There are so many recipes in the Mediterranean region on how to cook Lentil Soup. This specific recipe is typical on New Year’s Eve because it symbolizes abundance from the lentils. However, I tend to cook it for my family any chance I get. Mediterranean Lentil Soup is a perfectly healthy comfort food, especially on a cold day.
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Lentils – Thjerreza
Back in my native country, we call lentils thjerreza. Recipes with lentils vary from spicy to non-spicy, from vegan to loaded with a pork or beef. This specific recipe is vegan.
Lentils are a nutritious legume. They’re inexpensive but full of iron, folate, zinc, fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates. We used to call them “the poor men’s meat” because it was thought to provide the same benefits without the cost.
If you’re looking for a version of lentils soup with potatoes, carrots and ham please see my other recipe Lentils Soup with Ham which is richer in condiments and ingredients.
Lentils for New Year’s Eve
Well some cultures serve some kind of lentil stew for New Years Eve celebrations. The shape of lentils reminds people of coins plus as they cook, they expand so the belief is that lentil soup will bring in better financials for the next year.
Before my father in law moved to Brazil, he hosted for so many years the New Year’s Eve party. His wife is from Brazil and she taught me another New Year’s Eve tradition: don’t serve any root vegetables for New Year’s Eve (nothing like potatoes, carrots or beets).
So even though in Albania, we might add some carrots or potatoes to this soup, on New Year’s Eve I made the below version to keep up with everyone’s traditions. Hope you enjoy it too:).
Ingredients, Notes & Tips
I try to use as many fresh vegetables as I can for this soup. I’m not used to adding a lot of condiments or spices to my meals because at the core of several Mediterranean recipes are the produce themselves.
If you’re going to add potatoes or carrots, you’ll need to add more water to the recipe so it doesn’t become too thick.
I usually refrigerate the leftovers for few days in an airtight container. It will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months too if sealed properly, so feel free to double up and use it for meal planning.
Cooking time may vary a bit on the type of lentils, how long they have been dry and the type of device you are using. Typical cooking time by device might vary a lot but a simple summary is below for a meatless lentil soup:
- Stovetop – 35 minutes
- Pressure Cooker – 15 minutes cook on high then natural release
- Slow Cooker – cook on low for 6-8 hrs
See below ingredients used for this lentil soup. Please note that the onion is rather large, so you might need to use 2 onions if what’s available in your store is of different size.
To soak or not to soak the lentils?
Rule of thumb in my family was that we soaked beans overnight but lentils only 15-20 minutes before cooking. Just inspect them really well before you put them in water for any impurities like small rocks etc.
Mediterranean Lentil Soup
- Medium size pot
- 16 ozs dry lentils
- 4 tbsps olive oil
- 1 red onion (large)
- 3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 3 cups water or vegetable broth
- salt/pepper to taste
- 2 cups tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 2 celery stalks
- 0.5 tsp cumin (optional)
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (optional) usually add on each individual bowl as you serve the soup
- Chop celery and parsley, dice onion, celery and tomatoes. Mince garlic.
- Rinse and inspect lentils for impurities. Soak them for a short amount of time.
- Start by heating olive oil in a medium size pot, add onions, garlic and start sauteing. Then once onion becomes translucent, add celery. Stir well and a minute or two later add lentil and parsley. Keep stirring so the ingredients don't stick to the bottom (keep heat at medium)
- Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and bay leaves. Stir and when it starts bubbling, add water or vegetable broth. Add cumin, stir and let it come to a boil.
- Cover and let cook for about 35 minutes. I sometimes lower the heat in low and let cook for about 45 minutes instead of 35 but heat has to be lower. It gives the soup a creamy texture.
- Towards the last 10 minutes, add salt/pepper, stir and try the soup for taste. Cover and let cook for the last minutes.
- Turn heat off, set aside to cool a bit. Once ready to eat, serve in soup bowl with a side of rice, bread or favorite salad or just on its own:). Top with freshly chopped parsley, red wine vinegar or any spicy toppings according to individual taste.
- Traditional lentil soup from where I am from includes potatoes and carrots too. If adding 1 potato and 2 carrots to this soup, add an extra cup of water and adjust for salt and pepper accordingly.
- If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste. I just love how the soup tastes with fresh diced tomatoes so I try to use fresh any chance I get.
- I usually use a whole parsley bunch from my grocery store. That usually yields 2 cups of packed chopped parsley. I use 1 cup and a half in the soup and the last half cup for garnishing each bowl at the end.
- If you like the soup to be spicy, add some crushed red pepper to the soup or serve with fresh chilis as a side.
Unlike beans, you don’t have to soak lentils. However, I find that if I soak them the cooking time is more consistent. Usually, I inspect them for any impurities, rinse and let them soak as I prep the other ingredients. They do absorb some water as they soak, so if you don’t soak the lentils you might need to add a little more water to the soup as it cooks so it doesn’t become too thick.
The word healthy is loaded because it is being used from anyone in the health field plus diets plus fitness industry. So it depends a little bit in your outlook for health. But overall, I do think lentils are one of the healthiest legumes that exist. Lentils are rich in folate, fiber, antioxidants among other things. Plus they’re a great source of energy. Nutritionists often add them to diets of people with chronic diseases.
f you would like to save this recipe for later, please pin the below image to Pinterest. Feel free to tag me in social media with questions or if you are making this soup:).
Other Comforting Soup Recipes:
- Chicken, Lemon Rice Soup
- Cream of Asparagus Soup
- Red Kidney Beans Soup (IP)
- Yellow Split Peas Soup with Spinach