This Instant Pot lentil soup transforms everyday pantry ingredients, including French lentils, carrots, onion, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, and vegetable broth, into a satiating vegetarian meal.
In the words of the author, Nisha Vora, this comforting Instant Pot lentil soup can best be described as rustic French home cooking. We can’t argue with that. This soup uses inexpensive ingredients you probably already have on hand and transforms them into something hearty and satiating. So much so we doubt anyone will even notice you didn’t make a special trip to the store or spend hours slaving over it.–Angie Zoobkoff
Instant Pot Lentil Soup
- a 6-quart Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium (about 7 oz) yellow onion cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 3 medium (about 8 oz) carrots cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 3 medium (about 6 oz) celery stalks with leaves cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 medium (about 6 oz) Yukon Gold potato peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
- 1 1/2 cups French green (Puy) lentils
- A bouquet garni made with 2 bay leaves a few sprigs each of flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, oregano, and thyme, tied tightly together with kitchen twine*
- 4 cups store-bought or homemade low-sodium vegetable broth
- One (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 1 to 2 cups water or vegetable broth (optional)
- 2 teaspoons high-quality balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to taste
- Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
- Select the sauté setting on the Instant Pot and let the pot heat for a few minutes before adding the oil. Once the oil is hot, stir in the onion and a pinch of salt.
- Cook, stirring frequently and reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning and your Instant Pot from overheating, until the onion is lightly browned and completely soft, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Stir in the carrots, celery, garlic, potato, salt, and pepper and cook until the carrots are just starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the paprika and lentils and cook for 30 seconds, stirring to coat the lentils with the spices and seasonings. Select the Cancel setting.
- Add the bouquet garni and vegetable broth and then pour the crushed tomatoes on top. Stir gently to combine.
- Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to sealing. Select the Pressure Cook setting at high pressure and set the cook time to 12 minutes.
- After cooking for 12 minutes, allow a natural pressure release for 15 minutes, then use quick release to finish venting, if necessary.
- Open the pot and remove the bouquet garni. The soup will be quite thick at this point. If you like the soup to have a stew-like consistency, leave it as is; if you prefer a thinner consistency, pour in about 1 cup water (or vegetable broth) or more until you achieve your desired consistency.
- Stir in the vinegar, taste, and adjust seasoning, if needed. Ladle the soup into bowls and, if desired, sprinkle with parsley. (Any leftover soup refrigerates quite nicely and, in fact, is arguably even better the next day.)
How To Make This Soup On The StovetopNo Instant Pot? No problem. Follow the directions above using a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Once you’ve added the broth and tomatoes, bring the mixture to a simmer, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the lentils are very tender and the soup is thick, about 45 minutes. Check the soup occasionally and add water if it becomes too thick.
*How To Use Dried Herbs In Place Of A Bouquet GarniIf you don’t have a selection of fresh herbs on hand, you can swap in a teaspoon of dried for each one.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I’m usually in the camp of lentil soup with sausage, but since we’re trying to cut back on meat consumption, I decided to try this vegan version. It’s delicious, couldn’t have been easier, and uses pantry ingredients. It looks like it will serve at least 10 unless you’re feeding lumberjacks or teen-aged boys.
I used sweet paprika, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs from my garden.
A thinner soup is our preference, so I did thin it with the suggested water, although I’m sure if you had extra vegetable broth it would be even more flavorful. Speaking of the vegetable broth, for homemade, I just used the onion skin, carrot and potato peels, and celery trimmings from the veggies used in the recipe along with some bay leaves and herbs.
The timing in the recipe was spot on. Will definitely make this again. I think it might be even better with a drizzle of basil oil or pistou.
This is a hearty, delicious lentil soup that’s pretty straightforward to make. The flavor promised comes through from the bouquet garni to the balsamic vinegar. “Rustic French home cooking” seems just right.
For the bouquet garni, I used rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves; I used smoked paprika and balsamic vinegar (2 teaspoons was plenty).
The soup took about 15 to 20 minutes to come up to pressure. I let the pressure naturally release for another 15 minutes after the cook time and then did a forced release. Had I not forced it, I think the natural release would have taken at least 20 if not 30 minutes. I don’t think it made a difference in the finished product that I didn’t wait for a full natural release. All told, as written the soup is probably about 90 minutes from start-to-finish.
This was such a delicious, easy meal to make that all of my family loved.
I used smoked paprika and brown lentils and added a few handfuls of fresh spinach once it was done cooking. As for herbs, I didn’t have any fresh ones, so I added a pinch of dried for each herb stated in the recipe and it still turned out delicious. I used 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. It didn’t need any salt after cooking.
I let the Instapot do a natural release for 15 minutes and then did a quick release to open it up. The balsamic vinegar really takes the flavors to a whole other level. Served with buttered fresh sourdough bread for dunking, this meal was perfect.
For as big as my local grocery store is, some of these ingredients aren’t always available, like on the day I went shopping. I am very happy to report this recipe’s versatility!
OK, the soup itself. Love. It’s super hearty and comforting. I forgot it was vegan until I was about halfway through my first bowl. Diehard meat eaters may do the same! It did take a bit of time to make, so it’s not quite a weeknight meal. Soup is always better the day after, so make it Sunday for an easy Monday night meal (Mondays are hard, you guys) or eat it for lunch all week. Easily enough for 6.
