This vegan Moroccan red lentil soup is flavored with typical Moroccan spices like cumin and turmeric. Top with a spicy harissa for a bit of heat and fresh cilantro and serve with crusty bread for a hearty lunch or light dinner.
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Why Make Moroccan Lentil Soup
When we traveled to Morocco, I fell in love with all of the tasty soups they served. There were a few, in particular, that were served before many of our meals. Harira is a soup with chickpea and lentils, flavored with cumin and coriander. Bissara is soup made of broad beans or fava beans, of course, flavored with cumin.
I took these flavors and inspirations and what I’ve learned cooking loads of Moroccan recipes at home to create this Moroccan lentil soup. There are loads of Moroccan dishes made with lentils, chickpeas, and beans, which I why we’ve incorporated so many Moroccan soups and dishes into our bean-friendly diet.
See some of our other Moroccan-inspired recipes:
Flavors In Moroccan Cuisine
Moroccan cuisine is flavorful, but certainly not spicy. But, I can’t seem to make a Moroccan dish without one of the key seasonings found in almost every dish – cumin.
I think this is why I appreciate Moroccan cuisine. They have embraced cumin. Instead of salt and pepper shakers on a table, they have salt and cumin.
Ingredients For Moroccan Red Lentil Soup
Besides cumin, this red lentil soup recipe includes a lot of pantry staples and vegetables often kept around the house. Yellow onion, celery, garlic, and carrot are cooked in olive oil (Moroccan olive oil if you have it).
I also add diced coriander stems or cilantro stems, but this is optional. When adding cilantro to a dish, it’s best to add it at the end so that the leaves don’t wilt too much while cooking. One way to bring in the flavor of the cilantro earlier in the recipe is to add diced cilantro stems while cooking the garlic and onion.
Spices And Seasonings For Red Lentil Soup
In addition to cumin, other spices include turmeric, paprika, and cinnamon. These are a lot of the spices that are typical in Moroccan cooking. Cinnamon adds a unique flavor that adds even more earthiness without adding the sweetness that many people associate with cinnamon.
Add a bit of salt and pepper to add additional flavor. Don’t worry about adding salt, which seems to be the enemy of the people. Salt doesn’t make dishes salty, but it helps to bring all of the flavors together and makes the entire dish taste better.
Red Lentils And Other Ingredients
Red lentils are one of the best lentils to use for soups. They cook quicker than brown or green lentils. When using an emersion blender to blend a soup, red lentils work well because they don’t hold the shape as other lentils do.
The lentils are cooked in vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you are not a vegetarian) and diced tomatoes to add acid and liquid.
Towards the end of the cooking process, add some freshly squeezed lemon juice to add some more acid as well as some crushed red pepper to add just a touch of heat. If you are sensitive to heat, skip the pepper.
Finally, top with fresh cilantro, and if you do like a little heat, some harissa. Moroccan cuisine is not spicy, but many dishes are served with harissa, a spicy red pepper chili paste, on the side. I look for jarred harissa, which looks almost like red pesto. I like the harissa by Mina, which you can buy on Amazon here.
If you have an Instant Pot and want to speed up the process, check out our Instant Pot Red Lentil Soup recipe.
Love cooking with lentils? See our recommendations for some of the Best Healthy Lentil Recipes for every budget and every diet.
How To Make Moroccan Red Lentil Soup
This Moroccan lentil soup is not difficult to make, but it does take a little attention to make sure the lentils cook without burning or drying out.
Warm a large pot or medium-sized dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and warm it through. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and diced coriander stems if using. Coat the seasoning in olive oil and allow them to sweat, cooking 5-7 minutes. Before the garlic starts to brown, add the spices.
Add the cumin, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, and coat the spices in the olive oil. Adding the spices directly into the olive oil means that the spices start to infuse the olive oil. Be prepared for the next step, though, because you want to be able to move on before the spices start to stick to the bottom and burn. Immediately after stirring the spices into the pot, add the rinsed lentils and coat them in the spices and seasonings. Allow the lentils to sweat for 2-3 minutes.
Add the vegetable broth. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the dutch oven to remove any stuck seasonings. This is called deglazing the bottom of the pot. Not only does it keep things from burning, but it ensures all of the tastiness makes its way into the lentil soup. Add the diced tomatoes and stir.
Allowing The Lentil Soup To Cook
Place the cover on the dutch oven, leaving it a little askew. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are soft.
Check the red lentil soup every 5-7 minutes to ensure there is enough liquid to continue cooking the lentils without the dutch oven turning dry. Once the lentils are soft, turn the heat off.
Once everything is soft, use an immersion blender or a regular blender to blend the soup until smooth and creamy. You can do this on the stovetop, or taking it off the top. Use a dark kitchen town to cover the soup and place the head of the blender all the way under to prevent a big mess.
Stir in the lemon juice, crushed red pepper (if using), and fresh cilantro. Return to the heat if needed and allow the soup to warm before serving.
Serve with a dollop of harissa and crusty bread or pita bread. As much as pita is not a Moroccan bread, it’s the easiest to find in supermarkets and works just as well as a traditional Moroccan bread.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon diced coriander stems (optional)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
- 1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, diced
- Harissa for serving
- Warm a large pot or medium-sized dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and warm.
- Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and diced coriander stems if using. Coat the vegetables in olive oil and allow them to sweat, cooking for 5-7 minutes.
- Add the cumin, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, and coat the spices in the olive oil.
- Immediately after, add the rinsed lentils and coat in the spices and seasonings, allow to sweat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the dutch oven to remove any stuck seasonings.
- Add the diced tomatoes and stir. Place the cover on the dutch oven, leaving it a little askew. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are soft. Check the lentil soup every 5-7 minutes to ensure there is enough liquid to continue cooking the lentils without the dutch oven turning dry.
- Once everything is soft, use an immersion blender or a regular blender to blend the soup until smooth and creamy.
- Stir in lemon juice, crushed red pepper, and fresh cilantro. Allow the soup to warm before serving.
- Serve with a dollop of harissa and crusty bread or pita bread.
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Amount Per Serving Calories 160Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 0mgSodium 975mgCarbohydrates 21gFiber 8gSugar 5gProtein 8g
This nutritional data is provided by a third-party source and should not be relied on if you are on a strict diet.