This lentil soup is an easy, tasty, and nourishing Mediterranean-inspired recipe you can make in one pot with simple ingredients in about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your lentils’ cooking time.
Our recipe combines rich and earthy lentils with veggies, aromatic spices, and herbs into a wholesome and comforting bowl of goodness.
Also, lentil soup is versatile; it is excellent for a weeknight dinner and meal prep as it keeps well for days.
Table of Contents
Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet.
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What is lentil soup?
There are many ways of making lentil soup, and most countries have their version seasoned with local spices and herbs.
From aromatic Moroccan lentil soup with cinnamon to nourishing North African Harira soup with lentils and chickpeas, from creamy Turkish lentil soup to Indian-inspired curry lentil soup, you have plenty of recipes to choose from on this blog.
But the lentil soup recipe we are showing you on this page is the one that kindled our love for lentils because it’s tasty, nourishing, and easy to make in one pot.
It’s a simple Mediterranean-inspired recipe with flavors that take you to the shores of Italy.
We make it with dry green or brown lentils, although you can also make it with black lentils or split red lentils and turn it into a delicious red lentil soup.
While similar to our popular lentil vegetable soup that went viral on Instagram, this recipe is simpler, with fewer ingredients.
We like to serve it with a thick slice of crusty bread, lightly toasted and rubbed with garlic, and with a grating of parmesan cheese – of course, you can skip that if you are making a vegan lentil soup.
The recipe comes together in 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the lentil’s cooking time.
As a tip for extra creaminess, we recommend blending a small amount of soup before serving it.
Ingredients & Substitutions for Lentil Soup
Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Any delicious homemade soup should start with a flavor base, a simple 5-minute first step that will boost the flavor of your dish.
That’s called “soffrito” in Italian or “mirepoix” in French, and it consists of sautéing the chopped vegetables in olive oil for a few minutes.
To make the perfect flavor base, you’ll need:
- Extra virgin olive oil: substitute any other vegetable oil.
- Onion: you can use white, red, or yellow onion. Substitute shallots for onion.
- Celery: substitute celery seeds.
- Leek: optional but delicious in lentil soup.
- Garlic: use fresh garlic if possible.
Tip: If you don’t like chopping veggies or don’t have the time, you can buy pre-chopped mirepoix (or pre-chopped onion, celery, and carrots) in most grocery stores.
They sometimes are in the refrigerated section and sometimes in the frozen section.
Alternatively, you can pulse them in a food processor.
Fresh or Dried Herbs
You can use one or more sturdy aromatic herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, and bay leaves to infuse the soup with a somewhat Mediterranean aroma.
Fresh herbs or dried herbs both work fine.
If you use fresh herbs, you can tie them together with kitchen twine for easy removal. That’s called a bouquet garni.
If you use dried herbs, start with a smaller amount, as their flavor is more intense than fresh herbs.
Usually, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs is enough to add flavor to 4 servings of soup.
Spices are optional, and the lentil soup is delicious without them.
However, if you like spices, we recommend adding 1 teaspoon of ground cumin and 1 teaspoon of turmeric.
Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.
We use dry green lentils or dry brown lentils because they retain their shape and a pleasant bite. They also add a delicious earthy flavor.
Substitute canned lentils or steamed lentils for dry ones. In this case, you’ll need half the vegetable broth and half the cooking time.
Italian and French green lentils are our favorite, but you can use lentils from anywhere.
Substitute red or black lentils for green or brown ones, but avoid split red lentils as they cook too fast for this recipe and tend to lose their shape.
We use canned crushed or diced tomatoes.
Substitute fresh ripe tomatoes for canned. Chop them into dice before adding them to the soup.
Lentils need liquid to cook. You can use reduced-sodium vegetable stock or water.
The vegetable stock adds more flavor, but water is also excellent.
You can substitute chicken broth for vegetable broth if that’s your jam.
Add your favorite leafy green. Anything from spinach, Tuscan kale, curly kale, broccoli, bok choy, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, and savoy cabbage.
Our favorites are kale or spinach.
