A bowl of lentil soup can serve as a quick midweek meal that will fill you up. The history of lentils can be traced back to about 8000 B.C. They are one of the oldest domesticated crops and have been found on the banks of the Euphrates River – now northern Syria. Along with the Egyptians, there is evidence that the ancient Romans and Hebrews consumed this humble legume.
The lentil's tiny appearance can be misleading – it is a powerhouse of nutrients. Lentils are high in protein and fiber, low in fat, and contain folate, iron and potassium. While there are hundreds of varieties, with about 50 cultivated for food, the three types of lentils that are most often used in recipes are red, green and brown. You can get them at most supermarkets either dried or canned.
Three Most Popular Types of Lentils
Brown lentils are the least expensive of the three types and are great for when you want to make vegan burgers or soups. They have a nutty flavor that can sometimes lean toward being sweet.
Green lentils are also called French green lentils or lentilles du Puy. They stay firm even when they are fully cooked and have a bit of a nutty taste. They are a good addition to salads.
Red lentils are the fastest type to cook. They change to a golden color when done and are sweeter than green lentils. Red lentils are ideal for pureeing to thicken soups and in Indian dal.
Store Lentils to Remain Fresh
Try to use dried lentils within a year or they will dry out and be harder to cook than when they were fresh. Keep them in a cool dry place in an airtight container. Once cooked, lentils can be stored in the fridge or even frozen. Keep unopened canned lentils in a cool cupboard.
Prepare and Cook Lentils for Soup
Prepare dried lentils by sorting through them to remove any debris. Then, using a strainer or colander, rinse off any traces of dirt. Do not mix older lentils with newer ones because that may affect cooking times; fresher ones tend to be moister and cook faster. Lentils do not require soaking as other legumes do. To avoid overcooking or undercooking your lentils check them during the cooking process. While the recipe may have cook-time variables such as altitude, the freshness of the lentils can affect that. The red ones are usually done in about 20 minutes, brown lentils cook in roughly 30 minutes and green lentils can take about 40 minutes.
Lentils taste great when flavored with garlic, cumin and thyme.
Easy to Make Hearty Lentil Soup
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes | Prep Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 6
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- kosher salt
- 1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with medium green chilies
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- freshly ground black pepper
- grated pecorino Romano cheese to finish
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot on medium to medium-high heat.
- When hot, add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and a pinch of salt.
- Cook the vegetables until they have softened a bit, then add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, broth and black pepper to taste.
- Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. It might be necessary to add more water if the soup gets too thick.
- Remove bay leaf and serve with grated cheese on top.