A simple mid-week meal that can be easily adapted for the seasons, or for whatever produce is lurking in your fridge crisper. Lentils offer the balance of low glycemic index carbohydrate with a good amount of protein to help sustain you.
These smokey August days have got me thinking about the end of summer, and nothing symbolises the end of summer more than a steaming bowl of hearty soup. Lentil soup, for me, is the silver lining to the end of the long days and warm weather and as the days get shorter the compromise of warming lentil soup makes the transition into autumn that much easier. This easy curry lentil soup is my go-to soup, and really can be adapted for any season. For a summer soup, use up your zucchini, kale and carrots and come winter think about substituting the zucchini for butternut squash, yam or sweet potato.
“Lentils are not only a good sources of iron, protein and B-vitamins, they are also very cost efficient. Per gram of protein lentils cost only 1.6 cents per gram, compared to meat at 4.5 cents per gram”
Nutrition Benefits of Eating Lentils
Lentils Are a Good Source of Iron
Lentils and other members of the legume family are one of the best sources of iron on a plant-based diet. One cup of cooked lentils can have up to 6mg of iron; most adult women require up to 18mg of iron per day, while adult men require 8mg. The type of iron coming from plant sources (legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, grains) is called non-haem iron and is not as well absorbed by the body as iron coming from animal sources (haem iron).
How To Maximise The Absorption of Iron: Vitamin C helps to absorb the iron from non-haem sources more efficiently, so adding some fresh lemon juice to a lentil soup (heat degrades Vitamin C) is a great way to ensure maximum iron absorption is happening. Pre-soaking your lentils can also help, see more information in notes below.
Lentils Are A Good Source of Zinc
With many Canadians thought to be deficient in this important mineral, it is important to consider foods that can offer this valuable nutrient. If you are following a plant-based diet, lentils and other legumes may be one of your top source of zinc. Men need at least 11mg of zinc per day, while women need a little less at 8mg per day.
How to Maximise The Absorption of Zinc: Zinc, along with iron and other minerals, is better absorbed from grains and legumes with some pre-soaking, fermentation or germination. See below for more information on pre-soaking, or check out my blog post on maximising zinc absorption here.
Sustainability of Eating Lentils
Lentils Fix Nitrogen
Lentils fix nitrogen in the soil which allows plant nutrients to be recycled and protects the soil from erosion. It also decreases our dependence on synthetic fertilizers which can pollute waterways and reduce the soils ability to retain nutrients.
Lentils Are an Inexpensive Protein Source
Lentils are very cost effective. Many populations in developing countries rely on lentils and other legumes as a cheap source of protein. This includes daal in India, tempeh in Indonesia, hummus in the Middle East, tofu in China or refried beans in Latin America. One serving of lentils can cost less than $1, whereas the same portion of meat can cost upwards of $4.
Eating Lentils Decreases Our Carbon Footprint
Beef is one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gasses and produces 13 times more carbon dioxide equivalents compared to legumes. By replacing one meat dish with one lentil dish per week we can drastically reduce our carbon footprint.
Lentil Soup Notes
Making The Lentil Soup Seasonal
Lentil Soup can be so versatile, I’ve added many different vegetables to this base recipe over the years.
In The Spring and Summer: Try it with chopped green beans added just a few minutes before it’s finished cooking, or mushrooms added at the same time as the zucchini.
In The Fall and Winter: Use chopped 1″ cubes of sweet potato or yam added with the crushed tomatoes, adding the red lentils 10 minutes later. Omit the zucchini but keep the carrots.
Mastering the Consistency of Lentil Soup
One of my secret strategies to making an awesome lentil soup is to remove 1 cup of soup once everything is finished cooking, and quickly pulsing this in a blender or food processor before adding it back to the rest of the soup. This adds amazing texture and thickens up the soup to just the perfect consistency. If you have a hand stick blender this would work too, just be careful to not over blend, we still want some texture. Do a few quick blitzes maximum.
