Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

A favorite green lentil soup topped with a curried brown butter drizzle, and pan-fried paneer cubes.

Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

One of my favorite cold-weather soups - green lentils (or split peas), topped with a curried brown butter drizzle, and pan-fried paneer cubes. Some of you might recognize it from Super Natural Every Day.
Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

It's a soup I revisit often, and these photos are outtakes of it that ran in an early issue of Kinfolk magazine. I did a short little essay about winter (volume two!), and it ran alongside with some pictures Wayne and I contributed. 

Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

Here's the deal. The magic here is the curried brown butter drizzle. Don't skip it. Also, a good chunk of hearty sourdough really elevates the whole experience. Or! Some good naan or paratha.

Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter
You can certainly explore a vegan version though. You could infuse some olive oil or coconut oil with spices, and brown some tofu in place of paneer. A different beast, but also really good. Not brown butter good on the flavor front, but still good. ;)Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter
I also want to note there are some great variation ideas down in the comments. 

More Lentil Soup Recipes

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Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

4.5 from 26 votes

You can use either green lentils of green split peas here. Both are delicious, but the green split peas tend to lend a brighter green color to the soup.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee, or extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 5 1/2 cups / 1.3 liters good-tasting vegetable broth or water
  • 1 1/2 cups / 10.5 oz / 300 g green lentils or green split peas, picked over and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Indian curry powder
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml coconut milk
  • Fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
  • small cubes of pan-fried paneer (optional)
  1. Combine the 2 tablespoons butter, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large soup pot over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the onions soften, a couple minutes. Add the vegetable broth and lentils and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender. This usually takes 20 to 30 minutes, but can take as long as 50 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, warm the 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and let it brown. When it starts to smell nutty and fragrant, stir in the curry powder and sauté until the spices are fragrant, less than a minute.

When the lentils are finished cooking, remove from the heat, stir in the coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and puree with an immersion blender. You can leave the soup a bit chunky if you like, or puree until it is perfectly smooth.
  3. Stir in half of the spiced butter, taste, and add more salt, if needed, typically a couple of teaspoons if you used water instead of a salted broth. Serve drizzled with the remaining spice butter and sprinkled with chives, (and paneer cubes if you're using them).

Serves 4 to 6.

from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
50 mins
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Recipe Rating


This soup is amazing! For anyone who cannot find paneer in their local market try halloumi. It was a fabulous addition. Thank you for an fantastic recipe


    Thanks Dara!

    Heidi Swanson

Guests are coming this evening for Detroit Pizza....I just finished preparing your soup for the first time, as a first course, and "snuck a taste"....Yowser, but this is superb! Richness, from your nuanced amounts of Coconut milk and browned butter with curry, yet I will still call this a light soup. Thank you Heidi, sincerely.

Jeff Winett

I've made this recipe countless times over the last decade and it's always a hit. In fact, some of the most oft-requested dishes by my friends and family are from your blog, so I wanted to leave a comment to thank you and let you know how much I appreciate your content.


    Thanks for the comment Shannon - so pleased to read this!

    Heidi Swanson

I don’t get terribly excited about classes split pea soup, but this is amazing. I make it frequently until I run out of split peas, then forget about it for a while, then get excited all over again when I page through my paper cookbooks. Super simple, satisfying, and cheap. My husband suggested that we add this to our meal plan more regularly again.


    Great to hear KT - thank you!

    Heidi Swanson

This has become The Lentil Soup I make. Everyone loves it. Thanks Heidi!

Madeleine Mahan

I noticed that I had printed off this recipe in 2013 but didn’t make it till this evening for dinner! Choose it because I love curry, lentils, and coconut milk flavors and I had all of the ingredients in my pantry and fridge. We LOVED it! Had some toasted sourdough bread with it. This will be a regular soup served in our house.

Barbara Ann

I made this tonight, and it was fabulous!!! I used red lentils, which worked great.


Absolutely delicious! This will become a staple in my apartment from now on. Thank you!


This is the most delicious lentil soup I've ever had. It's true that "everything tastes better with butter," but it's still a revelation to me that it could go with lentils! Consider me a new acolyte. I am obsessed with your site. Thank you!


I made this soup yesterday, such a nice break from my standby split pea soup. I wanted to make a double batch and freeze half, but was afraid the flavors would get lost in the freezer. Any advice on how it freezes and maintains flavor?


This was one of the first recipes I made from your cookbook and it's my "go to" now when I want to make an easy, delicious soup. When I'm in a hurry, I add the curry powder after a couple of minutes of cooking the onions so it coats the onion completely. It's still delicious!


I made this soup recently and it was delicious. I used green split-peas instead of lentils and it turned out great. Will definitely make again.


earlier this week, i had JUST finished making the version of this soup that is in SNED and while i enjoyed a bowl, decided to flip over to your blog.....only to see THIS version! serendipitous, no? it's a great soup for keeping resolutions this month, and along with your little quinoa patties & broccoli orzo salad are all being posted about on my blog (linking back to you, of course!) thanks for the inspiration!

cory @ {relish}

I think this is perfect to serve with any bread during cool weather, specially the “Indian - Naan”. Love it. :)

love cooking

Hi Heidi, I've been truly enjoying your your cookbook Super Natural Cooking Everyday and recently just read your lovely article in Kinfolk. Thank you. -Nikko

Nikko Moy

I could not wait to try this. As a huge fan of lentils, curry AND paneer, I knew this was going to be fabulous. Totally tasty and very comforting. Served as recommended with pan-fried paneer as well as bread. Thank you for this treat!


This sounds lovely!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

MMMMMM,...I have made your tasty soup & it was divine! Georgous soup too! :)


Had everything on hand already except the paneer (which was impossible to find on New Year's Day), it was easy to put together, and has been keeping us warm and satisfied for a couple of days. Thanks for the yummy recipe.


Just made this for dinner...I was blown away by everything about this soup! I didn't have onions (!) so I used about half the amount of shallots, a sprinkling of cilantro instead of chives, and a little drizzle of some lemon. YUM YUM. Thanks!


This looks like the perfect dish to recoup from a winter filled with too many heavy dishes and too many long nights!


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