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.

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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!

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Two of my favorite things, lentils and curry. I can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.


yum yum yum! making this for dinner tonight. will likely have some leftovers--anyone know if this freezes ok?


Super delicious! I made this recipe yesterday... thanks!


Lentils are my favorite legume! In Greece we usually eat the green or brown ones cooked in an entirely different way than the Indian. I've never tried red ones. I must.. soon! Magda

We eat some form of lentils at every meal, being Indians and vegetarians, and I am always trying to find another new way of cooking our innumerable lentils. I made your soup today and it was simply awesome!


I made this today -- it was absolutely delish! Did not have green onions so I subbed leeks. I made a double batch and the consistency was pretty thick -- perfect over a brown rice/wild rice blend. Its 10pm and I can't wait to have leftovers tomorrow!

After sunny and 60* yesterday in Minnesota, today we're back to a wintry mix at 30*. Typical Minnesota March. We made your soup in response to the chilly weather and loved it. We made a little garlic naan on the side for dipping - fantastic! Thanks :)


My husband made this recipe this week. ohmygod, it is SO good. I am eating a bowl right now over jasmine rice and I am a happy girl. Thanks for the wonderful recipe and for writing your excellent blog.

Cathy Curtis

I made this last night and it was indeed good, but it seemed to be missing something that I often find in Indian food. Maybe it was the heat of spicyness? Does anyone have any ideas of what to add to this?


Heidi, once again a recipe that I just had to make. I had most of the ingredients, I had green split peas so I used those. Delicious!!!! I think the only change I would make next time is to bump up the vegetables by adding one more carrot. Thanks again for the healthy meal ideas!!!


Omigoodness, Heidi! This is an AMAZING soup! I made it tonight for two hungry men and they loved it. The combination of flavors is simply arresting. Every spoonful is packed full of character and depth. Mmm... I can still taste it. Warmed us all up on this cold evening. Thanks for this, and ALL your recipes! I cook from your site at LEAST once a week :).

Lauren Z

We loved this recipe in our house . What's more, it was easy to make, sophisticated and healthy, and 4 out of 5 in the family loved it (that's impressive for us). I'm a relative newbee to your blog but find many of your recipes appeal to my sense of taste and style. Thank you!

Amy S.

Amazing, Heidi your food looks so delicious. I recently made a challenge to myself to cut the crud out of my diet and it starts with one month of eating only recipes from your site. My questions is how do I store some of the prepared foods? I made the 4 servings of the nutty cinnamon Quinoa and heat one up each morning, that worked well. Saving and reheating this soup is also easy.... tonight I plan to make the grilled zucchini Quinoa and am not sure if I should just cut the recipe into quarters or if it will save in batches to eat throughout the week.... thoughts? Thank you!!


Whew...I don't know if perhaps my curry powder was a little hotter than most have used but I probably could've used 1 tbsp instead of 2. I love spicy food but I can barely eat this soup--I way over-curried :( That said: The raisins are a brilliant addition and I added 1 cup of frozen corn towards the end because I was out of split yellow peas and the texture is good. Going to add a bit of yogurt and see if that cools the fire! :)


Hi, I stumbled upon your blog doing a google search for vegetarian recipes. Your food photography is absolutely beautiful and inspiring...and the concept of your blog is great! Cracking open one of the hundreds of cookbooks sitting on my shelves is something I've been meaning to do forever and NOW I have a reason to do it...Thanks for the motivation! :)


SO easy and delicious! I had to use pureed carrot (I had used all the whole carrots for baby food yesterday), but it still tasted great. My 10-month old gobbled it up and waved his hands and feet for more! I did end up simmering this for quite some time - close to 90 minutes. The house smelled amazing and the texture was perfect.


I made this the other night and it was a hit with the ENTIRE family (which is a shock!). I did not have tomatoe paste, exchanged green onions for chopped yellow onions, regular raisins, and no Curry but added a Turkish spice mix (garsala?). This is a definite keeper!


My mom makes a variation on this soup in which she slowly sautes tons of onions with curry powder and butter and then adds them to the cooking red lentils. It's so hearty and satisfying, but I can't wait to try your gussied-up version!

small kitch cara

I made this last night and found it to be very tasty but a bit mild for the mood I was in, so I added some leftover salsa verde w/chipotle ... admittedly a strange cross-cultural violation of the sort I normally wouldn't commit, but to my surprise the flavors complimented one another, and the added heat was a "plus." I served over brown rice as recommended. Yum!

Dean E.

Soups on now! Smells divine.


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