When my friend and part-time neighbor Mary mentioned to me that she wanted to learn a quick soup to make on the rare occasions she’s home, I knew immediately I had to show her how to make an easy red lentil soup. Being the in-demand and talented make up artist that she is, Mary travels for work constantly and needed a recipe that didn’t require any pre-soaking or advance planning—also one that uses ingredients that keep well in the fridge. Red lentils are perfect for creating a satisfying and warming soup as they cook into creamy goodness by the time you’ve prepped the veg and sautéed the onions.
I happened to have lemongrass and fresh turmeric on hand but these ingredients are not required to achieve a warming and satisfying dish. This soup can also be made with the lots of chopped fresh herbs in place of ginger, turmeric, coconut and lemongrass. Or, add a tablespoon of curry powder (instead of the turmeric) after sautéing the ginger and garlic –with or without the coconut, lemongrass and chili.
It’s worth buying and storing ginger, carrots, onions and garlic and if you happen to find lemongrass and fresh turmeric root they too keep well in the fridge for weeks.
Red lentils don’t need to be soaked ahead of time because they don’t have a skin and therefore don’t contain phytic acid—the nutrient blocker that prevents whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds from sprouting in our pantries. On the other hand, French and green lentils do need to soaked overnight because, though they cook up relatively quickly, they contain phytic acid which needs to be removed before being cooked.
Easy Thai red lentil soup
For added greens try stirring a handful of spinach, chard or finely chopped kale into the simmering soup before serving. If you happen to see Kaffir lime leaves, they taste great added to the lentils while they cook.
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups red lentil, washed
5 cups filtered water, divided
2 inch piece kombu
1 stalk lemongrass, split and cut in half, optional
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 to 2 teaspoon minced fresh red chili or pinch dried red chili flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons dry turmeric or 1 tablespoon grated fresh turmeric
2 tablespoons minced cilantro stems, leaves chopped and reserved
2 medium carrots, diced
3 cups cubed butternut squash ( ¾ inch cube)
1 13.5oz can coconut milk, divided
Place lentils in a medium pot and add 3 cups of water, kombu and lemongrass. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until you’re ready to add them to the vegetables. They’ll get creamier the longer they cook.
In another large pot warm the coconut oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes or until golden. Add garlic and ginger and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Stir in chili, turmeric and cilantro stems and cook another minute. Add carrot, butternut and remaining cup of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover pot, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through. Add lentils and half of the coconut milk and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to allow flavors to marry. Stir in a large handful of chopped cilantro leaves. Serve soup and drizzle each bowl with a little of the remaining coconut milk and garnish with cilantro and sliced red chilies if desired.