Note that spinach wilts and loses a lot more volume than other leafy greens like kale and savoy cabbage, so you might need to double the amount written for kale in the recipe below.
Salt and Black Pepper
Season the soup with sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serves well with
You can serve lentil soup with bread or a grain of your choice. It’s delicious with:
- Crusty bread, lightly toasted, brushed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil.
- Pita bread, naan bread, or any other flatbread.
- Basmati rice, wholegrain rice, or black rice.
- Cooked farro, barley, quinoa, couscous, or amaranth.
You can amp up the flavor with:
How to Make Lentil Soup (With Tips)
US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Make the flavor base
Coarsely chop the carrot, onion, and celery into small chunks.
Cut the leek in half lengthwise, rinse its layers under running water to remove dirt, then chop it into thin slices.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, leek, and sauté gently for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add pressed garlic and spices (optional) and cook one more minute.
In-depth cutting instructions: cut the carrot in half lengthwise, then cut it in half again, then chop it into 1/3 inch pieces. Cut the celery stalk half lengthwise, then cut it into 1/3-inch pieces. Next, cut the onion in half, peel it, then chop it into 1/3-inch pieces. Finally, cut the leek half lengthwise, then slice it into not-too-thin half moons.
While you wait, make a bouquet garni by tying rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, sage leaves, and thyme sprigs together. If you use dried herbs, you can skip this step.
Also, rinse the dry lentils to remove dirt and check for small stones that might hide in them.
Tip: dry lentils don’t require soaking, so you can use them immediately.
Add the lentils
Add vegetable stock, canned tomatoes, lentils, and herbs. You can tie the kitchen twine to the pot’s side.
Season with salt and black pepper, stir, partially cover the pot, and bring to a boil on high heat.
Lower the heat and simmer on medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes or until your lentils are tender.
Note: The cooking time for lentils varies depending on their size and age. Taste them to check for doneness. As you extend the cooking time, you’ll need to add more vegetable broth.
When the lentils are tender and almost cooked, remove the herbs and blend a small amount of the soup (about 2 cups).
We use an immersion blender; you’ll need just a few pulses to make the soup extra creamy.
Add leafy greens
Add the kale, chopped up into bite-size chunks.
Note: you can use almost any leafy green, such as spinach, lacinato kale, curly kale, broccoli, bok choy, chard, Chinese cabbage, savoy cabbage, and more. Spinach wilts and loses most of its volume, so add more than other leafy greens.
Stir and cook a few more minutes until the kale is tender then taste and adjust for salt before serving.
You can serve lentil soup with bread or grains as a nutritious main course.
Serve it with bread
We recommend letting the soup cool down a few minutes before serving it with some toasted bread rubbed with garlic, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper, and optionally a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.
Other types of bread that work well with this soup are:
- Focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt.
- Croutons: homemade in 15 minutes, crispy, and perfect for soups and salads!
- Crostini: ready in 10 minutes, crusty and comforting with a bowl of soup.
- Bruschetta with tomatoes and fresh garlic is an ideal appetizer or side dish idea!
Serve it with grains
This lentil soup is delicious next to a bowl of rice, farro, barley, or couscous. You can even stir the cooked grains into the soup.
Add a squeeze of fresh lemon, a sprinkle of parsley, and some pickled red onions to enhance its flavor.
Lentil vegetable soup
Another simple and delicious soup with dried or canned lentils and plenty of flavors from vegetables and herbs.
You can make it in about 45 minutes (less if you use canned lentils), and it’s an excellent weeknight dinner and meal prep recipe.
Check out our lentil vegetable soup recipe.
Turmeric Lentil Soup
Turmeric, lentils, and potatoes make a terrific meal that will warm your tummy and make you feel nourished, cozy, and fulfilled.
This one’s another favorite lentil soup variation; we are sure you will love it.
Check out our turmeric lentil soup recipe.
Curry lentil soup
Try this easy one-pot curry lentil soup with kale and potatoes.
It’s a meal–prep–friendly recipe that stores well in the fridge for up to five days.
Check out our curry lentil soup recipe.
