How to Make Vegan Lentil Soup
You'll love this flavorful, warm and comforting vegan lentil soup recipe whether you follow a plant-based diet or not.
Using beans in soups and stews is a great way to make vegetarian meals for the soul without breaking the bank. However, working with dried beans usually requires planning ahead of time, and I don’t know about you, but I never seem to remember to soak dried beans overnight. Sure, you could always quick soak dried beans or go buy a can of beans, but that’s still extra time, effort and money that can be used elsewhere.
That’s where lentils come in to save the day. This super easy vegan lentil soup recipe doesn’t require advance planning, and it comes together in a single pot in only 30 minutes.
Because dried lentils are so small, you can skip the soaking step; simply add them to water and simmer away. That makes this low-calorie, gluten-free and 100% plant-based recipe a no-brainer for weeknight dinners. As a bonus, it tastes warm and comforting, so even the meat-eating members of the family will love it.
Is Vegan Lentil Soup Healthy?
It can be challenging to figure out how to get protein on a plant-based diet. Protein not only helps you feel full, but it also helps your body function properly. Legumes like lentils are a great choice. There are 12 grams of protein in one 1/2-cup serving, and while they’re low in calories, they’re chock-full of fiber and iron. These nutrients will help you feel satiated and energetic hours after eating.
As a bonus, lentils have a meatier texture than most beans, helping anyone new to a vegan diet feel like they’re not missing out. Throw extra vegetables into your vegan lentil soup, and you’ve got an even healthier meal full of vitamins and minerals.
With that being said, everything depends on preparation and quality of ingredients. Canned lentils often have high sodium content, which can cause health problems such as hypertension. To cut down on sodium, we recommend using dried lentils and adding a small amount of salt.
Types of Lentils to Use in Vegan Lentil Soup
All lentil types add body to liquids as it cooks, and they’re an easy way to thicken soups and stews without resorting to flour or cornstarch. While this recipe calls for dried brown lentils, there are a few varieties of lentils available at the store, and they don’t all cook exactly the same.
Brown and green lentils are basically interchangeable and both hold their texture and shape well (green lentils are a bit more peppery in flavor). They take 20 to 30 minutes to cook through, whereas red and yellow lentils may become a bit mushier more quickly. Opt for red or yellow lentils if you prefer a more pureed soup.
For more bite in your soup, try French lentils (also called Lentilles du Puy), which are smaller but have thicker skins and take longer to cook (about 40 to 50 minutes). Since they retain their shape exceptionally well, they’re typically a good choice for salads and side dishes. If you want your lentils to develop a deeper flavor and don’t mind the extra cooking time, they can also be used in soups.
Similarly, black beluga lentils have thick skins which allow them to retain their shape. Only cook those for 30 minutes or less. Otherwise, they’ll split and break down like brown lentils.
Whatever you prefer, just make sure to skip the canned lentils for this recipe. Not only are dried lentils more cost-effective and healthier for you, but they’ll also soak up the flavors as they cook. Canned lentils are mushy from the get-go and will disintegrate the longer you cook them.
Bought the wrong type of lentil, or have leftover lentils? No worries! Lentils are great in soup, but you can use them in all kinds of veggie-friendly recipes such as delicious taco filling or burger patties. Check out these easy lentil recipes for your next healthy meal.
Vegan Lentil Soup Recipe
This recipe makes six servings, but feel free to meal prep and double the recipe if you like. Cooked lentils store exceptionally well in the freezer, where they are good for up to three to five months.
- 4-1/2 cups water
- 4 medium carrots, sliced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2/3 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dill weed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Step 1: Start simmering
This one-pot recipe starts with combining the water, carrots, onions and lentils in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat before reducing the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer until the vegetables and lentils are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Step 2: Add the flavor
When the beans and veggies are cooked, your soup is basically done. All that’s left is to infuse the dish with extra flavor from the spices. Stir in the remaining ingredients and boost the heat to return the soup to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes to let the flavors combine and deepen.
Tips for Making Vegan Lentil Soup
What else can you add to vegan lentil soup?
The best part about lentil soup is how super customizable it is. Try one of the following suggestions or combine them—you really can’t go wrong.
- Substitute vegetable broth and freshly minced garlic instead of water and garlic salt for an even deeper flavor.
- You can skip some of the herbs if you don’t have them available. To retain flavor, swap them for other spices and herbs from your pantry like bay leaves, oregano or paprika.
- If this recipe doesn’t have enough veggies for your liking, feel free to add whatever needs to be used up in your veggie crisper. For example, you can stir in 3 cups of chopped fresh kale, spinach or rainbow chard during the first step for extra nutrients.
- Add ground tofu or your favorite plant-based ground meat for more texture and protein.
- If you want to spice things up, add 3/4 teaspoon garam masala along with the other spices.
- Feeling adventurous? Pour in half a can of unsweetened coconut milk, two teaspoons of curry powder and a teaspoon of minced ginger for an insanely delicious coconut curry lentil soup.
How can you thicken or thin vegan lentil soup?
Prefer heartier vegan lentil soup? You can thicken your soup by letting it simmer for a bit longer so that the lentils break down more. You can also add unsweetened plant-based milk like coconut milk or soy milk to make a creamy soup. Alternatively, make a slurry from water and flour or add a starchy veggie like diced or pureed potato to thicken the soup.
If your lentils absorbed a bit too much liquid, you can add additional water or veggie broth to thin it out. Just adjust the seasonings to taste.
How else can you cook vegan lentil soup?
There’s something truly magical about coming home to dinner already made, and we’re happy to report that you can absolutely make lentil soup in a slow cooker. Place all of the ingredients (except the vinegar—you can save that for last) into a 4-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on the lowest setting for about 8 hours, until the lentils are fully cooked through.
What can you serve with vegan lentil soup?
While vegan lentil soup is super filling on its own, you can stretch the meal and take it to the next level by serving it with sides for soup or vegan side dishes in general. You can keep it simple with rice or fresh, crusty bread like a baguette for dipping and mopping up the soup. Should you decide to go the curry or garam masala route, make vegan garlic naan, which adds even more delightful flavors.
How should you store vegan lentil soup?
Double the recipe so your future self thanks you because vegan lentil soup keeps really well in the fridge and freezer. Once the leftover soup is cool, pour it into an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to five days. Reheat your soup over the stovetop whenever you’re ready. You can also freeze leftover lentil soup once cool and keep it in a freezer-safe container or bag for three to five months. Make sure to fully and safely thaw it in your fridge before heating it back up over the stovetop.
Can’t get enough of lentil soups? These lentil soup recipes will keep you warm all season.