This Arabic lentil soup recipe is also known as Shorbat Adas, and is a hearty, nutritious dish that has been cherished for generations in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s a simple soup, packed with flavor, and combines a handful of common ingredients and warm spices to create a comforting and satisfying meal.
In this article, we will explore what goes into my version of an Arabic lentil soup recipe, including the best types of lentils to use. I’ll share some useful tips and guide you through the process of making this tasty soup.
I’d like to note up top that this is my own adaptation of Arabic lentil soup. There’s no one right way to make it. Like many dishes, this seems to be a regional ‘thing’, and I’ve seen similar dishes variously called Middle Eastern lentil soup, Lebanese red lentil soup, and Ramadan soup. I’ve made a lot of different versions of this dish and come up with my own preferred blend of ingredients and preparation, and I hope you’ll tweak and adjust it to your tastes as well.
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What’s in my Arabic Lentil Soup Recipe?
Arabic lentil soup is celebrated for its simplicity and rich flavors. Plus, it happens to be a gluten free and vegan soup, so it suits almost everyone!
The handful of ingredients required are fridge and pantry staples at my house, and I bet they are at yours too.
Here are the key ingredients you’ll need to prepare this delectable dish:
- Lentils: There are various types of lentils available and Arabic lentil soup is pretty flexible regarding which ones to use. I delve into the lentils debate more below.
- Olive Oil
- Onion and Garlic
- Spices: Cumin powder, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper and cardamom, for earthy and nutty undertones to the soup.
- Tomato: Chop a large whole tomato or use a cup of tomato puree if tomatoes are out of season.
- Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock: Use vegetable stock for a vegan lentil soup or chicken stock for a heartier flavor. You can also use water and add extra seasoning to your soup.
- Fresh Vegetables: Carrots and celery to enhance the soup’s nutritional value and texture.
- Rice: I don’t see this in all Arabic lentil soup recipes but I love to add a little white rice for extra body and heft. The rice breaks down during cooking so you won’t notice the distinct grains.
- Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice as you serve your soup is the perfect finishing touch, adding a burst of freshness and acidity.
- Fresh Parsley or Cilantro/Coriander: Like the lemon juice, chopped herbs finish the soup with a fresh flavor and color pop.
Want more soup recipes? Try these!
What kind of lentils to use for an Arabic lentil soup recipe?
When it comes to selecting lentils for Arabic lentil soup, you have a few options. I always recommend using dried lentils over canned for this soup. They’re less expensive and they’ll cook down to the perfect doneness in the time it takes for the rest of the soup ingredients to be cooked.
Each lentil type has its own unique characteristics.
- Brown Lentils and Green Lentils: Known for their earthy flavor and nutty texture when cooked. Brown/green lentils cook relatively quickly and hold their shape while still having a soft consistency that is perfect for soup.
- Yellow Lentils: Yellow lentils are softer than brown lentils and tend to break down more during cooking, becoming very creamy.
- Red Lentils: Red lentils are very small and break down fast, making a thick and smooth soup. I love the mild taste of red lentils and they’re what I most often use in my own Arabic lentil soup.
FAQ and tips for the best lentil soup
Before you start cooking your Arabic lentil soup, here are some frequently asked questions and helpful tips to ensure your soup turns out delicious every time:
1. Can I make this Arabic lentil soup recipe in my steam oven? All my regular readers will want to know this, and the answer is yes, absolutely! I’ve provided stovetop and steam oven cooking directions in the recipe card at the end of the post; both are simple and have a relatively fast cooking time. Steam oven soup has the added advantage of never ever getting burnt or stuck on the bottom of the pot.
2. Can I make this soup in a slow cooker? Yes, you can! Simply sauté the onion and garlic, then transfer everything to your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
3. Is this meant to be a spicy soup? Most versions of this easy soup don’t have a lot of hot spices, it’s more about warming spices. But I love to add harissa (Moroccan chili paste) or minced fresh chili peppers when I serve it. If you prefer a spicier soup, add a pinch of red pepper flakes or 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper when sautéing the spices.
4. Can I freeze Arabic lentil soup? Yes. This soup freezes really well. Store it in an airtight container for up to three months. Thaw and reheat on the stove, or in your microwave or steam oven.
5. What should I serve with Arabic lentil soup? My Arabic lentil soup recipe pairs wonderfully with regular bread, pita bread or a fresh salad. It’s very hearty so technically you don’t need to serve anything alongside it.
How to Make Arabic Lentil Soup
Now, let’s get into the step-by-step process of making this flavorful Arabic lentil soup:
Check lentils: Start by picking through the lentils and removing any that are black, or any little bits of grit or stones. Occasionally lentils can have these ‘extras’ hiding in the package.
