This creamy, easy vegan red lentil soup cooks up in a jiff in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop with minimal prep for maximum flavor.
Powered with Indian curry powder, a pinch of chili powder, and a healthy dose of lemon juice and zest. This effortless soup is a quick fix when you crave something satisfying. Another delicious soup recipe! We never get tired of them.
This post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you're successful in your first attempt. Below, you'll find a handy table of contents with links. But if you're in a rush, please use the link at the top to jump to the recipe card at the end!
⭐Why this recipe works
Quick and easy. We're breaking a few cooking rules by simply adding all the ingredients and cooking. There's no sautéing, no layering. Just dump and cook. Why? Because sometimes, you just need it quick, and that's this easy recipe.
Creamy and flavorful. Red lentils make a naturally creamy soup without using cream or coconut milk. From the sweetness of the carrots and tomato paste to the complex Indian curry powder to the zesty shots of lemon, every ingredient adds a depth of flavor making mouthwatering bowls of nutritious soup.
Satisfyingly healthy. Naturally clean ingredients without added oil weighing them down, this red lentil soup is a satisfying nutritional bang for the calorie. It’s even gluten-free!
📋 Key ingredients, notes & substitutions
Red lentils – Split red lentils will yield the creamiest texture. Whole red lentils can be used as well with no additional cooking time. If you want it smoother, grab your immersion blender and puree it. No red? Use yellow lentils or brown lentils.
Carrots – More than just a pretty color, small-diced carrots add natural sugar. Sweet potatoes are sometimes used in vegan lentil soup for this purpose. You can make this substitute with 1 cup of diced sweet potatoes.
Tomato paste - For a more intense tomato flavor with added sweetness, tomato paste replaces a more traditional can of tomatoes. If you opt for canned tomatoes, cut back on the amount of broth by ½ a cup. You can also use a couple of diced, fresh tomatoes.
Curry powder – Curry powder is a blend of Indian spices used to provide spicy warmth to dishes. Abundant in grocery stores, curry powder usually comes in mild, medium, and hot. Curry blends vary by brand, so you may need to experiment if you are unfamiliar with curry powder.
Chili powder – Use an Indian style, not a Mexican style chili powder, cayenne powder, ground chilies, or red chili flakes. Alternatively, if you use hot curry powder, you may opt to skip the chili powder.
Lemon juice and zest – I tend to double up on the lemon. First, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and the zest of 1 lemon as ingredients in the soup. Then, add more lemon for serving. I’ve not tried this recipe with lime juice.
Vegetable broth – Vegetable broth (vegetable stock) adds a greater flavor depth than water (which you can also use).
🔪 Pro tips & notes
Making Instant Pot red lentil soup is a mere matter of adding all the ingredients, stirring, and cooking. Red lentils are reliably quick cooking. They need 10 minutes of high-pressure cooking and 15 minutes for natural pressure release (NPR).
Allow for at least 15 minutes or longer of natural release. Using the quick release can result in undercooked lentils. This is a chief reason why red lentils can upset your stomach.
If you want the soup smoother, transfer it to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree it. This final step is not necessary but a matter of texture preference.
Red lentils serve as a super-quick Instant Pot soup recipe, and although
Dice the carrots small to ensure they are tender when the lentils are done. Use a larger soup pot. Heat the pot before adding the onions and carrots if you sauté them. Once you add all the ingredients and mix them, bring the broth to boiling. Then, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 20 – 25 minutes until the lentils are tender.
As they simmer, red lentils can be lured to the bottom of the soup pot and start to stick. For this reason, you want to stir them a few times throughout the cooking process.
Instant Pot versus Stovetop
The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to start the high-pressure cooking cycle, so you may be asking, why bother? This particular Instant Pot recipe doesn't save time over the stovetop method. It's true. You may save a few minutes using your soup pot in terms of time.
The case for using the Instant Pot lies in control and clutter. The Instant Pot is a 'set it and forget it' cooking experience with no worries about splattering or occasional stirring. When using the stovetop method, be mindful of controlling the heat so that the lentils simmer throughout. Also, you may need to add more broth as the liquid dissipates.
