You will never use another Lentil Soup recipe again once you try a bowl of this Vegetarian Lentil Soup with kale, tomatoes and carrots. It is loaded with tender lentils, rich spiced broth and plenty of hearty veggies! It is the absolute best lentil soup recipe I have ever made.

black pot overhead with soup with a ladle

Why This is the Best Lentil Soup Recipe Ever!

I’m not joking when I say this is the best Lentil Soup! I cannot stop craving it. I have made three giant batches of it in the last two weeks and I am still dreaming of it right now as I sit to type this to you!

There is something sublime about the layers of spices: turmeric, oregano, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Add to that the thick and hearty texture redolent of onion and garlic cloves and spiked with tender chunks of carrots, tomato and parnisps. The kale, stirred in and cooked for the last several minutes, is just tender but not overcooked.

The cilantro added once it comes off the heat gives the soup freshness while the lemon makes the earthy lentils pop with bright acidity and balances all the savory tastes!

For dinner, we have enjoyed steaming bowls of this lentil soup, topped with Greek yogurt and cilantro (plus some hot sauce for me and my husband.) All that is needed is warm pita bread on the side and you have a super filling meal!

I have also been loving having it to reheat for lunches. Bonus: I have even tested out freezing it, and it works great. Since this makes a giant batch (12 cups) you can pop a couple servings into the freezer to thaw out for easy lunches.

I should also mention, that this isn’t just vegetarian, it is actually vegan, which is great since we have been trying to eat meals with a lower carbon footprint. This is one plant-based meal that really satisfies and the whole family loves it.

Ingredient Notes For This Recipe

ingredients with labels

Brown Lentils

There are many types of lentils, from green French Lentils (also called puy lentils) and Red Lentils, yellow lentils, Black Lentils and brown lentils. They all have different cooking times and textures. For this soup, you want to buy brown lentils. They have the best soft texture for making soup, but they aren’t mushy and won’t fall apart. They are sold in 1-pound bags in the dried bean section of most supermarkets. You will need 1 pound (or two cups) of lentils for this recipe.

Spices

  • Whole Cumin and Coriander Seeds: These are toasted in a skillet and then ground up to maximize their flavor and add a little bit of seedy texture to the soup. To save time, you can skip toasting and grinding and substitute purchased ground cumin and coriander instead. Simply add them into the onion mixture with the other spices.
  • Smoked Paprika, Oregano, Turmeric, Black Pepper: These spices give it tons of flavor! The smoky taste from the smoked paprika makes this vegan soup one that even meat eaters will love. It’s like a secret ingredient! You can also add in some red pepper flake if you like a bit of heat and a bay leaf for more classic flavor. I skipped both to keep it more simple.
  • Salt: Make sure to add the salt after the lentils have simmered for 15 minutes so that it doesn’t make them tough.

Olive Oil

To saute the onion and veggies, you will need a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Since this soup is otherwise very lean, the oil helps to give it richness.

Sweet Onion, Garlic, Carrot and Parsnips

You will need 2 large sweet onions (yellow onion is fine), 2 cups diced carrots, 1 cup parsnips and 4 cloves of garlic for the vegetables.

I didn’t add celery in today, but if you like you can also chop a couple of celery stalks as well and add them with the veggies. To speed the process of cutting these feel free to use your food processor to cut the veggies into small pieces.

One of the keys to making a vegan lentil soup taste rich and flavorful is starting out with browning the vegetables. The sweetness of the sweet onions, parsnips and carrots is important to balance the other tastes in the soup.

Vegetable Broth

I tried making this Vegan Lentil Soup the first time with water instead of broth and it just wasn’t the same. My absolute favorite vegetable stock is Imagine “No-Chicken” broth. The name is a bit funny but I assure you, it is vegan. You can also buy it in low-sodium too! If you like you can sub in chicken broth or chicken stock instead.

Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes

If you can find them, look for a small can of “fire-roasted” diced tomatoes for this recipe. The fire-roasted tomatoes add even more smoky flavor to the soup. Because smoky flavor is almost always a good thing!