Sauté onion and vegetables: Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the oil. Add chopped onion, carrot and celery and sauté until softened, then stir in the garlic and spices. Sauté for another minute or until fragrant, then mix in the tomato puree or chopped tomato.
Add lentils, rice and stock: Add the lentils and rice to the pot and stir to coat in the onion and spice mixture. Pour in the stock and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Cook until tender: Cover the pot and let the soup simmer until everything is tender and fully cooked. Stir occasionally.
Blend the soup: This step is optional, depending on whether you like a chunkier bowl of soup or a smoother one. Once the lentils are soft, use an immersion blender (hand blender) to puree all or some of the soup until it reaches your desired consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender, but allow the soup to cool slightly before blending to avoid splattering.
Season and Serve: Return the blended soup to the pot and add salt to taste. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon and stir well, then ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each bowl with freshly chopped parsley or cilantro, and serve with lemon wedges on the side. Enjoy!
I hope this post inspires you to try my Arabic lentil soup recipe! It showcases the delicious results of using inexpensive, simple ingredients to introduce a taste of the Middle East to your table.
Experiment with different ways to make it your own, and I think warm, comforting Arabic lentil soup will become a staple in your kitchen.
Happy cooking, see you here again soon.
Have you made and enjoyed this recipe? I’d love if you’d be kind enough to rate and review it via the stars in the recipe card, or leave a comment below! Ratings and reviews help other readers to find and know whether one of my recipes will suit them.
Arabic Lentil Soup Recipe
- 1 cup red lentils or other dried lentils, see notes, picked over
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion medium, finely chopped
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp paprika smoked or regular, I prefer regular
- 1/2 tsp cardamom ground
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tomato chopped, or 1 cup tomato puree
- 1/2 cup short grain rice
- 4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock if you don't need a vegan soup; you may need extra to loosen at the end of cooking
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt or more, to adjust seasoning before serving
- 1 lemon juiced, for serving
- ¼ cup cilantro coriander, or flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped, for serving
- Pick over the lentils to make sure there aren't any little stones or grit, and set them aside.1 cup red lentils
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and saute until soft, 3-4 minutes.2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk
- Add the garlic and spices, and stir for a further 2 minutes until the spices smell toasty and have coated the vegetables.2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- Add the tomato and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the lentils and rice and stir through.1 tomato, 1/2 cup short grain rice, 1 cup red lentils
- Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook until the lentils and rice are soft and completely cooked (if you've used red or yellow lentils they'll be breaking down at this point). Add extra stock or water if the soup is too thick.4 cups vegetable stock
Steam Oven Method
- Preheat your oven to Combi Steam, 350°F/180°C, 80% (high) steam.
- Put the oil into a large ovenproof pot or casserole, then add the onion, carrot and celery. Stir, then cook for 5-6 minutes, until the oil is sizzling and the vegetables are becoming soft.2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk
- Add the garlic and spices to the pot, stir and return to the oven for a further 2 minutes. Then add the tomato, lentils, rice and stock and stir well.1 cup red lentils, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, 1 tomato, 1/2 cup short grain rice, 4 cups vegetable stock
- Change your oven settings to Combi Steam, 300°F/150°C, 30% (low) steam. Return the pot to the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils and rice are soft and completely cooked (if you've used red or yellow lentils they'll be breaking down when you stir the soup). Add extra stock or water if the soup is too thick.
- Add salt to taste and blend (or half blend) the soup if you'd like it to be smoother.1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Squeeze the lemon juice into the pot and stir well, then serve the soup hot, with extra lemon and chopped cilantro or parsley scattered over the top.1 lemon, ¼ cup cilantro
- Notes on lentils; I used red lentils in this recipe but I’ve also made it with just about every other type of lentil I can find, with excellent results. Brown and Green Lentils: these cook relatively quickly and hold their shape while still having a soft consistency that is perfect for soup. Yellow Lentils: softer than brown lentils and tend to break down more during cooking, becoming very creamy. Red Lentils: very small and break down fast, making a thick and smooth soup.
- Can you make this soup in a slow cooker instead? Yes, you can! Simply sauté the onion and garlic, then transfer everything to your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
- Is this meant to be a spicy soup? Most versions of this soup don’t have a lot of hot spices, it’s more about warming spices. But I love to add harissa (Moroccan chili paste) or minced fresh chili peppers when I serve it. If you prefer a spicier soup, add a pinch of red pepper flakes or 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper when sautéing the spices.
- Can you freeze Arabic lentil soup? Yes. This soup freezes really well. Store it in an airtight container for up to three months. Thaw and reheat on the stove, or in your microwave or steam oven.
- What should you serve with Arabic lentil soup? Arabic lentil soup pairs wonderfully with regular bread, pita bread or a fresh salad. It’s very hearty so technically you don’t need to serve anything alongside it.
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