Home » Turkish Red Lentil Soup (Kırmızı Mercimek Çorbası)

Turkish Red Lentil Soup (Kırmızı Mercimek Çorbası)

Turkish red lentil soup hits all the right notes. It’s refreshingly light but also deeply nourishing. It’s healthy – a wholesome blend of lentils, vegetables, and spices. And it is so darn easy to make.

Just half an hour and you’ll have bowls of soup for days…or just one meal, depending on how much you can slurp up in one go.

It’s been years since I’ve been to Turkey but I can’t think of the country without craving a bowl of this velvety, perfectly-spiced soup. From Istanbul to Kaş, from Pamukkale to Konya, and absolutely everywhere in between, the one constant was always this soup.

It’s such a simple soup, especially compared to the lavish Turkish breakfasts! The overwhelming variety of meze! The grilled meats! The freshly baked breads! And yet, that’s exactly why it became an every day, almost every meal must-have sort of dish.

It’s cozy comfort soup at its finest. So simple that it never overpowers, only complements. So simple that you never get sick of it.

Plus, it’s so healthy that you feel no guilt for slurping up bowl after bowl after bowl.

To top it all off, it’s ridiculously easy to make.

Oh, and if all that weren’t enough – it’s a very kid-friendly dish. The Aleppo chili that goes into it is a very mild chili that’s perfect as a gateway spice for kids. It has enough kick to it to be delicious while it’s gentle enough for my 5-year-old to easily handle.

Ingredients for Turkish Lentil Soup

For such a delicious dish, Turkish lentil soup is just a couple ingredients. Basically, lentils, vegetables, and spices. Such a simple combination has no business tasting this good and yet, here we are.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Red Lentils. These are wonderfully easy to cook and highly nutritious to boot. Low in calories and fat-free while being high in protein, fiber and even has a good amount of vitamins and minerals.

Vegetables. I’m using one large carrot, 1 medium onion, 1 tomato, 1 potato (Maris Piper), and 5 large garlic cloves. Keep in mind that the vegetable measurements are a suggestion, not a rule. Feel free to go heavy on the flavors you like and cut back or skip the ones you don’t.

Broth. You can use water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth. I almost always use chicken broth for the extra bit of flavor but also because I always have some on hand from the countless roast chicken carcasses we end up with. But don’t worry if you don’t have broth – water is just as good as it’ll get flavor from the vegetables and spices.

Spices. The only spices we’re using here are cumin, black pepper, and Aleppo chili. And we’ll be adding a bay leaf as well. If you don’t have Aleppo chili, substitute with Kashmiri chili, paprika, and/or cayenne.

Sauce. This is completely optional but I love to drizzle this on top for a bit of extra oomph. You’ll just need olive oil or butter and a teaspoon each of paprika and Aleppo chili.

And that’s it! Let’s get to making a bowl of this comforting Turkish red lentil soup!

How to Make Turkish Lentil Soup

1. Wash the lentils

Wash the red lentils until the water runs mostly clear.

Soak the lentils in a bowl of water while you chop and prep the rest of the ingredients.

2. Sauté veggies

Heat 1 tbsp of cooking oil in a large pot and add the onions and garlic cloves and sauté for about 2 minutes until lightly browned.

turkish lentil soup recipe

Add the carrots and potatoes and sauté again for another 2 minutes.

Add the tomato and saute until mushy – around 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Optional: Deglaze

Deglaze the pan using about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Scrape the bottom of the pot and mix through.

4. Cook the soup

Drain and add the lentils. Add all the spices, salt and the bay leaf. Stir to combine.

Pour in around 6 cups of water, vegetable or chicken broth. Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat. Skim the scum off the top.

Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are soft.

5. Blend it all

Blend everything up using either an immersion blender (aka that handheld blending wand) or a traditional blender. If you’re using a traditional blender, make sure you don’t fill it up to the top – the steam from the hot soup can put pressure on the lid and push it off.

If the soup is too thick, add a little more water or broth. Turkish lentil soup shouldn’t be too thick – it’s a velvety soup on the brothy side.

And that’s it! Your Turkish lentil soup is ready to enjoy.

Serve with fresh lemon wedges, extra spices (more Aleppo chili!), and/or dried mint.