Regular diced canned tomatoes can be used, and fresh tomato also works. I recommend removing the tomato seeds and peel first. You will need 1 1/2 cups fresh diced tomatoes. If using fresh, add two tablespoons of tomato paste as well.

Kale

I love adding kale to soups! {Don’t miss my Kale and Potato Soup or my Chicken and Vegetable Soup to name a few!} Either Lacinato or curly kale works here. (FYI you can sub swiss chard for the kale if you like.) Run your hand along the stem and remove the leaves. Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Rinse and spin the kale dry.

Lemon and Cilantro

To balance out the sweetness of the vegetables and the rich earthy lentils, a bit of fresh lemon juice really peps up the soup considerably. If you don’t have lemon, red wine vinegar also works well. I also added in a nice big pile of chopped cilantro too. Fresh herbs almost always should be added at the end so make sure to do this after the soup comes off the heat so that the flavors stay fresh.

close-up of lentil soup in a black pot

Step By Step Instructions To Make This Vegetarian Lentil Soup

toasting the spices in a skillet and grinding them in a coffee grinder

Step 1: Toast and Grind The Whole Spices

To bring out the flavor of the coriander seeds and cumin seeds, toast them in a small skillet over medium heat. Swirl the skillet often until the seeds are fragrant and starting to pop and lightly smoke, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove them from the heat and transfer them to a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Coarsely grind them. As I said before, you can skip this step and buy ground spices. Just add them in with the other spices.

brown the vegetables then add the spices to toast them in the hot oil

Step 2: Brown the Veggies then Add Aromatic Spices

  • Heat oil in a large pot or heavy bottom large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and parsnips (or turnip) and cook, stirring often until the onion is starting to brown, about 10 to 13 minutes.
  • Add in garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the ground cumin and coriander, smoked paprika, oregano, turmeric and pepper and stir to coat the onion mixture with the spices. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.
cook the lentils in the broth to soften them for 15 minutes

Step 3: Simmer the Lentils To Soften

Add broth and lentils and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are almost soft, with a cook time of about 15 minutes.

Step 4: Add in Kale, Tomatoes and Salt to Finish Cooking

Stir in diced tomatoes, kale and salt. Increase heat to regain the simmer then reduce it to continue simmering. Cook until the lentils are soft and breaking down and the kale is tender, about 10 minutes more. This is a hearty soup, but if the soup becomes too thick, add up to 2 cups of water to thin it out.

adding in the cilantro

Step 5: Finish With Cilantro and Lemon

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in cilantro and lemon juice. It is a good idea to let the soup cool a little bit before serving!

close up of bowl of soup with yogurt on top

For serving, ladle cups of the soup into large bowls. Then top the bowls off with plant-based vegan Greek yogurt (this is the one I like) or use regular cow’s milk Greek yogurt for a bit of cool and tangy contrast. Sprinkling on some fresh cilantro peps up the colors too! Parmesan cheese would also work well.

FAQ’s and Expert Tips For This Lentil and Veggie Soup

Is lentil soup good for weight loss?

Lentil soup is good for weight loss because it is high in fiber and protein, both of which help to keep you full for longer. Protein reduces hunger level and appetite and fiber slows digestion which means that at only 300 calories per serving you will be satisfied for longer.

Do you have to soak lentils for soup?

Dry lentils cook in less than a half-hour even without soaking, so it is not necessary to soak them in water overnight. That said, soaking may help some individuals digest lentils more easily. Soaking also cuts cooking time in half.

How long does lentil soup last in the fridge?

This recipe is even better on the second day! That’s the beauty of lentil soup! It can be kept in the fridge for four to five days and it can be frozen for three months. Thin with additional broth as necessary as it will thicken.

What pairs with lentil soup?

Lentil soup pairs well with toasted whole-wheat pita bread. Toasted whole-wheat bread is a great side dish with any soup. Or for a quicker option try my gluten-free skillet cornbread which is ready in about a half-hour.

