If you ever thought lentils were bland or boring, the flavors in this easy lentil soup recipe will surprise you in a big way! This spicy lentil soup is loaded with aromatics and bold Mediterranean spices and amped up with spinach for a nutritious and satisfying vegan dinner.
It is no secret that I am a huge fan of lentils (yes, I’m obsessed)! Dried lentils are a year-round ingredient in my Mediterranean pantry, I really try not to run out of them. Unlike other dry legumes, lentils are easy to work with, requiring no fuss or overnight soaking. And they are an easy way to add heft and nutrition to your diet, especially since they pack lots of protein and fiber!
Lentil soup with a Mediterranean kick!
With green lentils, a bag of frozen spinach, and a few spices, you can make this wholesome one-pot meal in 30 minutes or less!
If you've tried plain steamed lentils, you’ve probably noticed their neutral taste with a subtle sweetness. That's why lentils take so well to different flavors.
In this lentil recipe, I start with onions and garlic cooked in good extra virgin olive oil, adding in Mediterranean spices like cumin, coriander, and sumac. The spicy kick comes from a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, which you can adjust to your taste if you don't want the soup to be too spice. A splash of lime juice is the bright pick-me-up finish, I highly recommend you don't skip it!
I prefer to keep it vegan, but this green lentil soup pairs well with a quick side of your favorite chicken sausage (you may get something similar to my earlier Italian sausage and lentils).
Best lentils to use for lentil soup
For this lentil spinach soup, I recommend using green lentils, black lentils, or small brown lentils. Texture is a big part of this dish, and I like that these varieties of lentils will cook to tender perfection while holding their shape.
Red lentils and yellow lentils cook faster than other lentil varieties, and they do tend to lose their shape becoming more on the mushy side. This makes red lentils perfect for thick and creamy soups like my Greek red lentil soup, where a silky consistency is the goal.
Ingredients: What you need for this lentil soup recipe
- Quality extra virgin olive oil – I like our Hojiblanca Spanish EVOO in this recipe. It is a moderately intense olive oil, with a finish that is both fruity and slightly bitter.
- Yellow onion – Use one large finely chopped onion
- Garlic – One to two large cloves, minced
- Spices – Ground coriander provides warm earthiness, ground cumin has a slight bitterness that goes well with sweet lentils, sumac is astringent with a bit of puckery sourness, and crushed red peppers add a hint of a kick. Any mild to spicy red pepper will work, like Aleppo-style pepper.
- Herbs – Dried mint flakes add a cooling, woody quality to the spicy lentil soup, while fresh flat leaf parsley added at the very end brings bright, peppery flavor.
- Pinch of sugar (optional) – This helps play up the natural sweetness of the lentils, but you can eliminate the sugar if you need to
- Pinch of flour – Use any flour of your choice. This is to give the soup a bit of thickness and body.
- Vegetable broth – Preferably low-sodium broth.
- Frozen cut leaf spinach – A one-pound bag of frozen spinach, no need to thaw: It goes into the pot straight out of the freezer!
- Lentils – Green, black, or small brown lentils. Rinse the lentils well and drain them before using in this recipe
- Fresh lime juice – Juice of 1 lime to finish the soup. The citrus will elevate the flavor and bring some brightness to this warm and comforting soup.
How to make lentil soup from scratch
Here’s how to make this spicy lentil soup (printer-friendly recipe below):
- Sauté the onions, herbs, and spices. Grab a large ceramic or cast-iron pot and heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add a chopped yellow onion and sauté until golden. Add a clove of chopped garlic, 1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander, 1 ½ teaspoons cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons sumac, 1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper, 2 teaspoons dried mint flakes, a pinch of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of flour. Cook for 2 minutes, and stir regularly.
- Add broth and the lentils and cook the soup. Add 6 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth and 3 cups of water to the pot. Turn up the heat to high and bring to a rolling boil. Add 1 ½ cups green lentils or small brown lentils that have been rinsed, along with 12 oz of frozen cut leaf spinach (straight out of the bag; no need to thaw). Keep the heat on high and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are fully cooked. (Depending on the age of your lentils, this can sometimes take up to 45 minutes.) Keep an eye on the liquid levels. Lentils absorb a lot of liquid, so you may need to add hot water if the soup starts looking dry.
- Finish with lime juice and fresh parsley. Stir in the juice of one lime and 2 cups chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley. Cover and remove from the heat. Allow the soup to rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot by itself, or with pita or your favorite crusty bread.
How long to cook lentils?
Green, black, or brown lentils, as recommended for this recipe, can take a while to cook. It depends on the lentil, but they can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to become tender. Older lentils tend to have a longer cooking time, so if your lentils have been sitting in the pantry for a long time, they may take longer than expected. Red lentils only take about 15 minutes to cook.
Make-ahead for even better flavor!
If you are able to, make this lentil soup recipe the day before you want to serve it. This will give the flavors a chance to meld better and will thicken up the soup as well, making it even more comforting.
Serve it with
Because this Mediterranean lentil soup is so hearty and filling on its own, you don't need to add much aside from your favorite pita or freshly baked rustic Italian bread to sop up all the soup. But I do like to start with a big salad for more plant-based goodness.
Looking for more vegan lentil soup goodness? Be sure to check out my hearty one-pot lentil stew. Flavorful, satisfying and so easy to make!
Leftovers and storage
Once it reaches room temperature, transfer the lentil soup to an airtight container and refrigerate. It will keep for up to 5 days. Reheat the soup in a saucepan over medium heat. You might need to add some water if the soup has become too thick.
More lentil recipes
Featured in this lentil soup recipe
Hungry for more? Here are all our Mediterranean Recipes!
Mediterranean Spicy Spinach and Lentil Soup
- extra virgin olive oil, I used Hojiblanca Spanish EVOO
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, chopped
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon sumac
- 1 ½ teaspoon crushed red peppers
- 2 teaspoon dried mint flakes
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 3 cups water, more if needed
- 12 ounces frozen cut leaf spinach, no need to thaw
- 1 ½ cups green lentils or small brown lentils, rinsed
- 1 lime, juice of
- 2 cups chopped flat leaf parsley
- In a large ceramic or cast iron pot, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil. Add the chopped onions and sautee until golden brown. Add the garlic, all the spices, dried mint, sugar and flour. Cook for about 2 minutes on medium heat stirring regularly.
- Now add the broth and water. Raise the heat to high and bring the liquid to a rolling boil; add the frozen spinach and the lentils. Cook for 5 minutes on high heat then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked to tender. (Partway through cooking, check the liquid levels, and if you need to add a little bit of hot water.)
- Once the lentils are fully cooked, stir in the lime juice and chopped parsley. Remove from the heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes or so. Serve hot with pita bread or your favorite rustic Italian bread.
- Best lentils for this lentil soup: For this lentil spinach soup, I recommend using green lentils, black lentils, or small brown lentils.
- Make-ahead tips: If you can, make this lentil soup recipe the day before you want to serve it. This will give the flavors a chance to meld better and will thicken up the soup as well, making it even more comforting.
- Leftovers and storage: Once it reaches room temperature, transfer the lentil soup to an airtight container and refrigerate. It will keep for up to 5 days. Reheat the soup in a saucepan over medium heat. You might need to add some water if the soup has become too thick.
- Visit our online shop to browse our lentils, quality extra virgin olive oils and all-natural and organic spices (like the coriander, cumin, and sumac used in this recipe)!
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2016, and has been recently updated with new information for readers' benefit.