Red Lentil Soup

updated Nov 21, 2023

This quick and easy recipe for lentil soup puts a hearty vegetarian dinner on the table in just about 30 minutes.


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Lentil soup is comforting, simple, and easy to throw together. It’s my go-to meal when I want something hearty but healthy, when I feel like my body needs a reset from a spate of indulgent eating, or when I’m tasked with feeding vegetarian or vegan friends on a chilly day. This pared-down red lentil version is the one I make most often, and it never fails to please.

Red lentils make a perfect weeknight meal or any time you’re in a hurry to get a meal on the table. Due to how they’re processed (they’re de-husked and split before packaging) they cook up quicker than any other variety of legumes, although they are slightly lower in fiber than the larger whole varieties. Also note that while they’re a lovely salmon pink in the package, their color changes as they cook, fading to a golden-yellow hue as they melt into a soup, stew, or curry.

Credit: Coco Morante

How Long Does It Take to Cook Red Lentils?

Red lentils cook up very quickly. A half-hour is all it takes to go from stovetop to table, and much of that time is unattended.

Credit: Coco Morante

What To Serve With Red Lentil Soup

While the soup is simmering, you’ve got some time to figure out what to serve alongside it. I often pair lentil soup with crusty bread, toasting it with a drizzle of olive oil and some shredded Parmesan cheese if I’m feeling indulgent. Slice your bread thick enough to tear off nice big hunks — perfect for dunking and swiping up the last few drops of soup.

Credit: Coco Morante

As a finishing touch, consider topping your bowls with a swirl of peppery olive oil, a dollop of tangy yogurt, or, my personal favorite, gremolata. This simple combination of chopped garlic, parsley, and lemon zest gives the soup a punch of freshness and brightens up the bowl.

Credit: Coco Morante

Red Lentil Soup

This quick and easy recipe for lentil soup puts a hearty vegetarian dinner on the table in just about 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1

    large carrot, diced

  • 2

    large stalks celery, diced

  • 1

    small yellow onion, diced

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 cup

    dried red lentils

  • 4 cups

    water or low-sodium broth

  • 1

    whole bay leaf

  • 2 tablespoons

    freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 large lemon)

  • For serving: Olive oil, yogurt, or other topping (optional)


  1. Heat the olive oil. In a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrot, celery, onion, and salt and stir to combine. Cover and let the vegetables sweat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the lentils, water or broth, and bay leaf and bring up to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer, covered, until the lentils begin to fall apart, about 20 minutes.

  3. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and season with salt as needed. Ladle into bowls and serve with toppings if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers will keep refrigerated for 5 days.

More topping options: To perk up the soup just before serving, top it with a drizzle of peppery olive oil, a dollop of plain yogurt, a sprinkle of sumac, or a spoonful of gremolata.

Recipe variations: This recipe is pared down to just the basics — you can certainly add a teaspoon of garam masala, Italian herbs, or any other seasoning blend to spice things up a bit if you like. Just add the spices in along with the lentils and broth.