Red Lentil Soup with Harissa and Lime

red lentil soup with harissa

Cooking seasonally doesn’t just mean winter, spring, summer, fall. It also means looking out your window and getting inspired. If you live in L.A. and you’ve been looking out the window lately, you may have noticed a little rain falling from the sky. Actually, a lot of rain. God knows, L.A. needs it, and I love the rain, so this isn’t me complaining. This is me explaining why today, for lunch, I decided to make red lentil soup with harissa.

The French Call it Mirepoix

To make this soup, you’ll have to chop up some carrots, onions, and celery (aka: mirepoix or soffrito, depending on your allegience). Then you’ll chop some tomatoes (it’s okay if they’re out of season, they’re there for juiciness and tartness, not freshness.) You’ll need to grind some spices, notably coriander seeds and cumin seeds. And you’ll need to rinse some red lentils.

It’s worth seeking out red lentils here: they’re softer and less intense than their green and brown cousins.

Start Cooking Your Red Lentil Soup

This recipe, I should mention, comes from The Mediterranean Dish by Suzy Karadsheh. It’s a great book because the recipes are approachable but also exciting. Like this one: you basically cook a bunch of vegetables in olive oil, add spices, then your tomatoes and tomato paste.

In goes vegetable stock, some water, a pinch of salt. You simmer for 25 minutes and then the fun really begins.

Let’s Take Things Up a Notch

It’s really at the end that this recipe becomes bookmarkable. That’s because Suzy Karadsheh has you stir in harissa, lime juice, and cilantro. And that has the same effect on this recipe that Love Potion #9 does to the cop down on 34th and Vine. It wakes things up with a big fat unexpected kiss.

And look at this finished soup.

So the next time you look out your window and see wet stuff, make red lentil soup with harissa. This is as seasonal as it gets.

red lentil soup with harissa

Red Lentil Soup with Harissa

Course Soup
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Keyword harissa, lentils, soup, tomatoes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 vine-ripened medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons harissa, to taste
  • Juice of 1 large lime
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro


  • In a medium Dutch oven or pot, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and season with a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the vegetables for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing regularly until they soften.
  • Add the coriander, cumin, and turmeric to the pot and stir to coat the vegetables. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes over medium heat, then add the lentils, vegetable stock, and water.
  • Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover partially with the lid, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender and creamy. Check occasionally and add a little more stock or water if the soup gets too thick for your liking.
  • Stir in the harissa, the lime juice, and the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.

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