A warm and comforting Indian-inspired dal soup. This red lentil soup is made with a hint of curry, coconut milk, lemon juice, and fresh cilantro. You can make it in the slow cooker or on the stovetop!

bowl of red lentil soup with hand lifting spoon from bowl

Hoping we’ve had the last of the scorching hot weather for the year!

I’m making bowls of warm red lentil soup and serving it up with crusty bread on the side, and it’s so so good. Regardless of the weather, I love having a pot full of homemade soup in the refrigerator to enjoy for lunches throughout the week. 

A bowl of soup and a side salad always fuel me for the day and keep me from feeling super full or from having that 3 pm crash. 

side shot of bowl of dal soup topped with red pepper flakes and cilantro

I’ll be the first one to tell you that red lentil soup may not be the most photogenic soup you’ve consumed, but it definitely is warm and hearty. It’s easy to make, fills you up, tastes better the next day, and uses mostly pantry staple ingredients. 

What is red lentil soup?

Lentil soup is a hearty soup that is often vegetarian-friendly. There are a lot of different varieties of lentils that can be used to make soup, such as, red, yellow, black, or brown lentil. We’re using the red variety to make todays red lentil soup.

close of cup of red lentils

What do you need to make red lentil soup?

  • Oil + butter: If you follow a vegan diet, feel free to swap the butter for margarine or more oil.
  • Minced garlic: I like to use four cloves of garlic, but feel free to use more or less as you prefer.
  • Chopped onions: To make this soup even faster, just roughly quarter the onions and pop them into a food processor to help chop them faster. This saves you so much time if you’re planning on pureeing the soup anyway! 
  • Chopped celery: I process the celery the same way as the onions.
  • Seasonings: For this recipe, we’ll be using a few Indian spices, such as turmeric, garam masala, chili powder, ground cumin, and curry powder. I often get a lot of questions about the chili powder, so I want to take a second and tell you that almost any kind of mild (or hot) chili powder will work for this recipe. Standard Indian chili powder has about the same heat level as cayenne, so even cayenne will work for this recipe (however, I don’t suggest using ½ teaspoon unless you can really really spicy food!)
  • Diced tomatoes: You just need a can on tomatoes, I told you, this one uses a ton of pantry staples!
  • Red lentils: I buy red lentils from an Indian grocery store. They usually require a quick pick and rinse. Just check the container of your lentils to see if they’ve been pre-rinsed – no need to rinse them if they’ve already done that for you!
  • Vegetable broth: I’ve made this recipe with both vegetable and chicken broth – both work equally well, so use whichever you prefer.
  • Coconut milk: Coconut milk adds richness to the soup. It doesn’t taste like coconut, but it definitely gives it a creamy flavor.
  • Lemon juice: I like to add lemon juice as it really compliments all the flavors in this soup.
side shot of red lentil soup in dutch oven before blending

FAQ’s about lentil soup:

  1. Can I make this recipe in the instant pot? I haven’t tried making this soup in the instant pot before but I do think it would work. I’d cook in on high pressure for about 9-10 minutes. I’d use ~4 cups of stock if you plan on making it in the IP. Then, thin with additional stock as desired.
  2. Does this recipe need more stock if I cook it on the stovetop? Yes, it will. I’ve included directions for both the stovetop and the slow cooker. Both have separate directions on how much stock you’ll use based on the type of cooking method you choose.
  3. I follow a vegan diet, can I still make this recipe? Yes, I suggest swapping out the butter for vegan butter, vegan margarine, or another tablespoon of oil and you’re good to go.
  4. Can I use coconut cream in place of the coconut milk? Coconut milk has a more liquid consistency than coconut cream. If you have coconut cream on hand, you’ll need to thin it out for this recipe. Use about ½ can of the cream and ½ can of water to make the quantity required for this recipe.
top shot of two bowls of lentil soup on white marble

If you like this recipe, you might also like:

close up of soup with spoon to show smoothness
Yield: 6 servings

Comforting Red Lentil Soup (Dal Soup)

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Additional Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 48 minutes

A warm and comforting Indian-inspired dal soup. This red lentil soup I made with a hint of curry, coconut milk, lemon juice, and fresh cilantro. You can make it in the slow cooker or on the stovetop!

Comforting Red Lentil Soup (Dal Soup)


  • 1 tablespoon EACH: butter AND olive oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon EACH: ground turmeric, garam masala, AND chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2-3 teaspoons curry powder (mild or hot)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1½ cups red lentils, washed and drained
  • 3-5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken stock)
  • 1½ cups of coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Chopped cilantro, for serving


      1. SAUTE: Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions and celery for 5-6 minutes or until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 additional minute. Add the turmeric, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and curry powder. Continue to cook the veggies for another 1-2 minutes.
      2. MAKE ON THE STOVETOP: Add the tomatoes, lentils, 4 cups of broth, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow the soup to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk and allow the soup to continue cooking for an additional 12-18 minutes or until the lentils are fall-apart tender. If the lentils soak up too much of the liquid, use the remaining ½ cup of broth to thin the soup to your liking. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture if you prefer a smooth texture. Leave as-is for a chunkier texture. Turn the stove off and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust with additional salt if the soup needs it.
      3. MAKE IN THE SLOW COOKER: Transfer the mixture from step 1 to a crockpot (slow cooker) and add the tomatoes, lentils and 3 cups of broth. Cook on high for 3 and 1/2 hours or on low for 6 and 1/2 hours. 20 minutes before the time is up add the coconut milk, lemon juice, and cilantro. If at any point the lentils soak up too much of the soup, use the additional broth to thin the soup to your liking. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture if you prefer a smooth texture. Leave as-is for a chunkier texture. Adjust salt to taste.


  • I used an Indian chili powder (which is very similar to cayenne) but any kind of chili powder (with a spice level you can handle) will work for this recipe! Ancho or chipotle would also work for this recipe!
  • vegan friends: swap the butter for margarine or just use more oil instead!

Have you made this recipe?

I’d LOVE it if you could take a second to rate this recipe and leave a comment below. You can also share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LITTLESPICEJAR 🙂

Original recipe shared April 2016, updated September 2020 with a new post, pictures, stovetop directions, and minor tweaks in the recipe.

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