Turkish Red Lentil Soup

A turquoise plate with a Turkish red lentil soup with mint, garnished with paprika oil, fresh parsley, and sumac.

This creamy and filling red lentil soup has been a much-loved favorite recipe for many years, which I cook so often and enjoy every time. ‘Mercimek Çorbası’, as this gluten-free and vegan Turkish lentil soup with mint, lemon, sumac, paprika oil, carrots, potatoes, and a few other simple ingredients, is originally called, is insanely good. It tastes very sophisticated but is a recipe for the lazy, as it is so easy and quick to make. A great traditional recipe of Turkish cuisine that you can easily make yourself.

Everybody’s darling

It may sound like a bit of a stretch, but no matter whom I’ve served my “Mercimek Çorbası”, as this vegetarian/vegan Turkish-style lentil soup is originally called, everyone has enjoyed it so far. And always at any time of year: on the one hand, it is a typical cold-season dish. On the other hand, the lemon and mint note makes this Turkish red lentil soup also delicious on warmer days.

A turquoise plate with a Turkish red lentil soup with mint, garnished with paprika oil, fresh parsley, and sumac.

Lentil Soup for Babies and Children

This Turkish red lentil soup is also suitable for babies and children – if you don’t make it spicy. My 3-year-old daughter loves it since she is a baby, and she doesn’t eat everything I serve us. “Mummy, I’m already full” is not something I hear after two bites, but the bowl is emptied.

Similar to this potato and leek soup with beluga lentils (although I don’t serve her the lentils on top of the soup, but on the side. I’m happy to do that for you, my beloved little one).

You could also make this soup with less water and turn it into a sauce. My daughter (and I) love to eat it with rice.

A spoon full with Turkish red lentil soup with mint, garnished with a bit of paprika oil, fresh parsley, and sumac.

Ingredients

Red lentils not only taste great and are inexpensive, but they are also nutritious (they even contain more iron than beef). Paired with fresh vegetables and delicious spices – what more could you want? This sophisticated Turkish soup can be conjured up very quickly from a few simple, good, vegan, and gluten-free ingredients. Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients …

For a red lentil soup, you need – bingo – red lentils. You also need vegetables, namely carrot, potato, onion, garlic and, if you like and have them at home, some celery. Everything is fried in a little (olive) oil.

Of course, they also need seasoning, namely with tomato paste, fresh lemon juice and spices or herbs, namely ground cumin *), mild paprika powder *), (fresh or dried) mint *), fresh parsley, (homemade) vegetable stock powder, chili (if you like it hot), salt and pepper.

And if you like, refine your best red lentil soup with toppings. These range from a little sumac *), which with its slightly sour taste is simply wonderful for lentil dishes, and/or more mint, and/or fresh parsley, and/or melted paprika butter, simply made from vegan butter and paprika powder (or paprika oil, made out of oil and paprika powder).

What you won’t find in this dish is ginger or coconut milk, both of which are atypical of Turkish cuisine. So if you’re looking for a recipe for red lentil soup without coconut milk, you’ve come to the right place.

Preparation

This soup is not only brilliant because of its simple and healthy ingredients, but is also ready in no time at all. The great thing about red lentils, apart from their taste and nutritional value, is that, unlike many other pulses, they don’t need to be soaked – and only need to cook for 10 to 15 minutes until they are soft. Jackpot on all levels.

Apart from the fact that the lentils are cooked quickly, this recipe is also very simple in itself. I’ll explain exactly how to make red lentil soup at the end of the post. But let me tell you one thing: it’s quick to make and not nearly as complicated as its sophisticated taste.

To make a delicious creamy red lentil soup, you first need to chop the vegetables. Yes, this can sometimes be time-consuming. But cutting them into neat cubes is not necessary here. As they will be puréed anyway, it’s enough to roughly chop the vegetables into large chunks.

Preparation for a Turkish red lentil soup: A pot with veggies, and spices.

