The simplicity and amazing taste of this red lentil soup recipe makes all the difference when making this dish.
Lentils are an incredibly hearty and nutritious food that is very commonly eaten in the Middle East.
Once again it is the cheap simple food that is not only a delicious part of any diet, but good for you.
I love this soup, and if you are looking for a good, solid vegan recipe, look no further than this.
What are Lentils?
Lentils are mini sized legumes that are rich in nutrients, with each serving containing protein, fiber, and minerals.
The name “lentil” comes from the latin word for “lens”, which makes sense because these dried beans look like a mini lens.
They are the dried seeds of the lentil plant, and unlike some beans, lentils are always dried after ripening, and never eaten fresh.
Moreover, they have been used in cooking for ages and it’s believed that they originated in the near east.
They are frequently cultivated throughout Asia, North Africa, and Europe.
You can find lentils in the most well-known dishes, such as Egyptian Koshari, Indian Dal, and Ethopian stew.
How to Make Red Lentil Soup
I absolutely love this soup, and it’s so easy to make on the stove top or in an instant pot.
I start by sauteing onions in olive oil, the base of every good soup.
Sometimes I add garlic for additional flavor then cook until translucent and soft.
I then add the red lentils and continue to sauté for a minute or two until the lentils are coated.
Salt, black pepper, and any spices such as cayenne pepper flakes for a bit of heat can be added.
Add the liquid you are using which can range from plain water, to chicken or vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer; cook until the lentils are soft, stirring occasionally
This great recipe produces a very hearty soup which is naturally gluten free and delicious.
Some people like to add lemon juice and red chili at the end for lots of extra flavor.
Also, if you want a smoother consistency with your soup then use an immersion blender to blend the cooked lentils at the end.
Types of Lentils
There are different types of lentils, which vary in color, size, shape, taste and consistency.
Picking the right lentil depends on what you are cooking.
Here is a guide on lentil types to help you choose the best lentil, so that your lentil dish comes out tasty every time.
Red lentils, also known as split or Egyptian lentils, have a slightly sweet taste, with colors that range from yellow/gold to bright orange or red.
These lentils are commonly used in Middle Eastern dishes and Indian ones too.
They are rich in protein, inexpensive, and are often used as an affordable meat replacement.
They don’t have a protective coat, and lose their shape, collapsing quickly to a mushy consistency when cooked.
This is why they are perfect for soups, and indian dal when cooked slowly with spices for added richness.
They take about 15 minutes to cook.
Are the most common lentil type, and also known as European lentils.
Commonly used in North America, they have mild and earthy flavor, and also keep their texture after cooking.
Often used as a base for a vegetable burger, filling for samosas, or soups and stews.
You can use three parts water to one part lentils, or reduce the water amount to two parts, if you want a thick, smooth consistency.
They usually cook in 20 to 30 minutes.
This type of lentil looks like caviar, and is also known as the beluga lentil.
They are very tiny, about the size of a peppercorn.
Belugas hold their texture well during cooking, which makes them great for salads and side dishes.
Black lentils are also common in indian dishes, and take about 30 minutes to cook.
Green lentils, also known as French lentils or Le Puy lentils, are similar in size to brown lentils but with a shiny surface.
These lentils have a mild, earthy flavor and solid texture.
They hold their shape well after cooking, which makes them a good option for dishes other than soups.
They are a great addition to a grilled salmon or roasted chicken main.
This type of lentil is mainly used in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking.
They cook easily in 20 minutes or so, and quickly turn mushy and thick when cooked.
These are very good lentils for soups and stews.
A History of Lentils
Lentils are thought to have originated in the region that is present day Syria, and date back to around 8000 B.C.
They were also found in Jericho in Palestine.
Eventually reaching Greece, lentils were considered a poor man’s food.
Also popular with some philosophers or religious figures who wanted to appear “of the people”.
The Greeks and Romans enjoyed lentils very much, especially in soups and stews.
Aristophanes was said to have defended the humble lentil by scolding “You, who dare insult lentil soup, sweetest of delicacies.”
Lentils were also ground into flour for bread baking in those days.
The lentil was prized by royalty in Ancient Egypt, where they were found in royal tombs dating back to 2400 B.C.
Egyptian civilization was known for its intense cultivation of lentils and also as the first exporters of the legume.
Lentils are one of the most ancient cultivated plants and were domesticated in the Near East.
They have slowly increased in size over the years since classical times.
How are lentils produced today?
Nowadays, the world produces about 2.5 million metric tonnes of lentils per year.
Canada, Turkey, and India are the world’s largest producers of lentils, with Canada surprisingly the largest exporter.
Turkey, USA, and China are Canada’s biggest competitors for lentils exports.
Canada’s lentil production in 2017 was almost 4 million metric tons per year, and has continued to grow.
22% of this production is used locally for seed, feed and human consumption.
In North America, most of the lentil production occurs in the Pacific Northwest, eastern Washington, and Northern Idaho.
It has been grown in this part of the world since the 1930’s as a rotation crop with wheat.
Lentils are planted in early May.
The plants grow roughly to 24 inches tall, and the seeds are produced in pods attached to the plant.
In each pod, there are one to three lentils that are then harvested in their dry form in the middle of August.
After That, the lentils are taken to processors for cleaning and packaging.
Red Lentil Dishes From Around the World
Red lentils have a mild and sweet flavor; easy to cook down to a mushy soupy texture.
They are great to include in soups, stews, purees, and casseroles.
In the Middle Eastern countries of the Levant, lentils are mostly used for making Arabic lentil soup known as “Sohourabit Addas”.
Onions are always included in this type of soup and sometimes carrots, tomato, or other vegetables.
In Egypt lentils are used in one of the national dishes, Koshari, which includes a grand affair of ingredients.
Made of rice, macaroni, and lentils mixed together, then topped with a tomato sauce, rich with spices.
On top of that goes garlic vinegar, chickpeas, and finally crispy fried onions are added to finish this extravagant dish.
Then there is moussaka, a dish of baked lamb, eggplant, and red lentils, very popular in Greece and Turkey.
In India, red lentils are mostly used in Dal, which include curry flavorings and often tomato sauce.
Another dish that uses red lentils in India is the red lentil stew “Masoor Dal”, where cumin and turmeric are added.
Other dishes that utilize red lentils include, Idaho chilli stew, lentil and vegetable tostadas, and lentil tagine in Morocco.
In conclusion, there is a wide range of dishes you can make using red lentils.
Lentils are super healthy, rich in proteins, and cheap at the same time!
How can you go wrong?!
Red Lentil Soup
- 2 cups Red Split Lentils
- 1 Onion chopped
- 6 Garlic Cloves chopped
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Cumin
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- 6 cups Water or Broth
- Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil.
- Stir in the lentils and saute for a minute or two.
- Add the salt, pepper and spices.
- Pour in the water or broth and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and keep at a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Cook until lentils re soft, about 20 minutes.