Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

Posted on 31 December 2019

Sometimes we just need the happy kick of richly spiced, ready-to-ladle Indian food. Why wait? Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices takes less than an hour to whip up using pantry and fridge staples—and surprisingly few spices.

The name says “spices” as if it’s a lot, but it’s really only two. This version of India’s spiced red lentil soup, Masoor Dal, has full-on flavor with just cumin and chili powder. Lots of onions and umami-rich tomato paste also blend with the sweet, nutty red lentils to satisfy your Indian food craving and, as my mom used to say, warm your kishkas.

Red lentils have no skins, so they cook very quickly and self-pureé. It’s easy to spot them in the supermarket because their gorgeous coral—not red—color lights up the dried-bean aisle. But if you can’t find them, try using regular lentils. (Just add more liquid if the soup gets too thick, a splash of red wine or vermouth, and an additional 15 minutes or so of cooking time.) The softened lentils will hold their shape for a more stew-like dish.

Pair this easy dish with the ridiculously easy Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia. It sops up all those soupy morsels you don’t want to leave behind.

So in less time than it takes to do takeout, simmer up a pot of Indian soup that will delight your senses. Especially your sense of accomplishment.

Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chili powder (not Mexican), or more to taste
  • Salt, if using low-sodium soup base or bouillon
  • Ground black pepper
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or chicken soup base/bouillon, to taste
  • 1 pound (2 cups) red lentils, inspected for stones and rinsed
  • 6 carrots (orange or multicolored), peeled, sliced into about 3/8” thick rounds, then cut into quarters
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt to taste

1. Heat oil in soup pot, then add onions and cook on medium, stirring, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

2. Stir in cumin and cook/stir 1 minute. Add tomato paste, chili powder, salt (if needed), and black pepper, cooking/stirring for 1 minute more.

3. Add water, soup base or bouillon, lentils, carrots and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are soft.

4. Add lemon juice. Add salt if needed and adjust seasonings to taste.

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4 responses to Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

  • Joe Pat says:

    Yum! It must be all the tomato paste that leaves it red instead of yellow. We have a bunch of lentil soups we love, but this is a new variation to me. I can’t wait to try it.

    • Diane Brody says:

      Yes, I put in a lot of tomato paste…sometimes adding even more as a substitute for the diced tomatoes. Thanks, Joe, for commenting and I hope you like it! And please let me know any good recipes/stories you have.

  • Raegan says:

    love a good lentil soup and yours is always delicious!

  • Leave a Response


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