Red Lentil Soup with Lemon Recipe

An earthy, turmeric and mustard-spiked lentil soup served over brown rice with spinach and thick yogurt.

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

A couple of you eagle-eyed observers mailed me about the bowl of soup pictured in the last photo at the bottom of the this post. It's worth asking about, so I thought I'd share it this week. The soup in the photo was a variation of Deborah Madison's Red Lentil Soup with Lime from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. What you see up above is a lemon version of the soup I cooked to go with the lemon chutney & goat cheese toasts in that Roasted Lemon Chutney post.

Before we go further with the soup, I also wanted mention that I got a sad email from my dad last Friday. It was short, directed to a short list of friends and family, and simply said, "I am sad today since I had to put down my 18 yr old kitty. He was such a great pet. It was brutal being with him as he slipped away while I stood over him telling him how much we were going to miss him." My heart broke, not just because I'll miss a cat that has been part of our family since my sister and I were teenagers, but because I know how much my dad will miss him and their little daily rituals. Dre "talked" a lot, loved to be brushed outside in the sunshine, survived numerous tangles with foxes and other California wildlife, and enjoyed home-cooked meals (as he got older) courtesy of my father. I think it is fair to say he was the most-loved cat in the neighborhood and would greet passing joggers, walkers, and other pets with perked ears, a fluffy tail, and a desire to act as a personal escort from one edge of the property to the mailbox on the other side.

Red Lentil Soup Recipe

He was as sweet as he looks there. He really was. We love you Dre.

Red Lentil Soup Recipe

A couple notes related to the soup - to make things simple, this is the sort of thing to make when you already have leftover rice, farro, etc. Because this soup has a number of components, starting with leftover rice helps keep one less pot on the burners. Deborah's version is a bit more brothy than this one straight out of the gate. I use a bit less water to start with, which allows me to thin it to my liking later on in the process. Also, while the recipe calls for spinach, other greens work well - sauteed kale, chard, etc. Leftovers are excellent and it freezes well (keep the yogurt separate from any soup you think you might want to freeze).

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Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

2 cups / 14 oz / 400 g split red lentils, picked over and rinsed well
1 tablespoon turmeric
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
fine grain sea salt
1 large onion / ~ 2 cups, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of three lemons, or to taste
1 large bunch of spinach leaves, chopped

plenty of cooked (warm) brown rice, to serve
plenty of plain Greek yogurt, to serve

Put the lentils in a pot with 7 cups / 1.6 l water, the turmeric, 1 tablespoon of the butter, and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft and falling apart - twenty minutes or so. Puree with a hand blender. Add more water until the soup is the consistency you like, then taste and add more salt if needed. Keep the soup warm/hot.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the onion. In a skillet over low heat cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter along with the cumin and mustard seeds, stirring occasionally. When the onions have softened, roughly 10 or 15 minutes, add the cilantro and cook for a few seconds before removing from the heat. Add the onion mixture to the soup, then add the juice of the lemons, one lemon at a time - until the soup has a nice bit of tang. Also, add more salt to taste at this point if needed.

Just before serving, add the last of the butter to the skillet, when hot add the spinach and a good pinch of salt. Stir well, and cook just long enough for the spinach to collapse.

Serve by placing a scoop of rice in each bowl, then soup, spinach, and a dollop of yogurt.

Serves 6.

Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Prep time: 5 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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YUM. I will be making this tonight. Just substituting olive oil for butter because of my stupid cholesterol! But I don't think that will hurt the recipe....

Cathy @ What Would Cathy Eat?

