This easy Middle Eastern Red Lentil Potato Soup cooks in less than 30 minutes. It’s packed with flavor from garlic, onion, cumin, and paprika, and is also high in fiber and protein. This is definitely a filling bowl of comfort.
(This recipe was originally published in April 2011, but was updated with new photos and content in 2020).
There are countless ways to make lentil soup, but this red lentil potato soup is a Middle Eastern classic! This particular recipe was passed down from my Armenian grandmother, and has been a family favorite for ages. It’s studded with cubes of potato, grains of rice, and spiced up with a bit of ground cumin.
Anyone who has worked with red lentils before knows that unlike other lentils these break down and do not hold their shape. Thus this soup is considerably thick, almost stew-like, because the lentils break down and thicken the broth.
Perhaps the most endearing quality of this soup is not its wonderful flavor and texture, but its ease of preparation. Every ingredient could be stored in a pantry safely for quite some time. Even the produce like the onion, potato, and garlic are resilient ingredients that many people typically have on hand as it is.
- Red Lentils: Unlike brown and green lentils, red lentils are hulled and split and are meant to soften to the point of disintegration. They will thicken this soup without effort. Red lentils have become more and more common in grocery stores (in the dry beans and legumes aisle or ethic foods aisle), online, and of course are prevalent in Middle Eastern markets.
- Potato: Use waxy potatoes such as Yukon gold or white potatoes. They hold their shape better when boiled. Floury potatoes like russets will fall apart when you cook them in this lentil potato soup.
- Rice: We use medium-grain rice in this soup, but you can stir in any rice you prefer. Just make sure to taste the soup to ensure the rice is properly cooked before serving. Different types of rice may require different cook times.
- Broth: Store-bought chicken broth or chicken stock works well in this lentil potato soup (and makes it extra quick and easy), but you can use homemade broth if you have it. You can also substitute vegetable broth or water if you want to make this soup vegetarian.
How to make it
In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter and add finely chopped onion. Cook until softened (PHOTO 1). Add chicken broth and water (PHOTO 2). Raise the heat and bring to a boil.
Then add the red lentils, rice, cubed potato, minced garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper (PHOTO 3). When the mixture returns to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils, rice, and potatoes are all tender (PHOTO 4).
Expert tips and FAQs
You can swap out the rice with an equal amount of fine (#1 grade) bulgur wheat if you would like. This is another delicious option, although the soup will no longer be gluten-free if you use bulgur.
Reduce the cumin to 1 teaspoon if you would like a less pronounced cumin flavor in your red lentil potato soup.
The soup will continue to thicken as it sits and cools. When reheating leftover soup, if it seems thicker than your preference add a small amount of water to thin it out.
Dried lentils will stay at best quality for about 2 to 3 years if stored properly in an airtight container at room temperature. Even then, they are usually safe to eat after that.
As lentils are natural and unprocessed there is always a chance you’ll find small rocks or other imperfections. Picking through and rinsing lentils will get rid of any dust, dirt or other foreign objects that might have made it into the bag.
Other recipes you may like
- Armenian Lentil Soup with Macaroni
- Meatball Soup with Potatoes and Carrots
- Česnečka (Czech Garlic Soup aka Hangover Soup)
- Autumn Vegetable Soup with Sausage and Green Lentils
- Manti Soup
- Armenian Meatball Soup
- Minestrone Soup
- Red Lentil Kofte (Vospov Kofte)
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Red Lentil Potato Soup
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 4 cups chicken broth (replace with vegetable broth or water for vegetarian option)
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups red lentils picked over and rinsed
- ⅓ cup medium-grain rice
- 2 small or 1 large white or yellow (waxy) potato peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the chopped onion, cook until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the broth and water, raise the heat and bring to a boil.
- Then add the lentils, rice, potato, garlic, cumin, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. When the mixture returns to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils, rice, and potatoes are all tender. The rice will likely take the longest to cook.
- Readjust seasonings as needed and serve.
- You can swap out the rice with an equal amount of fine (#1 grade) bulgur wheat if you would like. This is another delicious option, although the soup will no longer be gluten-free if you use bulgur.
- Reduce the cumin to 1 teaspoon if you would like a less pronounced cumin flavor in your soup.
- The soup will continue to thicken as it sits and cools. When reheating leftover soup, if it seems thicker than your preference add a small amount of water to thin it out.
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*