This fresh Lebanese lemon lentil soup is a hearty soup perfect for springtime. Flavored with turmeric and garlic, it’s a creamy lemon lentil soup that is also vegetarian and vegan.
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Authentic Lebanese Lentil Soup
Lentil soup is a staple of the Middle Eastern diet, including countries like Lebanon and Syria. There’s even a version of this as far west as Morocco where a similar lentil soup is called harira.
All of these dishes tend to include lentils cooked in olive oil, garlic, onion, and flavored with a variety of spices including cumin. Many of them are super creamy too, which makes them pair well with crusty bread. They can be served as a main course or as a starter or side with other salads and dips.
Like cooking Lebanese food? Check out our recipe for traditional Lebanese hummus.
Why Make Lebanese Red Lentil Soup
I love making lentil soups. I tend to make them more in the fall and winter when I am looking for something warm and hearty.
This lemon red lentil soup, though, is perfect year-round. There’s something almost spring-like with the use of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Even if all of the other ingredients do feel a little heavier.
When choosing which lentils to cook with, there are always options. Brown and green lentils sometimes take a little longer to cook. They tend to be more firm. I like using them for curries and salads because the lentils hold their shape better.
Red lentils, though, tend to cook quicker and tend to be a little softer when cooked. This is why they do so well in thick and creamy lentil soups.
Like cooking with lentils? Check out our other lentil recipes:
Tips For Making An Easy Red Lentil Soup
I prefer using a dutch oven rather than a saucepan when I make soups. There’s just something about the thickness of the dutch oven and the heaviness of it that makes me feel like I am cooking something substantial.
To make this soup super creamy, use an immersion hand blender or a hand blender at the end of the cooking. This will help blend the lentils, rice, and other ingredients into a thick soup.
You can also use a blender or food processor. Just ladle the soup a bit at a time into the blender or food processor.
I like using the immersion blender because I can use it right in the dutch oven without having to dirty up another container. This makes this Lebanene lentil recipe an easy to make one pot recipe. Just make sure that the dutch oven is deep enough to use the immersion blender without making a big mess. See our tips below.
Check out these lentil soup recipes:
Ingredients For This Lebanese Lentil Soup Recipe
The basis for most of our lentil soup recipes includes diced onion, minced or pressed garlic, and olive oil. Make sure the onions are diced well so that there are no big chunks of onion at the end.
Likewise, I like to use a garlic press so that there aren’t big chunks of garlic in the soup. Try the Zulay stainless steel garlic press, which is easy to use. There’s no need to even peel the garlic ahead of time.
The spices for this lemon and lentil soup include cumin, turmeric, and paprika. The cumin will add an earthy or nutty flavor to the soup.
I love cooking with turmeric. Not only does it have anti-inflammatory properties, but it also adds great color. The same goes with paprika.
Between the turmeric and paprika, the soup will have a natural golden color to it, which helps it feel a little more lemony.
As always, add salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be afraid of using salt in any recipe. It won’t make the dish taste salty. Instead, it will help all of the ingredients work well together. Salt also helps to bring out all of the other flavors in a dish.
The dried lentils don’t need to be soaked ahead of time when making this lemon lentil soup recipe. Although this is the case when cooking with dried beans, dried lentils don’t require soaking before cooking.
The lentils along with a bit of white rice form the base for this Lebanese soup. Just basic white long-grain rice will work. The purpose of the white rice is to add a bit of starchiness to the soup in order to thicken it.
To keep this recipe for red lentil soup vegan, I use vegetable broth for cooking. If you are not vegetarian, chicken broth works well too.
The fresh lemon not only makes the soup taste lemony, but adds a bit of acid to the soup. This helps to balance out the seasoning and spices.
How To Make This Lemony Lentil Soup
This lentil lemon soup takes only minutes to prep. Dice the onion and press the garlic. Cut the lemon and squeeze the juice into a cup. Put it to the side. That’s all the prep work needed!
In a medium-sized dutch oven warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. The onion will start to yellow but move onto the next step before the garlic starts to brown.
Add the cumin, turmeric, and paprika. Coat the spices in the olive oil. This will release the aroma and flavors of the spices. Add the red lentils, rice, salt, and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the rice and lentils start to sweat.
Add four cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 30-35 minutes until the rice and lentils are soft but not mushy.
Continue to monitor the lentils and stir occasionally. If the liquid is completely absorbed and the lentils aren’t soft, then add another cup of vegetable broth.
Add lemon juice and taste. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
Finishing The Soup With A Blender
Remove from the heat and use an immersion hand blender to blend until you reach the desired consistency. You can do this two ways.
If the dutch oven is deep enough, you can place the immersion blender directly into the soup and blend. Ensure the entire bulb at the bottom of the blender is under the soup so it doesn’t spray paint the walls!
If you are concerned, place a kitchen towel over the top to keep the soup from making a mess. If you are really concerned, you can ladle the soup into a mixing bowl or container that came with your blender and blend it in batches.
The soup should have the consistency of a rustic pea soup. There should still be bits of lentils. If you want to blend it all the way, until it is completely smooth that is possible too. Perhaps add a little bit of olive oil to help the soup blend until smooth. (Like pea soup? Check out this recipe for yellow split pea soup, a recipe from Norway.).
Serve warm with pita bread or crusty bread. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with fresh slices of lemon.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 ½ cup dried red lentils
- ½ cup white rice, uncooked
- 5 cups vegetable broth
- Juice of one large lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium-sized dutch oven warm olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the cumin, turmeric, and paprika. Coat the seasonings in the olive oil.
- Add lentils, rice, salt, and pepper. Coat the lentil mixture in the olive oil and spices. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the rice and lentils start to sweat.
- Add 4 cups of the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer uncovered for about 30-35 minutes until the rice and lentils are soft.
- Stir occasionally. Add more vegetable broth if need be.
- Add the lemon juice and taste. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
- Remove from the heat and use a hand blender to blend until you reach the desired consistency.
- Serve warm with pita bread or crusty bread.
This recipe makes four to five servings as a main course but can stretch for six servings as a side dish.
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Amount Per Serving Calories 216Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 0mgSodium 1129mgCarbohydrates 37gFiber 8gSugar 12gProtein 9g
Modifications And Variations Of This Lebanese Lemon Lentil Soup Recipe
If you don’t have fresh onion and garlic and are limited to pantry staples, not to worry. Just use about a teaspoon each of onion powder and garlic powder.
Although Lebanese food is not generally spicy, try adding just a sprinkle of crushed red pepper at the end. Or add it as a garnish. It colors the lentil soup well and adds just a small layer of heat.
You can also add other vegetables to the soup as well. Try adding shredded or diced carrots. If adding shredded carrots, add them at the same time as the lentils and rice.
If adding diced carrots, dice them small so that they cook all the way through. Then, add them after the spices but before the rice and lentils. This will give them time to soften. Cook the carrots for about 3-5 minutes, before adding the lentils. If you don’t give the carrots time to cook, they can still be hard when the lentils are ready.
Reheating Lebanese Lemon Lentil Soup
This is the perfect soup to make if entertaining and you want to make it ahead of time. Or, we normally get at least four servings of this and end up reheating it over the following days. In fact, I think it often tastes better the second day.
The Lebanese lemon lentil soup reheats well right on the stovetop. You might want to add a bit more olive oil or broth because the soup will thicken in the fridge. Feel free to add a bit of fresh lemon to liven it up or even a teaspoon of white wine vinegar for acidity.
Another option is to include fresh spinach at the end. Fold in chopped fresh spinach just before serving and warm it until the spinach wilts. Or, top the soup with a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt, which just adds to the creaminess.