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Red Lentil Soup with Spinach & Lime

I am intrigued by the color and flavors in this soup and after it was first prepared for me by a friend after I had a baby, it soon became my standard meal train soup. The turmeric turns the red lentils a rich yellow color, the small lentils break apart and blend easily to provide a creamy and smooth soup, and the addition of spinach and lime juice is perfection. This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" and is one to remember. This soup is gluten free and easily vegan. While it is traditionally served over rice, it also goes well over roasted cauliflower and can be topped with chopped pistachios for a nutty texture.

Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)

  • 1 pound red lentils, rinsed and sorted

  • 1 T turmeric

  • 1 T salt

  • 4 T butter, or olive oil, divided

  • 2 quarts water

  • 1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)

  • 1 t ground cumin

  • 1/2 t ground mustard

  • 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro

  • Juice of 2-3 limes, and additional wedges for serving

  • 3-4 cups fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped

  • 1 cup basmati, or other long grain rice

  • Optional: sour cream or Greek yogurt for garnish


  1. In a large soup pot, or instant pot, pour in lentils with water and add turmeric, salt and 1 T butter or oil, bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 minutes (if using an instant pot, turn on soup mode and then manually vent)

  2. Meanwhile, sauté onions in 1.5 T butter with cumin and ground mustard, until soft. Stir in chopped cilantro and turn off heat after a minute

  3. Add onion mixture to lentils and use a stick blender to puree for a smoother soup, squeeze in lime juice and puree again, keep simmering on low

  4. Sauté chopped spinach in 1.5 T butter or oil until wilted, adding a sprinkling of salt

  5. Cook rice according to directions, typically 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, bring to boil and allow to steam on low until small holes appear in top rice layer.

  6. For serving, place 1/3 cup cooked rice, pour over 1-2 ladles of soup, add sautéed spinach on top, adding a dollop of sour cream and lime wedge*

*Note #1: omit sour cream and use olive oil to keep vegan

*Note #2: for ease of serving or transport, you can mix fresh spinach (no need to sauté first) and rice into the soup, convenient, but not as nice of a presentation

Note #3: try pouring soup over roasted cauliflower or adding chopped pistachios on top


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