Made with just a handful of simple ingredients in only half an hour, this nutritious lentil soup is sure to become one of your family favourites! The sharpness of the fresh lemon contrasts perfectly with the warm spices and earthy lentils in this delicious Middle Eastern lentil soup recipe. Vegan and gluten-free, and also budget-friendly using inexpensive pantry staples elevated to something so much more!
Jazz up this Middle Eastern lentil soup with a dollop of Yemeni zhoug sauce to add a kick of heat to it too!
This Middle Eastern Lentil Soup is a great favourite of mine. This gently spiced lemon and lentil soup is mostly commonly known as a Lebanese soup called Shorbet Adas. However, lentil soup recipes are popular across the whole Middle East region. Nourishing and gentle, it is often served during the holy month of Ramadan after breaking the fast with a date.
The first time I had this Arabic lentil soup was about 10 years ago when we lived in Oman. We used to order it from the local takeaway restaurant usually after a heavy weekend when we were too tired to cook. It was the cheapest thing we could eat since one portion was so huge it would serve both my husband and I and it came with a bag full of Arabic bread that would do lunch for the next day too!
I don't know why we used to get it from a takeaway because the traditional Middle Eastern lentil soup recipe is actually so easy to make at home using pantry staples that I almost always have in the kitchen! This has become my favourite way to make this delicious lentil soup quickly and easily with maximum nutrients and a delicious flavour.
Why you will love this lentil soup recipe!
I always think the best family recipes are those that are tasty, healthy and quick to make. This combines all those qualities and is cheap to make too! The perfect combination!
- Tasty – so delicious despite the humble ingredients!
- Economical – there are no fancy ingredients in this soup. It is just simple ingredients made to taste good together!
- Quick and easy – it takes less than half an hour to get this soup on the table and most of that time, it is simmering on its own.
- Healthy – low fat, high protein and lots of veggie nutrients!
This vegan lentil soup is full of plant-based goodness. The red lentils provide a good amount of protein and are naturally low-fat. Then there are lots of nutrients in the vegetables and a healthy dose of iron and vitamin C (which helps your body to absorb the iron) from the parsley and lemon juice added at the end. The spices have many additional benefits (see Healthline for more on the benefits of cumin) and the cumin also helps your digestion too! It is really a complete one-pot meal if you want it to be.
Tips for Success
This is an incredibly easy recipe but here are a few tips for making perfect soup!
- Lentils can be a bit dusty when you buy them so it’s always worth soaking them in a bowl of water and then rinsing through a sieve before you add them to the pan.
- Don’t worry too much about knife skills for this recipe. Since the soup is going to be blended anyway, it doesn’t matter too much if the veggies are not chopped neatly.
- Chop the parsley fairly roughly so that you get the flavour coming through with each mouthful. When I was training at Leiths cookery school (many years ago!), we hated chopping parsley because we were expected to chop it to dust. It looked beautiful but, oh my goodness, it was a pain to do! Nowadays, I prefer to chop my parsley more roughly. It’s vastly quicker and easier but also I think it tastes better because you actually get to taste the bitter leaves against the subtle warmth of the spiced lentils. So, no more agonising over fine parsley chopping anymore! (I think all my old Leiths buddies can relate to this one!)
- Adjust the consistency to your liking. This recipe makes a fairly thin velvety smooth soup. If you prefer a thicker soup, you can reduce the amount of stock you use. Alternatively, you can stick to the recipe amounts and then judge whether it is to your liking after you have blended it. How good your blender is will affect the thickness of the soup but you can blend in a little more stock to thin it down or simmer the blended soup with the lid off for a few minutes to get rid of some of the water.
- Red Lentils – these provide the base of this soup and give it the wonderful velvety texture. Red lentils, also known as orange lentils, are best for this recipe but you could use yellow lentils or brown lentils instead (with a little longer cooking time). Do not use puy lentils or green lentils as they do not go soft enough (and would also give the soup a murkey unappetising colour).
