Inexpensive, filling, and good, this vegetarian lentil soup takes many variations. All will warm you on a gray winter’s day. Pull it together with green lentils from the pantry and vegetables on hand. I always have carrots and onions, and usually celery and parsley, too.
I learned to make lentil soup in my student days from an original Moosewood Cookbook recipe that called for the soup to simmer for three to four hours. I guess people had more free time back in the 70′s. At any rate, while a long simmer is lovely, you can make this soup in just over an hour if you want.
Sauteing the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic first, then adding them to the soup, would also be lovely and add a bit of caramelized flavor. But it’s lower effort, and lower fat, to add those ingredients directly to the soup, and that’s what I do. If you want to saute the vegetables in olive oil, start with the longer-cooking ones like the carrots and onions, then the celery, and only put the garlic in for a couple of minutes at the end (or not at all).
You will probably need to add more water to the soup as it simmers. Lentil soup can easily become very thick, which my family dislikes, so I add water at the end to get a thinner consistency.
Serve the lentil soup with chopped scallions or parsley on top. If you use dairy, it’s excellent topped with a dollop of sour cream. This recipe yields enough for six, but go ahead and make it big even if you are just feeding a few people. It’s even better the next day.
Change the ingredient amounts as you like, add fresh or dried herbs like basil, oregano, or parsley. I usually use leftover pasta sauce for the tomato sauce. Do use green lentils, not hulled orange lentils which will become too mushy. The green lentils hold their shape and provide texture to the soup.
- 3 cups green lentils
- water to cover amply
- 1½ cups carrots, chopped
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1½ cups celery, chopped, or 1 Tbs. celery seed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbs. lemon juice
- 1½ Tbs. brown sugar or molasses
- salt to taste (around 2 tsp.)
- optional– herbs such as basil, oregano, or parsley
- optional- chopped parsley, chives, or scallions for garnish
- Look over the lentils to check for pebbles, rinse, put in large stockpot with an ample amount of water (so the water is more than twice as high in the pot as the level of the lentils).
- Bring to a boil and then simmer. While it will likely take only 30 to 45 minutes for the lentils to become soft, longer cooking is better for bringing the flavors of the soup together. As the soup simmers, as water as necessary to get your preferred consistency.
- Meanwhile, chop the vegetables. I cut the carrots into coins which means they require at least 30 minutes of simmering to be ready. So I add the vegetables to the pot at least 30 minutes before serving time.
- When you add the vegetables, also add the tomato sauce and all the other above ingredients. You can use leftover pasta sauce for the tomato sauce. If you are going to add dried herbs like parsley, oregano, or basil (optional), add a teaspoon or two now with the other ingredients. If you are going to use fresh herbs, wait until about 15 minutes before serving.
- Just before serving, taste and adjust seasoning.
- Garnish with chopped scallions, chives, or parsley if you like.