Red Lentil Soup

Cooking up some red, red “pottage” (lentil soup)…

Red Lentil Soup is one of my great favorites. I used to enjoy a cup every day when I was making it regularly in the Cafe. Not only is it delicious but it has a long history of Middle Eastern and biblical associations. I always think of Esau so craving the “red red” stuff his younger brother Jacob was making that he sold his birthright for it.

I admit, though, I am skeptical that the lentil “pottage” or stew Jacob made was anything like the red lentil soup I make. Red lentils turn kind of a beige color when cooked, and I add some fresh tomato and a bit of tomato paste to my soup to restore the color. Tomatoes were not available to the ancient Israelites. I also use carrots for some color, and they were available — but that’s still not enough to explain Isaac doubling the “red” in his description. Sumac, a popular Middle Eastern seasoning with a lemony flavor, is a possibility. On its own it has a “red red” hue, but it would require too much to get that noteworthy color in the soup itself.

Still, I like to imagine the biblical scene when I am making Red Lentil Soup in my own kitchen and savoring the wonderful aroma.

Red Lentil Soup
Red Lentil Soup


(Serves 8)

  • Red lentils, dried, 1 lb.
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Garlic, 2 tsp., minced
  • Celery, 3 stalks, small diced
  • Carrots, 3 medium, small diced
  • Onion, 1/2 lg Spanish onion, diced
  • Plum tomatoes, 2-3, petite diced
  • Tomato paste, 3 oz.
  • Water, after adding tomatoes and paste, add water to 10 cups
  • Lemon, juice of 1
  • Sea salt, 1 TB
  • Cumin, 1 TB, slightly rounded
  • Hot paprika, 1/2 tsp. (or more, to taste)
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, chopped


  1. Petite dice washed celery, onion and carrots.
  2. Sauté minced garlic in olive oil. When softened, add diced veggies.
  3. When veggies are cooked, add lemon juice, tomatoes, water and seasonings.
  4. Bring tomatoes, veggies and water to a boil.
  5. Add prepared lentils.
  6. Cook soup until beans are tender.
  7. Check seasoning and consistency and adjust if needed.
  8. Stir in chopped cilantro and serve.

Ideas? Would like to hear from you!