red lentil soup with lemon

red lentil soup with lemon

I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, but only now is it becoming acceptable and even cool. I attribute this paradigm shift to age (not that I’m claiming to be old, not at all). As I get older, I enjoy puttering around my home more and more, and it’s finally become acceptable to say to friends, “We stayed in and made dinner on a Saturday night.” No one raises eye brows anymore, expecting you to regale them with a tale of an outing until four o’clock in the morning in the coolest lounge that has just opened – a lounge that doesn’t have a name or an entrance sign and has a password which you must tell to a faceless voice over the telephone nearby. Yes, we’ve all been there. I’m over it and I have been for some time.

red lentil soup with lemon

Last night, over dinner during our monthly book club meetings, one of my friends was telling us of one such night, which is now an aberration in her life. “A party,” she said, “that started at 10pm. I barely made it. I mean, I really had to remind myself that I had to go.” We all nodded because at this stage in our lives, a party that starts at ten in the evening, is indeed quite late. We’d have to be out, having a late dinner to motivate ourselves to actually attend. If we’re at home in our pajamas – forget about it. It won’t happen.

red lentil soup with lemon

This being at home thing that I love so much is further reinforced by winter. I’m a huge fan of staying in and cooking winter food, especially soup. I won’t even list the number of times I’ve waxed poetic about it. A good soup will revive, soothe, nourish, and even inspire. A good soup will elevate your spirits and might actually make you grateful for things like winter, snow, and below-freezing temperatures. Every time I complain about the cold, or cast a furtive glance at a Caribbean getaways, or lament that my winter get-up makes me resemble a black marshmallow – every time I do any of those things, I remind myself that were I living anywhere warm and tropical, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy things like soup, or stews, or hot cocoa. And this soup here today – it’s the kind of soup that makes you delighted that the weather outside may, indeed, be frightful.

red lentil soup with lemon

You know you have a clear winner on your hands, when everyone whom you feed this soup, immediately raves, asks for a recipe, or wants seconds. Andrew took this soup to lunch for work and claimed it was filling enough to be lunch. The ladies of my book club group unanimously praised it. I could probably eat a bowl of this every day and be content with the world. This soup is a simple joy, yet offers complex flavors. The heat from the cayenne grows gradually warming the back of your throat, and the tomato paste gives the soup a deeper dimension. And finally, the lemon – brightens up the flavors and makes the soup smile. Yes, smile. If that’s not reason to embrace winter and snow, I don’t know what is.

Red Lentil Soup With Lemon
Adapted from In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite, by Melissa Clark

Basically, here’s the deal – this soup is pretty much perfect straight from the book (and I rarely just follow a recipe verbatim). That’s just how this book goes though. The only thing I really changed is water. I don’t add water in addition to broth here. I prefer my soup to be a little bit on the thicker side, but you should see how the soup feels to you when you make it. Melissa has you add about a cup to a cup and a half water to the soup in addition to the stock. Also I add the Aleppo pepper because I’m slightly obsessed with it. If you can’t find any in your local grocery store/spice shop, a light dusting of cayenne or even chili powder (for that smoky effect) should do the trick.

3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (vegetable to keep the soup vegan)
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Aleppo pepper (for dusting the soup)


In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Add broth, lentils and carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt if necessary.

Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.

Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with Aleppo pepper if desired.

Serves 6 to 8


  • Lauren

    I love, love, love this soup! I made it two nights ago when it wouldn’t stop snowing. And I’ve made it nearly once a week since it was posted on Orangette. Delicious!!!!

  • Phoebe

    This soup is wonderful! One of my good friends/neighbor made it when we were snowed in and invited me over for a bowl. I’ll have to make it myself, now!

  • Katie

    This soup looks fantastic–I like the idea of adding lemon. I’ll have to give it a try…that said, I am in Northern California, where it’s been in the high 60s and sunny all week (unseasonably warm) and oddly enough, I’m watching snow reports back East with a sense of longing for winter and a reason to stay cozy inside and cook. Maybe I’ll draw the blinds and pretend it’s snowing out and make this soup this weekend!

  • Lauren

    Its so bright and cheery too! You would never know it was snowing outside by looking at it. I think this is one for the crockpot.

  • Sarah

    I know exactly what you mean about winter and soups! I could eat lentil/bean soup with a breadand a side salad forever!

  • Amy

    I totally agree with you about the loveliness of staying in and making a soul-warming meal, especially in the winter. This soup looks great. I love lentils and the color is so nice.

  • molly

    I was asked just yesterday about what we did weekends, and “play at home” was about the best I could gin up. And by best, I mean best — it is my absolute favorite.