Then sauté the vegetables in a pan for a few minutes in a little olive oil, add the spices, lentils, and water. Allow everything to simmer for a while, purée – done.

You can serve the soup as it is or enrich it with a few bells and whistles – also called toppings. Sometimes it can be a little frippery, especially if it’s not just for the eye, but also for the taste.

A turquoise plate with a Turkish red lentil soup with mint, garnished with paprika oil, fresh parsley, and sumac. In the background some fresh lemon and white bread.

Store and Reheat

As always, at this point: I’m fussy when it comes to storing food and reheating it. But one thing is certain (as I eat it after this time): this vegan red lentil soup will keep for at least 2 to 3 days in the fridge and will taste at least as good as freshly cooked.

Are you asking yourself if you can freeze lentil soup? Yes, of course, you can also freeze it and then reheat it.

However, lentil soup thickens a lot. You have to add water when reheating and then blend it again (with an immersion blender), otherwise you will end up with lumps of sauce instead of soup.

Speaking of sauce (puréed, without lumps): I have also eaten this Turkish red lentil soup thickened as a sauce with rice, especially with my 3 years old daughter. However, you could add some rice to the soup yourself if you happen to have some leftover cooked rice and want to use it up. Otherwise, I recommend a good piece of fresh white bread to go with it, such as a piece of Turkish bread or sourdough “Wurzelbrot” (root bread).

Yield: 4-5 plates

Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Mint (Mercimek Çorbası)

A turquoise plate with a Turkish red lentil soup with mint, garnished with paprika oil, fresh parsley, and sumac.

This creamy vegan Turkish red lentil soup with mint, sumac, lemon, paprika oil, carrots, potatoes ... is easy and quick to make - and so delicious!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 stalk celery (optional)
  • 1 small potato
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin *)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika powder *)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh mint leaves (dried mint *) is also ok, but use less then, about 1/2 tbsp)
  • a few stalks (approx. 2-3) of fresh parsley (you can use leaves and stalks)
  • 1 tbsp (homemade) vegetable stock powder
  • some chili powder (if you like it spicy)
  • 1 cup red lentils*)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 lemon, the juice from it, about 5 tbsp (and a little more for serving)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • Optional for serving (all or some of it, or nothing): Sumac *) (it gives the whole thing a lemony note), dried or fresh mint, fresh parsley leaves. For the paprika butter (or paprika oil): About 2 tbsp of vegan butter (or oil) with 1/2 to 1 tbsp of paprika powder;

Instructions

  1. Cut the vegetables (carrot, onion, garlic, and celery, if using) into pieces (as they will be puréed in the end, they don't need to be small or cut particularly nicely or evenly). Peel the potato, roughly chop it too, and set aside
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the carrot, onion, and garlic (and celery if using) over medium heat.
  3. When the onion pieces turn translucent, add the cumin, paprika powder, tomato paste, mint, parsley, and stock powder. And a bit of chili if you like. Stir and fry for 1–2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, you can wash the lentils in a sieve with water until the water runs clear.
  5. Now add the lentils, water, and potato pieces and bring everything to the boil.
  6. Simmer for approx. 15 minutes until the vegetables and lentils are soft.
  7. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
  8. Blend your red lentil soup. If you feel the soup is too thick, add more water.
  9. Serve your Turkish red lentil soup with lemon wedges and fresh soft bread.

Notes

Instead of paprika powder, you could also use a mild Turkish pepper paste *). Or also skip the tomato paste and use a Turkish tomato and pepper paste *) instead.

You can pimp your red lentil soup with a little sumac, mint, parsley and/or paprika butter before serving: simply melt the vegan butter, stir in the sweet paprika powder and fry for a few seconds. You could also add the dried mint to the paprika butter.

This soup will keep in the fridge for approx. 3 days. You can also freeze your lentil soup. In any case, add water when reheating as the lentil soup thickens. You will then have to puree it again, otherwise it will be lumpy.


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