- Vegetables – onion, celery, carrot and garlic. These add a depth of flavour to the lentil soup. The carrot and celery are not completely traditional in this middle eastern lentil soup but I like to add them for extra nutrients. For the onions, I like to use brown onions but red onion is fine to use as well.
- Vegetable Stock – this is the liquid base for the soup. You don’t have to be fancy here. Although homemade vegetable broth would be amazing, you can happily use a stock cube and water and it will still taste delicious. I like using the Marigold Vegetable Bouillon powder but, if you prefer, you could even use vegan chicken stock instead.
- Spices – cumin powder and ground coriander are the warm spices essential to this gently spiced flavour of this lentil soup. I also like to add bay leaves for extra background flavour.
- Lemon Juice – you’ll notice there is quite a lot of lemon juice added to the soup just before serving. The acidic flavour contrasts wonderfully with the mellow spiced lentil and vegetable soup adding sharpness to bring it to life.
- Fresh Parsley – this is a middle eastern staple! I personally prefer flat leaf parsley but you could use curly parsley instead. The parsley adds a touch of bitterness and freshness and is a match made in heaven with the lemon. Even the human body loves this match as the vitamin C in the lemon juice helps the body to absorb the iron in the parsley. A perfect pairing if ever there was one!
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full list of ingredients and their quantities.
How To Make This Recipe
This soup requires very little hands-on cooking so it is a great recipe for quickly getting it started then leaving it to do its thing while you set the table and get the kids ready!
In a large saucepan, sauté the onion and celery for a few minutes until browned.
Next, add the garlic and spices and continue stirring over the heat for another minute.
Add the carrots and stir together. Then add the red lentils, vegetable stock, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stir well, then turn the heat down to medium-low, put the lid on and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes. The cooking time will vary a little depending on the types of lentils you use so just taste a spoonful of the soup when it looks ready. If the lentils and vegetables are completely soft then it's cooked.
Once the lentils and vegetables are soft, blend it to a super smooth consistency. You can do this either by pouring it into a regular blender or by using an immersion blender (hand-held stick blender) to whizz it in the pan. Make sure you are cooking in a big pot if you want to whizz in the pan as it will need plenty of space!
When you have a lovely velvety smooth soup, stir in the lemon juice and taste to check the seasoning. Check the consistency and adjust if necessary (see Chef’s Tips above).
Then serve garnished with chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges.
This is a summary only. Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this page for full instructions. Instant Pot and Thermomix instructions are also included in the recipe card.
Serve this soup with lemon wedges and a good sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley and ground black pepper. If you want to add a little heat, sprinkle some cayenne pepper on top. To bulk it out a little more, you could also serve it with some croutons or pita chips which are the arabic version of croutons!
How To Make Homemade Pita Chips
To easily make pita chips at home:
- Take a few pieces of pita bread (choose gluten-free if, like me, you need to) and chop them into even sized pieces (I cut them into 1-2 cm squares).
- Put the pieces in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix them up well.
- Bake in the air fryer or the oven for 5 minutes at 180°C/350°F (or a little hotter if no fan).
You can play around with this lemon lentil soup recipe either by changing the types of lentils you use or the types of vegetables. Here are a few suggestions:
- If you switch to a different type of lentil (see notes in the Ingredient section above), note that brown lentils will take a little longer to cook and won’t get quite the same velvety smoothness as red lentils.
- As for vegetables, courgette (zucchini) or spinach would go nicely with this recipe. Add chopped courgette at the same time as the carrots. Baby spinach can either be swirled in for a couple of minutes to wilt in the hot soup and serve as it is or you could add a few cubes of frozen spinach into the soup for the last 5 minutes of cooking and then blend it in with everything else. Remember that this will make the soup go green though!
- You could also add extra bulk with some chopped sweet potatoes or some brown rice (to make a complete protein with the lentils).
Play around with the recipe and see what works best for your family. Or just throw in whatever veggies you need to use up from your fridge vegetable drawer!
