Make a delicious homemade vegetarian Mediterranean lentil soup with green lentils and flavoured with cumin and coriander. This recipe was originally published on January 9, 2012 and updated on April 12, 2020.
Lentils are something that I always have in my pantry. I’ve got red lentils for easy curries and green lentils to make my favourite mujaddara. But recently when I found myself staring at a bag of lentils in my pantry I had a craving; my mom’s classic lentil soup with a Mediterranean twist.
This is something that my mom would make all the time when I was growing up, so naturally, I reached for her tried and true recipe. It’s similar to my French-inspired slow cooker lentil soup, but this version is completely vegan and uses cumin and coriander for flavour.
Her lentil soup starts with a classic mirepoix base that has a higher ratio of carrots to celery and onion. This adds sweetness that helps balance the earthiness of the green lentils. There is also tomato paste to add richness and umami to the soup, but the real secret comes at the end when everything is done cooking.
Do you need to precook the lentils before adding them to the soup?
What I love about cooking with lentils is that you don’t need to soak them or cook them beforehand. Make sure you give them a good rinse and then they’ll take between 25-30 minutes to cook in your soup.
This soup comes together in about 45 minutes, which makes it the perfect weeknight soup (add a grilled cheese on the side if you want something a little more filling), it also gets even better the next day so it’s a dish that is great for meal prepping on the weekend.
The best way to finish a lentil soup
Once the lentils have cooked, you stir in some lemon juice for a hit of citrus; the lemon juice really helps brighten the flavours and gives the soup the perfect finishing touch. Definitely don’t skip the lemon! You may even want more lemon juice–don’t be afraid to add a little more citrus if that’s what your palate wants.
The other secret comes from the olive oil; and that’s what makes this really a Mediterranean-style lentil soup. Stir in two tablespoons of olive oil right before serving. It adds a velvety, smooth mouthfeel that gives the soup a luxurious finish.
A note about the salt in the soup. 1 3/4 of a teaspoon may seem like a lot of salt for a soup. I typically use water in my vegetable-based soups as I don’t love the flavour of vegetable broth. If you choose to use vegetable broth, you will need to adjust the level of salt.
Mediterranean Lentil Soup
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 9 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils, rinsed
- 3 Bay leaves
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp minced parsley, optional for garnish
- In a large soup pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and 1 tsp salt, cook for 3-5 minutes, until onion is translucent and vegetables begin to soften.
- Add garlic, tomato paste, cumin, coriander and chili flakes. Sauté for another 2 minutes, until tomato paste begins to caramelize and turn a deep red and the spices are fragrant.
- Add the water, lentils, bay leaves and remaining salt to the pot. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaves, stir in lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Serve with parsley sprinkled on top.