Red lentil soup with lemon, tomato and cumin

Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash
This recipe started as something I read in the Washington Post Food section a couple of years ago. It's shifted and changed as I've played around with it and after having Samin Nosrat's Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat barge into my life three years ago, this soup took on a life of its own.

Her writings on heat introduced me to the wonder that is Aleppo pepper and her section on acid is what prompted me to add lemon juice to this recipe. This soup has no discernible lemon flavor but the acidity of the lemon makes all of the other flavors jump off the spoon. It's a remarkable effect and if you haven't read Ms. Nosrat's book, please do so!

All soups benefit from a long simmer and this one's no exception. However, this soup comes together in about 40 minutes and it would be a great mid-week meal as soon as it's done.

Red Lentil Soup


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 medium carrot
2 stalks celery
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or substitute ¼ teaspoon cayenne)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground achiote (also called ground annatto, optional for color)
1 liter vegetable or chicken stock
500 ml water
1 cup red lentils
4 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Chop and saute onion, carrot and celery in olive oil. Once the onions are opaque, stir in tomato paste, garlic, cumin, black pepper and Aleppo. 
  2. Add 500 ml (roughly two cups) of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Add liter (roughly a quart) of vegetable stock and cup of lentils. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes or until the vegetables and lentils are cooked through.
  4. Add lemon juice and then puree the soup with an immersion blender. Adjust seasonings to taste.