Introducing you to the best lentil soup recipe I’ve ever made – Damn Good Vegan Lentil Soup! This hearty brown lentil soup is made with an abundance of good-for-you veggies, a flavorful blend of spices, & plenty of lemon juice for light + bright flavor. Better yet, it’s easy to make (requiring hardly any active cooking time), perfect for meal prep, & so wholesome & nourishing. Naturally vegetarian, dairy-free, & vegan, it’s the perfect cozy plant-based meal for winter!
I consider myself something of a soup aficionado. Up until a couple of years ago, though, lentil soup wasn’t really on my radar. Compared to the rich & hearty soups, stews & chilis I gravitate toward, lentil soup always seemed like underwhelming diet food…terribly bland & boring, know what I mean?
I stand before you today, a changed woman, happily admitting that BOY, was I wrong. And if you have similar suspicions about lentil soup, trust that you’re in good hands here.
This vegan lentil soup is one I’ve wanted to develop for PWWB for quite some time now: a healthy soup that is plant-based but also hearty, boldly spiced without necessarily being curried, & healthy but also rich in flavor.
THIS, my friends, is THAT lentil soup.
I’ve been making this hearty soup nonstop ever since first throwing it together last fall because we’re obsessed with it. Even Chris, a non-soup lover & self-proclaimed meat enthusiast, loves this lentil soup. It’s truly that good!
This Vegan Lentil Soup recipe is…
- VEGGIE-POWERED. You’ll find all the standard soup veggies here, plus some extra veggie goodness from hearty butternut squash & nutrient-dense kale.
- PLANT-BASED GOODNESS. Naturally vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free & gluten-free, plus each bowl is filled with 10 grams of protein thanks to the plant-based power of lentils.
- PERFECT FOR WEEKNIGHTS. A one-pot wonder that simmers up in about 35 minutes, plus it’s slow cooker- & Instant Pot-friendly!
- COZY + BRIGHT. The perfect marriage I look for in any good bowl of soup, this vegan lentil soup is both cozy & bright. It’s the kind of meal that’ll warm you up from the inside out & its flavors taste like the feeling you get when the sun shines on your face on a cold winter day.
Honestly, it’s kind of magical! ♡ Read on to learn more about this Vegan Lentil Soup recipe, or jump straight to the recipe card & get cookin’!
Lentil Soup Key Ingredients
The best healthy soups start with wholesome, hearty ingredients, & that’s exactly where we begin with this recipe. The ingredients list here is a little lengthy, but this vegan lentil soup is made mostly with soup season staples that are likely already in your pantry or fridge.
You will need…
- Lentils – Of course! I like to use brown lentils or green lentils in this lentil soup recipe, since they hold their shape nicely & have great texture once cooked.
- Mirepoix – The trusty combination of carrots, celery & onion. Especially during the winter months & especially when I’m cooking plant-based recipes, I like to beef up my mirepoix with other hearty vegetables. That’s exactly what you’ll find in this recipe, with the addition of butternut squash, though sweet potato would be an awesome addition, too!
- Aromatics – A simple combination of cumin, paprika, turmeric, & cayenne pepper help ensure this lentil soup isn’t lacking in flavor.
- Lemon juice – And lots of it, to brighten up the flavor of the soup, bringing both the veggies & aromatics to life.
- Crushed tomatoes – Which create a beautifully velvety body. If you can find them, use fire-roasted crushed tomatoes for even better flavor.
- Vegetable broth – Always use the highest quality you can find, especially for vegetarian & vegan soups!
A quick note on lentils…
The best lentils to use in this lentil soup are brown lentils or green lentils, which both hold their shape nicely once cooked & won’t lead to a mushy lentil soup (because who wants that?!). Brown lentils are mild in flavor, while green lentils are a little nutty. Pick what you love!
I don’t suggest using red or yellow lentils in this lentil soup recipe. Since they cook faster than brown & green lentils, they disintegrate & lose their texture in the final soup. It’s not especially pleasant (speaking from experience!).
How to Make Lentil Soup
One of the things to love about this lentil soup is the fact that it’s incredibly easy to make. Aside from some chopping & stirring, the stove does most of the work. What’s not to love about a one-pot wonder!?
How to cook lentil soup:
- Cook the aromatics: Start by softening the mirepoix to draw out the flavor of these base veggies. Add in garlic, tomato paste & a number of spices & cook for another couple of minutes, allowing the aromatic flavors to bloom.
- Build the soup: Add in the rest of the soup ingredients – lentils, butternut squash, crushed tomatoes, stock, etc. – & stir to combine. Easy as that.