Making Ahead & Storage
This vegan lentil soup will happily keep for 3-4 days if stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Or store in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you are ready to eat it again, defrost thoroughly and then either re-heat in the microwave of in a pan over a gentle heat.
As with most soups, this is a great recipe to make ahead for easy entertaining or stress-free weeknight suppers. If you are making ahead, then follow the recipe up to the blending stage before storing. Then, when you are ready to use the soup, add the lemon juice just before serving after heating it up. That way you get the maximum goodness from the fresh lemon juice.
Yes! To be honest, the recipe is quick to make anyway but if you prefer using your Instant Pot, you can of course make it in that! Just do the sautéing in the Instant Pot on the sauté setting (high heat). Then when you add the carrots, stock and everything else, put the lid on, seal, and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Leave on natural release for 5 minutes then quick release.
Yes, the Thermomix is my go-to machine for making soup! It is so easy to make this soup recipe in the Thermomix because you can cook it in there and then whizz it at the end too! I've put a specific set of Thermomix instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this blogpost.
📖 Recipe 📖
Vegan Middle Eastern Lentil Soup (Stovetop, Instant Pot, or Thermomix)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion , (or 2 small onions 130g), peeled and chopped
- 1 celery stick, (50g), sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 250 g red lentils, washed and drained
- 1.5 litres vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf , (or 2 small bay leaves)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 6 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 10 g fresh chopped parsley, to garnish
Stovetop and Instant Pot Instructions
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the chopped onion and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. (Instant Pot: do this on the Sauté (high) setting).2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 large onion, 1 celery stick
- Add the garlic and spices and stir over the heat for another minute.3 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cumin powder, 1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
- Add the chopped carrot, lentils, vegetable stock, bay leaves, and salt and pepper and stir well. Bring to the boil, stir, then turn the heat down to low, put the lid on and simmer for 20-30 minutes. (Instant Pot: put the lid on, set to seal, then set to Pressure Cook on High Pressure for 5minutes. After cooking, leave to naturally release pressure for 5 minutes then do a quick pressure release for the rest).2 carrots, 250 g red lentils, 1.5 litres vegetable stock, 1 bay leaf, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 pinch pepper
- After 20 minutes, stir the soup and taste a spoonful to check whether the lentils and vegetables are cooked through. They should be meltingly soft. Once soft enough, blend the soup to a smooth consistency (either by pouring into a blender or using a stick blender in the pan).
- Stir in the lemon juice and serve garnished with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.6 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 10 g fresh chopped parsley
- Add olive oil, quartered onions and sliced celery into the TM jug. Set to 3 secs. / sp. 5. Scrape down the sides then put the lid on and set to 6 mins. / 120°C / sp. Stir.2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 large onion, 1 celery stick
- Add the garlic and spices and set to 2 mins. / 120°C / sp. Stir.3 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cumin powder, 1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
- Add the carrots and set to 3 secs. / sp. 5. Scrape down the sides.2 carrots
- Then add the red lentils, stock, bay leaf, and salt and pepper. Set to 30 mins. / 100°C / sp. 2 Rev.250 g red lentils, 1.5 litres vegetable stock, 1 bay leaf, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 pinch pepper
- Add the lemon juice and set to 1 min. / sp. 10.6 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Serve garnished with chopped parsley and lemon wedges. You could also add pita chips or croutons.10 g fresh chopped parsley
- Chop the carrots fairly small so that they cook quickly.
- There is no need to soak red lentils but you will need to wash them really well before using. I do this by swirling them around in a bowl of water, then draining through and sieve and rinsing under a tap until the water comes through clean.
- You could serve this soup with pita chips which are like an Arabic version of croutons. See the blogpost for how to easily make pita chips at home.
The Instant Pot instructions for this recipe were created in the Instant Pot Duo (Ad) and should work in the same way with all pressure cookers that allow you to manually set your own pressure cooking time. Please check the user manual for your own Instant Pot.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
If you like this Middle Eastern lentil soup recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free soup recipes too: