How to Make Lentil Soup

  • Start to Finish: 50 minutes with dried lentils; 30 minutes with canned lentils
  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner

When you want something soothing and satisfying for dinner, lentil soup provides everything you need -- a filling legume, plenty of vegetables and opportunities for variations. For this hearty vegetarian recipe, use any canned or dried lentils available: small, dark gray French lentils; orange Egyptian or red lentils; yellow lentils; or common brown lentils.


  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups dried or 2 cans (15-ounce) lentils
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 small potatoes, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 3/4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, optional


Saute the onions in oil in your soup pot over medium heat until they soften, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

For canned lentils: Put the potatoes and the carrots into the pot along with the stock and cook until the potatoes soften, about 10 minutes. Add the lentils.

For dried lentils: Add the lentils along with the stock, cover the pot and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are almost soft when you bite into one. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook until the potatoes soften, about 10 minutes more.

Add the tomato juice and wine and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, approximately 2 minutes more.

Taste the soup and add a small amount of salt if the flavor seems bland. Taste again and add another small amount of salt as necessary.

Take the pot off the stove, stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle the basil on top of each bowl as you serve the soup.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Substitute 1/2 cup of thawed and drained frozen spinach for fresh spinach, the same amount of chopped parsley for the basil or an additional 1/2 cup of chicken stock if you want to omit the wine.
  • Use sherry or red wine vinegar instead of lemon juice to brighten the flavor of the soup. While lemon juice adds a note of citrus, vinegar of any type adds a sour-fruity-herbal flavor, and with sherry vinegar, a subtle taste of sweetness as well.
  • Substitute tomato sauce or canned diced tomatoes for all or some of the tomato juice called for in the recipe.
  •  Give the soup a spicy and smoky kick by adding a teaspoon of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce or a dash of any hot sauce.
  • Add cooked and crumbled sausage, cooked bacon bits or leftover beef or lamb shredded or chopped into bite-sized portions. 
  • For added flavor, cook dried lentils with a smoked ham hock and season the soup with thyme, bay leaf and cumin.