Curried Tomato & Red Lentil Soup

pinit fg en rect gray 28 Curried Tomato & Red Lentil Soup

Curried Red Lentil and Tomato Soup Curried Tomato & Red Lentil Soup

It’s a brilliant spring day in Portland, Oregon, and with the wind chill factored in, around 37 degrees. I bundled up in several layers and topped those off with my heaviest winter coat, scarf, and gloves in order to walk my customary loop from the Pearl district to the Northwest district, over to Burnside, and then back again, about 4 miles. With a Walk Score of 91 out of 100 (Walker’s Paradise), walking is definitely part of my daily regimen when I am in Portland, even when it’s cold. Plus, I need to make up for all the chocolate I ate in February.

Today, I saw only one cherry tree in full blossom, but quite a few trees are at least beginning to bud. Daffodils are suddenly everywhere. The birds are back in droves and a chipmunk scampered out to me on an eye-level branch and put out his hands, as if to say, “Hey lady, got a spare peanut?” Yes, spring has finally sprung in the Northwest.

Curried Red Lentil Soup Ingredients Curried Tomato & Red Lentil Soup

The average minimum temperature for Portland in March is 39 degrees, with an average maximum temperature of 56 degrees. Still cold in other words. And even though the Portland Farmers Market opens on March 21st (just in time for my birthday), I am thinking more about hearty, soul and body warming dishes than sprightly spring salads and grills.

In case you are on the same track in your corner of the world, I just put the finishing touches on the Lentil Primer. Check it out for basic guidelines on availability, selection, storage, preparation, cooking, and partnering with other ingredients. This is one ingredient that deserves wider appreciation and creativity in the kitchen. We shamelessly devoured the following soup, which magically got better and better with each day in the refrigerator. Now I need to make another batch quick before MauiJim notices there is none left.

Curried Red Lentil and Tomato Soup 4 stages Curried Tomato & Red Lentil Soup












Curried Tomato & Red Lentil Soup

Red lentils are wonderful legumes. They look as good as they taste—something of a feat for a member of the legume family. This soup is a casual meal in a bowl, with layers of flavor, heat, and spice—plus a nice balance between the sweetness of the vegetables and the acidity of the lemon juice and sour cream. It tastes best if made a day or two ahead, but we can never wait.

INGREDIENT NOTE If you don’t want the heat, omit the chiles.

2 tablespoons cold-pressed olive oil

4 cups chopped onion (2 large onions)

1 tablespoon minced or pressed garlic

2 tablespoon Madras brand curry powder

2-3 chile de arbol dried chiles, stemmed and crumbled (or ½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper)

1 pound Washington red lentils, rinsed and checked for extraneous material

8-9 cups flavorful chicken stock, approximately (or vegetable stock)

two 14½ ounce cans chopped tomatoes (3 cups)

1½ cups chopped carrot (about 3-4 carrots)

1½ cups chopped celery (about 3-4 stalks)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

fine sea salt, to taste

freshly ground white pepper, to taste

6 TBS. lemon juice


3/4 cup sour cream or Greek-style yogurt, whisked briefly to smooth

small handful parsley leaves

4 very thin slices of lemon, quartered into wedge-shaped pieces

  1. In a soup pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onions, partially covered, over low heat until softened but not browned. If the onions begin to stick and brown before they are softened, add a little of the chicken stock.
  2. When softened, add garlic, curry powder, and crumbled dried chiles. Cook slowly for another minute or two.
  3. Add the lentils, chicken stock, and tomatoes; stir and bring to a simmer.
  4. Simmer slowly, partially covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are almost tender.
  5. Add the carrots and celery and continue simmering for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender-crisp and still colorful.
  6. Stir in lemon juice.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding a little more chicken stock if necessary to achieve a medium-light consistency.
  8. If desired, let cool, then refrigerate for several hours or days, until needed.
  9. To serve, rewarm the soup.
  10. Ladle into wide, shallow bowls, add a dollop of sour cream to each bowl, position a parsley leaf or two into the sour cream, and then position a tiny wedge of lemon next to the parsley.

Makes twelve 1-cup servings.

pf button big Curried Tomato & Red Lentil Soup
About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.


  1. Oh, I just love this website! So pretty and tasty! I’m on the other side of the country on the coast of Massachusetts, but red lentil soup is a favorite winter meal…my mom can’t stop eating it! I add lots of carrot and sweet potatoes for a sweet, yummy, soup that just might challenge chicken soup for it’s health building properties.

    • Diane, on the coast of Massachusetts you say? After a few trips over the past couple of years, I am now officially in love with Boston, the Cape (including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket) and all the way to northern Maine. What a beautiful corner of the world! And the seasonal produce and seafood is almost identical to the Northwest. Ifounf myself fantacising about a farmhouse on the coast with a big garden and kitchen to match. :-) Actually one of the great folks I tweet with on Twitter is a real estate broker for bed and breakfast properties in Maine. So tempting.

  2. That lentil soup looks really good!

  3. I love comfort food and this lentil soup would be right up there! Looks wonderful!

  4. Looks great! I make one similar all the time. I add some potatoes during the summer period and half a can or so of coconut milk late in the cooking. It ups the calories a bit but the soup is creamy wunderful!


  1. […] This is one ingredient that deserves wider appreciation and creativity in the kitchen. We shamelessly devoured the following soup, which magically got better and better with each day in the refrigerator. Now I need to make another batch quick before MauiJim notices there is none left. Curried Tomato and Red Lentil Soup | LunaCafe […]

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