I picked up an 8-ounce package of lentil blend (green lentils, split baby garbanzo beans, french green lentils, black beluga lentils) and they came out to a heaping 1 1/4 cups. There were no fresh herbs, either, so I made a bouquet garni of about 3/4 teaspoon of all those herbs in dried form. I tied them in a muslin tea bag. I think my assumption wasn’t generous enough; bump them to a teaspoon each if you use dried. I had to make my own crushed tomatoes from two 14.5-ounce cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes that I roughly pureed using a stick blender.
To start, I used a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. I didn’t need to add much additional salt since the broth and tomatoes both contained some salt. I also served it with some grated Parm. Delish!
I figure the prep took me about 30 minutes, but that’s the only hands-on time you really need to worry about. The onions were getting really brown really fast, so I only cooked them about 5 minutes so they wouldn’t burn. Stir all the other stuff for about 2 minutes, so the garlic doesn’t burn or add it last so the vegetables soften nicely.
The natural release took about 40 minutes. The resulting soup was rather thick but I like it that way. The lentil blend I used added additional texture and no mush.
There are so many recipes for lentil soup out there, it’s hard to get excited about any one, especially one as simple as this. But I’m here to tell you, this is an excellent lentil soup, more than the sum of its parts.
I didn’t have the fire-roasted tomatoes so just used regular canned whole tomatoes pulsed in the blender to break them up. To compensate for this, I used 1/2 tsp smoked paprika for half of the paprika called for in the recipe. For the rest, I used a hot paprika.
I used all the herbs in the bouquet garni, and was pleased with the way they flavored the soup—not in-your-face herbal but a gentle flavor, so there wasn’t an incongruence between the herbs and paprika. I did not thin the soup, nor did I add additional salt, as it didn’t need it. However, my vegetable stock had some salt in it (though not a ton).
All in all, this was a well-balanced recipe that made for an easy dinner and delivered on flavor.
This recipe was so appealing, I made it even though I don’t have an Instant Pot using our traditional pressure cooker (Kuhn Rikon 7-liter). It works great and just as written—all the sautéing happens just like ordinary stovetop cooking and the pressure sequence of 12 minutes is just the same.
Although it’s almost a pantry soup, it delivers a very scrummy dinner, reminding us that French country cooking can be easy! The Puy lentils are very special (and maybe the one lentil I really like best).
Since we didn’t have fire-roasted crushed tomatoes on-hand, we used tinned diced tomatoes but also chose smoked hot paprika to get closer to that fire-roasted note. Even my winter garden was able to supply fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley, and oregano for the bouquet garni (hurray for herbs which survive).
This is absolutely terrific the first night but just as special if not more so on the second day and was clearly a more-ish find of recipe, confirmed by the best comment from himself: “My, that was wonderful,” as he enjoyed a second helping. It was really nice accompanied by fresh baked crusty pain de campagne. Balsamic was just the right finishing touch.
This Instant Pot lentil soup replaces stovetop simmering with the walk-away ease of the multicooker. SOLD. Now, everyone has their own idea of perfect lentil soup, with the ratios of beans-veg-tomato-green that grandma’s-best friend’s mom-the luncheonette bred them to crave. This one may not be balanced like yours, but I’d bet it’s a great starting place.
I found this stew thick, almost mounding on a spoon, with chunky-soft vegetables larger than the intact lentils, very tomatoey to the point of almost saucy. Have all your vegetables chopped, lentils sorted, and stock obtained as the pot sautes hot and needs frequent stirring. I used sweet smoked paprika and pinches of dried herbs instead of a bouquet of fresh—rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage all went in with the bay leaves. The directions for cook times worked great for me.
I often want some guidelines for how long to allow a natural pressure release; I waited for 25 minutes before my impatience led me to finish the release manually. I added that optional cup of water after opening, and found that the salt balance was good. I finished with balsamic and liked the winey depth it added to the herbed tomato base. Topped it with some parsley, like in the picture, and 2 bowls per person disappeared with plenty left for the fridge.
Next time, I’ll limit the ragu-like feel by using canned diced tomatoes instead of crushed (speaking of ragu, I’d bet leftovers would be bonkers over some elbow mac)…or maybe stir in fistfuls of fresh spinach after pressure release, which would work nicely brightened with lemon juice. Either way, transfer this to the SAVE file—it’s a keeper!
I only had sweet smoked paprika and the end result wasn’t noticeably smoky, was very pleasant, and I’d use it again.
This is a perfect one-pot, pantry meal! Perfect for quarantine life. I grew up eating my mom’s lentil soup, which is a very similar recipe to this one, but dare I say, this one is better!
There were a few techniques that took this one to the next level for me, namely, browning the onions at the beginning and finishing the dish with balsamic vinegar. Don’t skip these two steps—they make all the difference! While I have an Instant Pot, I tried this recipe on the stovetop in a cast iron Dutch oven pot because I had the time. I used my mandoline to chop all my vegetables so they were an even size—I love this cheat!
This humble soup is stick-to-your-ribs satisfying. Even the picky teenager in my house ate a big bowl!
Originally published November 22, 2020