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


Ideal soup for this time of the year.

tobias kocht!

So sorry to hear about your cat, he had a great life, 18 that's amazing! It is so hard to lose a family pet, they become more than a friend.They are that fluffy thing that you come home to and tell all about your day, like a person really that doesn't talk back! I love the look of this soup, lentils and lemon yum!

Honey For Jam

This recipe looks delicious and simple. Your "Lively Up Yourself" Lentil Soup converted me to a lentil soup lover years ago. I think greens and lentils go so well together!


I so sorry to hear about the family cat. 18 years old, means that he had a great life:) I love how this soup sounds, it is the season for it now, as it is getting colder outside;) :)


I love anything lentil (brown rice too). I could eat this sort of thing for lunch everyday. In fact I think I will ...

Family Meals and Cooking Tips

Heidi, I am so sorry to hear about your dad's kitty Dre. My condolences... your soup sounds like, and is, the perfect comfort food. I am eating it right now and have to say that every single one of your soups (and other recipes) is amazing! I have tried them all (soup-lover, what can I say) and this one is the perfect addition. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent with the world :)


I made this recipe the evening after you posted it, and it is wonderful! I am the only vegetarian in my house, but everyone loved it (especially with the greek yogurt), and even asked where I had found it. We didn't even have leftovers! The only changes I made: I didn't blend the lentils, because i couldn't find the immersion blender, but it honestly turned out fine. The split red lentils fall apart enough, and it was nice to have the texture. Also, I added a bit of asafoetida to both the onions and to the lentils/broth.


I made this exactly as written tonight for dinner and it was FANTASTIC deliciousness. I often have leftover greens like spinach and left over brown rice. This is perfect for using them up and so good. Thanks!


This was sooo good and easy to make! It's going to be a new staple in my meal planning:)

Winn Mahoney

I am very sorry for your family's loss. The pet is completely part of our family who shares not only living environment but even emotions or memories. Missing so much of the kitty will be heard by him. And this soup sounds very therapeutic and delicious. Lentils are not easy to find here in Japan. I want to try this recipe with other kind of beans, perhaps.


I made this last night for the family. It turned out wonderful. I used barley instead of rice and instead of the lemon juice, I diced two oranges and added it in just before serving. The spinach really added to the texture of the dish. This is my new favorite way to prepare lentils.


I'm so very sorry and saddened to hear about the loss of your family's beloved kitty. It made me so sad to read, as I can completely relate to the heart-wrenching experience of losing an ailing cat that was more like my little girl than a mere pet (our kitty had just hit her 16th birthday when she died of kidney failure - that we'd been working hard to treat - and hyperthyroidism). I hope warm soup and many wonderful memories of Dre will help to ease your grief. Thanks for posting such a delicious-looking soul-warming soup recipe on the heels of your news... I'm definitely going to be giving this one a try.


Heidi, I have become such a devoted fan of your recipes. Have been reading (and cooking from) your site & books for quite some time now, but only recently find myself situated on an island off of the coast of Hong Kong with only a few (very few) small markets & limited supplies. But, somehow, again and again this month, I have been able to recreate your meals and my family has been overjoyed to have a change from stir fry (which is, of course, the easiest thing to do with what's available). This soup was just wonderful, even with local greens instead of spinach. Many thanks!


Thank You! One day, while shopping hungry (always a mistake) at our local co-op, they had delicious Lemon Lentil soup at their fresh bar, so I grabbed a cup. It was great, and I have been meaning to make an attempt at replicating it. Now I don't have to! They used sorrel for the greens, but not that is not easy to get, unless you grow it.


Thanks for the soup recipe, I was looking at it and it reminded me of a soup we make in my country. It is with brown lentils, swisschard, onions, lemon, some use potatoes, coriander and garlic but I don't. I think you would love it. Take two cups of brown small lentils, wash them. In a pressure cooker, fry a yellow onion in some olive oil until slightly brown, add the chopped swisschard, stems and all and fry, add the lentils and water to cover and cook until the lentils are extremely soft. When they are cooked, add the juice of a large lemon and some ground cumin and salt. It is delicious and I hope you try it and it brings you comfort.

sarah daouk

Yum! Lentils and lemon, two of my favourites!


This soup is amazing. I love your adaptation. So sorry to hear of the loss of a beloved pet.


It's funny, I just made this soup two days ago....but I think I will try it with lemons instead of limes as you made it. The lime is just a bit too tart for me. Thank you for the suggestion.


I forgot to ask you about substituting the cilantro - what do you think works best? Again, here in Bulgaria, cilantro is not sold as it is not used in our meals.


Good old daal-chawal in Western dress :) It's the ultimate comfort food for us Indians. We would put a big blob of butter or ghee on top. Believe me, yoghurt is a poor substitute.


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