Smoky Red Lentil Soup with Spinach

Red lentil soup in a bowl with socca. There's a lemon wedge on the side, a spoon in the bowl, and an orange napkin beside the bowl.

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Yes, we are here! Our kitchens are full of warm smells, pots are simmering, the mirepoix is chopped, our aprons are splattered, and we are full-on soup fiends right now. The list of soup-joys is long, but hearty, scoopable, rich, creamy vegan bowl-hug? TOP O’ THE LIST, PALS.

This soup is ultra creamy and super smoky, full of vegetables, vegan, gluten-free, and the perfect blend between chunky and smooth with those little red lentils that just gently melt into soupy deliciousness. The final squeeze of lemon juice wakes everything up, and the honey is the perfect subtle sweet finish that you didn’t even know you needed. It begs to be dunked and dunked again with all kinds of breads, crackers, and flatbreads. So much flavor, so much nutrition, so many good feelings all around.

Don’t get us wrong here, we love a soup with a good bacony start like this one or yummy Italian sausage bits (stay tuned!), but this one boasts big, big flavors while still being totally plant-based.

In This Post: Everything You Need For Red Lentil Soup

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Smoky red lentil soup in a bowl with a metal spoon and socca.

Ingredients In This Red Lentil Soup

The best part of this recipe is that it comes together almost entirely from your pantry, making for an easy, simple, cozy weeknight dinner.

Here’s what we’re working with:

  • Veggies (onion, carrots, celery, spinach)
  • Spices (garlic, smoked paprike, cumin, turmeric)
  • Lentils
  • Vegetable broth
  • Coconut milk
  • Lemon to finish it all off

The Different Types Of Lentils

We love lentils! I mean, obviously we do.

But what’s the deal with all the different types? Red, green, brown, French, black, huh?

Here’s a quick breakdown and why red works so nicely here:

  • Red Lentils: The fastest-cooking lentils of them all! As you can see in this recipe, and this Instant Pot Cauliflower Curry, the lentils almost dissolve into the rest of the ingredients – leaving a perfectly textured soup. ️
  • Brown Lentils: The most common type – essentially, if it’s not specified what lentil you should use in a recipe, this is probably it! Super tender but hold their shape, making them perfect for these Red Curry Lentils and this Lentil Greek Salad with Dill Sauce.
  • Green Lentils: Very similar to brown lentils, but a little earthier and take a little longer to cook. These are also ideal for salads!
  • French Lentils: Essentially green lentils, but a little smaller!
  • Black Lentils: Another similar one to green or brown with a striking black color. We love them in this Perfect Baked Salmon with Lentils and Lemon Herb Sauce.

How To Make This Delicious Red Lentil Soup

Okay, so this is actually a pretty straightforward soup party. There’s the classic carrot/onion/celery trio who always show up early, then the garlic, cumin, and turmeric come in with a special guest – a clomp of beautiful smoked paprika. Once your cutie little red lentils join, the simmering does all the work and you get to quietly ghost away to your couch (or maybe stay and dance around if you’re a party person).

To make it happen:

  1. Build your smoky rich veg and spice base.
  2. Add your lentils and broth.
  3. Simmer away and enjoy all the cozy house smells.
  4. Pile in a couple handfuls of fresh spinach and coconut milk for creaminess.
  5. Finish with onion powder, garlic powder, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a honey drizzle (optional).

Fresh spinach and yummy dreamy coconut milk are always welcome on the guest list, but it’s really those party favors at the end that clinch it (are we going too far with this party analogy? possibly.) The onion and garlic powder add just a hint more concentrated flavor, and then you get that bit of acid from the lemon juice cutting through the richness.

Of course, if you’re going for a totally vegan get-together (okay, we’re done now), you’ll have to leave this out, but that honey drizzle at the end is such a unique surprise.

“I’m sorry, drizzle honey into my SOUP?!” you say. And yes. Yes, that is what we’re saying. The tiniest hint of sweetness to cap off this smoky soiree (whoops, did it again) is a real *chef’s kiss* moment.

Red lentil soup with spinach and socca in a bowl with a spoon.

What To Serve With Lentil Soup

This soup is so cozy and filling that it really doesn’t need anything else, BUT listen, it is also so extremely dippable! Thanks to the lentils it really thickens up making it IDEAL for soup dips.

  1. Crispy Socca that’s (also) gluten-free, crispy, and just…so good.
  2. No Knead Bread for a quick but elevated rip and dip situation
  3. Storebought naan or flatbread for ease.
  4. Simple Green Salad for something fresh.
  5. Chopped Greek Salad for a little step up!

A Deliciously Vegan Protein Powerhouse

There’s just so much to love about this one. So nutritious and satisfying thanks to the piles of veg and the nutrient-dense, full of good-for-you, powerhouse lentils.

It tastes like it should have taken hours to make with the complexity of the smoky spice, the tinge of coconut in the background, but it really comes together so easily. Creamy rich while being completely vegan (if you omit the honey, of course) and it will keep you filled up in belly and heart all the day through.

The deep richness from the spices, the creamy coconut milk finish, and the serious meatiness of the never-let-you-down lentils make this one not to be missed. Yes please forever.

Hello fall, we’re so very ready for you. ️

Red Lentil Soup: FAQs

Can you use different types of lentils in this soup?

Different types of lentils cook differently, so we’d really recommend red lentils in this case for the right texture. They’re just so good!

How can I make this soup in the Instant Pot?

Sauté your carrots, celery, and onions in the Instant Pot with a little bit of olive oil. Add in your garlic and spices and cook for an additional minute or two. Add in the broth and lentils and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes with a quick release when the soup finishes. Stir in the coconut milk, chopped spinach, salt, and lemon juice to finish.

How can I make this soup in a slow cooker?

Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, turmeric, red lentils, and vegetable broth to a slow cooker, and cook on high for 4 hours. Stir in the coconut milk, chopped spinach, salt, and lemon juice to finish.

What other proteins could I add to this lentil soup?

Chicken would be delicious! Just cook it in with everything else and then shred. And beans or crispy tofu bits would be delicious to keep things vegan-friendly!

Can I freeze this soup?

Absolutely! Just freeze in a freezer-safe bag or container.

Source notes: This recipe was inspired by a smoky red lentil soup our friends Alex and Sonja and their veg-friendly cookbook called Pretty Simple Cooking. I left out the balsamic, upped the amount of lentils, and added some extra finishers because this is just how I live my life, but the base of this soup came from their very lovely recipe.

A picture of Smoky Red Lentil Soup with Spinach

Smoky Red Lentil Soup with Spinach

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings


This Smoky Lentil Soup is ultra creamy and totally vegan! Packed to the brim with veggies, red lentils, coconut milk, and lots of spices, it’s a total win for the coziest months of the year! 


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • half of an onion, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and minced
  • 2 stalks celery, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • one 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
  • a lot of fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (more or less to taste)
  • juice of one lemon
  • garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, or honey to taste

For serving (optional):


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery; sauté until softened, about 5-10 minutes. 
  2. Add the garlic, spices, and lentils. Stir to combine and let it stay on the heat for just a minute to get the garlic smelling really good. 
  3. Add the broth. Bring to a simmer; place lid partially on the pot and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking time. 
  4. Add coconut milk, spinach, salt, lemon juice, and season to taste. (I like a little drizzle of honey, and a couple shakes of garlic powder, onion powder, and cranks of freshly ground black pepper.)
  5. Serve with socca or some other flatbread for dipping and dunking. Wholesome, colorful, and SO yummy!
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: lentil soup, vegan soup, red lentil soup

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