Turkish Red Lentil Soup

... trade up some of your starchy carbs for LEGUMES

This simple soup which is a Turkish classic is so easy to prepare but addictively tasty, filling and super healthy. In fact if you go to Turkey on holiday you will find this humble soup bubbling away in a large vat in most local restaurants as a starter.

We want to focus on one of its star ingredients  —  lentils. In fact we are going to start bringing you more recipes that include the super healthy but humble legume. For a number of reasons these nutritional powerhouses should become part of your daily diet and are an excellent ‘trade-up’ ingredient for starchy or refined carbohydrates to become the new heart of your meals. You can consider these to be part of your healthy ‘whole-grain’ carbohydrate choices. We don’t like to use the term super-food because of the association with the pseudoscience arena but legumes are a ‘super’ food.

In dietary terms, legumes describes lentils and beans (interestingly also include peanuts — recently shown to be as healthy as other tree nuts). Legumes have a very attractive nutritional profile in that they are generally very high in fibre and protein. In fact they are one of the highest sources of non-animal protein which is why they have been traditionally utilised in ethnically vegetarian foods (e.g. Indian cuisine).The carbohydrate content favours slowly digested starches and therefore they are a low glycaemic profile food which avoid swings in blood sugar and weight gain. This all makes them an excellent food for people with cardiovascular risk factors or if you want to improve weight:

  • high fibre foods (particularly soluble fibres) are associated with improved blood cholesterols
  • low glycaemic profile/slow starch digestion is favourable for blood sugars and diabetic patients
  • high fibre’s calorific content is neutral (the part you cannot digest). This means that for it’s bulk it is relatively energy modest. Conceptually this leads to feeling full and satisfied without taking in too many calories. Soups (particularly ‘blended’ style) are also effective in this area due to slower gastric transit
  • nutritionally attractive profile for blood pressure improvement due to fibre and mineral content including potassium.

A number of epidemiological studies have consistently reproduced an impressive association of high fibre foods and health outcomes. One example which specifically focused on legumes included nearly 10,000 people over 19 years of follow-up. This study (NHANES) showed a 22% reduction in coronary heart disease in individuals who ate legumes four times a week compared to those who had them less than once a week. Its also clear that in the Western world our diets have becoming very poor in fibre content and we all need to concentrate on increasing our intake.

You will notice again that we are not emphasising dietary restriction (‘diets’) but quite the opposite  —  a focus on what you should eat and dietary patterns which protect your body and displace (‘trade-up’) damaging foods. Incorporate legumes into at least 4 of your meals a week to displace less healthy carbohydrates or refined grains.


For a large pan:


  • 1 large onion (or 2 medium)  —  white or red
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
  • 5 medium to large carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 5 large teaspoons of tomato concentrate/paste
  • 500g of red lentils
  • chicken stock to fill your pan
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of dried mint
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of dried oregano
  • olive oil, salt and black pepper
  1. You can of course use ready chicken stock but we like to make our own as a good stock will enhance your soup. If you have the left over carcass from a roast chicken then this is an excellent thrifty option. We tend to use some fresh chicken pieces like 3 thighs. Place in your pan, fill 2/3 with cold water and put on the heat. If you have any vegetable off-cuts from onions, carrots, celery, leeks or a couple of bay leaves etc., pop these in to add flavour. When the stock is starting to simmer, turn the heat right down so it simmers gently for at least an hour. (For a vegetarian/vegan alternative you can use vegetable stock).
  2. Meanwhile finely chop your veg. A food processor is ideal. Soften these in a large pan with a good splash of olive oil. Cook gently until the vegetables are soft and the natural sweetness is enhanced. Add your tomato paste, season with salt and pepper and cook for another few minutes.
  3. When your stock is ready remove the chicken pieces and leave to cool. If the chicken has broken down it’s safest to strain the stock for any small bones.
  4. Rinse your lentils and add together with the stock and softened veg in a large pan. Add your herbs. Season to taste but do not over-salt as the flavours will concentrate with cooking. Cook together on a gentle simmer for 1.5 hours until the lentils are just starting to break down into a beautiful textured consistency.

Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon, a simple side salad of onion, cucumber and tomato (dressed with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper) and a granary/wholemeal roll for a delicious, satisfying lunch. The stock chicken pieces are also delicious with the soup on the side or flaked on top. Simple  —  we love this one!

1 comment

  • I have soup several times a week in the autumn and winter. I tend to make a batch, have one portion and freeze the other 3. This, done several days running, gives me a good selection in my freezer. I like lentils so I’ll make this one in the next day or two.

    Judith, 10th September 2017 at 5:03 pm -

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