Red Lentil Carrot Ginger Soup
Oil-free vegan red lentil soup with spiced potatoes
An elegant first course in a cup or a hearty satisfying main course in a bowl, you can go either way with this Red Lentil Carrot Ginger Soup. Rich and flavorful, this oil-free vegan red lentil soup is and ready to serve in less than 45 minutes.
Red lentils are lentils that have had the outer hull removed and they are most often found split which is why they cook up really fast, usually in 20 minutes. Red lentils which have not been split also cook up fast, maybe 5 minutes more than the split. They should be rinsed prior to adding them to the pot. During cooking, red lentils will fade in color to yellow, but the carrots and red pepper will bring some of the orange hue back to the soup. Red lentils are almost always available in the bulk section of a well-stocked grocery store and also found already packaged in the rice and beans section of most grocery stores.
Carrots for the Red Lentil Soup
To keep some of that beautiful orange hue in the finished soup, try to find carrots with the deepest orange colour. Carrots from the Farmers market are beautiful these days. Orange carrots are the best for this soup for both taste and colour. Purple carrots, while orange inside, are not a good choice as they will make the soup grey in colour and they are not as sweet so they don’t balance the flavour the way orange carrots do.
Ginger for the Red Lentil Carrot Ginger Soup
I have used both older ginger (the ginger typically found in the grocery store) and young ginger found at the Farmers market for this soup and they both flavor up the soup nicely. Old ginger is identified by the outer skin which gets harder as it ages once picked and is about the color of a russet potato and very opaque. The skin gets more opaque as it ages and and the flesh becomes more piquante.
The skin on young or freshly harvested ginger is more translucent and sometimes has magenta and green hues in parts. Young ginger has more moisture, a brighter flavor and is less fibrous. When using older ginger, be sure to remove any long fibers before adding to the soup. If the ginger seems really tough instead of grating the ginger, you can cut crosswise into 1/8in coins, then blend in a hand bender or smash with a pounder.
Potatoes for the Red Lentil Carrot Ginger Soup
The spiced potatoes transform this soup with their wonderful texture and added spiciness. Yukon Gold are always a good choice as they hold shape and take well to spices. I also use purple potatoes (or purple yams found at the farmers market) for the same reason and they add another vibrant color to the bowl. But purple potatoes and yams are not as widely available. If you find purple and want to use, the directions remain the same, but you may want to leave out the turmeric. Turmeric makes the purple not as pretty.
Don’t skip the Red Pepper (paste, jarred or fresh)
Mild or sweet red pepper paste deepens the flavor and will bring back some of the bright orange hue. I have made with and without red pepper paste, but far prefer with the red pepper paste. Red pepper paste can be found at Mediterranean markets, Spanish markets and specialty grocery stores. The terms mild and sweet on the labels are the same in that the peppers don’t have any piquante or heat (some labels call it mild, some call it sweet). I find mild/sweet the best as the “hot” is overpowering for this recipe. If you can’t find the red pepper paste, jarred whole red peppers are a good replacement. Be sure to read and compare labels for the sodium content to find the most appropriate for you (sodium levels range from about 40mg to 400mg per tablespoon). When red bell peppers are in season, a blended fresh red bell pepper adds a wonderful taste and colour too.
Tools Used in this Recipe
- salad spinner
- scrub gloves or vegetable brush
- prep bowls
- Chef Knife
- Cutting Board
- white plate
- Dutch oven
- wooden spatula
- measuring cup
- hand blender (immersion blender)
- 4 potatoes
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper or 1/4 paprika and 1/8 cayenne
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 2 cups water
Red Lentil Soup
- 2 cups red lentils
- 1 cup finely diced onions
- 1/4 cup grated ginger plus 1 Tbls, divided
- 2 Tbls grated garlic about 4 cloves
- 2 cups grated carrot (2–4 carrots depending on the size)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsps ground coriander
- 2 tsps Aleppo pepper or 11/2 tsp paprika and 1/4 tsp cayenne use more if you like it piquante
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 3 Tbls sweet red pepper paste or 1 red pepper from a jar, blended to a puree
- 2 Tbls sweet white miso or chickpea miso or 1 tsp sea salt, optional
- 6 cups Mirepoix vegetable stock or water preferably hot
- Splash of apple cider vinegar optional, just before serving, about 1 Tbls
- Wash and peel the potatoes, Cut into bite size cubes. Usually this is cutting the potato into 8–10 pieces. Rinse and drain the cubes, then place the potatoes in a 2–4 qt. pot. Sprinkle a light coat of all of the spices listed for the potatoes, mix well and set aside.
- On a large white plate, pour a 1/2 cup at a time of the red lentils and check for non-lentil particles. Move to the side of the plate and add 1/2 cup more, repeat until the 2 cups have been checked. Place in a strainer, and set aside. It is better to rinse and drain right before adding to the pan because the lentils will clump together.
- Heat the braising pan to medium with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. When the water starts to boil (about 3–5 minutes), add the onions (don't let the water evaporate before adding the onions).Let cook a few minutes until they start to become translucent (3–5 minutes).
- Clear an area in the center of the pot and add the grated ginger. With the edge of the wooden spatula push the ginger down to form a layer. When it starts to stick and becomes fragrant (about 1–2 minutes) stir in with the onion.
- Clear an area again in the center of the pot and add the grated garlic. With the edge of the wooden spatula push the garlic down to form a layer. When it starts to stick and becomes fragrant (about 1–2 minutes) stir in with the onion and ginger.
- And one more time, clear an area in the pan and add the dried spices next. Allow to toast and become fragrant (about 1 minute). then stir in with the onion ginger garlic mixture.
- If the pan looks dry, add a 2–3 tablespoons of water and stir to lift up some of the mixture that is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the grated carrot.
- Add the sweet red pepper paste and mix in with the rest of the ingredients in the pot.
- Stir in the miso if using.
- Rinse and drain the lentils, then add to the pot and stir well to coat with the whole mixture.
- Pour in 2 cups of the vegetable stock or water mix well. Let cook a few minutes and go on to the next step to start the potaotes. (see link below for homemade vegetable stock recipe)
- In the meantime, add the 2 cups of water to the spiced potatoes, bring to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer stirring occasionally until the potatoes are done (a toothpick goes easily through or taste one). The potatoes are usually ready about 15 minutes after lowering the heat and around the same time as the soup. If ready before the soup is, turn off the heat and remove from burner until the soup is ready. The extra broth the potatoes make can go into the soup if you like.
- Continuing with the soup, pour in the rest of the water 1 cup at a time and stir after each addition. Place the lid on, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat medium low and let simmer for 20–30 minutes.
- Check the lentils after 20 minutes. The lentils should be soft when done. This is also a good time to taste to see what if anything needs to be added.
- Once the lentils are soft enough, you can blend a portion of the soup. If using an immersion blender, place the immersion in the soup and make sure the blade part is totally immersed in the soup liquid and blend in the same spot for a few seconds at a time. Continue until the soup becomes the consistency you like.
- If using a blender, ladle out 2 cups and put in the blender, allow to cool a few minutes before putting the lid on and blending. Put the lid on, while holding the lid down with a towel, blend until smooth then pour back in the soup pot.
- Just before you serve add the splash of apple cider vinegar and the extra tablespoon of grated ginger to the whole pot and taste again or add a few drops to each individual serving. Add more vinegar and/or ginger if desired.
- To serve, ladle into cups or bowls and add as many potato cubes as you like to each serving. For an added hit of piquant, sprinkle with a little Aleppo or cayenne.