Lentil Soup doesn’t exactly conjure up thoughts of a deeply flavorful, satisfying soup.  Most versions are bland and feel more like boring “health food” than soul-satisfying food.  But not this version!  My lentil soup is deeply flavored with simple ingredients – nourishing for body and soul – and makes plenty to share or freeze for later.

Whenever a friend is sick or recovering from surgery, I usually pack up a loaf of bread and few quarts of this lentil soup to share.  It’s perfect for someone who needs a simple, healthful meal.  Plus, it’s easy to make and comes together quickly, so you can pull it together with pantry staples in no time.

 

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Two Ingredient Tips

  • This recipe calls for ground coriander, which you may not be familiar with or have on hand.  You could leave it out, but I really encourage you to pick up this commonly used Middle Eastern spice.  It has a warm, earthy, citrusy flavor and adds so much to a dish.  You will love it in soups and stews, as well as spice rubs for roasted chicken, pork or fish.  Whenever a recipe calls for cumin, I usually add some coriander too. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of cumin, so sometimes I just leave it out and replace it with coriander!
  • I also call for two of my favorite flavor-packed ingredients:  Better than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Chicken Base and Better than Bouillon Mushroom Base. Both can be found in any supermarket, and I buy large jars of the Reduced Sodium Chicken and Beef Bases at Costco.  I wouldn’t know how to cook without my Better than Bouillon bases and have lots of them!  It’s so convenient to have concentrated bases on hand instead of stocking cans or boxes of broth, and the flavor is excellent.  I use the mushroom base not as a broth, but to add deep, savory flavor to all kinds of soups, stews and stir-fries.  Even if you don’t like mushrooms, don’t worry.  A small amount adds tons of flavor boosters without making your dish taste “mushroomy”.

 

Let’s make some lentil soup!

close up of Lentil Soup

 

Here’s What You Need:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed in a garlic press
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 generous tsp. Better than Bouillon Mushroom Base
  • 3 Tbsp Better than Bouillon Low Sodium Chicken Base
  • 1 lb. French or brown lentils
  • 3 qts water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon juice or plain white vinegar to taste

 

Here’s What to Do:

Building the Flavorful Base

In a large Dutch oven or wide soup pot (at least 7 qt), sauté onions in olive oil until they just start to soften; push onions to the sides of the pan to clear a space in the middle.

Add celery (do NOT mix with onions) and saute until celery starts to soften.  Mix celery in with onions and push to the sides to clear another empty space in the middle of the pan.

Add carrots (do NOT mix with onions and celery) and saute till a little fond starts to develop on the bottom of the pan.

Add the shallots, stir all the veggies together and continue to saute until veggies start to take on a tiny bit of color.  You are not looking to brown the veggies, just get a bit of fond going on the bottom of the pan.

Add the garlic and saute 2 more minutes.  Do not let the garlic brown at all!  Tip:  it drives me crazy when recipes call for you to add the garlic first and then saute a bunch of stuff.  Don’t do that!  You just end up burning the garlic and giving your dish a harsh, acrid taste.  If you are sauteing garlic with other things, add the garlic last.  Trust me.  You’ll appreciate the difference!

Make a bare spot in the middle of the pan to cook the tomato paste 1 minute.

Sprinkle cumin and coriander over veggies and stir a minute or two to bloom the spices.

Add the broth bases and stir throughout.

Simmer Time!

Rinse lentils and add to the veggies, stirring to combine. Add 2 ½ quarts of water. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, cover and then simmer for 45 mins, stirring every 15 mins. Tip: If lentils take too long to soften, (if they are still hard after 45 min) add a pinch of baking soda.

Add the remaining 2 cups of water, or more if soup is very thick and lentils are still too firm. Continue simmering until lentils are soft.

When lentils are as soft as you’d like, add any more water needed to achieve soup consistency desired (this soup can be thicker or more brothy – your choice). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: Carrots can often make soups and stews come off tasting sweet. To balance that, add lemon juice or plain white vinegar, a 1/4 tsp at a time until you like the result. If you have citric acid on hand, that works great too – just add a pinch at a time.

Lentil Soup with bread and tea

 

Looking for something else to do with that Mushroom Base?

Here are two easy, delicious recipes for Mushroom Gravy and Creamy Mushroom Bisque from my old blog.

 

Lentil Soup

Author Elizabeth at thewildolive.org

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large onions - chopped
  • 1 large shallot - minced
  • 3 cloves garlic - crushed
  • 4 stalks celery - diced
  • 4-5 carrots - diced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 generous tsp. mushroom base
  • 3 Tbsp chicken base
  • 1 lb. French or brown lentils
  • 3 qts water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon juice or plain white vinegar to taste

Instructions

  • In a large Dutch oven or soup pot (at least 7 qt), sauté onions in olive oil over med-low heat until they just start to soften; push onions to the sides of the pan to clear a space in the middle.
  • Add celery (do NOT mix with onion and saute until celery starts to soften. Mix celery in with onions and push all to the sides to clear another empty space in the middle of the pan.
  • Add carrots (do NOT mix with onions and celery) and saute till a little fond starts to develop on the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the shallots, stir all the veggies together and continue to saute until veggies start to take on a tiny bit of color. You are not looking to brown the veggies, just get a bit of fond going on the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the garlic and saute 2 more minutes. Do not let the garlic brown at all!
  • Make a bare spot in the middle of the pan to cook the tomato paste 1 minute.
  • Sprinkle cumin and coriander over veggies and stir a minute or two to bloom the spices.
  • Add the broth bases and stir throughout.
  • Rinse lentils and add to the veggies, stirring to combine. Add 2 ½ quarts of water. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, cover and then simmer for 45 mins, stirring every 15 mins. Tip: If lentils take too long to soften, (if they are still hard after 45 min) add a pinch of baking soda.
  • Add the remaining 2 cups of water, or more if soup is very thick and lentils are still too firm. Continue simmering until lentils are soft.
  • When lentils are as soft as you'd like, add any more water needed to achieve soup consistency desired (this soup can be thicker or more brothy – your choice). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Optional: Carrots can often make soups and stews come off tasting sweet. To balance that, add lemon juice or plain white vinegar, a 1/4 tsp at a time until you like the result. If you have citric acid on hand, that works great too - just add a pinch at a time.