Full of bold flavors of smoked paprika, mint and lemon, this Turkish lentil soup is full of hearty grains such as lentils and rice and is gluten free and made in nearly 30 minutes.
Turkish Lentil Soup, Simple but with Bold Flavors
I am so madly in love with this Turkish red lentil soup (also called mercimek çorbas in Turkish) and was first introduced to this lentil soup on our trip to Istanbul. On our food tour, the host took us to this small tucked away kitchen behind the bazaar. If you blinked, you would walk right passed it. But alas, as we tucked under the markets merchandise and there, was a single woman serving up only this simple Turkish lentil soup.
I will never forget this experience because it was so out of the ordinary. We sat on weak plastic chairs on a fold away table and I remember seeing hanging sheets and shirts from the sellers in the market.
The lentil soup was served simply in a bland soup bowl and garnished with lemon and lots of freshly torn bread. I remember the smokiness from the paprika and the brightness from the freshly squeezed lemon. The combination is out of this world.
This simple lentil soup is full of some fantastically bold flavors and hearty grains. There are a lot of ingredients, but everything cooks down in nearly 30 minutes and will taste like the soup has been cooking for hours!
- Red Lentils: Cooks in 30 minutes and blends up beautifully, making this a slightly creamy soup.
- Rice and Quinoa: Both gluten free and add thickness and texture to the lentil soup.
- Onions, Garlic, Red Bell Pepper and Tomato: Aromatics to start the soup off, feel free to substitute shallots, leeks or orange bell pepper.
- Tomato Paste: Brings a bit of depth and sweetness to the soup.
- Smoked Paprika: This is what really bright the Turkish lentil soup to life and I love the additional smokiness the spice offers.
- Dried mint: Potent and bright and works so well with the smoky paprika. You can find dried mint online or you can use fresh mint, but the dried herb has a more direct flavor.
- Stock: Vegetable or chicken stock would work here.
- Lemon: Fresh is best and the brightness of fresh lemon juice at the end is just outstanding!
A Few Tips
Either red or orange lentils will work for this recipe since both cook down fairly quickly.
To blend the soup, use either an immersion blender or ladle soup in a blender. I like some texture and chose to not blend it all the way.
This can be made in the slow cooker as well! Do the recipe as written and add soup to the slow cooker on low for 6 hours.
To make this lentil soup vegan, just omit the butter and use only olive oil.
Other Soups To Try:
Turkish Lentil Soup
- 1/2 red onion chopped finely
- 1 red bell pepper seeds removed and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 Tb butter
- 2 Tb olive oil + more for garnish
- 1 Tb dried mint
- 1 Tb smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp Turkish red pepper or other red pepper
- 2 Tb tomato paste
- 1 medium sized tomato chopped and seeds removed
- 1 lemon zested (about 1-2 Tb of zest) + lemon wedges for garnish
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 1/4 cup long-grain white rice
- 1/4 cup red quinoa or other quinoa, but black will take longer to cook
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- Fresh herbs for garnish parsley, mint and/or chives
- In a large pot, add butter and olive oil and saute chopped onion and red bell pepper until pepper is tender, about 5-8 minutes. Then add chopped garlic and saute until caramelized, about 1-2 minutes.
- Next, add dried mint, paprika and Turkish red pepper (or you can substitute regular red pepper and stir spices together in the oil
- Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato and lemon zest. Stir everything together and season with salt and pepper. Allow the tomatoes to cook for 1-2 minutes to soften.
- Next, add dried red lentils, white rice and red quinoa (or you have another type of quinoa, that’s fine too). Stir all the grains together so the flavors are tossed with the rice and quinoa.
- Add 8 cups of vegetable broth and bring soup to a boil Cook the soup for about 30 minutes until rice, lentils and quinoa are tender. Taste for doneness and seasoning.
- Once soup is cooked, you can use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup for a better texture. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon, olive oil, fresh herbs.
- Either red or orange lentils will work for this recipe since both cook down fairly quickly.
- To blend the soup, use either an immersion blender or ladle soup in a blender. I like some texture and chose to not blend it all the way.
- This can be made in the slow cooker as well! Do the recipe as written and add soup to the slow cooker on low for 6 hours.
- To make this lentil soup vegan, just omit the butter and use only olive oil.
This post has been updated on 1/21/20 with more helpful tips and nutritional information.