6. Optional: Make the sauce

This soup is delicious as is. But add a couple drops of this delicious sauce and it takes it up several notches. Plus, it’s very easy to make.

Simply heat up around 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil or even butter on a skillet or pot. Add a teaspoon of paprika and a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper. Stir through to combine and then turn off the heat.

What to Serve with Turkish Lentil Soup?

A side of fresh Turkish bread or a crusty piece of bread from your local baker is perfect. Add a fresh salad to the side and it’s the perfect soup-salad combo.

My kid likes to add rice to the soup. You can do the same and make it into a meal as well.

What to Do with Leftovers?

Turkish lentil soup keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 6 months. Just keep in mind that freezing can affect the texture.

turkish red lentil soup

Turkish Lentil Soup

Turkish red lentil soup is refreshingly light but also deeply nourishing. It’s healthy – a wholesome blend of lentils, vegetables, and spices. And it only takes 30 minutes to make.
Course Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine Turkish
Servings 6
Calories 197 kcal

Ingredients
  

Turkish Lentil Soup

  • 1 cup red lentils washed and soaked
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 potato
  • 1 tomato or 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Aleppo chili
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cup water or vegetable or chicken broth

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1 tsp Aleppo chili
  • 1 tsp paprika

Instructions
 

  • Wash the red lentils until the water runs mostly clear.
    turkish red lentil soup
  • Soak the lentils in a bowl of water while you chop and prep the rest of the ingredients.
    turkish lentil soup
  • Heat 1 tbsp of cooking oil in a large pot and add the onions and garlic cloves and sauté for about 2 minutes until lightly browned.
    turkish lentil soup recipe
  • Add the carrots and potatoes and sauté again for another 2 minutes.
    turkish lentil soup
  • Add the tomato and saute until mushy – around 2 to 3 minutes.
    turkish red lentil soup
  • Optional: Deglaze the pan using about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Scrape the bottom of the pot and mix through.
    turkish red lentil soup
  • Drain and add the lentils. Add all the spices, salt and the bay leaf. Stir to combine.
    turkish red lentil soup
  • Pour in around 6 cups of water, vegetable or chicken broth. Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat. Skim the scum off the top.
    turkish red lentil soup
  • Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are soft.
    turkish lentil soup
  • Blend everything using an immersion blender or a traditional blender. If you’re using a traditional blender, make sure you don’t fill it up to the top – the steam from the hot soup can put pressure on the lid and push it off.
    If the soup is too thick, add a little more water or broth. Turkish lentil soup shouldn’t be too thick – it’s a velvety soup on the brothy side.
    turkish red lentil soup
  • Serve with fresh lemon wedges, extra spices (more Aleppo chili!), and/or dried mint.
  • Optional: Make a sauce to drizzle on top by heating up 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil or even butter on a pan. Add a teaspoon of paprika and a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper. Stir through to combine and then turn off the heat.
    turkish red lentil soup

Notes

Do I have to soak the lentils? No, you don’t absolutely have to. Red lentils cook quickly whether soaked or dried, typically around 20 minutes. I do recommend you don’t skip washing them though. 
Do I need to use a potato? The vegetables recommendations are just that – recommendations. You can skip the potato completely – it doesn’t contribute too much flavor-wise, it’s there for a smoother texture. You can even start the soup with a béchamel sauce if you want something silkier and creamier. 
What can I substitute for Aleppo chili? If you have Kashmiri chili, I’d go with that. If not, use paprika, and/or cayenne.
Water or broth? You can use water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth. I almost always use chicken broth for the extra bit of flavor but also because I always have some on hand from the countless roast chicken carcasses we end up with. But don’t worry if you don’t have broth – water is just as good as it’ll get flavor from the vegetables and spices.
Don’t have an immersion blender? That’s okay – use a regular blender or even a food processor. In that case, though, I recommend either waiting for the soup to cool before blending OR filling up the blender only about halfway and blending in batches. The hot steam can cause accidents. 
How to store leftovers? When the soup has cooled to room temperature, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Turkish red lentil soup freezes well, too – it will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before you consume. 

Nutrition

Calories: 197kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 9gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 424mgPotassium: 581mgFiber: 11gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 2250IUVitamin C: 14mgCalcium: 49mgIron: 3mg
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