Full of bold flavors of smoked paprika, bright mint and fresh lemon, this Turkish red lentil soup will hit all of your taste buds! Turkish lentil soup is full of hearty grains such as lentils and rice and is gluten free and made in nearly 30 minutes!
If you are looking for a truly impressive, yet simple soup with bold flavors, you will fall in love with Turkish red lentil soup (also called mercimek çorbas in Turkish).
Flavors of smoked paprika, earthy mint and fresh lemon transform a humble grain soup into something extraordinary!
This recipe is adapted from a fantastic Turkish cookbook called, The Sultans Kitchen. If you are looking to dive into Turkish cuisine, I highly recommend this cookbook!
A Quick Story
We were 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, 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 and at the first bite, I was mesmerized at how such a simple soup could express such bold flavors!
🥣 Why You'll Love Turkish Lentil Soup
- So much flavor! Smoked paprika, dried mint and fresh lemon create a symphony of bold flavors!
- Gluten Free! The soup is made full of hearty grains, including rice, quinoa and lentils that give the soup body and happen to be gluten free.
- Great to make ahead! Turkish lentil soup holds up very well and freezes well too. Make a large batch and freeze half for when you are craving something comforting.
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. The original recipe uses bulgur which you can add as well.
- 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. If you can find red pepper paste, which is more accessible in Turkey, use that.
- Smoked Paprika: This is what really bright the Turkish lentil soup to life and I love the additional smokiness the spice offers. if you don't like the smoke flavor, use sweet paprika.
- 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 wakes up all of the other robust flavors. Lemon zest is also sautéed with the other aromatics.
- In a large pot, add the butter and olive oil and saute the chopped onion and red bell pepper until pepper is tender, then saute garlic for another minute.
- Add the dried mint, smoked 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 and saute.
- Add the dried red lentils, white rice and red quinoa and saute to coat the grains with the other flavors.
- 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.
Substitutions and Variations
- Red or orange lentils will work for this recipe since both cook down fairly quickly.
- To make the soup vegan, omit the butter and use only olive oil.
- This can be made in the slow cooker as well! Cook the recipe as written and add soup to the slow cooker on low for 6 hours and blend the soup at the end of cooking.
What makes Turkish red lentil soup so delicious, is the creamy texture. To blend the soup, use either an immersion blender or ladle a few cups of the soup in a blender and blend until smooth. Keep some of the texture and only blend half of the soup.
Red lentils cook very quickly and don't need to be soaked before cooking. Just add the lentils along with the broth and cook until tender.
Yes, Turkish red lentil soup stores and freezes very well. Store the soup in a sealed container, leaving some room for expansion and freeze for up to 2 months.
More Turkish Recipes to Try:
- Spinach and Feta Borek
- Turkish Pide
- Lahmacun with Herb Tahini (Turkish Flatbread)
- Turkish Sumac Onions
More Soups To Try:
- Peruvian Cilantro Soup
- French Onion Soup with Challah Croutons
- Smoked Turkey and White Bean Soup
- Vegetarian Red Pozole
Turkish Red Lentil Soup
- ½ red onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper seeds removed and diced
- 2 garlic cloves chopped finely
- 2 tablesopoons butter or ghee
- 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon dried mint
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon Turkish red pepper or other red pepper
- 2 tablespoons 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
- ¼ cup basmati rice
- ¼ cup red quinoa or other quinoa, but black will take longer to cook
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- Fresh herbs for garnish parsley, mint and/or chives
- In a large pot, add the butter and olive oil and saute the chopped onion and red bell pepper until the pepper is tender, about 5-8 minutes. Then add the chopped garlic and saute until fragrant, for another minute
- Add the dried mint, paprika and Turkish red pepper (or you can substitute regular red pepper and stir the spices together in the oil
- Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Allow the tomatoes to cook for 1-2 minutes to soften.
- Add the dried red lentils, white rice and red quinoa and stir all of the grains together so the flavors coat all of the grains.
- Add 6 cups of vegetable broth and bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, bring down to a strong simmer and cook the soup for about 30 minutes until rice, lentils and quinoa are tender. Taste for doneness and seasoning and adjust as needed.
- Once soup is cooked, turn off the heat use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup for a smoother texture.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a squeeze of lemon, drizzle of olive oil, top with 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.
ronda bly says
This recipe sounds delicious. I love lentil soups. Can i substitute the rice with either more lentils or quinoa?
Hi Ronda! (you have the same name as my mommy :)...I say more quinoa instead of the rice! the original recipe said bulgar which sounds interesting as well! Let me know how it turns out 🙂
Such beautiful photos! This is so up my alley - love the smoked paprika in there! Thanks for bringing it to the party!
Miriam @ OvertimeCook says
This soup looks absolutely delicious! Thanks for being part of the party - happy chanukah!
Melinda (Kitchen Tested) says
Such a beautiful recipe and it's so healthy!! I need more recipes like this in my life, especially while I'm trying to lose weight 🙂
Oh my gosh, don't even get me started!! I went to try on dresses today to treat myself and went up a size and a half!! I blame latkes! haha
Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat says
Looks so good! I have a crap ton of lentils in my pantry for some reason. Now I know what to do with them!
Yessssss do it! Lentil soup is soooo yummmyy
You mention The original recipe uses bulgur- how much should we use if we choose to use it as well?
Hi Nilly! You can use the same amount (1/4 cup dried bulgar) as the quinoa! let me know how it comes out :))
I literally just finished eating this and had to say that this was delicious!! I was looking for a lentil soup like one I ate while visiting Istanbul and your pictures looked like it. It ended up being very different than the one I had in Turkey, but this one might be even better!!! I added a couple of carrots that were going to go bad and a bag of frozen spinach. I also skipped using the butter and oil as I am vegan and try to avoid oil for health reasons. Instead, I sautéed the vegetables in a splash of vegetable broth. Other than that, I followed the recipe to the letter. It made a very big batch of soup, and I'm looking forward to eating the leftovers for the next few days! This will definitely be a go to recipe for me, thank you so much!!!
Hi Lauren! Your modification sound just lovely and thank you so much for commenting. The smoked paprika is what makes it, I think. I wonder which one you had in Turkey?
Elizabeth Kendzor says
i just bought your book. Is the nutritional information for the recipes anywhere?
Hi Elizabeth! I didn't add nutritional info for the recipes since that wasn't my focus. If you have any recipe questions, feel free to ask! And thank you so much for buying my book!!
I love this recipe! I made it a few times already. I prefer more quinoa so as you suggest I added instead or rice quinoa (both white and brown).
Thank you so much, Mary! And I love your substitutions..the soup is so easily personalized!
Suzi Sholin says
OMG Samantha, thank you for this beautiful recipe. I made it yesterday for tonight's Break the Fast and it was perfect. The seasoning was so balanced; I was a little worried about all the mint but it was great; not at all minty. I didn't puree any of it, it was a great texture right after cooking. I used basmati rice, no quinoa b/c I'm not a fan of it. Oh and also I made your cardamom, pistachio, rose challah for Rosh Hashanah and I loved that as well. What a combination of flavors, everyone loved it. Thank you.
Thank you so much Suzi for making my recipes!!!
I love this soup so much! We tried it in a restaurant and have been on the hunt for a good recipe- and this is it! My kids were fighting for the leftovers…. But I had already eaten them for breakfast 🤣
Thank you so much Laurel! It's one of my all time favorite soups as well!!
Yum! This had incredible flavor and was super simple to make. Can't wait to have it again for leftovers!