Eastern European Red Lentil Soup Recipe | Vegetarian Times Skip to main content

Eastern European Red Lentil Soup

Red lentils are common in Turkish, Indian, and Eastern European dishes and cook in half the time of green or brown lentils. They can be found in Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores or alongside other dried beans in natural-foods supermarkets. You can also flavor this soup with curry powder, dried thyme, or paprika in place of the ground cumin.



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2 Tbs. olive oil
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1 large red onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
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3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
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1½ cups red lentils
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2 Tbs. ground cumin
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1 15-oz. can chopped tomatoes with liquid
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1 Tbs. honey
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3 bay leaves
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1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
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½ cup plain low-fat yogurt


1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté 5 minutes, or until soft. Stir in red lentils and cumin, and cook 1 minute, or until cumin is fragrant and lentils are coated with oil. Stir in tomatoes with liquid, honey, bay leaves, and 7 cups water. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.

2. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft and falling apart, and soup is thick. Add a little water to thin soup, if necessary. Remove bay leaves, stir in vinegar, and serve with dollops of yogurt.

Nutrition Information: 

12 g
Total Fat: 
5 g
Saturated Fat: 
0.5 g
32 g
1 mg
378 mg
7 g
7 g
Serves 8

Comments on this Recipe

I love this recipe. It is simple,low calorie, inexpensive, and delicious. Red lentils break down so quickly, making them perfect for soup. I've even thought of adding dried onions, dried garlic, bay leaves, cumin,salt, pepper, and brown sugar to the dried lentils to make a simple mix for my vegetarian college student. Just add a can of tomatoes, olive oil, and water. Stir in vinegar before serving.

Delicious and hearty

This might be a stupid question as I am not good with lentils but should I use dry lentils or from a can or do I soak dry lentils overnight before???

This has been a favorite in our household ever since I discovered it in Vegetarian Times Magazine.

To Jaybyrd: Lentils cook fairly quickly compared to other dried beans, so you don't need to soak them.

@Jaybyrd: Use dry lentils. No need to soak, they cook really quickly.

Use dry red lentils. Dried red lentils don't need soaked. They cook in about 20 minutes. They will cook in the liquid (water and canned tomatoes)with the rest of the ingredients in the soup. They are super easy to cook with. Just make sure you cook them on medium-low, as they will burn at the bottom of the pot on a higher temp. Good luck! :)

I so wanted this recipe to be wonderful. It's quick, easy and made from things that I pretty much have on hand. I was really disappointed. This soup has no flavor. I keep thinking I left something out, but I've gone over the recipe and I followed it to a T. I will not be making this again. It was given 4 stars, but I don't see anywhere to rate this recipe

Jaybyrd: Use dry lentils, not soaked overnight. Red lentils cook pretty quickly.

No, you don't have to soak lentils. Dry ones work just fine. The fact that you don't have to go through all that soaking is one of the reasons I love lentil! Besides the fact that they taste great and are high in protein.

Dear Jaybyrd, You would use dry lentils.

I made it and jazzed it up a bit after reading vivian's comment: I think it came out quite tasty and flavorful with my revisions: I used vegetable broth instead of water; I used fire roasted, canned tomatoes with garlic (not necessary though); I added maybe an additional 1/2 cup of pureed tomatoes. The tomatoey, cuminey, flavor is quite nice with the lentils... a healthy, fairly simple recipe to make. try it!

Clarification: I used 1/2 cup of CANNED, CRUSHED tomatoes in addition to the 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes. I didn't use fresh, pureed.

Hi Sister, Here's the lentil soup recipe. Try to use red lentils rather than brown. I used the latter and the lentils were too thick and amost overwhelmed the texture. Red lentils are smaller, lighter and cook more quickly. Enjoy!!

I combined it with another recipe to make a very yummy soup. I added red kidney beans to more protein (it goes nicely with the different shades of red in the soup). I omitted honey and vinegar and added a lot more spices (paprika, cayenne, oregano). I also used vegetable broth in the place of water. It was absolutely DELICIOUS!!

I love lentils and Middle Eastern food, but I will not be making this again!!!! This was awful. I thought I did something wrong or forgot something, nope I didn't. Family asked that I not even try to change this, just get rid of it!

soup is easy to make,but needs more spices-oregano cayenne paprika to taste the way it should.also added some left over adzuki beans for more texture.a keeper

I just cooked a whole pot, I really liked it. So did my boyfriend. I added some cayenne pepper just because which made it too strong for him but since I'm sick it's working wonders for me. I will definitely make this again and I'll probably be eating in for the next few days.

For all of you who are complaining that this has no taste or is too bland, you should definitely try adding more seasoning. I put in about 2-3 T ground cumin (total), 1 t oregano, 1 t thyme, 2-3 T paprika, 1 T ground coriander and a few shakes of chili flakes. I was also very liberal with the garlic, and I didn't use any honey. I also probably put in about 3 T red wine vinegar (total), but I'm not really sure because I just sort of poured it in. And that's how you make delicious soup! (I have learned to season food this way from growing up in an Indian household.)