Heidi, my condolances to you and your father for the loss of your cherished companion, Dre. I noticed for several months after my kitty, Friday, went to Kitty Heaven that I was missing his nightly greeting when I came home from work and always trying to avoid stepping on him. It was a difficult and sad time. My nephew, when he was about 6 was overheard talking to someone in the next room while my sister was in the kitchen. Their cat, Sammy, had died several weeks earlier and it was a terrible loss. The family sat with him all night as he quietly passed. When my sister realized he was alone, she asked her son who he was talking to, he replied, "Sammy" in a matter-of-fact way. Knowing that he had some clairvoyant experiences, my sister asked: "what did he say?" "Oh, he said he's fine and misses us and not to worry about him". I'm sure Dre is watching over you all. Lisa in Indianapolis

Lisa M

I am very empathic. I have an 18 1/2 year old cat and will be totally devastated when that time comes. Your cat was beautiful, loved, had a good life and was one of the lucky ones. While irreplaceable, I hope you all consider a cat from all those out there who need a loving, good, and kind home. But probably not yet. It is so hard and heartbreaking to lose a beloved pet. Give your Dad a hug from all of us animal lovers.


So sorry about your father's (and your) loss. He looked like a very sweet kitty.


So sorry for your dad and all of you... losing a beloved kitty stays with you for a long time. I once had a cat for 20 years and still miss her even though I'm on the 3rd cat since her death. It really is like losing a family member... give him a hug from me.


I am experiencing the same thing: our 14-year old Border Collie, Husky, wolf cross died last week, and unique and beautiful girl. We are heartbroken. Please send your dad my best regards. This is a huge loss for all of you, but especially for him.


WTF! This looks amazing!!!!


So sorry about your cat, I don't know how we'd get along without our animal buddies. Your soup is beautiful, I just love the colors. My husband has taken a sudden liking to lentils, so I'll try this for sure.

Sue/the view from great island

I am so sorry about your loss. Animals are family. I personally prefer the company of my dog to most humans. No judgement, pure unconditional love.

Paula Jeremias

So sorry about your dad's cat. My sister had to put two beloved pets down within a year of each other, and they are sorely missed. It's not easy. This looks like good comfort food :)

jeri kim lowe

So sorry about your loss. My dog Lily is the love of my life and I can't imagine a single day without her....My heart goes out to you and your family.

Stephanie King

I make almostly exactly this soup every week, and my kids adore it. The only thing that I add to it is 1/2 a finely chopped jalpeno to the onion and spice saute. (This soup is the main reason I always keep jalapenos and a 10 lb bag of red lentils in the house...) Love cats, mine keep me sane by voluntarily performing incredibly silly tricks!

cLaire maunsell

I am so sorry about Dre! I lost my 17 yr old cat just over a year ago. He was a talker too. It is very difficult when your pet seems like he's almost human. It's like losing a person and hard to get over sometimes. I do know how you all feel. So sorry. My best.

Allyson Elizabeth D'Angelo

Sorry about your loss...I cherish my kitty, Tot, who looks a lot like your picture of Dre. I would be so devasted to lose him. Your lentil soup looks inviting and reminds me of one I teach in a "comfort" food class and posted about recently. I can't wait to try your lemony version! Thanks.


Oh, Heidi, I'm so sorry to hear about Dre! He looks like he was a very sweet, beautiful cat that brought all of you much joy. As a mother of 3 cats, 2 of which are 15, I dread the day I'll have to let them go and can completely understand your dad's sorrow. Much love to him and your family. As far as the soup goes... amazing. Just amazing. It'll be perfect for me to try out when I get back from IFBC this weekend. Lord knows it's chilly enough for some good soup!

Kimberly @ Poor Girl Eats Well

So lovely and gluten-free. Perfection, Heidi. xo Love it. Are you heading to IFBC this week? Hope to see you there!

The Healthy Apple

sorry about the cat :(

lynn @ the actor's diet

I'm so sorry for your loss, Heidi, your Dad, and family. It is so heartbreaking to lose a beloved member of the family, and pets are such great friends to us. Dre sounded to have a lovely life and I'm sure he loved you all as much as you loved him. Thinking of you all xxx


Kitties are so wonderful, and Dre sounds like he had a wonderful life. I'll have to try this soup because it has turmeric, the new super spice. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

Lisa W.

My thoughts are with you and your family. This summer, we lost our almost 21 year old cat. I was 12 when we got her. And when I look at my 11 year old cat, I cant imagine how difficult it will be to say goodbye one day. I will make this soup thinking of Dre :-)


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