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”. Although lentil soups are often a mainstay for vegetarians, but the addition of chorizo or shrimp and be wonderful flavor enhancers if you are of the carnivorous or Pescatarian bent Either way, lentil soup is a powerhouse of nutrition and protein in the form of a warm, flavorful comfort food.
Cooking notes for Smoky Lentil Tomato Soup:
Quick-cooking red lentils are my favorite dried lentil for soups, mostly because I prefer the visual appeal. 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 important for lentils to keep their shape intact. Longer cooked, lentils add to the soup’s body after they have broken up, and they taste just as good.
Most vegetarian lentil soup recipes have a somewhat “earthy” flavor. Adding some rosemary will give it a bit more robust flavor, adding cayenne a spicy flavor and pork or chorizo a more complex savory flavor. Hearty greens are a great addition to all soups and a squeeze of lemon always adds a bright fresh flavor.
Since we smoke a lot of our produce on our farm, I have used smoked tomatoes in the version below called Smoky Lentil Tomato Soup. Smoked tomatoes may be difficult to find, so substitute in some smoked paprika and some smoked chipotle peppers if you have those instead. Be creative. 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.
Recipe for Smokey Lentil Tomato Soup
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 Tbsp smoked paprika (or your favorite paprika)
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 5 cups broth (use vegetable broth or chicken broth)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup smoked tomatoes (alternatively use 1 24-oz can fir-roasted tomatoes)
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach
- Optional: add 3/4 cup chopped kalamata olives, 1 lb cooked chorizo, 6-8 large shrimp, 1/2 tsp spicy chili pepper
- Saute onions over med-high heat in a large pot for 5 min or until translucent. Add garlic, thyme and paprika and saute briefly, for about 15 seconds.
- Add lentils, broth and salt 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 min. until lentils are quite tender.
- Add spinach and stir until spinach is wilted. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Add any of the optional ingredients and bring up to serving temperature over medium heat.
Enjoy for dinner and tomorrow’s lunch!
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