- Simmer: Bring the soup up to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer & pop a lid on the pot, only partially covering it to allow some steam to escape. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
- Blend: Transfer to a stand blender or use an immersion blender to partially blend the soup. This is totally optional step, but it creates a creamy texture (sans dairy) that’s really good.
- Finishing touches: Toss in a couple handfuls of hearty kale (or another green you love) & squeeze in some fresh lemon juice for bright flavor.
Lentil Soup FAQs – Storage, Freezing, & Alternate Cooking Methods
- How long does lentil soup last? Can you freeze lentil soup? Great news, this vegan lentil soup is incredibly make ahead-friendly & freezer-friendly…it’s the kind of thing that tastes even better the day after it’s made. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days & in the freezer for up to 3 months. See the Recipe Notes, below, for full storage, freezing, & reheating instructions.
- Can I make this lentil soup recipe in the slow cooker or Crock Pot? Yes, absolutely! I suggest cooking the aromatics & blooming the spices, which helps maximize their flavor, before assembling the soup in your slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a “brown/saute” feature, even better – you can make this recipe start-to-finish in the slow cooker. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for full slow cooker instructions.
- Can I make this lentil soup recipe in the Instant Pot? Again, yes! Use the Instant Pot’s “brown/saute” feature to cook the aromatics & blooming the spices, which helps maximize their flavor, before assembling the soup in the Instant Pot & sealing the pot to pressure cook. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for full Instant Pot instructions.
Vegan Lentil Soup Serving Suggestions
I like to think this soup is pretty perfect as-is, but a little extra carbs never hurt anyone, especially when it comes to soup!
I suggest serving this lentil soup alongside some crusty toasted bread for the coziest vibes or with your favorite crackers to add some extra texture. If keeping your soup vegan & lactose-free is not of concern to you, a little bit of grated parmesan sprinkled over top is really nice, too.
If you really want to take it to the next level, try some of my Magic Toasted Breadcrumbs (pictured), which add texture, flavor, & roasty-toasty goodness to every bite. Plus, they couldn’t be easier to make:
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a small skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped), stirring immediately to help the garlic sizzle in the oil. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add 1 cup panko breadcrumbs to the skillet, tossing to coat in the garlic oil. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce heat to medium-low & cook, stirring & tossing often, until the breadcrumbs are toasty & golden brown, 4-5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat & finish, as desired, with lemon zest or finely chopped fresh herbs
Spoon ’em over your soup & dive on in…
I can’t wait for you to try this Damn Good Vegan Lentil Soup recipe. We are obsessed with it here at the PWWB House, & I know you will be too.
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡Print
The best lentil soup recipe I’ve ever made – Damn Good Vegan Lentil Soup! A hearty brown lentil soup is made with an abundance of good-for-you veggies, a flavorful blend of spices, & plenty of lemon juice for light + bright flavor. Super healthy, easy to make, perfect for meal prep (see Recipe Notes, below). Naturally vegetarian, dairy-free, & vegan.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- 1–2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 4–5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/4 cup brown or green lentils (see Recipe Notes, below)
- 1/2 medium butternut squash, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (approx. 4 cups/20 ounces)
- 2 14-ounce cans crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 8 cups vegetable broth/stock
- 2 cups packed shredded kale (or 5 oz baby kale)
- 2 lemons, juiced
- for serving, as desired: an extra swoosh of olive oil, a generous spoonful of toasted breadcrumbs, & toasty buttered bread, etc.
- Cook the aromatics: Add the olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven (at least 5-qt capacity) over medium heat. Once hot, add in the carrot, celery, & onion. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies have softened slightly, 5-6 minutes.
- Bloom the spices: Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric, ground black pepper, & cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
- Build the lentil soup: Add the bay leaves, lentils, butternut squash, fire-roasted tomatoes, seasoning with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine. Add the vegetable broth/stock. Give one last stir, increasing heat to medium-high. Bring the soup to a boil.
- Simmer: Reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle & steady simmer. Partially cover the pot (place the lid on the put such that it’s just partially covered, allowing some steam to escape as the soup cooks) & simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender but maintain their shape.
- Finishing touches: Once the lentils are tender, finish the soup. It’s optional, but if you love a creamier lentil soup, transfer ⅓ of the soup to a blender & carefully blend smooth. (Alternately, you could use an immersion blender to partially blend the soup right in the pot.) Stir the blended soup back into the pot. Add the shredded kale & lemon juice into the soup, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat. Cover to steam for 4-5 minutes, until the kale is softened. Taste & season with additional salt or ground black pepper as desired.