Moroccan lentil soup
This is Louise’s favorite and our reader’s favorite lentil soup because it’s easy to make and combines interesting spices like cinnamon into a warm, comforting, and aromatic meal.
Excellent with yogurt and pickled red onions, it’s a must-try if you like lentils.
Check out our Moroccan Lentil Soup
Sweet potatoes and lentil soup
Add two medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped in small dice, to make this lentil soup even more fulfilling.
They’ll cook in about 30 to 40 minutes so that you can add them to the lentils. Regular potatoes work, too.
Mixed vegetables and lentil soup
Add zucchini, green beans, and extra carrot to the soup for a more varied and springy flavor.
Add them with the lentils; they’ll need about 30 minutes to cook.
Storage & Make Ahead
Make Ahead: this lentil soup is an excellent recipe to make ahead as its flavor improves as the soup sits in the fridge. The next day, the soup is creamier, richer, and more flavorful.
We always make a big batch and store half of it in the refrigerator and half in the freezer.
Refrigerator: keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezer: Let the soup cool down completely, then transfer it into a freezer-friendly container and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Thaw: defrost it in the fridge over several hours or overnight. To speed things up, you can thaw it with the thawing function of your microwave.
Reheat: reheat in the microwave or a saucepan on the stovetop. Add some water if necessary.
You can make lentil soup with green, brown, black, or red lentils.
For this recipe, green, brown, and black lentils are best as they keep their shape better.
If you like a creamier lentil soup, you can use red lentils. We have a dedicated red lentil soup recipe for you.
You don’t have to soak lentils for soup. You can cook dry lentils right away without soaking them.
However, we recommend rinsing dry lentils under running water to remove dirt. Also, have a look for small stones that might hide between the lentils.
Yes, you can substitute green lentils for brown lentils, as they have similar cooking times, textures, and flavors.
Green and brown lentils have a similar taste, and you won’t be able to tell the difference between the two.
More Soups With Legumes
Are you trying to include more legumes into your diet? Try one of these delicious soups:
- Harira soup with chickpeas and lentils.
- Tuscan white bean soup.
- Hearty Italian chickpea soup.
- Mexican-inspired black bean soup.
- Earthy and satiating split pea soup.
More Lentil Recipes
Love cooking with lentils? Have a look at these easy lentil recipes:
- Lentil bolognese: a rich, hearty, and elegant sauce that pairs perfectly with your favorite pasta.
- Morrocan carrot salad with lentils with a Mediterranean-inspired cumin dressing you’ll love.
- Lentil curry: a creamy Indian-inspired recipe with a ton of flavor and aroma.
- Easy lentil pasta: a staple in Italian home cooking, pasta with lentils is cozy and delicious.
For more curries, stews, and soups, check out our soups category page.
- Immersion blender if you want your soup extra creamy
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 rib celery chopped
- 2 medium carrots chopped
- 1 leek thinly sliced, optional
- 2 cloves garlic pressed
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary sub thyme or Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin + 1 teaspoon turmeric optional
- 1 cup dried lentils brown or green – or 2½ cups cooked lentils; in this case you'll need half the vegetable broth
- 6 cups vegetable stock add more as needed to fully cook the lentils
- 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 6 ounces kale or another leafy green like spinach or chard
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 2 twists black pepper
- Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large pot. Add 1 large onion, 1 rib celery, 2 medium carrots, 1 leek (all chopped) and sauté for 5 minutes stirring often.
- Add 2 cloves garlic (pressed), ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, and 1 teaspoon ground cumin and cook 1 more minute until fragrant.
- Now add 1 cup dried lentils (rinsed under water), 6 cups vegetable stock, 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 twists black pepper and cook for 30 – 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Blend 2 cups of the soup.Tip: if you use cooked or canned lentils, half the amount of broth and cut the cooking time in half.
- Stir in 6 ounces kale (chopped) and cook for a few more minutes or until tender.
- Taste and adjust for salt. Serve with toasted bread or grains and a sprinkle of parmesan.Add a squeeze of lemon, pickled red onions, or chili oil for some kick.