Turkish Red Lentil Soup (Mercimek Corbasi)
This Turkish lentil soup is made with red lentils and only five other ingredients! Add the lentils, a bouillon cube with onions, and salt, and let it bubble away. We’ll finish it with a quick roux that will make this buttery, delicious, and perfect for serving as a meal or an appetizer! Did I mention it’s VERY easy to make?
I can’t tell you the number of times I ordered Mercimek Çorbası while we were in Turkey last year.
If it was on the menu, it was going to be ordered. And who could resist a warm and cozy bowl of soup that made you feel comforted away from home? Most places served it with lemon wedges to squeeze on top. I loved it with a slice of white bread to dip in there. And I know what you’re thinking: how can five ingredients make a soup that tastes that good?
To tell you the truth, I’m still in shock. To the point where I’ve tested this recipe a ridiculous number of times to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke. And after this last time, I’ll tell you this; it wasn’t. This dish is truly one of the creamiest, most luxurious soups.
I know I said that last time when I made my Turkish lentil soup with potatoes, carrots, and tomato paste. But I like this one even better. That one did have a big boost of nutrition from the veggies, which I love. But this one had that perfectly creamy texture that’s simply unbelievable. And it’s still surprisingly low in calories. When you make Mercimek Corbasi for friends or family, they will be convinced there’s some animal fat mixed into the soup – because the creaminess feels like it couldn’t simply be a butter and flour-based roux! But to everyone’s surprise, it is, and all we do is hand blend in at the end to create a silky smooth puree. I’ll also add that it can be vegan-friendly with a few swaps.
Ingredients for Mercimek Corbasi
A note about this recipe: since the ingredient list is so tiny and we’re hoping to achieve a prominent flavor, I suggest using good-quality ingredients. This mainly applies to two components – the bouillon and the butter. The bouillon and onion provide most of the flavor in this soup. The butter makes the roux that will thicken the lentil soup and give it that signature creaminess. So trust me when I say these are the key components.
- Red Lentils: You’ll need red lentils as the first ingredient. If you buy this from a South Asian grocery store, it’s also labeled as Masoor Daal. You’ll want to rinse the lentils under cold running water before you add them to the pot. If you can’t find red lentils near you, they’re also available online here.
- Bouillon Cube: So we’ve talked about how important it is to use a good quality bouillon cube. I typically don’t recommend specific brands unless I’m passionate about them. I prefer to use the Knorr brand of cubes for this recipe. I use the ones that are made in the Middle East or Turkey. But you can use this version (caldo de pollo) as well. All this to say, you want to use a bouillon cube that has tons of vegetables, spices, and herbs mixed in. That is 100% my favorite one to use for this soup. If you want to make this recipe vegan-friendly, I suggest using the same brand but in their vegetable stock variety.
- Yellow Onion: You’ll want one large yellow onion to peel and cut into 1-inch cubes. I’m being so specific about the size of the onions so that when we boil the lentils and onions together, they cook up and turn translucent in the amount of time specified to simmer the soup. If you cut them larger, it’s okay; just let the soup simmer for longer until the onions are cooked through. Everything blends up more effortlessly with the hand blender when you do this. Otherwise, if the onions aren’t soft, you won’t get that silky smooth texture to your Mercimek Corbasi.
- Kosher Salt: This one is pretty self-explanatory! You can also use black pepper if you’d like, but I usually don’t.
- Water: You’ll need water to boil the lentils, and then you’ll also need a bit for the roux before we add it to the stock pot.
- Butter: I prefer unsalted butter for this recipe to add salt to the lentils as they simmer. If you only have salted butter, reduce or omit the kosher salt from the soup base.
- Flour: You’ll need some flour to create the roux to help thicken the soup. I haven’t tested this recipe with a GF mix, so I’m unsure if it’ll work for my gluten-free friends.
The Best Turkish Red Lentil Soup Recipe:
- Simmer the soup. Add the lentils, once rinsed, to a 4-quart dutch oven or larger. Add water, cubed onions, bouillon, and a teaspoon of kosher salt, and bring the soup pot to a boil over high heat. You want the lentils to start releasing a white foam at the top when it boils. Using a spoon, scoop up the white foam at the top and remove and discard. Once the foam has been removed, cover the soup pot with a lid, and lower the heat to medium-low. Let this simmer until the onions have completely softened enough to puree.
- Make the roux when the soup is done simmering. Add the butter to a small skillet or a saucepan. Add the flour to the melted butter and let the 1½ tablespoons of flour cook in the butter until it’s lightly golden. Add some water to make a nice thick paste, and then remove from heat.
- Finish the soup. Check the soup pot to make sure the onions are translucent. Then transfer the roux mixture to the soup pot. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until you have a silky smooth texture. Heat the soup over medium heat on the stove until it starts to simmer again. You want the soup to start thinking up. Give it 5 minutes to simmer. Then taste the soup to make sure it has enough sodium. You may need another pinch of salt. Serve Mercimek Corbasi warm in bowls with a slice of bread, and garnish with dried mint, a drizzle of olive oil mixed with Aleppo or red pepper flakes. Or serve with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice on top. You could even add croutons instead of serving with fresh bread if you wanted.
FAQS about this soup recipe
I typically store it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. You can warm the whole thing on the stove or in the microwave.
You can keep leftover soup in the freezer and it holds up pretty well. Keep it in small servings or freeze the whole thing in one big soup pot.
You can if you want to! Just add in 2-3 cloves with the onions and let them simmer with the lentils. They should puree up nicely!
You can! It won’t cut the prep time down at all, but it will cut down on the total time. You’ll want to stir together the lentils, onions, chicken bouillon, and kosher salt, in the instant pot insert along with 4 1/2 cups of water. Let this cook on high pressure for 7 minutes. You can do a natural pressure release if you’d like. Then simply pick up the recipe from step 2.
You might enjoy these other soup recipes too
- Moroccan Sweet Potato Lentil Soup
- Comforting Red Lentil Soup (Dal Soup)
- Homemade Minestrone Soup
- Secret Ingredient Tomato Basil Soup
- Roasted Honeynut Squash Soup
- 1 ¼ cups red lentils, rinsed
- 5 cups water + ¼ cup
- 1 chicken boullion cube
- 1 yellow onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 ½ tablespoons flour
- RINSE AND SIMMER: Add the rinsed lentils, 5 cups of water, bouillon, onion, and kosher salt to a Dutch oven or stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When the white foam rises to the top, remove it with a spoon and discard it. Cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.
- MAKE ROUX: Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat until it melts. Whisk in the flour and create a roux by cooking the flour for 1-2 minutes until golden. Then add the ¼ cup of water until you have a nice thick paste.
- FINISH: Add the paste to the lentils then blend with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Heat the soup over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Then let simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust with more salt as desired. Serve warm in bowls with lemon wedges, fresh parsley, and dried mint, or sprinkle with Aleppo pepper flakes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 144Total Fat: 8gCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 4gProtein: 8g
The nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is just an estimate. To get the most accurate information, please input the ingredients you've used into a nutrition calculator.