Smoky Red Lentil Mexican Soup (Vegan)

“Oh, how I miss soup!  With our Seattle weather topping out in the mid 90’s recently, soup has not been on the menu.  But this week the temps have dipped back to a welcoming mid 70’s and I just couldn’t help but get my stockpot out again and simmer up a good pot of soup.  What I love about this particular one is that it has a warm, smoky flavor accented with fresh, light cilantro that makes for a versatile dish that is as welcoming in the summer as it is in the winter.  It’s a bright sunny soup that even my hubby loves to eat year-round.  For less spice, cut back on the chipotle chili powder but don’t leave it out.  It really adds flavor that rounds this out nicely.”


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion (preferably vidalia or walla walla), chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, cut lengthwise in quarters then diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 – 14oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 5-6 cups of vegetable or no-chicken broth
  • 2 – 14 oz can of pinto, black or kidney beans (any will work but I like the tri-beans that has all 3 in one can), drained and rinsed
  • 3 tsp mild chili powder (like chili molido)
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro plus extra for garnish
  • salt to taste


  1. In large stockpot or dutch oven on medium-low, heat olive oil then add onion.  Throw in a pinch or two of kosher salt and saute for about 7-10 minutes or until tender and translucent.  Add in celery and saute for another 5-7 minutes or until celery is mostly tender
  2. Add the garlic and saute another 1-2 minutes then add in lentils, stir for a few seconds then add tomatoes and 5 cups of the broth. Stir well and scrape the bottom for any brown bits. Add the drained beans, chili powders, and cumin and bring the soup to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for about 15-25 minutes or until lentils are soft and cooked, stirring every now and then.  (You want to be careful because these type of lentils will completely disintegrate if they cook too long.  If this happens, its okay, it will just be a different consistency; a little thicker with less substance.  I personally like mine so the lentils are still somewhat in shape. Watch the lentils and as soon as they are cooked or just about there, move on to the next step.)
  3. When lentils are just cooked, add in the bell pepper and cook another 5-7 minutes or until the pepper is tender.  Add in the cilantro and remove from heat.  Taste for salt and add as necessary.  Let stand for 5 minutes then serve with a few cilantro sprigs, vegan sour cream and cheese or avocado as you like.

Footnotes: If the soup is too thick add the other cup of broth.  A lot depends on how much you cook the lentils.  If you cook them until disintegrated you may need a bit more broth.  Don’t be tempted to use other lentils.  You won’t get the smooth consistency and perfect flavor that the red lentils give this.

Don’t skip out on the chipotle chili powder.  It gives this soup the smoky flavor… and hence the name!  I find mine in the Mexican aisle of my grocery store.  They are in small plastic packaging that is hung up with other spices.  I buy it and put it in a glass container.  I always like to have this on hand for other recipes that benefit from the smoky taste chipotles lend.  If you like your soup more or less spicy, just make an adjustment on the amount.

I put the red pepper in last because it can overcook and get mushy if you do it too soon.  I chop mine pretty small so it only takes a few minutes.  If you have bigger pieces it may take longer.  If this is the case, you may want to put it in sooner so your lentils don’t totally disintegrate.

Yes, 1 cup of chopped cilantro sounds like a lot but it really contributes to the fresh light flavor and Mexican flair.  Have a little extra on hand for garnishing.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Mexican/Latin, Recipes, Soup, Vegan


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

4 Comments on “Smoky Red Lentil Mexican Soup (Vegan)”

  1. August 20, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    This looks super tasty! It is still pretty warm here but maybe in a few weeks it will be cool enough for soup.

  2. October 19, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    This looks delicious! Have you ever frozen leftover soup? I like to freeze several bowls to make for easy lunches and variety without having to cook every day, but I’ve never frozen the red lentils and they seem a little more finicky than the brown ones.

    • October 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      I haven’t tried freezing this one. But let me know if you try it and whether or not it turns out. Enjoy!

      • October 26, 2012 at 8:37 am #

        Will do!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: