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. [gallery columns="2" link="none" size="full" ids="14086,14087"]
- 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