Preparing Your Lentils
Red lentils do not need to be pre-soaked and can usually be added straight into the recipe without any pre-preparation. Sometimes there will be a few tiny pebbles mixed in with the lentils, especially if purchasing from a local source, so a quick rinse will be necessary. Ideally any lentil or legume should be pre-soaked, and this is to help remove some of the phytic acid or phytates which have been referred to as ‘anti-nutrients’. Soaking helps us to better access minerals including zinc and iron, and this is especially important for those following a plant-based diet. For more information on maximizing absorption of zinc see my post here.
How Long To Pre-Soak Legumes: There is no definite length of time for soaking lentils and other legumes. As a general rule, I try to aim for at least 12 hours for smaller legumes and 24 hours for larger beans. I would say 4 hours would be a minimum for smaller lentils, including these red lentils. Remember, eating lentils that haven’t been pre-soaked is absolutely fine; lentils are one of my top ‘superfoods’ and still offer many health benefits even if they haven’t been pre-soaked.
For more information on how to prepare lentils see my post How To Cook Lentils.
Meal Planning with Lentil Soup
Lentil Soup is one of the easiest meals to prepare in batches and freeze for later. Lentils freeze well; try freezing in individual 2 cup containers to have for lunch during those busy weeks.
Stocking Your Pantry: Lentils are a great staple to always keep stocked in your pantry. If you have an onion and some garlic laying around, combine these with any leftover vegetable scraps, herbs and spices, and with the addition of some dry lentils makes a quick and easy meal.
There are so many different types of lentils out there and any would work in this soup. Red lentils take the least amount of time to cook. If you are using green or puy lentils, add an additional 10 minutes cooking time to the recipe.
My Other Favourite Lentil Soup Recipes
If you have checked out some of my other recipes you probably know I’m a big fan of lentil soups. Some of my other favourites include Delicious Curried Squash and Lentil Soup, Mixed Lentil and Bean Winter Warming Soup and Vegetarian Greek Lentil Soup with Lemon and Feta. Red lentils tend to be my go-to for soups because they break apart nicely, creating a thicker soup consistency. They are great if you are attempting to introduce lentils into skeptical family members diets.
Did you make this recipe? Please let me know how it turned out for you! Share it on Pinterest and leave a comment below. I would love it if you shared a picture of your recreation on Instagram so I can take a look, and be sure to tag me @theconsciousdietitian.
Easy Curry Lentil Soup with Kale
A simple weeknight favourite this easy lentil soup is a great source of plant-based protein and iron. This recipe freezes well and makes convenient lunches for those busy work weeks. Try it blended and no one will even know there are lentils in there.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp ginger minced
- 1 tbsp garam masala* ground
- 1 tsp turmeric ground
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- 4 carrots diced
- 28 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
- 5 cups vegetable stock** organic
- 1 1/2 cup red lentils dry
- 1 medium zucchini chopped (~2 cups)
- 2 cups kale de-stemmed and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp chili flakes optional
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper ground
- 1 lemon
- plain yogurt optional
- cilantro or parsley chopped
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add onions sauteing until translucent, usually around 3-5 minutes. Add carrot and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until tender.
Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric and cumin and saute until fragrant, usually around 30 seconds.
Next add the canned tomatoes, stock, and red lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 8 minutes, then add the chopped zucchini. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until lentils are tender and have broken apart and the zucchini is cooked.
Add kale and turn off the heat. The kale does not have to cook, just wilt. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as necessary and add chilli if using. Remove from heat.
To serve squeeze lemon juice over individual servings of soup, and top with a dollop of plain yogurt, and chopped cilantro or parsley.
*Garam masala can be found in the spice section of some grocery stores, or in Indian specialty stores and is a combination of spices which may include cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay, black pepper, star anise, dried chilies, coriander and cumin. If you cannot find it, curry powder can be substituted.
**Homemade stock is best, otherwise look for a good quality one with no added MSG.
Make it vegan: Omit plain yogurt.
Add more protein: Add a drained can of chickpeas along with the kale.
Boost the vegetables: Add 2 cups of chopped mushrooms 5 minutes before adding the kale