The Basics: How to Make Lentil Soup

From the store to the kitchen to the table: We outline the steps that get you from raw ingredients to your dinner tonight, free of measurements and complicated techniques. It’s a method you’ll remember and whip out whenever you like. It is the most basic way to make the thing you’re making.

  • - two scoops of lentils (any color except red)
  • - half an onion
  • - one celery stalk
  • - one carrot
  • - three garlic cloves
  • - oil (any kind)
  • - salt and pepper
  • - fresh thyme (optional)
  • - one bay leaf
  • - one 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • - one quart of vegetable broth
  • - red wine or sherry vinegar
  • - spinach (optional)
  • - a blender or food processor (optional)


  • 1. Rinse the lentils in a colander or strainer.

  • 2. Finely chop all the vegetables.

  • 3. Coat the bottom of a pot with oil and heat. Add the vegetables and cook until they’re softened. Season with salt and pepper.

  • 4. Add the thyme (if using), bay leaf, tomatoes and their juices, lentils, and broth and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are soft.

  • 5. Check to see if the soup needs any additional salt or pepper, and finish with a drizzle of vinegar.

    Optional: Add a few handfuls of spinach and stir until wilted. Also optional: Purée half of the soup in a blender and add it back to the pot for a creamier texture.

Illustrations by Bill Russell