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The Full Yield Blog

Red Lentil Soup with Rice, Spinach and Lime

November 30, 2010 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

Red Lentil Soup with Rice, Spinach and Lime

This is one of my all-time favorite soups, for a few reasons.  Of course the first is that it is a very satisfying and delicious soup to eat. It’s also very easy to make. Third, I love the color of the red lentils and the presence of golden turmeric. And fourth, you can play with it.  Here the thin base is augmented with cooked rice, spinach, and a dollop of yogurt, and when these additions are placed with care—the rice packed first in a measuring cup then turned out, the spinach and yogurt attractively surrounding it—it looks very special indeed.

But sometimes I leave it fairly thin and add only some slivered scallions and chopped cilantro. Other times I might garnish the soup with wedges of toasted pita breads for texture, along with sautéed scallions and yogurt.  Leftover cooked kale might find its way into the soup, too, or a spoonful of diced, roasted multi-colored peppers. But it always needs plenty of fresh lime to balance that turmeric.  In short this soup serves as a tasty blank canvass to work with in ways you see fit.  It’s just too bad the salmon colored red lentils don’t maintain their warm color, but never mind for this warming soup is truly sustaining.
Ghee (butter without the milk solids) provides a wonderful, nutty flavor for this soup. Otherwise, use butter.

Since this makes 2 ½ quarts soup, plan to serve a portion of it for dinner one night, then have the leftovers for lunch or another time. You can also freeze leftovers in serving side packets if you’re eating alone and don’t want to eat this for days on end.


2 cups split red lentils, rinsed well
1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 2 limes, to taste, plus 1 extra lime, cut into wedges
1 bunch spinach, leaves only, well rinsed and roughly chopped
1 cup warm, cooked brown basmati rice
Yogurt, to taste (about 1 tablespoon per serving)


1.  Put the lentils in a soup pot with 10 cups water, the turmeric, half the butter and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes. The texture will be a little rough; puree if you prefer a smoother soup.

2.  While the lentils are cooking, prepare the onions:  Melt the remaining butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onion, cumin and mustard seed.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the onions have softened, then add the cilantro.  Add this to the cooked lentils along with the juice of two limes. The soup should be a tad sour.

3.  Wilt the spinach in the same skillet you used for the onions, using the water clinging to its leaves for moisture.  It will cook within a few minutes.

4.  To serve, pack ¼-cup rice into a measuring cup, and turn into a soup plate. Ladle the soup around the rice, then add a portion of spinach.  Spoon yogurt in several places, the serve with a wedge of lime for those who want their soup even more tart.

Makes about 10 cups