This fantastic spiced tomato soup with lentils makes an approachable yet surprisingly nuanced dinner straight from the pantry in 45 minutes. Vegan, gluten-free, and totally satisfying.
Why we love this recipe
Flavored with a combination of the Indonesian chili paste sambal oelek and the Indian ground spice blend garam masala, this spiced tomato soup with red lentils makes sense only in a globalized world. I'm glad it exists, though, because the flavors work so well together. It's:
- Simple, accessible, and weeknight-friendly
- A little different from the same old thing
- Unimpeachably nutritious
- Satisfying on its own or paired with crusty bread or naan
- Make-ahead and freezer-friendly
I first published this recipe here way back in 2011, adapted from Australian Women's Weekly magazine via a friend. I've since updated the post for clarity and made some tweaks to the recipe itself.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Red lentils (sometimes called masoor) are a wonderful, versatile ingredient. They're small and quick-cooking, full of protein and complex carbs, and great at soaking up flavors. There are several varieties commonly sold in the U.S., some smaller and redder, some a little bigger and more peach-colored. You can use them all interchangeably in this recipe.
- Canned or boxed diced tomatoes have just the right texture for this soup. They start with plenty of liquid and thicken up a bit with simmering.
- Reduced-sodium Imagine No Chicken Broth is my favorite boxed veggie broth by far, since it somehow magically has the flavor profile of a good chicken stock rather than being weirdly red and tasting tinny or sweet, as some other vegetable broths can do.
- Sambal oelek is a widely available Indonesian chili paste made from chilis, vinegar, and salt. It has a nice clean flavor profile and is very versatile. The amount used in this soup contributes a gentle, cozy heat that's more of a background note than anything. You can easily add more if you prefer without changing anything else.
- Garam masala is a ground spice blend that hails from India. There are many, many versions, but the ones in U.S. supermarkets tend to contain cardamom, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cloves, fennel, cinnamon, star anise, mace, and/or nutmeg, in varying proportions.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a great pot of spiced tomato soup with red lentils. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- First you'll cook the onion in the olive oil, and then add the garlic and ground spices.
- Stir in the sambal oelek and tomato paste, then add the rest of the ingredients.
- Give it all a good stir and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender and flavors have blended.
Expert tips and FAQ
This ingredient is usually pretty easy to find in U.S. grocery stores and online. But if that doesn't suit you for any reason, you can substitute sriracha, with or without a little bit of rice vinegar. The flavor profiles aren't identical by any means, but it's a pretty good swap.
Absolutely. Spiced tomato soup, like many soups, gets even better as the flavors have a chance to blend. It keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year, so make it anytime you like.
More favorite vegan soup recipes
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 2 small yellow onions (about 200 grams total), finely diced
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek
- ¼ cup (60 grams) tomato paste
- 2 28-ounce (793-gram) cans diced tomatoes
- 4 cups good vegetable broth
- ½ cup (70 grams) uncooked red lentils, rinsed well and drained
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- In a 5-quart heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onions and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, cumin, and garam masala and cook, stirring, one minute more.
- Stir in the sambal oelek and tomato paste.
- Add the diced tomatoes, broth, lentils, sugar, and cilantro, and stir to combine well.
- Raise the heat to high to bring the soup to a boil.
- Lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until lentils are very tender and flavors have blended, about 30 minutes.
- The amount if sambal oelek used in this recipe contributes a gentle, cozy heat that's more of a background note than anything. You can easily add more if you prefer more spice, without changing anything else.
- Like many soups, this one gets even better as the flavors have a chance to blend. It keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year, so make it anytime you like.
- This recipe is adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly via a friend. I first shared it here in 2011 and have made a few tweaks over the years.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 271Total Fat: 8.5gCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 8.5gProtein: 10.4g