This Greek Red Lentil Soup with Lemon has been adapted from two of my favourite cookbooks. The addition of crumbly feta and fresh rosemary on top makes it a quintessentially Greek recipe, though this can be omitted for a vegan red lentil soup more representative of a Turkish or Lebanese red lentil soup.
Red lentils are my absolute favourite lentil to cook with. They have the shortest cooking time (12 minutes!) and once cooked, they break apart to help form a thick and satisfying soup consistency. I recently learned that red lentils are, in fact, brown lentils, but without the outer skin! If you have browsed my other recipes you will see that 99% of my lentil dishes contain the humble red lentil, and 98% of those are curry-based dishes.
This recipe for Greek Red Lentil Soup with Lemon is adapted from two of my favourite cookbooks – Rebar from Victoria, and Whitewater Cooks from Nelson because, well why not enjoy the best of both worlds.
“Legumes are a great source of protein, dietary fibre and contain minerals such as iron and zinc. They are also great sources of B vitamins as well as phytonutrients.”
Health Benefits of Lentils
Lentils and Protein
Lentils are an important source of protein in the plant-based world, and while they are not a ‘complete’ protein, a healthy balanced diet can ensure that all the essential amino acids are available.
Lentils and other legumes are also inexpensive sources of protein that have a minimal environmental impact. Legumes have the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, which allows plant nutrients to be recycled and decreases our dependence on synthetic fertilizers.
Iron and Zinc
The legume family is one of the best plant-based sources of iron. Make sure to combine your plant-based iron sources (non-haem iron) with a good amount of Vitamin C which helps to increase the absorption of this poorly absorbable iron. Another reason to add lemon to your red lentil soup!
They are also a great source of the mineral zinc. Just like iron and other minerals, zinc in lentils can be poorly absorbed when a food is high in a compound called phytic acid. See below for methods that can improve the availability of these important minerals.
Tips on Making Greek Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Use Fresh Rosemary
If available, use fresh rosemary to finish the soup. Adding dried rosemary to the feta will result in twig like bits that are not pleasant to chew on. Dried rosemary is fine to use in the actual soup.
While this will not change the taste or cooking time, soaking your lentils for at least 6 hours is a good idea to help remove the compound phytic acid. Phytates are naturally found in lentils and other legumes and can bind to the minerals making them less absorbable. This is mostly important for those following a plant-based diet, as bioavailable zinc and iron can be hard to come by. See my post How To Get Enough Zinc for the Vegans and Vegetarians for more information.
Add The Lemon At The End
The vitamin C in the lemon is important to help with the absorption of the non-haem iron in the lentils. Vitamin C is extremely sensitive to heat, so it is best to add the lemon once the soup has already finished cooking and the heat has been turned off.
Notes On Making Greek Red Lentil Soup With Lemon
Make It Vegan
Simply omit the feta cheese. Once the soup has finished cooking, season with some chopped fresh rosemary and lemon zest. Or see below for a naturally vegan version of this soup.
Making It a Turkish Red Lentil Soup
Turkey was my first experience with red lentil soup with lemon. They love their soup runny and tangy! To make a Turkish Red Lentil Soup, omit the feta cheese and rosemary, and don’t hold back on the lemon!
Making A Lebanese Red Lentil Soup
To make a Lebanese red lentil soup, omit the feta and rosemary. Add 1 tsp of cumin at the same time as the garlic. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
Making An Indian Red Lentil Soup
To make an Indian Red Lentil Soup, omit the feta, rosemary and lemon and add 1 tbsp curry powder at the same time as the garlic (option to add additional 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder). Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
Want Some More Red 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 Easy Curry Lentil Soup with Kale. 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.
Greek Lentil Soup with Feta and Lemon
- 2 cups red lentils dry
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 4 medium carrots diced
- 1 tsp pepper cracked
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp oregano dry
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups vegetable stock organic or homemade
- 1/2 lemon zested
- 2 lemons juiced
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbled
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary minced
- pepper cracked, to taste
- Start by rinsing the lentils in a colander under running water. Set aside to drain.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, 1 tbsp. rosemary, oregano and bay leaves. Stir well and sauté until carrots are tender about 5 minutes.
- Add the stock and the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer partially covered, until the lentils are soft and have broken apart (around 20-25 minutes).
- Remove the bay leaves. Decide at this point if you would like to puree the soup or not. I like to leave mine chunky.
- Season the soup with lemon zest and lemon juice. Decide if more salt and pepper is needed.
- To serve, combine the feta cheese, 1 tsp minced rosemary and fresh cracked pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle over hot bowls of soup and enjoy.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.