    I’ve been eyeballing this soup since Molly posted about it, and am absolutely addicted to aleppo. Coming up soon…

  • Lael Hazan @educatedpalate

    Lovely soup. I too understand the surprise of becoming a homebody. There are times I find myself nodding off before my children. That does give one a shock. This looks like a great winter soup, even for those of us who are having an unseasonably cold winter in FLORIDA!

  • Kim

    Now that you admit you are a homebody and okay with it..
    maybe you are ready to take on the art of quilting too?
    Nothing more homey than a good pot of homemade soup……yum I can almost smell yours now :0)

    Happy cooking….the artquilmaker blog sent me :0)

  • Radish

    Kim – I am more of a knitter than a quilter, but I prefer to be in the kitchen than anywhere else :)

  • Rachel

    This will be dinner. I was already going to make lentil soup, but now with the addition of lemon – I’m looking forward to it even more. Thanks! Also, I’m a total stay at home-r. Love it.

  • kim

    One of my New Year’s resolutions was to eat (and make!!) more soup – yes, I realise it’s February already but better late than never :D And I’ve never ever cooked with lentils before, this recipe sounds absolutely perfect.

  • Denise Walker

    This soup was delicious. I added a dollup of sour cream when serving, heaven. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kim

    I’ve actually always been a homebody, so now that I’m with someone who’s equally a homebody, I can safely say that we much prefer nights at home, just the two of us, with our dog… in front of the TV, and then in bed by 10 PM.

    Instead of spending my money on shoes and handbags, I’m also finding that I much prefer spending it on a food processor or French linens… because home is where we spend all our time.

    Stay warm!!


    P.S. Great soup, too. I have aleppo pepper on my market list. Tabbing the recipe to try later in the week. :)

  • kim

    Made this today! First time I cooked or even ate lentils too. And it was delicious, I’m definitely making this again soon, thanks for the recipe!

  • alexis

    Comfort soups are my edible down comforters of the winter season. I am a lentil and lemon lover, so this recipe is perfection. I would have never thought to add cumin and ciltantro. Sounds fabulous!

  • emiglia

    I’m loving being a homebody now that I love my home so much. Just moved into an apartment with the boy, and now all I want to do is stay home and cook for us…. and sometimes have people over for dinner, if I feel like getting out of my PJs :)

    I’m always on the lookout for more lentil soups. They’re a staple in my repertoire in France, where lentils are so cheap.

  • MonsterAteMy

    I’m dying to make this, but am having trouble finding red lentils that are safe for my gluten-free folks (cross-contamination issues). Sigh. I’ll keep looking…

  • Jessica B.

    Even though it’s July, I was craving soup and this hit the spot. What a wonderful combination of flavors. I, too, like my soup on the thicker side and played with the proportions a bit. Definitely a winner that will grace out kitchen table again. Thank you for sharing.

  • AnnieB

    Made this fabulous-looking soup because I already had all of the ingredients. As soon as it was done I tasted it…mmmmmmmmmmm. Then, I remembered to add the lemon…wow! It adds just the right zing and a perfect combination of flavors. Also, had a handful of raw brussel sprouts left over from another meal, so I sliced & sauteed them in olive oil and dumped them in. So good! Thanks for a new favorite recipe.

  • Cheeku Bhasin

    This is a beautiful post – recipe and photos. Have posted a link to this recipe under my own Thai/Indian red lentil soup recipe. Do take a look when you have a chance. I have also recently published a book on healthy Indian food.

  • Gina

    Olga, I know it’s been awhile since you’ve posted this but for whatever reason I stumbled upon it and couldn’t be happier. It’s freezing cold lately in the adirondacks (20 degrees at night) and it was time for a new soup recipe. I’ve never really cooked with red lentils, at all (i’d only used them at ALL for wedding flower vase decorations- lol) but even my picky husband LOVED it, and it was so easy the kids helped me dump the ingredients and stir. He admitted to me after that he tried really hard not to like it but couldn’t help himself…ha! Thanks again! :)

  • Stephanie

    I have never written on your blog before, but I have been using your recipes for a few months now. Everything i cook from your site comes out wonderful. With a plethora of cookbooks everywhere today, I often find I’ll try a recipe from a new cook/chef and it just does not turn out well in the end. It is great to read your blog and know that you’ve done a great job testing your dishes; they are very full proof. This soup is no exception. It is simple and so very tasty. Thank you!

  • olga

    Stephanie – thank you so much for your kind words. Part of the online frustration, I think, is to make something that has either been a) poorly tested or b) not well written. I try to do both here, and I’m glad you’re finding the recipes working well for you! If you run into any issues, do let me know!

Leave a Comment