There are a handful of recipes that I’ve shared over the years that I make about once a week – red lentil patties, potato lentil salad, raw chocolate, sourdough rye bread – my standards. Seriously, there’s a rye bread rising on the counter right now and I made the lentil falafel for dinner tonight.
This red lentil soup is another recipe I make all the time, and it’s so great for 1. when I haven’t gotten groceries for several days, 2. when my budget is low, or 3. when I’m starving and need a quick and easy dinner that isn’t pasta. It can be finished in about half an hour, including prep time, which is just chopping carrots, onions, and garlic.
It’s an all around great simple recipe and makes good use of batch cooked ingredients and pantry staples like canned tomatoes and frozen spinach. It’s so budget friendly, especially in spring or autumn when carrots are in season and so inexpensive and delicious. Like all of my go-to recipes, this vegan red lentil soup can be easily adapted to suit your tastes.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Spices: I like to include lots of spices – cumin, turmeric, ginger – but I’ve also made it with just a little cumin and standard salt and pepper – change this to suit your preferences.
- Carrots: switch out the carrots for sweet potato if you’d like.
- Greens: any hardy greens, like chard or kale, can be used in place of spinach. Fresh and frozen both work very well.
- Add-ins: potatoes can be a nice addition (think potato lentil stew) and other vegetables like parsnips are nice too.
- Rice: the brown rice can be replaced with quinoa, millet, or other grains, or simply left out and the soup served on its own. We quite often have it with sourdough bread or crackers.
- Broth: Though the recipe card calls for vegetable broth, this is mostly because I get readers sending me messages annoyed if I list water instead of stock. I use water most of the time and just season properly (since most store bought veg broth is primarily salt, and a touch of fat).
This makes a big pot of soup, far too much for my little two person family, but it freezes fantastically and I love having a few jars in the freezer. It’s a total life saver for busy or tired (read: burnt out) days and since I usually have brown rice or sourdough bread around, it’s a meal.
If we’re having it for dinner and I don’t have either of those, I usually make these coconut oil biscuits. I don’t mind having the soup on its own but let’s be real, carbs make everything better.
Using the heat from the soup to thaw the spinach has two purposes – it brings the soup down to an edible temperature, and it keeps the nutrients of the spinach largely intact. And the colour stays nice and green!
Like all soups, there are a couple of tricks to keep in mind. This is a very flavourful one, with plenty of spices, tomatoes, and vegetables adding a lot – but if you taste the soup at the end of cooking and it tastes bland or flat, you need salt or acid. If it tastes salty enough, add a squeeze of lemon. Most of the time vegan soups are lacking salt, though. Season your food!
How to Store
Storage: keep leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Freezing: I get a lot of questions about freezing in jars, and I use canning jars, which hold up well to extreme temperature changes. The soup can be frozen in airtight containers for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat as usual.
- Omit the lemon: sometimes I don’t add the lemon – if the brand of tomatoes you’re using is very acidic, you might want to leave the lemon out.
- Season to taste: as mentioned above, yes you should taste for salt, but also adjust the soup to suit your taste in regard to spices. If you don’t like spicy food at all, be sure to omit the cayenne pepper.
- Check the lentils: if the lentils you’re using are quite old (you might not know, it depends on the shop and brand) they will take longer to cook. If your lentils seem to be taking ages to soften, this is probably why.
More Great Soups
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Carrot, Red Lentil, & Spinach Soup
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ red onion chopped
- 5-6 medium carrots about 3 cups, cut into 1cm (3/4 in.) slices
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 cm piece fresh ginger minced
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 400 grams canned diced tomatoes
- 1.5 litres vegetable broth
- 150 grams red lentils
- 150 grams frozen spinach*
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Brown rice to serve
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes or until soft and fragrant. Stir in the carrots, and cook for another minute or two.1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 red onion, 5-6 medium carrots
- Add the garlic, ginger, and spices, stirring to coat the vegetables. Now add the salt and tomatoes, stir, and pour the vegetable stock in.3 cloves garlic, 3 cm piece fresh ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 400 grams canned diced tomatoes, 1.5 litres vegetable broth
- Increase the heat to high, cover the pot, and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Add the lentils and reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, covered, or until the carrots are tender.150 grams red lentils
- Stir in the spinach and turn off the heat, letting the hot soup thaw the spinach with the lid on. Add the lemon juice, taste, and season with salt if necessary.150 grams frozen spinach*, Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Serve over brown rice and store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.Brown rice
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was originally published in September 2017. It has been updated as of May 2020 with improvements to the text and recipe, and a video added.