Additional Easy Recipes To Try

chickpea stew, lentil and celeriac salad, lentil power bowls
  1. This Vegan Chickpea Stew has flavors inspired by Moroccan cuisine.
  2. From a favorite cookbook review, this Lentil and Celery Root Salad has an interesting garlic, herb and anchovy dressing.
  3. If you like the spices in this lentil soup, then try out these vegetarian Lentils Bowls with coriander.
vegan vegetable soup, vegetarian shepherd's pie, minestrone soup
  • 4. My harvest Vegan Vegetable Soup with butternut squash and kale is a fantastic and healthy soup recipe.
  • 5. These individual Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie are made with lentils instead of beef, and are topped with mashed butternut squash!
  • 6. One of our most popular vegetarian soups is our Classic Minestrone! Try it and find out why it is a favorite!
corn chowder, black lentil salad, zucchini soup
  • 7. We are super proud of how tasty this Corn Chowder is, and it is made with less fat and calories than many recipes out there! The key is using potatoes to thicken it and give it great texture without any roux or gluten.
  • 8. If you have never tried black lentils before, try them in this easy Mediterranean Black Lentil Salad! It’s made with cucumbers, feta, parsley and spinach!
  • 9. Don’t miss another recent addition to our soup collection here on Healthy Seasonal Recipes: This Creamy Zucchini Soup with Greek Yogurt and Dill is a total winner!
lentil soup in two bowls

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter for healthy recipes delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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Lentil soup close up in a black pot

Best Ever Lentil Soup (Vegetarian)

  • Author: Katie
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 55
  • Yield: 12 cups 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This Vegetarian Lentil Soup is the BEST EVER! It is ultra hearty and loaded with tender veggies, spices, tomatoes and kale and is only 300 calories per serving!


Scale

Ingredients

2 teaspoons coriander seeds *see ingredient note

1 teaspoon cumin seeds *see ingredient note

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large sweet onions, diced

2 cups diced peeled carrot

1 cup diced peeled parsnip or turnip

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon pepper

8 cups vegetable broth

2 cups dry brown lentils (1 pound)

14 ounces canned diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted

3 cups chopped kale

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ cup chopped cilantro

4 ½ teaspoons (or 1 ½ tablespoons) lemon juice, or to taste

Greek yogurt or plant-based yogurt for serving, optional


Instructions

  1. Place coriander and cumin in a small skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, swirling the skillet often until the seeds are fragrant and starting to pop and lightly smoke, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove them from the heat and transfer them to a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Coarsely grind them.
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy bottom soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and parsnips (or turnip) and cook, stirring often until the onion is starting to brown, about 10 to 13 minutes. Add in garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the ground cumin and coriander, smoked paprika, oregano, turmeric and pepper and stir to coat the onion mixture with the spices. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.
  3. Add broth and lentils and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are almost soft, about 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in diced tomatoes, kale and salt. Increase heat to regain the simmer then reduce it to continue simmering. Cook until the lentils are soft and breaking down and the kale is tender, about 10 minutes more.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in cilantro and lemon juice. Serve with yogurt if desired.

Notes

Coriander and Cumin Seeds

Buy whole coriander and cumin seeds in the bulk spice section of health food stores or in the spice section of large supermarkets.  To save time, you can skip toasting and grinding and substitute purchased ground cumin and coriander instead. Simply add them into the onion mixture with the other spices in step 2.

To Prepare With Soaked Lentils

Place the lentils in a large bowl and cover generously with cold tap water. Let soak overnight. Drain and rinse the lentils. Prepare as directed but reduce the broth to 6 cups. Cook for only 7 minutes in step 3 before proceeding with step 4. 

To Reheat

Warm the soup up in the microwave on high power, stirring once or twice. It will take three to four minutes per bowl becasue it is so thick!

On the stovetop, stir over medium heat until steaming hot. You may need to add additional water or broth to thin it, as it becomes thicker in the fridge.

To Freeze

Freeze in one serving containers for up to three months. To thaw and heat, remove the soup from the container by inverting and running warm water over the storage container. Place the soup in a large pyrex bowl or measuring cup. Microwave for six minutes on high. Break apart any chunks and then microwave for two minutes longer or until steaming hot.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
  • Calories: 301
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Fat: 6 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 50 g
  • Fiber: 23 g
  • Protein: 14 g

Vegetarian Lentil Soup