I’ve been making different variations of this Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup for about ten years now, since I first began to seriously follow a vegetarian lifestyle in college. Over the years this recipe has evolved with me and I think I’ve perfected it! It’s a great beginner-friendly recipe that tastes impressive and complex despite how simple it is to make.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Quick and easy. This soup comes together in about 30 minutes in one pot. The time can be cut down even more if you’ve presoaked your lentils.
- Budget-friendly. Made entirely with simple whole foods and pantry staples, this recipe is super affordable! I popped all the ingredients into a Kroger pickup cart and the total came to just under $9, without the spices.
- Packed with flavor. This recipe relies on lots of aromatic veggies and spices for high impact flavor! Leftovers taste even better after the flavors have had a chance to marry in the fridge.
- Healthy and nourishing. Lentils are rich in protein, fiber and nutrients that will leave you feeling satisfied and energized.
- Onion, garlic & ginger. Every good soup needs an aromatic, flavorful base. Protip: Keeping your ginger in the freezer makes it 10x easier to grate with a microplane!
- Jalapeño. If you aren’t a fan of spice, remove the seeds and ribs before dicing. You can even substitute in red or green bell pepper.
- Tomato paste. This adds an extra boost of deep flavor when cooked with the aromatics until it’s a dark rust color.
- Cumin, coriander, paprika & turmeric. Our spice blend, inspired by Indian cuisine.
- Carrots. These add a sweet, earthy flavor and beautiful color to our soup. They can be finely diced or grated. I prefer grating them — it really helps them melt into the soup.
- Red lentils. While you can technically use a different variety of lentil, I think red lentils work best for this recipe. They soften much more when cooked as compared to a green or brown lentil, and they give the soup a thicker, almost creamy texture. They also cook up much faster since they’re split.
- Vegetable broth. Any kind should work just fine.
- Coconut milk. Optional but recommended to make this soup a little creamier and to add a light, coconutty sweetness.
- Fresh lemon juice. Add in at the end to brighten up all the flavors.
How to Make Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup
- Sauté onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeño together in oil or vegan butter until the mixture begins to slightly caramelize. Taking a little bit of extra time to develop that color will give the soup so much extra flavor!
- Add in tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it goes from a bright red color to a darker rust color. This process also helps to create a ton of extra robust flavor.
- Add in the spices along with a tablespoon of water and stir them into the aromatic mixture to form a paste. Cook this for an additional 1-2 minutes to cook out the raw flavor of the spices. If it starts to look too dry or the liquid cooks off too quickly, add an extra splash of water and reduce the heat slightly.
- After a few minutes cooking the spices, deglaze the pan with veggie broth. Add in carrots and red lentils and bring to a gentle boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
- Stir in coconut milk and fresh lemon juice and it’s ready to serve! I think this Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup tastes delicious topped with fresh cilantro and extra red pepper flakes.
Tips for the Best Carrot and Lentil Soup
Take time to lightly caramelize the aromatics. Sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeño a bit longer than you normally would sauté onions for a soup. You want to build some golden brown color, as this will bring out extra savory and sweet flavors that produce a delicious base for the Carrot and Lentil Soup.
Cook the tomato paste until it darkens in color. When it’s bright red, the tomato paste will have a tinny, bright flavor which improves as it becomes a deeper rust color. This essentially concentrates the natural sugars in the tomato paste, and the browning enhances a dish’s umami quality.
I love adding fresh chopped cilantro to this dish — it really freshens up the flavor.
Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup can be eaten on its own, or with a side of steamed rice (I love basmati with this dish) if you want an even more budget-friendly, satiating meal.
No coconut. If you don’t enjoy the flavor of coconut milk, you can use homemade cashew cream or a store-bought vegan heavy cream alternative such as Country Crock Plant Cream or Silk Heavy Cream. You could also use a plain unsweetened yogurt that you think would taste good in a savory context. Or, you can leave out the coconut milk altogether and simply add extra veggie broth.
Soaked lentils. Soaking lentils prior to cooking can make them easier to digest. If you do choose to soak your red lentils overnight, reduce the veggie broth added to the recipe slightly.
Extra veggies. This recipe is a great blank canvas to add other types of vegetables. Almost any kind would taste delicious in this soup, but a few suggestions are sliced mushrooms, riced cauliflower, chopped zucchini or eggplant, or some fresh baby spinach.
Storage and Reheating
Like many soups, I think this recipe might taste even better as leftovers! There are so many flavors from the aromatics and the spices and they really get a chance to meld together in the fridge.
Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup can be reheated on the stove or microwave. Lentil soups can sometimes thicken when chilled, so you may choose to add an extra splash of water while reheating to get it back to a thinner consistency.
It stores well in an airtight container for about 5 days. This is a recipe that also freezes and defrosts well, in case you want to keep a few servings on standby for an easy lunch or weeknight dinner.
More Easy Dinner Recipes
- Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff – Hearty, savory & creamy.
- Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup – One-pot, healthy, and budget-friendly.
- Gochujang Tofu – Spicy, savory and protein-packed.
- Butternut Squash Curry – One-pot, autumnal, warm and cozy.
Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup
- cutting board and knife
- microplane optional, for grating ginger
- stock pot or Dutch oven
- wooden spoon
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 1 inch thumb ginger grated
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 jalapeños finely diced (remove seeds to make less spicy)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3 medium carrots peeled and grated
- 1 cup red lentils picked over and rinsed until water runs clear
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 lemon juiced (about 1 tablespoon of juice)
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk or cream (optional)
- salt and pepper to preference
To Garnish (Optional)
- fresh cilantro
- Heat olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes (if using), and allow to bloom for about 1 minute to extract the flavors.
- Add in onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño and sauté for 5-8 minutes, until the mixture takes on an even golden brown color. If it starts to stick or darken too fast, add a splash of water to deglaze, and reduce the heat slightly.
- Once a golden brown color is achieved, add in tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring often, until it goes from a bright red to a deep rust color.
- Add in the spices (ground cumin, coriander, paprika, and turmeric) and a tablespoon of water and stir until well-combined. Cook out the raw flavor of the spices for about a minute.
- Deglaze the pan with vegetable broth. Add in the thoroughly rinsed red lentils and grated carrots and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low or medium-low to maintain a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
- Stir in coconut milk or cream and lemon juice. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to preference. (Salt will vary depending on sodium content of your vegetable broth.)
- Serve alone or with basmati rice. Goes well garnished with fresh cilantro.