Turkish red lentil soup (kırmızı mercimek çorbası) is velvety, comforting, and nutritious! So easy to make with lentils, veggies, and spices — and it’s ready in about 30 minutes!
Turkish red lentil soup, or mercimek çorbası, is a new favorite of mine — it's velvety and creamy, despite containing absolutely no cream!
Red lentils breakdown and soften easily during the the cooking process, which is how you get the creamy texture in this Turkish soup without the added fat. When I need to throw together a quick and healthy dinner, red lentils are one of my go-tos. Fast-cooking and delicious, these tiny legumes are a good source of both protein and fiber. They absorb seasonings easily, so there’s no limit to the different flavors I can play with.
Whether I’m whipping up a Greek red lentil soup or curried red lentils with sweet potatoes, I can always count on these nutrition bombs to deliver a meal that is both comforting and wholesome — with very little effort and this soup is no exception! Or, if you have brown or green lentils on hand, use them in salads with some texture, like Lentil Salad with Roasted Eggplant or Mediterranean Grain Bowls.
Kırmızı mercimek çorbası might remind you a little of dal, a rich South Asian stew made with different types of pulses (lentils among them), but the spices in this red lentil soup are distinctly Turkish.
Aleppo pepper flakes add a little kick and a hint of raisin-like sweetness. Naturally gluten-free and vegan, if you use vegetable broth, this cozy healthy soup makes a tasty appetizer or a filling main dish. If you're looking for a little something extra try it with some warmed pita bread or a simple lettuce salad.
Table of Contents
Ingredients for Turkish lentil soup
Mercimek çorbası is one of those simple recipes that looks humble but is loaded with delicious flavor. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Extra virgin olive oil: Using a good quality EVOO is important in this recipe. Not only do we use olive oil to saute the veggies, but we also use it as a finishing touch for the soup, infusing it with flavor from garlic and Aleppo pepper. I used our California Arbequina EVOO, a lovely everyday cooking oil with medium intensity.
- Aromatics: Chopped yellow onion and garlic.
- Vegetables: Carrots, tomato paste, and a russet potato. I like including a potato because it acts as a natural thickener, adding to the velvety texture of the lentil soup once you blend it. If you prefer soup that’s not as thick, you can leave it out.
- Broth: Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth both work well. To make this recipe vegan, use vegetable broth.
- Spices: Aleppo pepper, cumin, and coriander for heat and earthiness. You can find them all in our online shop!
- Red lentils: Pick through and rinse the lentils before adding them to the broth.
- Lemon: I love squeezing some lemon juice over my soup to instantly brighten it, especially when the soup has deep flavors like this one.
How to make Turkish lentil soup
Saute the vegetables, add broth and lentils, simmer, and blend. That’s the gist of this super easy soup recipe! Here’s how you make it:
- Saute the vegetables and aromatics. Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large cooking pot over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 to 3 chopped carrots, and 1 chopped russet potato. Season with a generous dash of kosher salt and cook until the veggies have softened, which will take 5 to 7 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and stir to coat everything.
- Add the broth, spices, and lentils. Pour in 6 cups of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, then add 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, and ½ teaspoon coriander. Add 1 cup red lentils and stir.
- Cook the soup. Let the soup boil for 4 to 5 minutes, then lower the heat to a very gentle simmer and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Put the lid on the pot but leave a small opening. Stir occasionally, and if the soup is getting too thick, add more broth.
- Blend the lentil soup. Once the lentils are tender, remove the pot from the heat and carefully blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Warm some extra virgin olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons EVOO to a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper and 1 clove minced garlic and cook briefly, until the garlic is golden and the oil looks a bit red from the Aleppo pepper. Pour the oil over the top of the soup to immediately add richness.
- Serve. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with lemon wedges on the side. I love squeezing a good amount of lemon juice over my soup before I dig in.
How to blend soup
I use an immersion or stick blender for this. They are so easy to use, but if you don't have an immersion blender you can blend soup using a countertop blender.
When using a standard or countertop blender take caution to let the steam escape so the pressure doesn't build up inside the blender at pop the lid off. Red lentil soup is delicious, but you don't want it all over your kitchen!
Follow a few simple guidelines when using a standard blender.
- Blend the soup in batches.
- Remove the fill cap (the removable piece in the center of the lid) to allow steam to escape.
- Place the lid on the blender without the fill cap and cover the fill cap opening with a folded kitchen towel. Place your hand on the kitchen towel and hold it firmly before turning on the blender.
What to serve with Turkish red lentil soup
Serve this soup as an appetizer or a main. Here are some ideas for both:
- Serve it as an appetizer before shish kofta or lahmacun.
- To serve it as a main, start off with a Turkish salad like piyaz, and enjoy the soup with some fluffy warm pita bread or simit for a full Turkish feast!
How to store and reheat leftover soup
Leftover Turkish red lentil soup will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but it will thicken up once it cools.
To reheat the soup, pour it into a pot and add a little broth or water to thin it out to your desired consistency.
Can you freeze mercimek çorbası?
Kırmızı mercimek çorbası is an excellent option for batch-cooking, because it freezes really well!
Simply allow it to cool before popping it in freezer-safe containers. I like freezing individual servings, so I can quickly pull them out of the freezer for a last-minute lunch. Thaw the soup overnight in the fridge and reheat.
More lentil soup recipes
Looking for the BEST red lentils to use?
Slightly sweet, creamy, and able to easily absorb flavors from aromatics and spices, our red split lentils are also super nutritious, with lots of protein and fiber. Plus, cooking them is a breeze: no soaking required!
Turkish Lentil Soup (Mercimek Çorbası)
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
- 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium russet potato, peeled and small diced or chopped
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper, divided
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 1 large lemon, cut into wedges
- In a large Dutch oven or cooking pot, heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Add the onions, 2 minced garlic cloves, carrots, and potatoes. Season with a good dash of kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened (about 5 to 7 minutes).
- Add the tomato paste and toss to coat the vegetables with the paste, then add the broth 1 teaspoon of Aleppo-style pepper and the rest of the spices.
- Add the lentils and stir.
- Allow the soup to come to a rolling boil for 4 to 5 minutes, then lower the heat and cover the Dutch oven with the lid leaving a small opening.
- Let the soup simmer on the lowest heat setting for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the lentils and the vegetables are completely tender. (Check occasionally and give the soup a stir as needed. If it is getting too thick, add a little bit more vegetable broth about ½ to 1 cup more).
- Remove the pot from the heat and carefully blend the soup using an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. (Alternatively, transfer the soup to a standard blender, let some of the steam escape. Blend in batches until all of the soup is smooth.)
- To finish, in a small skillet, warm about 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the remaining Aleppo pepper and minced garlic and cook briefly until the garlic is golden brown and the oil has taken on a red hue from the Aleppo pepper. Remove from the heat and pour the warmed oil all over the soup.
- Serve with lemon wedges to the side.
- What to do if you don't have an immersion blender: Just use a blender or food processor instead. Wait for the soup to cool, though, to avoid accidents.
- What to serve with Turkish lentil soup: If you're serving it as an appetizer, try it before shish kofta or lahmacun. As a main meal, I like to start it off with some piyaz, and serve the soup with warm pita.
- How to store leftovers: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it in freezer-safe containers.
- Visit Our Shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils, spices, lentils, and grains.