Lentil soup in and of itself can be pretty bland, so it’s key to experiment with assertive flavors. I like smoky flavors so I used smoked paprika and smoked tomatoes in the recipe below for “Smoky Lentil Tomato Soup”.
Vegetarian vs Pesco Mediterranean Lentil Soup
Although lentil soups are often a mainstay for vegetarians, the addition of shrimp or other shellfish can be a wonderful flavor enhancer if you have a Pesco Mediterranean livestyle. Either way, lentil soup is a powerhouse of nutrition and protein in the form of a warm, flavorful comfort food.
What Kind of Lentils Work Best in Soup
Quick-cooking red lentils are my favorite dried lentil for soups, mostly because I prefer the visual appeal of red over brown. Red lentils also cook into a creamy soup quite rapidly, going from dried-in-the-pantry to tender in 15 to 20 minutes.
The French green lentils (called the du Puy variety) are said to hold their shape better and have a slightly more peppery flavor, but honestly I have not noticed that subtlety.
Just know that it is not essential for lentils to keep their shape intact. It is really a preference. Longer cooked, lentils add to the soup’s body after they have broken up, and they taste just as good.
How to Add Flavor to Lentil Soup
Most vegetarian lentil soup recipes have a somewhat “earthy” flavor. Here are some ideas for enhancing the flavor profile:
- Adding some rosemary will give it a bit more robust flavor;
- adding cayenne can give it some heat and peppery spice;
- pork and/or chorizo is a popular addition if you eat meat;
- Hearty greens are a great addition to all soups, both from a flavor and nutritional standpoint;
- a squeeze of lemon always adds a bright fresh flavor to soups
- smoky additions (smoked paprika, fire-roasted tomatoes, smoked salt)
The lentils, an onion and some broth is really the basic template and you can enhance the flavor with whatever you have in your pantry from there.
How to Add a Smoky Flavor to any Soup
Since we smoke a lot of tomatoes from our garden (small farm), I have used smoked tomatoes in the recipe below. We toss a lot of meaty tomatoes in our Bradley smoker at the end of the season, freeze them in ziplock bags and use them thoughout the Winter.
If you don’t have access to smoked tomatoes, you can usually find smoky substitutes by using smoked paprika, smoked chipotle peppers or smoked salt. Or you can purchase a smoked tomato shrub syrup from Heathglen and add a few tablespoons of that to the soup.
Other Ideas Using Lentils
Smoky Lentil Spinach Soup
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 Tablespoon smoked paprika or your favorite paprika
- 1 Cup dried red lentils
- 5 Cups broth use vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 Cup smoked tomatoes alternatively use 1 24-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
- 4 Cups baby spinach fresh
- 3/4 Cup kalamata olives (chopped) Optional
- 1 Pound Pork or chorizo optional
- 1 Pound Shrimp Optional
- In a dutch oven, large skillet, or large pot, heat olive oli. Add chopped onions and saute over med-high heat for 5 min or until translucent. Add garlic, thyme and paprika and saute briefly, for about 30 seconds.
- Add lentils, broth and salt to the pot and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 min., stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and simmer another 20 minutes or until lentils are softened to your preference (they can be al dente or mushy)
- Add spinach and stir until spinach is wilted. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Add any of the optional ingredients (see article above) and bring up to serving temperature over medium heat.