Either method results in a delightful one-pot soup with little fuss and good, healthy eating.
💭 Common Questions
If you don’t have curry powder on hand, make a quick mix of 2 teaspoons of ground cumin plus 1 teaspoon, respectively, of coriander, chili flakes, turmeric, and black pepper. This will yield about 2 tablespoons. You can also use 1 tablespoon of garam masala plus a teaspoon of turmeric.
To freeze red lentil soup, allow it to cool to room temperature and place it in an airtight container. Freeze it for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator or thaw it in the microwave. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
Unlike dry beans, lentils, including red or split red, do not need to be soaked before cooking. You should, however, always rinse and sort them before cooking.
Once the lentils are tender, you can either simmer them a bit longer or use an immersion blender to puree some or all the soup if it is thinner than you'd like.
🍽 Serving & storage suggestions
This delicious soup makes a quick lunch, starter, or light dinner with a side of crusty bread, flatbread, or veggie pakoras. It can be simply garnished with lemon wedges, diced red onions, chopped cilantro or other fresh herbs, or red pepper flakes.
Because it’s so easy, this red lentil soup recipe can be added to your meal prep regular rotation. Reheat it in bowls in the microwave or add what you need to a saucepan and heat it through on the stovetop. Once made, let the soup cool to room temperature and place in an airtight container.
Freeze or store it in individual servings until it's ready to take along and reheat at work. The satisfaction of the lentils, hearty texture and flavorful spices will keep you going through the day.
📖 Related recipes
Easy Vegan Red Lentil Soup (Instant Pot or Stovetop)
This creamy and easy vegan red lentil soup cooks up in a jiff in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop with minimal prep for maximum flavor.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Soup
- Method: Instant Pot
- Cuisine: Indian
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped (1 cup)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 cups red lentils, rinsed and sorted
- 7 cups vegetable broth or water
Instant Pot Instructions
- Add the ingredients. Place all the ingredients into the Instant Pot. Mix everything to ensure nothing is settling on the bottom.
- Make the soup. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, slide the steam handle to sealing, and cook the soup for 10 minutes on High Pressure.
- Natural release and stir. Once the Instant Pot beeps, let it sit for 15 minutes to naturally release the pressure. Then, carefully open the steam handle, let any remaining steam release, and remove the lid. Stir the soup, taste, and adjust the flavoring. Serve hot.
- Quick-sauté and add ingredients. Heat a medium soup pot to medium heat, then add the onions. Stir the onions to soften them for about 3 minutes. Mix in the garlic and spices. Lower the heat and add the vegetable broth, tomato paste, lemon juice, and zest.
- Add red lentils and cook. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir in the red lentils so they don't clump or sink to the bottom. Turn up the heat on the stove until the broth starts to boil. Then reduce the heat to a slow simmer.
- Simmer until done. Cook the lentils, stirring a few times throughout. A lid over the soup pot is optional. It will make the soup less likely to splatter. Let the soup simmer for 20-25 minutes until the lentils have broken down and are tender.
Garnish and serve. If desired, garnish the soup with lemon wedges, chopped cilantro, or a few red chili flakes.
- The cook time includes 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to heat up.
- If you want the soup smoother or thicker, transfer all or part of the soup to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree it.
- To make the soup thinner, add more vegetable broth and continue simmering it if you use the stovetop method. For the Instant Pot method, add more broth and set the pot to simmer with the lid off. Stir the soup and let it simmer for a few minutes to heat through.
- Store the soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
- If you don't have curry powder on hand, make a quick mix of 2 teaspoons of ground cumin plus 1 teaspoon of coriander, chili flakes, turmeric, and black pepper. This will yield about 2 tablespoons. You can also use 1 tablespoon of garam masala plus a teaspoon of turmeric.
Keywords: red lentil soup, curry powder, Instant Pot, Instapot, plant-based, gluten-free