Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

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 roasted lemon chutney. 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.

lentil soup in a bowl with rice and yogurt

The Details

A couple notes related to this soup. To make things simple, this is the sort of thing that is ideally made when you already have leftover rice, farro, etc., on hand. Because the 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.
table set with two bowls of red lentil soup with a side of bread
Also, while the recipe calls for spinach, other greens work well - sautéed kale, chard, etc. Leftovers are excellent and it freezes well (keep the yogurt separate from any soup you think you might want to freeze).

eating lentil soup and crusty bread
This soup is incredible alongside a good wedge of sourdough. You can see the bread above is slathered with goat cheese and this lemon chutney. So good!
bowl of mostly empty soup after eating

More Lentil Soup Recipes

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Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

5 from 1 vote

An easy way to make this soup vegan is to swap olive oil in for the butter. You might do a creamy swirl of coconut (or cashew milk) in place of the yogurt.

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
35 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Post Your Comment

Recipe Rating


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?

WTF! This looks amazing!!!!


I make almost 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...)

cLaire maunsell

Nothing is more comforting than soup. Thanks for the reminder to pull out Deborah Madison's books again. I love the way you have picked up her mantle.


What a sweet kitty. I know you guys will miss him and my sympathies to your father for the loss of his baby. BTW, the soup sounds excellent and I look forward to making it now that soup weather is here.


Another wonderful Deborah Madison red lentil soup -- this one looks like a stunner.


I'm always looking for new ways to cook lentils- thanks!

Simply Life

Cilantro is the leaf of all evil. The rest of the soup sounds divine. I think I will just skip the cilantro and try it anyway. Thanks. :)


Oh, my favorite china, the old Gröna Anna plate from Rörstrands. And the soup looks fantastic to, might need to try that one very soon!

I huvudet på Elvaelva

It's so incredibly hard to lose a pet. They're truly never replaceable with another animal. I'm sorry that you and your family are dealing with this :(

Candice @ Sailing on Paper

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.


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

This looks fantastic! I'm a big fan of lentil soups, and I've never heard of Deborah Madison before - I'm definitely going to try and find her cookbooks now. If I didn't want to use cilantro, would parsley be a good substitute? My condolences for Dre - he looks wonderful. I had a similar experience a few years ago and it was really difficult, it's amazing how food can comfort one during those times. Thanks for a great post Heidi.


This soup sounds amazing. Gonna make it today. However it's a bit heavy on butter...maybe I use some olive oil instead?


Sorry about your cat. I lost my childhood dog a few years ago, and somehow she ends up in my dreams every once in a while. I love it when she comes to "visit me" Anyway, soup looks delicious! Can't wait to try another way to spruce up lentils.


Awesome cookbook recipe functionality on your site!!! I just signed up to provide input on my favorite recipes from Madison's book. I've always wanted to compare notes with others regarding recipes in books because sometimes there are mistakes and/or recipes not tested out too well. Anyways, I've dreamed of this for years and I'm so happy you are taking it on. :) Thank you!!!


Perfect! I have all the ingredients, including cilantro and kale that desperately need to be used up, plus I've been craving lentil soup. Thanks for the recipe!


I've been very into red lentils lately with curry powder and black mustard seeds. I can't wait to try your version :) So sorry about your famiy's loss :(


Yum, i love the look of these bowls of soup with yogurt and rice! I recently enjoyed lemon lentil soup in Istanbul and have been craving it ever since. The spices in this sounds so tasty too.

amy chaplin

Your soup recipe is very similar to the daal- chawal (daal means lentil and chawal means rice) we have in North India. And the daal becomes nice and tangy with a twist of a lemon.


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