Red Lentil Soup Recipe

A single-pot lentil soup with brown rice. Made by browning some onions, adding the rest of the ingredients, and simmering until the whole lot until its done.

Red Lentil Soup

I tend to follow the sun around the house each day. From room to room, not unlike a cat. I like how it warms cushions on the couch in the morning, streams into my breakfast bowl at the kitchen counter not long after that, and then beckons me to the office through our west-facing window later in the afternoon. On particularly nice days I like to take my lunch out onto the back porch, settle into one of the mossy, rain-damaged chairs, close my eyes, and let the sun shine through my eyelids for a minute or two. And well, that was the plan when I made myself a pot of this unassuming (but tasty!) red lentil and brown rice soup last weekend. Then, bowl in hand, I opened the back door and walked straight into a four foot spider web.

Red Lentil Soup Recipe

It is spider season here, and if you forget, you pay. I can't count how many times I've walked into spider webs in our back yard. It freaks me out every. single. time. In part because the spiders that live in those webs are so large. Too large to smash with a paper towel large - not that I'm in the spider smashing business. I find the ones with the bulbous golden-yellow bodies particularly alarming.

Red Lentil Soup Recipe

Without going too far down the spider track here, I'll just say, my outdoor lunch quickly became an indoor one after I counted five spiders, webs in full span, within a ten foot radius of my desired lunch spot.

Red Lentil Soup Recipe

Spiders aside, I thought this soup was good enough to share. It's a single-pot soup made by browning some onions, adding the rest of the ingredients, and cooking the whole lot until its done - however long that takes. The rice is the component that takes longest to cook, and mine was tender in about 25 minutes. I topped each bowl with what I had on-hand at the time: toasted almond slices, some crumbled feta, and a few oil-cured olives that I chopped into little black flecks.

I used red lentils, but as you can see in the photo, the soup is actually more yellow-orange than red. Red lentils (unlike black lentils, or lentils du Puy, or yellow split peas) collapse and lose structure quite quickly - and in this case they shift color a bit. Don't let that throw you. And it's actually the rice that retains it's texture here, while the lentils provide the body for the soup. So don't be alarmed when your lentils stop looking like lentils after about ten minutes in the pot.

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Red Lentil Soup Recipe

Be sure to pick through your lentils carefully. I somehow always find pebbles or clots of dirt hiding in their midst. Better to catch them on the front end, before you chip a tooth. And to make this soup vegan, just skip the feta at the end i bet some chopped avocado would be a good alternative.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

6 cups good-tasting vegetable stock (or water)
1 1/3 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/2 cup brown rice, picked over and rinsed
as much fine grain sea salt as you need

slivered almonds, toasted
black oil cured olives, chopped
feta, crumbled

In a big soup pot, over medium heat, combine the olive oil, onion, shallots, and red pepper flakes. Let them brown, and caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the lentils and rice. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the rice is very tender, and not at all toothsome. By this time, the lentils will have collapsed into a thick slop of sorts. If you need to add more water/broth at any point do so a splash at a time, until the soup thins out to the point you prefer.

Unless you used a salty broth, you will likely need to salt generously, until the the soup no longer tastes flat. Serve each bowl topped with almonds, olives, feta, and a slight drizzle of olive oil if you like.

Serves 4 - 6.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 30 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Hmm. Large autumn spinner spiders, lentils and garnishes for the soup. I cleaned out my kitchen window of the cobwebs and webs, and I have one persistent spider that spins a masterpiece each night. I guess they catch flies and moths, and dine on them for their fertility rites or last feasts. I feel kind of guilty brushing away the corner architecture when I see it. What a lot of work. These webs go really well with Halloween. Thanks Heidi for another simple, nutritious supper idea. You're a gem.


Heidi, the spider is harmless--it's a female jewel spider, and my guess is that at night you have light somewhere near their webs (patio window, porch light?), which is what makes the spot so attractive to them. They start out small, like other spiders, but grow and grow until the fall. Just let it be; it will be gone by first frost. HS: Yes Zoe, they seem to string their webs near the windows that are lit up at night :)


Love your blog and this really looks delicious! Great spider photos!

Something's Dishy

Big spider season just ended in the DC area a few weeks ago and I was happy to see them leave. I have a Red Lentil Soup recipe from Deborah Madison's cookbook that I like, but I've recently discovered the depth that shallots bring to any dish so I'm going to have to give this a try.


sorry for the double posting... I just saw a few other comments to respond to. Mine is similar to Wendy's, and similar to Meera's addition of lime juice, except I use lemon. I will have to try the lime and cilantro combo next time!


