Recipes for Broke People: Lentil Soup

Submitted by Betsy Muse on Mon, 04/01/2013 – 14:45

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a running series on inexpensive recipes to make at home. Please don’t hesitate to contribute your own in the comments. In our home nothing says comfort like a big pot of soup made from scratch with fresh ingredients. The most versatile soups can be adjusted to accommodate the foods you have on hand. A favorite in our home is Lentil soup. I’ve added everything from carrots to kale and often both.

The beauty of lentils is that they don’t require overnight soaking and with a little advanced prep work, the soup is ready in less than an hour. So, it’s not only inexpensive to make, it fits perfectly into a busy lifestyle. This recipe makes a nice large pot, but freezes well. If you are single or a small family, Instead of reducing the recipe, consider freezing servings for another day.

Hearty Lentil Soup


  • 2 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 cup carrot slices
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 quart home canned tomatoes or 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 11.5 oz bag of dried lentil beans
  • 9 cups water, vegetable broth or chicken broth (add more if necessary to accommodate additional vegetables or pasta)
  • herbs – use what you have on hand – basil, oregano and rosemary are nice together or go with thyme and bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup diced celery (optional)
  • 2 cups chopped kale (optional)
  • 1 cup diced chicken (optional)
  • 2 cups prepared small pasta (al dente, optional)


  1. Rinse the beans and set aside to drain.
  2. Heat olive oil in bottom of 6 quart soup or stock pot. Place diced onions, minced garlic, carrots and celery (optional) in the olive oil and stir occasionally until tender but not soft. Onions should be translucent. Watch carefully and do not allow to brown.
  3. Add tomatoes and simmer about ten minutes giving the juices time to cook down a bit.
  4. Add your herbs of choice and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the rinsed, uncooked lentils and stir into the tomato and vegetable mixture to coat the lentils.
  6. Add 9 cups of broth or water. I have used both. Chicken or vegetable broth add additional flavor, but water will work just fine, especially when you add plenty of vegetables, herbs and salt to the soup. If you use chicken broth cubes do not add salt as they already include quite a bit of salt.
  7. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer covered for about 1/2 hour. If you plan to add kale or pasta, now is a good time to prepare them in a separate pot. Prepare pasta to an al dente stage. It will finish cooking after combined with the soup. Kale should be added to about an inch of boiling water in a pot large enough to hold in. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes until partially cooked. Do not include the large stems to avoid any bitterness.

This soup is wonderful alone or when accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich or salad. If you have any questions before making the soup, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve made it so often that I don’t always follow exact measurements, but I’ve done my best to list them accurately here.