By Tami Weiser
Eating lentil soup is a lot like sliding into fuzzy slippers and putting on jammies midday. It’s the food equivalent to a warm hug. Lentil soup is sometimes seen as bland, but they have a delicate earthy flavor that makes them a great canvas for bold flavors. Here’s a few suggestions on how to amp up your lentil soup game for this fall and winter.
Lentil Nutrition Basics
Lentils are neither a seed or grain. Although grouped as part of the family of pulse and beans (they do grow in a pod), lentils are in actuality, a unique food with some top notch benefits.
Lentils, no matter which variety, are a nutrient dense food that is so healthy, the soup alone is often a full nutritious meal. The calories and nutritional profile do vary a bit between types, but in general a cup of cooked lentils is about 200 to 280 calories. In that same cup, you get: 34% RDI of iron, 137% of Vitamin A, about 60 % of Vitamin C, about 15% of the potassium and a whopping 52% of the RDI for fiber. The amount and quality of the protein however, sends lentil-eaters into ecstasy, with up to 20% of the RDI. With no cholesterol, and low levels of natural sodium and sugars, it’s a pantry staples that earns its place.
Lentils cook in well under an hour on the stovetop, but, do make sure to pick over the lentils before cooking — there can be teeny pebbles and such that you should remove. Give them a quick rinse, just to get any dirt or dust off and you are ready to cook.
This simply yummy take on lentil soup is a variation on the Italian-American classic, minestrone soup, but without beans, potatoes or any grains. Lentils give the soup heft and kicks the protein up, all while remaining a gluten-free dish. It’s also simple to make this dairy free: Use nutritional yeast instead of the parm and you are ready to go.
Cooked red lentils turn the soup both creamy and lovely orange-yellow in this super-lemony version. This quick-cooking vegan soup is ready for the stovetop or even in the Instapot. Leftovers are incredible especially when topped with a dollop of pesto.
Petite French green lentils, fresh mushrooms, and red quinoa combine to make this soup so umami rich everyone will love it. Between the lentils and quinoa this is a plant protein rich meal that will keep you full and energized for quite a while so remember this meal when you need something hearty and satisfying.
In well under an hour — from prep to serve time — this soup sings with the charm of toasty cardamom. Cardamom brings out the natural sweetness of the veggies and adds a delicious depth of flavor. The carrots add to that sweetness, but they also take this soup into the nutritional stratosphere of Vitamin A. It’s also vegan, paleo-friendly, and gluten-free.
Curry powder and garam masala — a blend of ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and cumin— transform tender red lentils into a spiced soup. Starting with a coconut milk base temper some of the spices and makes this soup rich and creamy. The crunchy almonds on top make lentils soup unlike one you’ve have before.
Rice and lentils are a classic pairing, across the globe. The veggies you use are up to you, making it an easy recipe for using up veggie odds and ends from your CSA, but this recipe is really all about the marvelous spices. This recipe is also a terrific way to learn to toast and grind spices, which is great to learn for any recipe, but here, the resulting bold taste makes it worth all the effort.