A warming, tomato based lentil rice soup for some more cozy dinners. This is a really great autumn soup, with butternut squash, fresh spinach, and hearty spices. Although my lone butternut cracked from too much early October rain, they are readily available from around October right through to March.
This is adapted from my carrot, red lentil, and spinach soup, but with the rice cooked directly into the soup. It makes for a longer cooking time but the result is thicker, almost stew, and very nice in cold weather.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Butternut squash: use another winter squash if you prefer, any will work here.
- Vegetable broth: you can use water instead of broth if you like, or if you don’t have vegetable broth. This is completely fine as long as you season (salt) enough.
- Red lentils: this is a special soup, because you can use any kind of lentil in it! Red lentils will make it slightly thicker and more stew-like, and brown, green, or black lentils will retain more texture and not break down as much during cooking. Use whatever variety you have on hand (just not cooked/canned).
- Greens: use spinach, chard, kale, or rucola (arugula). You can use frozen greens, too – just cook them with the soup for the last couple of minutes instead of stirring in at the end.
If you soak the rice ahead of time, overnight if possible, it’ll reduce the cooking time for the soup significantly. I highly recommend doing this if you have the time and have planned ahead. Try to soak it for at least four hours and rinse well.
Without soaking the rice, the lentils and squash break down quite significantly and make a semi-stew as their cooking times are shorter than dry brown rice. It just depends on the kind of texture you prefer – if you want a soup with individual bits of everything, soak the rice. If you want something a little more like a stew, then cook the rice from dry in the soup.
To shorten the cooking time you can also use a different variety of rice that doesn’t need as long to cook.
How to Store
Storage: transfer any leftovers to a sealed container and refrigerate for up to three days.
Freezing: freeze the soup in airtight containers for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating as usual.
- Cook the rice: I always use short grain brown rice, but it doesn’t really matter. Note that other rice types will have different cooking times – the soup should cook until the rice is ready.
- Season to taste: this is key and a big part of what makes for a good soup. Before serving, taste the soup and add salt, or more acid, if needed.
- Change up the spices: the added spices (cumin, paprika) can be altered to suit your preference, or use a blend you like.
More Seasonal Soups and Stews
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Rice, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced (~100 grams)
- 500 grams one small butternut squash cut into 3 cm (1 inch) pieces
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 400 grams canned diced tomatoes
- 1.5 litres vegetable broth or water
- 150 grams lentils*
- 100 grams brown rice**
- 70 grams spinach or other greens
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes, or until softened and fragrant.1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 medium yellow onion
- Add the butternut squash and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften slightly.500 grams one small butternut squash
- Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper, and cook for about 30 seconds.3 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Pour in the apple cider vinegar and stir to lift any spices that may be sticking to the pot. Add the tomatoes and vegetable stock.1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 400 grams canned diced tomatoes, 1.5 litres vegetable broth
- Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Add the lentils and rice, reduce the heat to medium-low, then simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.150 grams lentils*, 100 grams brown rice**
- Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve hot and keep leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days. This soup freezes well.70 grams spinach or other greens
* 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 March 2018. It has been updated with some minor tweaks to the recipe, new photos, and an updated text, as of November 2020.