Red lentils are my absolute favourite lentil to cook with. They have the shortest cooking time (12 minutes!) and once cooked, they break apart, forming a thick delicious soup. This recipe for Greek Red Lentil Soup with Lemon is adapted from two of my favourite cookbooks – Rebar from Victoria, and Whitewater Cooks from Nelson.
Lentils and Protein
Lentils are an important source of protein in the plant-based world, and while they are not a ‘complete’ protein, a healthy balanced diet can ensure that all the essential amino acids are available. Lentils and other legumes are also inexpensive sources of protein that have a minimal environmental impact. Legumes have the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, which allows plant nutrients to be recycled and decreases our dependence on synthetic fertilizers.
Iron and Zinc
The legume family is one of the best plant-based sources of iron. When plant-based iron sources (non-haem iron) is combined with a good amount of Vitamin C, the absorption of iron is increased. Another reason to add lemon to your red lentil soup!
They are also a great source of the mineral zinc. Just like iron and other minerals, zinc in lentils can be poorly absorbed when a food is high in a compound called phytic acid. See below for methods that can improve the availability of these important minerals.
While this will not change the taste or cooking time, soaking your lentils for at least 6 hours is a good idea to help remove the compound phytic acid. Phytates are naturally found in lentils and other legumes and can bind to the minerals making them less absorbable. This is mostly important for those who are low in iron, who have a weakened immune system (and need more zinc!), or are following a plant-based diet.
Add The Lemon At The End
The vitamin C in the lemon is important to help with the absorption of the non-haem iron in the lentils. Vitamin C is extremely sensitive to heat, so it is best to add the lemon once the soup has already finished cooking and the heat has been turned off.
A Turkish Red Lentil Soup
Turkish lentil soup is tangier! To make, omit the feta cheese and rosemary, and don’t hold back on the lemon!
A Lebanese Red Lentil Soup
To make a Lebanese red lentil soup, omit the feta and rosemary. Add 1 tsp of cumin at the same time as the garlic. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
A South Asian Red Lentil Soup
Omit the feta, rosemary and lemon and add 1 tbsp curry powder at the same time as the garlic (option to add additional 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder). Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
Greek Lentil Soup with Feta and Lemon
- 2 cups red lentils dry
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 4 medium carrots diced
- 1 tsp pepper cracked
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp oregano dry
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups vegetable stock organic or homemade
- 1/2 lemon zested
- 2 lemons juiced
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbled
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary minced
- pepper cracked, to taste
- Start by rinsing the lentils in a colander under running water. Set aside to drain.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, 1 tbsp. rosemary, oregano and bay leaves. Stir well and sauté until carrots are tender about 5 minutes.
- Add the stock and the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer partially covered, until the lentils are soft and have broken apart (around 20-25 minutes).
- Remove the bay leaves. Decide at this point if you would like to puree the soup or not. I like to leave mine chunky.
- Season the soup with lemon zest and lemon juice. Decide if more salt and pepper is needed.
- To serve, combine the feta cheese, 1 tsp minced rosemary and fresh cracked pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle over hot bowls of soup and enjoy.
YUM. Just pinned. I absolutely love that you include the nutrition information as well!
Thanks Sam!! Hope the recipe replicates well! This is definitely one of my favourites! x
I made the greek version of this and used Violife vegan greek style cheese. The soup was so incredible.
Tonight I’ve made the Lebanese style one but added 3x the cumin because I love it and a couple of sticks of bendy celery. The flavours are so delicious. Thank you for all the variations. Such humble ingredients for the most warming meal.