less desirable.
- Rinse the Lentils. Lentils must be rinsed before cooking to remove any dirt. Pick out any debris too.
- Don’t Rush the Onions or Tomatoes. Be patient with the onions’ sauteing time and the tomatoes’ simmering time; this is key to the soup’s flavor.
- Use What You Have. Feel free to add or subtract vegetables based on what you have on hand or prefer. Celery could be added to the base, or spinach could be swapped for the kale, for example.
- Parmesan Rinds. Keep them in the freezer, then add one to the soup while it simmers for a richer, more complex flavor; remove before serving.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion cut into ¼-inch dice
- 6 garlic cloves minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme tied together with kitchen twine (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 medium carrots scrubbed and cut into ½-inch dice (peeling is optional)
- 1 15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup brown or green lentils rinsed with any shriveled lentils discarded
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 cups stemmed and chopped kale
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey or granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan plus additional for serving (omit or swap nutritional yeast to make vegan)
- In a Dutch oven or similar large, sturdy soup pot, heat the oil over medium low. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft and turning browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, carrots, thyme sprigs, salt, and black pepper. Cook until the carrots are barely soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the diced and crushed tomatoes, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and let simmer 2 minutes.
- Add the lentils and stir to coat. Add the broth and bay leaves. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Let simmer, adjusting the heat as needed so the lentils simmer gently but do not boil, until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 25 minutes. Fish out and discard the bay leaves and thyme bundle.
- With an immersion blender, puree the soup briefly to thicken it up a little but leave plenty of the lentils and vegetables intact (or you can transfer about 2 big ladlefuls to a blender, puree, then return to the soup).
- Stir in the kale, vinegar, honey, and red pepper flakes. Partially cover the pot, and let cook over low until the kale is tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Enjoy hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan.
- TO STORE: Lentils soup will last for up to 5 days in refrigerator, stored in airtight container.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat in Dutch oven on stove on medium-low heat until hot, or in microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Great for a freezer meal, this soup can be stored in airtight, freezer-safe storage container (I love using Ziplock bags and laying them flat to freeze) for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Because this simple lentil soup has so few ingredients, I recommend using fresh thyme for the best flavor. If you cannot use fresh, swap 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.
Yes! Lentils are a legume and do not contain gluten.
No. You do not need to soak the lentils before adding them to the soup. Lentils are quick-cooking and don’t need a presoak the way more hearty legumes like beans do.
If you are Italian, you might think so! Italians have a tradition of eating lentils on New Year’s Eve for good luck. With the flat legumes said to resemble Roman coins, eating lentils was thought to bring wealth and prosperity. So if you are in Italy, or want to pretend you are, this lentil soup recipe would be a wise choice for New Year’s Eve!