Curry Coconut Red Lentil Soup

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There comes a time in every youngish, part-time baker’s life when she finds herself — for the second day in a row — armpit-deep in cookie dough. Last night,  I hardly made it home from work due to the film of flour coating my glasses, and when I finally took off my boots and shook them upside-down, little mounds of sugar issued forth.

As you might have guessed, this means that the baking hiatus is going to continue for a little while longer.

Instead, I bring you hearty, healthy soup, because we all need a break from cookie dough once in a while. Besides, this soup is a double-tried-and-true winner! It’s earthy from the lentils, just-barely-spicy from the curry, and creamy from the coconut milk. It’s vegetarian, and could easily be vegan if you use olive oil or coconut oil instead of the butter.

I adjusted the recipe a little bit from Heidi Swanson’s original version (–side note: maybe I should just call this blog ‘Slightly Adjusted Heidi Swanson Recipes’? I promise I’ll post some recipes from my other favourite cooks soon).

I’m not a great lover of yellow split-peas, so I made the soup once with de puy lentils and once with brown lentils instead, and both times it was delicious.

Next, I almost always use low-fat coconut milk instead of the regular stuff, as I find the flavour basically unchanged in savoury dishes (mind you, a whole host of internet commentators violently disagree with me, so use whichever you prefer).

And last, I found myself fiddling a bit with the acidity and sugar levels in the original recipe, feeling like it was missing a little something. The second time around, it turns out I had run out of tomato paste, so used the same amount of ketchup instead — sounds a touch gross, I know, but bear with me — and the flavour balance was just perfect! It really hits the bright acidity and teeeeeeny bit of sweetness you need just for balance. But you can always use tomato paste instead and adjust with lemon juice and sugar to your own liking.

So there you have it — a lovely, healthy, filling dinner ready in about thirty minutes, twenty of which are just simmering time. Serve over some brown rice or farro, or with some rustic, crusty bread. Or if you’re feeling really virtuous, with a side salad, but please, in that case, make sure to have dessert afterwards.

Red Lentil Coconut Soup

(Serves 6)


  • 1 cup / 7 oz / 200g depuy or brown lentils
  • 1 cup 7 oz / 200g red split lentils
  • 2 tablespoons butter, ghee, olive oil, or coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 6 1/2 cups or 1.5 litres of water
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh peeled and finely grated/zested ginger
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup (or one 80 ml can tomato paste, with some added lemon juice and sugar to adjust to taste)
  • one 14-oz (400 ml) can low-fat coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
  • for garnish: 4 green onions, thinly sliced/one small handful toasted flaked coconut/one handful rinsed and chopped fresh cilantro

1. Give the lentils a good rinse, until the water they’re rinsed in stops being murky. Set aside.

2. In the largest pot you’ve got, heat the butter/ghee/oil on medium-high heat, then add the onions. Allow them to cook until softened, about five minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add 2 Tbs curry powder (reserving the last tablespoon), stirring until toasted and fragrant (about 1 minute).

3. Carefully pour in the water.  Add carrot, ginger, ketchup (or tomato paste plus some lemon juice and a touch of sugar), coconut milk, and salt. Add the lentils. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 18 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.

4. Add the remaining tablespoon of curry powder. Taste and add any salt, pepper, or extra lemon juice to your taste.

5. Serve with whichever of the garnishes your little heart desires; or hell, with all three!

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2 Responses to “Curry Coconut Red Lentil Soup”

  1. Beatrice February 9, 2013 at 2:47 PM #

    Hi Alanna,
    I made your lentil curry soup for a Macroshifting workshop in North Carolina last month and everyone loved it!
    Love your pictures too!

  2. Nanny Joan February 2, 2013 at 6:11 PM #

    I made this soup last night and it was delicious – even better today and so easy. The only changes I made were that I grated the carrot along with the ginger in the cuisinart and added some extra salt and pepper to taste.