Chunky lentil & vegetable soup

My favourite soup this winter.
Chunky lentil & vegetable soup - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
Chunky lentil & vegetable soup - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

For years, lentil soup has been my go-to everyday soup. You know, the puréed silky smooth kind. And because the lentils are so full of flavour, and I always start out with a base of onion, carrot, tomato paste and chili paste, it doesn’t need a proper stock to be tasty. Plain water is more than good enough. Perfect for a quick everyday meal.

The last few weeks, though, I’ve been craving the chunky soups that the Brits are so good at making (I lived in London before moving to Istanbul). But I also wanted to incorporate the flavours I love so well from my staple lentil soup.

The solution? Make said lentil soup chunky.

A tip for making chunky lentil soup

When making chunky soup, however, water no longer suffices as the liquid. Stock becomes a necessity.

Of course, you could just use a stock cube, but I never do. Manufacturers put all sorts of stuff in them, but even more importantly they tend to dominate where they should be adding subtle flavour. Wherever you use them, and no matter how little you use, the final dish ends up tasting like…stock cubes. But then, who keeps homemade stock in the fridge at all times? Exactly.

The solution: Quick stock.

If I don’t have stock in the fridge or freezer, I’ve started making a quick stock. That is, stock made in the time it takes to prep all the other ingredients before the stock needs adding to the dish in question. It won’t have as deep and complex a flavour as a proper, homemade stock. But it’s much better than using a stock cube or just water.

And in a soup like this one, where there already is a flavour base of onion, tomatoes, chili and lentils – it works really well. Of course, if you have homemade stock, the soup will be even better, but if not, scroll down to the end for directions to make my quick stock.

How to serve

This lentil soup is quite substantial, and holds its own as lunch with some crusty bread alongside. If making for dinner, I’d add a few handfuls of chickpeas or shredded chicken, to ensure there’s enough protein and that you keep full for longer.

It keeps well, so don’t worry if you’ve made more than you can eat. Simply store in the fridge in a tight container for a few days and reheat as necessary.

Chunky lentil & vegetable soup

Warming and filling winter soup – a variation on the classic Turkish lentil soup.
5 (2 ratings).
40 minutes
4 generous servings
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  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 50 g tomato paste
  • 25 g Turkish hot red pepper paste (acı biber salçası), (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 175 g red lentils
  • 1 ⅕ l stock (broth), vegetable or chicken
  • 500 g mixed vegetables, cut into small cubes (see note below)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 25 g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper

How I make it

  • Fry the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until softened but not browned, 8-10 minutes. Stir regularly.
  • Add the tomato paste, chili paste (if using) and cumin and fry for another minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the lentils and vegetables (except any vegetables that need only a few minutes' cooking, such as broccoli or spinach). Continue frying and stirring until the lentils and vegetables are well covered by the oil and pastes, a minute or so.
  • Add some of the stock and mix until there are no lumps. Add the rest of the stock along with some seasoning (unless your stock already is seasoned). Use 1 litre of stock for a thick, almost stew-like consistency (see pics) – more for a more traditional-looking soup. Bring to the boil, cover and turn the heat to low. Leave to simmer until the lentils have softened, 15-20 minutes. Add any remaining vegetables at such a time that they finish cooking at the same time as the lentils. I prefer my vegetables soft for this soup – do as you please.
  • When the lentils and vegetables are done, take off the heat. Add lemon juice and parsley and taste again for seasoning. Leave to stand, lid on, for a few minutes before serving.

Tips & notes

Mixed vegetables: I used 1 large carrot, 1 large potato, 1 red pepper and a good handful of cauliflower florets in the soup pictured. Other suitable vegetables include courgette, tomato, broccoli or spinach. Feel free to use what's lingering in your fridge
To make a quick vegetable stock for this recipe: Add 1.5 litres of water, a quartered onion, a carrot sliced into four parts, a few herb stalks (leaves removed) (if you have), a few cubes of celeriac, 1 bay leaf, a few whole black peppers and a few whole allspice (if you have). Add or substitute any other aromatic vegetables you have lying around, such as leek or turnip. Bring to the boil, cover and leave to simmer for as long as you can – at least 15 minutes but half an hour or more if you can. Strain the stock before using.
Did you make this recipe?I’d love it if you’d be kind enough to leave a rating and a short comment.

Hey, there!

I’m Vidar, a Norwegian food writer based in Istanbul since 2015.

Join me in exploring the food and cultures of Turkey and the Middle East.

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Vidar shopping for vegetables at a Turkish greengrocer
Photo: Bahar Kitapcı

Hey, there!

I’m Vidar Bergum, a food writer based in Istanbul since 2015. I’ve published three books on the food and cultures of Turkey and the Middle East in my native Norway.

This website and my newsletter Meze are the homes of my writing and recipes in English.

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11 responses

  1. Sounds delicious! I have lots of veggies around I would love to use up in this, but probably more than what’s included in the recipe. Could you add more than 500 g, or would that mess with ratios and flavors in the rest of the recipe? Currently have lots of root veggies especially! Would love to know your thoughts. Thank you so much for this wonderful blog!

    1. This is already quite a lot of vegetables, so I don’t think I’d add substantially more. You could always double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. Good luck!

  2. Do you know how many calories are in this? It looks lovely but I need to stick to a calorie controlled diet so would be useful to know. Thanks.

    1. Apologies for the late response, this blog has been dormant for a few months. I do not know how many calories are in it, I’m afraid.

  3. My first food blog. What first caught my interest was the shared love for Turkey. I spent a year teaching English in a small village in Turkey in 1970 and I have returned several times since. The best food in the world. Your recipes not only look delicious but simple enough for even a poor cook like me to try. Do we have your permission to reproduce them for personal consumption. The first is zucchini and peas. Off to the market.


    1. Thank you very much! It must have been a very interesting experience to visit Turkey so long ago and see its development over the years. You are free to use the recipes for non-commercial purposes. Hope you enjoy them! Vidar

5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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