Even when your pantry is bare, you probably have all the ingredients you need for this flavorful curry lentil soup. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and easy to make. Ready in 25 to 30 minutes!
Whenever David and I are going out of town, I spend the week leading up to the trip trying to eat down the food we have in the refrigerator. It becomes some kind of Chopped-style competition in my own kitchen.
Obviously it doesn’t matter for foods that keep for a long time like onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, and potatoes. However, for things with a short shelf life like leafy greens, I do my best to make sure they don’t go to waste.
Inevitably that means that the night before we leave and the evening we return, there’s very little left to have for dinner.
For just such an occasion, I make pantry-friendly curry lentil soup.
All of the ingredients utilize pantry and refrigerator staples – red lentils, garlic, onions, and spices. Those are foods I have on hand all the time and have long shelf lives.
For people who think that healthy food is expensive, time consuming, or bland, this soup clobbers all of those criticisms.
The soup is ready from start to finish in only about 25 minutes and costs change to make.
This recipe serves two as a meal. If you’re serving it as a starter, it can serve four. And if you’re serving a bigger group or want leftovers, it’s easy to double it.
Like so many soups, this vegan curry lentil soup just gets better with time as the flavors develop and meld.
Why red lentils?
I like to use red lentils in this soup, as opposed to other types of lentils, for two reasons.
One. They cook in a lot less time than other lentils.
Two. They have a wonderful, filling texture. As the lentils cook, they break down, giving the soup a hearty, full body.
Where to find red lentils?
You can find red lentils in Indian grocery stores, the bulk bins of natural grocery stores, or at Trader Joe’s sold in small resealable bags.
Split red lentils (as opposed to whole) are most commonly sold, and that’s what you want to use here.
You want dried lentils, not canned.
Look for small, reddish orange discs that aren’t broken or damaged.
When you get home, you’ll want to sort through the lentils to remove any wayward pebbles or debris inside. Then give them a rinse, and you’re good to go.
Which curry powder should I use?
I have several favorites that work well in this soup.
- Penzey’s hot curry powder
- Sweet curry powder (Pick the one that fits the best for your preferred heat level.)
Try one of these. Or if you have a preferred curry powder, use that instead!
Keep in mind that curry powders are spice blends. So they vary in terms of heat & intensity. Start with a smaller amount. You can always add more if you’d like a stronger curry flavor.
What should I serve with it?
Serve red lentil soup with crackers, bread, or brown rice. If you have access to vegan roti or naan, of course, that would be wonderful here.
How to make it
Start by sautéing onions and garlic in a soup pot with oil. Once they are softened and fragrant, add water, red lentils, curry powder, coriander, cumin, and a generous pinch of salt.
Bring the water to a simmer.
Then lower the heat, and cover the pot with a lid.
Let the soup cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft and starting to lose their form.
Serve in bowls, and garnish with chopped cilantro.
Curry lentil soup (Made with red lentils)
- Bring a soup pot to a medium heat with extra virgin olive oil. Add onion and garlic to the pot and sauté for a few minutes, until they are softened and fragrant. Then add the remaining ingredients to the pot.
- Bring the soup to a simmer. Then turn the heat to low and cover for 15 to 20 minutes, stopping occasionally to stir.
- Once the lentils have softened and are starting to break down while still maintaining some of their shape, the soup is ready. Taste for more curry powder and salt, if necessary.* Ladle the soup into bowls and top with cilantro garnish (optional).
Originally posted April 2015. Content, photos, and recipe updated September 2019.