- Serve immediately! I like topping a bowl of lentil soup with an extra swoosh of olive oil, some finely chopped fresh herbs, & toasted breadcrumbs. Enjoy!
- Best lentils to use: I suggest using brown lentils or green lentils in this lentil soup since they both hold their shape & texture nicely once cooked. For similar reasons, I do not suggest using red or yellow lentils – they cook faster than brown & green lentils, so they’ll disintegrate & lose their texture by the time the soup finishes simmering.
- Lentils prep: Unlike many other dried legumes, there’s no need to soak lentils prior to cooking them. To prep, simply sift through your lentils to pick out any small rocks or pebbles (which sometimes sneak their way into the mix) & rinse well to remove any dirt or debris from the surface.
- Storage: To store, transfer cooled lentil soup to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator. Leftover lentil soup will keep for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through.
- Freezing: This lentil soup is very freezer-friendly! To freeze, transfer cooled lentil soup to an airtight freezer container. (These are my absolute favorite!) Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight & reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through.
- Alternate cooking methods:
- Slow Cooker or Crock Pot: Prep the mirepoix according to Steps 1-2, above. Transfer the spiced mirepoix mixture to the slow cooker, along with the remaining ingredients as directed in Step 3. Slow cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours, stirring occasionally. Finish the lentil soup as directed in Step 5, which you can do right in your slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook the entire lentil soup recipe (Steps 1-5) in the slow cooker.
- Instant Pot: Use the Instant Pot’s “Sauté” setting to cook the recipe according to Steps 1-2, above. Build the soup in the Instant Pot according to Step 3, then cover & seal. Cook on manual high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before carefully flicking the valve to its “venting” position to vent out any residual pressure in the pot. If the soup seems a little too liquidy, feel free to turn on the Sauté setting again, letting the sauce simmer down a little before finishing as directed in Steps 5.
- 20-Minute Meal Prep: Most of the active prep time involved with this recipe is chopping up the veggies. With just a little prep, you can cut down on all active prep the night you want to throw it together. Pick & choose from the list below, or do it all & all you have to do at dinnertime is get cooking – easy!
- Mirepoix: Peel & dice 3 medium carrots & 1 large yellow onion. Dice 1-2 ribs of celery. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active time)
- Butternut squash: Peel, deseed & dice 1 medium butternut squash into 1/2-inch cubes & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You will use half of the butternut squash (~4 cups) in this lentil soup; use the other half in another recipe you love (this Vegan Red Curry & these Vegetarian Skillet Enchiladas are PWWB community faves). (10 minutes active time)
Keywords: easy, healthy, hearty, winter, fall, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, plant-based, meal pep, freezer friendly
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat
PWWB Monthly Recipe Challenge
This Vegan Lentil Soup recipe is the star of our January 2021 PWWB Recipe Challenge, a new monthly challenge created for the PWWB Community to help introduce new dinner recipes each month, empower you to tackle new skills & techniques in the kitchen, & share in the love of flavorful home cooking together as a community. Entry is simple…
- STEP 1: Make the recipe. Prep your own batch of Damn Good Vegan Lentil Soup at some point this month & take snap a photo of your creation! Note: the recipe will be published Tuesday, January 12, 2021, first thing in the morning.
- STEP 2: Submit your photo. Use this form to submit your photo to the PWWB team. Be sure to follow all of the steps outlined within the form. Limit of one entry per person. Entries will be accepted until January 31st 11:59pm CST.
- STEP 3: Leave a review. Scroll to the bottom of this post, & leave a comment with a star rating – we can’t wait to hear how it goes!
- BONUS ENTRY: We’d LOVE to see your Cooking Challenge Creations on social media! Share a pic, tagging @playswellwithbutter #pwwbcookingchallenge for one bonus entry.
By following the entry instructions above, you will be automatically entered in the PWWB Recipe Challenge. 1 winner, chosen at random, will receive a $250 Williams Sonoma Gift Card. The challenge ends on January 31st at 11:59 PM (CST). The winner will be selected at random and announced in the February Challenge blog post published at the beginning of February 2021. Head over to the PWWB Recipe Challenge page for more details.
Love Soup Season? Us too! Here are a few more must-try PWWB soup recipes…
- For chili lovers – Hearty Vegan Pumpkin Chili & Vegan White Chili with Hominy
- Classics with a twist! – Easy Roasted Red Pepper Soup & Creamy Mushroom Wild Rice Soup (naturally dairy-free & vegan)
- For curry lovers – Butternut Squash Red Curry (naturally dairy-free & vegan)
- All PWWB Soup, Stew & Chili Recipes
- All PWWB Vegan, Vegetarian & Plant-Based Recipes
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