This light brothy tasty lemony lentil soup is full of zing and flavor from lemon juice and spices and is the polar opposite of boring normal lentil soup!
I had a similar version in an Indian restaurant in Valencia years ago and I could NOT stop thinking about it!
Enter my efforts to reproduce that soup, resulting in this light lemon lentil soup with Indian flavours, both vegan and gluten-free.
A light zingy lemony broth with plenty of ginger and cilantro, both ground and fresh, and split yellow lentils cooked until soft and whisked, result in a more delicate version than the usual stodgy lentil soup.
You can cook it on the stovetop, in a pressure cooker or in the instant pot, and no matter which way you choose to make it, it’ll be ready in 20 minutes or less. It’s nearly as easy as my easy creamy vegan tomato soup!
Is it good for you?
This soup just brings so many benefits to the table I can’t even name them at all, but to name a few:
- It’s full of vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, and lentils are a great source of protein.
- All that vitamin C in the lemon juice increases the iron uptake
- It has turmeric, known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
- It’s low calorie.
- It’s quick.
- It’s a one-pot meal, so less washing up!
- As I said before, it’s vegan and gluten-free.
- Super easy to prepare, just chop an onion, crush some garlic grate some ginger, throw everything into the pot, and done!
- It’s really tasty and comforting.
- Perfect for batch cooking.
- Freezes perfectly for make-ahead light dinners or lunches to bring to work.
- It’s super cheap to make. For the price of a lemon, an onion, some dried lentils and cilantro, you can easily make 3 meals with a few spices you probably already have on hand.
Is the same as dal tadka?
It’s not dal. Dal tadka, dal makhani, and many other different types of dal amazing thick Indian lentil curries.
This lemon lentil soup is much quicker and easier to make than dal. But it does have a similar flavour, as some of the spices used in dal are used here.
Not crazy about lemon?
This lentil lemon soup is very easy to adapt to your personal preferences. I used a ton of lemon in it (after all, it is LEMON lentil soup) but you can adjust the amount upwards or downwards.
I sincerely doubt upwards, I have the highest lemon tolerance/addiction level EVER.
I adore lemons and am of the opinion that absolutely everything can be improved with a touch (or half-ton) of lemon.
And there is nobody in the world (except my husband, that crazy not-crazy-about-lemon man) who can deny that a splash of lemon will improve ANY lentil dish – lemon and lentils were made for each other.
Substitutions and tweaks
You can blend the soup or leave it chunky as I have, you can also adjust the amount of water up or down depending on whether you like a thicker or thinner soup.
Sometimes I also love to throw in some baby spinach to add even more nutrients and increase the iron content, and chopped carrot is also great in this recipe.
If you can’t find split yellow lentils (also known as toor dal or split pigeon peas) you can substitute with red lentils, just be sure to adjust the cooking time to match the instructions on the package of the lentils you are using.
I make this recipe now using a regular pot on the stovetop as my pressure cooker is murdering everything I try to make in it, but you can also make it in an Instant Pot, pressure cooker or slow cooker.
Just check the table below to adjust the cooking time. Note that you do not need to soak yellow split lentils.
|Cooking method||How long?|
|Instant Pot||Cook 8 minutes on high pressure then naturally release for 10.|
|Pressure Cooker||Cook for two whistles (around 6-8 minutes) after pressure has been reached (the first whistle means pressure has been reached, so three whistles altogether with the additional two), quick release.|
|Stovetop||Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium-high and maintain at a simmer for 13-15 minutes.|
|Crockpot||Cook on high for four hours|
Whichever method you use to cook them, the lentils should be disintegrating, NOT firm.
Finally, this is one of the few “non-spicy” recipes I love and make. There is just a touch of spice in it, in order to really let the lemon flavour stand out.
Use high-quality vegetable stock or stock cubes only, I made the mistake once of trying to use up some awful cheap veggie stock cubes that I had bought and trust me, it ain’t worth it.
Better to just use water if you haven’t got any decent stock or cubes on hand.
Now go forth and make my lovely light lemon lentil soup, and tell me all about it in the comment section!
How to make it
Add the oil to whichever cooking container you are using to make your soup, and heat on medium-high heat.
Add the cumin seeds, and when they start to sputter, add the finely chopped onion. Cook two-three minutes until the onion is translucent, then add the crushed garlic and finely grated ginger.
I prefer to add an inch of ginger as I love the way the fiery ginger taste pairs with the lemon – it’s an especially great pick-me-up if you’ve been feeling under the weather. If you’re not a big a fan of ginger, just add half an inch.
Cook around two minutes more, stirring often. Then add the lentils, cayenne pepper, turmeric, ground pepper, ground coriander, stock cube, water and curry leaves (if using).
Fresh curry leaves can be a pain to find but if you can get a hold of them, they’re really worth the effort. I usually get visitors from other countries to bring me bags of them and I freeze them as they’re impossible to find in Madrid.
They have a very distinctive flavour (warning – they CANNOT be substituted with curry powder, which is just a blend of different spices.)
Bring to the boil (if cooking in a pot on the stovetop) and then reduce to a lively simmer for around 15 minutes, until the lentils are quite broken down.
Whisk to break the lentils down even further, then add the lemon juice, chopped cilantro and salt. If you’re not as big a fan of lemon juice as I am, then add half the amount of juice and check, adding the rest to taste.
Done! Serve while piping hot or allow to cook and freeze or refrigerate for up to five days.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating in the recipe box, review, or comment below.
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- 2 teaspoons sunflower oil (or canola, any neutral oil)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/2 inch ginger, finely grated
- 1 cup split yellow lentils (toor dal/pigeon peas, 200g)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
- 1.5 teaspoons ground cilantro
- Curry leaves, one handful (Optional)
- 1/2 vegetable stock cube (or 2 tsp better than bouillon)
- 6.5 cups water
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice,
- 1.5 tablespoons chopped cilantro ( fresh coriander)
- Salt to taste (I add 1/2 teaspoon)
- Heat the sunflower oil over a medium-high heat.
- Add the cumin seeds, and when they begin to crackle, add the chopped onion.
- When the onion is translucent, add the garlic and ginger.
- Stir and cook 1-2 minutes until the garlic is lightly browned.
- Add the next eight ingredients from the lentils to the water.
- Mix well, making sure no lentils have stuck to the bottom of the pot, turn the heat up high and reduce to a simmer after it comes to the boil, cook 15 minutes until the lentils are soft. Check notes for instant pot, pressure cooker, and slow cooker notes.
- Briskly whisk the lentils to break them up more or blend if you prefer.
- Add the salt, lemon juice, and cilantro. The lemon juice is really to taste, so add half the amount and test it before adding more. Serve warm.
Instant pot: Cook 8 minutes on high pressure then release for 10.
Pressure cooker: After first whistle cook two whistles more then quick release.
Crockpot: Cook on high for four hours.
This can be made ahead of time and also freezes very well.
Amount Per Serving Calories 137Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 0mgSodium 730mgCarbohydrates 19gFiber 6gSugar 3gProtein 6g