I have such a crush on Lebanese restaurants. All of the food is so good! I usually start with a Lemon Lentil Soup, and then fill up on so much pita and hummus that I’m barely hungry for my meal. This works out particularly well for my husband Longe, who happily picks off my plate of kabobs while enjoying his own meal.
The inspiration for this particular soup comes from my favorite restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s called Taza, and it’s where I fell in love with Lebanese food. Their hummus, schawarma, fattoush, and falafel are must-trys, but I come back to the lemon lentil soup every time. Oh, and the pita! They make it in-house and it is SO soft and fluffy. I can make a meal out of their pita paired with the super creamy hummus.
When I moved to Chicago, I had a craving for lemon lentil soup. I had tried it at a few Lebanese restaurants but nothing quite compared to Taza. Over the years I’ve tinkered with a recipe, and finally landed on this version.
It’s easy to make, only uses one pot, and is made of items I have in my pantry and fridge. The only thing I grabbed from the grocery store was the red lentils! It’s quick cooking too—the whole soup cooks in under 30 minutes.
I start by sautéeing onion, carrot, and garlic, and then add the spices. Sautéeing the spices before adding liquid helps them “bloom”, which releases their flavor. And the aromas are heavenly! Then I add the lentils and chicken stock, and clean up while the lentils cook. I love a meal where you can clean up while in the process of cooking. I’m not a fan of doing the dishes (is anyone?) but I’ll happily do them while my meal cooks so I can relax afterward.
Finally, I add the zest and juice of one lemon. The lemon really brightens the flavor, perking up the somewhat flavorless lentils into something amazing. The final garnishes are cilantro, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil.
The verdict? While I don’t think I’ve completely replicated Taza’s lemon lentil soup, I’ve come pretty close! It’s such a comforting dish on a cool day. I like to serve it with warm pita for dipping or pita chips crushed over the top.
Lemon Lentil Soup
Yield 3–4 servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy!)
- 1 cup red lentils
- 3½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- For garnish: chopped cilantro and olive oil
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Sauté until the carrot is soft and the onion is translucent, about 6–8 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.
- Add the lentils, chicken stock, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 18–20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
- Divide the soup among 3–4 bowls. Garnish with red pepper flakes, chopped cilantro, and olive oil.