Coconut Red Lentil Soup Recipe

An absolute favorite lentil soup! A friend turned me onto this Ayurvedic dal recipe from the Esalen Cookbook years ago. Red lentil based, curry-spiced coconut broth with back notes of ginger and tomato, with slivered green onions, and curry-plumped raisins.

Coconut Red Lentil Soup

Let's talk through the story of my favorite lentil soup. Years ago, two of my neighbors hosted a soup party. It was an inspiring affair - big pots of simmering soups and stews, house full of chatty, friendly people. Part of what I liked was the simple premise. The hosts (David & Holly) made a number of soups, guests were asked to arrive with their drink of choice and one thing to share - salad, appetizer, or something sweet.
Coconut Red Lentil Soup

The Best Soup:

One of the vegetarian soups was a beautiful shade of yellow-orange. It was a light-bodied, curry-spiced coconut broth thickened with cooked red lentils and structured with yellow split peas. It appeared to be a beautiful take on lentil soup. When I asked Holly to tell me about it, she mentioned it was based on an Ayurvedic dal recipe in the Esalen Cookbook, a favorite of hers.

She happened to have an extra copy of the Esalen book, and sent me home with my belly full, a new cookbook tucked under my arm, and a few suggestions related to the soup. I still make this soup regularly, love it (so much!), and thought it might be fun to revisit it today in video form - enjoy! I've also included some notes related to adapting this soup to the Instant Pot.


Coconut Red Lentil Soup

Other things worth noting related to this soup - the slivered green onions sauteed in butter or coconut oil. The golden raisins that plump up with curry broth. Back notes of ginger. Depth from a good dollop of tomato paste. It all comes together in one amazing bowl of restorative, lentil soup goodness.

weeknight express

Sign up for my weekly-ish, ad-free newsletter, with recipes, inspirations, what I’m reading / watching / shopping.
(You’ll get a link for a free PDF e-book with 10 recipes)

weeknight express

Coconut Red Lentil Soup

4.29 from 111 votes

See the photo in the main entry if you aren't sure what type of lentils and split peas to buy. For those of you who are curious, I used the Terre Exotique Madras Curry Powder I picked up in Paris - it looks like it is available here now too (I think I've come across it on Amazon's grocery section). Vegans - you can easily make this vegan by using coconut or olive oil in place of the butter called for.

  • 1 cup / 7 oz / 200g yellow split peas
  • 1 cup 7 oz / 200g red split lentils (masoor dal)
  • 7 cups / 1.6 liters water
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter, ghee, or coconut oil
  • 8 green onions or scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1/3 / 80 ml cup tomato paste
  • 1 14- ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
  • one small handful cilantro, chopped
  1. Give the split peas and lentils a good rinse - until they no longer put off murky water. Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.
  2. In the meantime, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is quite fragrant. Be careful though, you don't want to burn the curry powder, just toast it. Set aside. Place the butter in a pan over medium heat, add half of the green onions, the remaining ginger, and raisins. Saute for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the tomato paste and saute for another minute or two more.
  3. Add the toasted curry powder to the tomato paste mixture, mix well, and then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. The texture should thicken up, but you can play around with the consistency if you like by adding more water, a bit at a time, if you like. Or simmer longer for a thicker consistency. The thicker this soup got, the more I liked it.
  4. I've been enjoying big ladles of this soup over ~1/2 cup of warm farro (leftover from this Farro & Bean Stew) - brown rice was good as well. Sprinkle each bowl generously with cilantro and the remaining green onions.

Instant Pot variation: For Instant Pot users, one of you (thanks Andrea!) just wrote to me and said this soup works great in the IP: saute the spice, onions, tomato paste, ginger, and raisins. Add the lentils, split, peas, ginger, carrot and water and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes with a natural release. Then, I add the coconut milk.

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
45 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Post Your Comment

Recipe Rating


This looks amazing. Going to use some of my home made coconut milk in this one!

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen

I love soup parties! Thanks for sharing this recipe! It's being printed and added to my "little black book"!

LoveFeast Table

Looks fantastic! Have this bookmarked for the approaching cooler days.


You can never have enough lentil soup recipes! :D or dhal recipes!


Hello I always cook dhal with both of these pulses but never with coconut milk,so I will try it and am sure my family will enjoy.


Great! I bought red lentils two days ago and was wondering what to do with them... It looks delicious :D

French Cooking for Dummies

Last weekend, I bought way too many red lentils to make my very first dahl with and I was planning to search for a recipe to use them up. Your timing couldn't be more perfect! Looks delish!

christie @ honoring health

This soup is gorgeous and sounds delectable. We still have a couple months of cold temps up here in New England, so I have plenty of time to make this recipe!


I imagine there are people all over the world closing their eyes and looking up at the sun today... thanks for yet another amazing recipe! Gotta make as much soup as possible before spring greens start coming up and it will be time to obsess over salads. :-)


I have a recipe of Coconut and Red lentil Soup which I have been using for my teaching - Fusion Cookery for the past 7 years, with fresh chilli and ginger. It is interesting to have other recipes for a change. Shall try this one! Thanks for sharing with us Heidi!


The last time I used so many cups of water in a lentil soup it came out a bit bland (the Kabocha soup called for 6 cups I believe). Can broth be substituted, or was there something else I may have done wrong? I cannot tell you how obsessed I've been with your site lately. I'm always excited to see a new recipe, and never disappointed. Thanks for the constant inspiration!

Anne Marie

I'm a closet lentil soup disliker. Too many potlucks featuring too many blandy bland lentil soups have jaded me. This may be the recipe that makes me rethink my limited lentil thinking.

Sounds fabulous, Heidi....thanks for yet another tasty meal idea!

even though you said the last lentils were the last, I am SO glad you shared this recipe. It looks absoluetly perfect, can't wait to try.

The soup sounds wonderful and looks so beautiful. I am concerned that you are using cracked bowls and would warn you against that practice. It may be one of your favorite bowls but bacteria can form in the cracks and harmful chemicals from the clay can leach into liquids. If you can't bear to part with this bowl I would suggest it be used for decorative purposes only. Stay safe and healthy!!!


Just curious. Besides from friends, how do you come across the interesting cookbooks you write about? Internet research, browsing in bookstores? Great looking soup.

val s.

This one has my name written all over it. I've been wondering what to make of some coconut milk AND some yellow split peas! Now I know, don't I ;) Thanks


I love the combination of the two. It's pure comfort food.


For those that like to use garlic, a pod or two minced with ginger would add to the taste. Also, cooking the dal in a pressure cooker would make it softer in lesser time. (An alternative is to soak the dals in water overnight).


I am so making this dish! I have a coconut, so I will make the milk fresh, but will have to use green split peas out of necessity. Will that effect the flavors greatly? You haven't steered me wrong yet Heidi!!! Can't wait for the new book!

Casey Angelova

More Recipes

Popular Ingredients

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of its User Agreement and Privacy Policy.

101 Cookbooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Any clickable link to on the site is an affiliate link.