Coincidentally I just made my own version of this soup last night, and posted about it today as well! It is yummy!


Decent variation which has worked for me: abandon red chilly flakes replace with: two chopped tomatos (blanched and skinned), 3 green chillies (regular kinds), one good tsp grated ginger. When all the boiling and mushing is done, add the juice of a small lime (= 3 tsps, more if you like your soup tangy), but remember to add a pinch of sugar. It takes the edge out. Always. Top off with cilantro... these red lentils particularly respond to this!


love the soup and the spider!


Well, this soup is a big hit in my house! Smelling the onions for so long, and then having the smell and warmth of soup emanating from our kitchen... I threw in some more spices that we had laying around (pepper, paprika and some spice blend we'd made the other day with rosemary, long pepper, and cilantro seeds), and topped with olive oil and parm. Absolutely fantastic!


I make a similar soup using sweet potatoes, red lentils, carrots, a little celery, onions...I mash everything once all the ingredients are soft, and then throw in some spinach. It's really yummy!


Looks divine, as usual. I call every spider I see "gandmother spider", and this makes me genuinely appreciate them, somehow spiders always leave me alone, though sometimes they set up the 'central line' to a web right where I was going to sit. If you can envision how a spider can become an eight-spoked wheel of Buddhadharma: the Buddha's teachings that lead to liberation, then you might find your spiders all likewise transforming..they might not be where you want to go, having gone before you. Or something like that. One of my favorite soups is very like yours--to the gently sweating onion you add whole cumin- about 2 T if you like it! Then to the finished soup add lemon juice, lots of it. it's absolutely addictive. It's equally good with ground cumin, tasted and added later. And what about with a little yogurt with saffron threads? I think I first read about that reading your blog. mmmm.


That soup sounds easy enough for me to make in my spartan Brooklyn kitchen. I like the fact that I don't have to puree it, just add toppings. A creamy dollop of Greek yogurt seasoned with turmeric, paprika and a little cayenne? Cilantro? I will try it this winery weekend. HS: Wish I was there to share a bowl with you Hadley! xo

Hadley Fierlinger

Heidi, When you say shallots do you mean the small onion-like root that the french call eschallot or the long tall white and green plant? Love the soup recipes. It's getting cold here in Montreal and the soup takes the chill off. Keep them coming! HS: Exactly Zoe! Eschallot.


My mom made us lentil soup all the time when we were kids and I didn't know it then, but it was when we were broke. My brother and I were sick of them and made a drawing with the leftover lentils on a plate and spelled out "NO MORE LENTILS." I've gotten over my fear of them today, but my mom never served them to us again.

The Wandering Foodie

Thanks for the tip about the lentils changing shape, as I've never tried to cook lentils, though I'vd bought them and, after about a couple of years in the pantry, decided they were too old and out they'd go (I've done this more than once!). I do, however, cook beans of many varieties; just never lentils. Maybe with your recipe as an inspiration, I'll finally buy some more and cook them (it's got to be the same day however, because if they go into the pantry...well, you know!).


I'm heliotropic too! Love the sun and also your recipes, your photography and "conversational" prose - keep up the wonderful work.


This is similar to a recipe I make, except mine has a tex-mex flavor. I'm curious to try this version. Here's my version: 3 Tablespoons olive oil 1 Large onion, chopped 2 Cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press 1 Tablespoon tomato paste 1 Teaspoon ground cumin ¼ Teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste ¼ Teaspoon ground black pepper Pinch of chili powder or cayenne pepper, more to taste 1 Quart chicken or vegetable broth 1 Cup red lentils 1 Large carrot, peeled and diced Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish 1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes. 2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer. 3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. 4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky. 5. Reheat soup if necessary and garnish with cilantro.


I don't know if I want to make this soup because I can't get past the picture of the absolutely, disgustingly terrifying bulbous bodied spider! AHHHHH!!!! Seriously, I couldn't even write out that description without shivering. Terrifying.


hi! this sounded so good, i went out and bought all the ingredients. i was already chopping the onions when i realized i was out of chili flakes :( it's sooooo cold i didn't want to go out again so i've substituted some indian spices: crushed cumin & corriander seeds, bay leaves, and a pinch of garam masla (which has some chili powder in it) hope it turns out ok!!!

nicole b

Hi Heidi! I just got a message in my inbox with this post and I had just decided moments before to make red lentil soup for dinner tonight. I'm going to make a savoury zucchini and goat cheese cake to go with it as I got a huge zucchini from a friends garden yesterday. I'll have to try your soup recipe instead of making my same old red lentil and tomato soup. Mille mercis!


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