Lemon Lentil Soup

January 8, 2012 at 9:00 am 20 comments

In my opinion, beautiful food speaks for itself – and this dish is an example of just that. No frills but it sure looks fancy!

I explored my true love for lentils several months ago when I made my lentil “bread” and consumed more lentils in two months that I had over my entire lifetime. I’ve made a few dishes since with lentils or served them as a side dish but it was time that they were star of the show again – enter Lemon Lentil Soup.

This comforting soup is lightly adapted from 101 Cookbook’s Red Lentil Soup with Lemon.  If you are a fan of lentils, this is a must-make recipe. This comforting vegan soup is brilliantly colored from ground turmeric, has lovely texture and flavor from sauteed onions, spinach and brown mustard seeds and is finished with plenty of fresh lemon juice for brightness and tang.

Instead of brown rice in the original recipe, I served mine with nutty red quinoa and topped with a dollop of creamy plain Greek yogurt. I skipped a step or two and didn’t saute the spinach separately but added the greens along with the cooked onion and allowed them to wilt and maintain a nice texture. I subbed brown mustard seeds for the yellow that were originally called for and used coconut oil instead of butter…though I am sure butter/earth balance would add a rich flavor to the base. While completely optional, I added a jalapeno for a bit of heat and several tablespoons of chopped walnuts for a bit of crunch and enjoyed both additions!

Lemon Lentil Soup (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)


2 cups / 14 oz / 400 g split red lentils, picked over and rinsed well (I think other colored lentils may work too)
1 Tbsp turmeric
3 Tbsp coconut oil (butter, ghee or earth balance could be subbed – use oil of earth balance for vegan)
fine grain sea salt
1 large onion, diced (2- 3 cups, I used the latter because I love onions)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds (yellow could be subbed)
1 jalapeno, seeded and deveined and minced, optional
1 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of three lemons, or to taste
4-5 cups of baby spinach or 1 large bunch of spinach leaves, chopped
freshly ground black pepper

plenty of cooked (warm) quinoa, to serve (brown rice, millet or rice couscous could be subbed)
plain Greek yogurt or vegan sour cream, to serve
2-3 Tbsp chopped walnuts (or pine nuts), optional (omit for nut free)


1. Put the lentils in a pot with 7 cups / 1.6 l water, the turmeric, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 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 (soup will thicken upon cooling). Keep the soup warm/hot.

2. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the onion. In a skillet over low heat cook the onion and jalapeno (if using) in 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil 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.

3. 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. Add spinach to the soup, stir and let wilt. Season with more salt and black pepper to taste and stir in chopped walnuts or pine nuts if desired.

4. To serve, place a scoop of quinoa in each bowl, then ladle soup, a dollop of yogurt and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

Serves 6. *Leftovers freeze well; if freezing, leave yogurt out and add when serving. 

Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 30 minutes

Entry filed under: Gluten Free, Lunch, Main Dish, Refined Sugar Free, Soups and Salads, Vegan, Vegetarian. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. foodrefashionista  |  January 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Nora, You and I must be on the same wave length. I just posted a split-pea lentil soup, but very different from yours which sounds delicious. Thanks, and I hope your yogurt store is doing well! Claire

  • 2. sara  |  January 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Oh, I have been so in the mood for lentil soup lately! This one looks super delicious! Great photos! 🙂

    • 3. naturalnoshing  |  January 9, 2012 at 11:19 am

      Thanks Sara! I highly recommend this dish, especially if you are in the mood for some good lentil soup 🙂

  • 4. Cara  |  January 9, 2012 at 8:54 am

    MAKING! Love how you put the quinoa on top. I’m copying you–I will let you know how it goes 🙂 xoxo

    • 5. naturalnoshing  |  January 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

      I love when you copy me 🙂 that’s a big compliment! I hope you like it, let me know how it goes!

  • 6. Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum  |  January 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    This is so interesting! Looks healthy and bright and yummy. Maybe it would perk me up during these long cold dark nights? 🙂

    • 7. naturalnoshing  |  January 11, 2012 at 10:31 am

      It really is a lovely combo of flavors 🙂 I think some of this hearty soup might just perk you up! Winter nights are tough for me too, I miss the sunshine!

  • 8. FreeEats  |  January 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    This sounds so delicious and comforting. I absolutely love the vibrant color and I’ll bet the lemon makes it refreshing! Happy to have found your blog. 🙂

    • 9. naturalnoshing  |  January 12, 2012 at 8:17 am

      I am so happy you found me too! 🙂 Thanks for saying hello! You are exactly right – this soup is delicious, comforting and refreshing!

  • 10. Buffy the SMIL (StepMother In Law)  |  January 13, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I had bought some key limes and you know how you have to buy a whole bag of them instead of just how many you actually need. I used about 9 of them instead of the lemons and it gave the soup a nice, “sweet” tanginess.

    • 11. naturalnoshing  |  January 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      Nice thinking on the fly B! I can imagine that key limes would be really interesting and add a different dimension to the soup! I’ll have to give that a try…well, if I can get a bag of key limes up in MT that is! 🙂 Thanks for the feedback!

  • 12. Sonia The Healthy Foodie  |  January 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Wow am I ever behind in my reads… hadn’t even seen that one yet!

    That soup looks really good, Nora. I am really intrigued by the addition of lemon. Do you think it would canibalize it beyond recognition if I was to leave the turmeric, cumin and cilantro out? I realize that I wouldn’t be looking at the same culinary experience at all… but do you think that it would still taste good?

    • 13. naturalnoshing  |  January 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      The lemon is what makes this soup – I think you could leave out the turmeric and replace the cumin with another spice…I’d replace the cilantro with another fresh herb to really brighten up the flavors. It would be different but I bet you could make something that tastes AWESOME without the three 🙂 You have a knack for seasoning and flavors!

  • 14. Sonia The Healthy Foodie  |  January 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Alright then! I really like the idea of lemon and lentil together in a soup. I will definitely have to give it a try.

    On the Must Try list this goes…

    • 15. naturalnoshing  |  January 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      I can’t wait to see what you come up with Sonia! 🙂

  • 16. Cara  |  February 27, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Currently making this for dinner tonight!

    • 17. naturalnoshing  |  February 29, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      Hey you! How did it turn out for you? I am curious to know what you thought 🙂

      • 18. Cara  |  February 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm

        I didn’t have any lentils in the house!! I so thought I did 😦 Saving it for this week… Will let you know.

  • 19. Sarah@Crazy Love Gamble-Style  |  March 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    This recipe is AWESOME. I followed it exactly except I didn’t have mustard seed so I just used spicy mustard instead. I added a little lemon pepper at the end and oh my! Delicious!!! Thanks for the great recipe!!

    • 20. naturalnoshing  |  March 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      I am thrilled that you enjoyed this as much as I did! 🙂 Lemon pepper sounds delish!


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