This collard greens, chickpea, and lentil soup is an Indian-inspired, healthy, yet comforting meal from Nik Sharma that packs layers of flavor into each spoonful.
I like tangy flavors in all my soups; it’s a constant in most of the soups I cook or write about. The bitterness of collard greens is tamed by the acids in the tamarind and tomatoes.
Red lentils cook quickly, so you don’t have to soak them like green or brown lentils, but I still do; it’s a habit I learned from my family in India. Soaking seeds and legumes in water changes their chemical composition and makes them more digestible. If you’re running low on time, skip the soak and just cook them.–Nik Sharma
What to look for when buying red lentils
Depending on where you buy your red lentils, you might notice some differences in their thickness and diameter. Indian red lentils are wider and thicker than the ones sold in American grocery stores; consequently, if using Indian lentils, you’ll need to increase your cooking time and add a little more water if you notice the liquid being completely absorbed.
Collard Greens, Chickpea, and Lentil Soup
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium (7 oz) white or yellow onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 2 inch piece cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 medium (5 oz) tomato diced
- 1 bunch (7 oz) collard greens Swiss chard, or kale, midribs removed, coarsely chopped
- One (15 1/2 oz) can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1 quart store-bought or homemade vegetable stock plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste or 2 tablespoons lime juice
- Fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Buttered bread or naan for serving (optional)
- Pick over the lentils for any stones or debris, rinse in a fine-mesh sieve under running tap water, and transfer to a small bowl. Cover with 1 cup of water and soak for 30 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: If you’re running short on time, you can skip the soaking step. Just give the lentils a good rinse before adding them to the soup.
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook until it just starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t scorch.
- Stir in the diced tomato and collard greens and sauté until the leaves turn bright green, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Drain the soaked lentils and add them to the pan along with the chickpeas and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are tender and completely cooked, 25 to 30 minutes. If the soup seems excessively thick, or all the broth has been absorbed, add more broth as desired.
- Stir in the tamarind paste. Taste and season with salt.
- Before serving, stir in the chopped parsley and cilantro. Serve hot with slices of warm buttered toasted bread or naan, if desired.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Each year as the weather turns cooler and the humidity wanes, I get a strong hankering for soup. This weekend was the perfect time to make soup and this specific recipe for Collard Greens, Chickpea, and Lentil Soup really caught my eye. I adore the flavor combination of ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and chili powder, and with the addition of hearty collard greens and the mix of lentils and chickpeas, I was sold on making this healthy soup.
Oh what a fragrant soup as it simmered on the stove! I also loved the idea that I could use one of my last-of-the-season ripe tomatoes here, too.
My chili powder was a spicy variety, which I think paired well with the other flavors of the soup, and I had a boxed variety of organic vegetable stock that I like in the pantry, so that is what I used here.
I did not soak my red lentils because, in my experience, they cook very quickly. Also, I did not have tamarind paste on hand (I wish I did!) so I used the juice of 1 lime instead.
I served the soup with some garlic bread and a side of roasted broccoli. I would say this serves 6 people easily.
In total, I used 2 1/2 teaspoons of Morton kosher salt in the soup. Seeing that this soup is vegetarian and has such cleansing flavors, this is a wonderful recipe to pull anytime in the fall or winter months, but especially around the new year when we all seem to be trying to cook a bit cleaner in general!
Confession: I almost didn’t make this because it wasn’t a particularly sexy recipe. What a fool I was! This was absolutely lovely! Warm and hearty, bursting with flavor and aromatics. This soup has a very prominent cinnamon flavor, which I loved.
Collard greens weren’t available at my grocery store, so I used Swiss chard. I used homemade chicken stock instead of veg stock or water. I used pure tamarind paste and 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar.
I soaked my lentils for 30 mins, but if you choose not to, be sure to rinse them as the soaking water turned very cloudy.
This was a perfect weeknight dinner.
I didn’t serve it with anything! Just a warm bowl of soup. I’d argue it was a perfectly filling meal on its own and didn’t need bread or anything else.
Soup is by far my favorite food, but I was very skeptical of this recipe from the beginning until I started to eat it. I’ve never used cinnamon or turmeric in a soup before but decided to fully commit and try the recipe out! The smell of cinnamon (and red pepper powder) filled my house and I was nervous that I’d messed up, but much to my surprise, it was delicious. The cinnamon was not an outright flavor but was subtle.
On day 4 of the leftovers, the flavor is becoming stronger with the greens holding up well.
Unable to find collard greens, I used kale and quickly realized my pot was much too small to cook the soup in and had to dump everything into a larger pot. Other than the prep of mincing, dicing, and chopping, the soup came together with ease and is something I’d consider making again. It isn’t my go-to type of soup, but I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried it.
I served it with toasted white buttered bread, but also think white rice would work really well (like a gumbo with it in the bowl).
This soup clearly presents as a “healthy” soup, but doesn’t skimp on taste. I was stunned how much tangy acidity such a small amount of tamarind gave to an entire pot of soup and was pleased with the balance of flavors, textures, and spice.
I wouldn’t recommend using water, however, and a really substantial vegetable stock is going to give you the best results here. My soup ended up thicker and less brothy than how it appears in the picture, but that’s my preference, so no complaints here. For whatever reason I’ve never put collard greens in a soup before, but I’m happy to say this recipe made a convert out of me.
I served it with toast and cinnamon roasted butternut squash.
Originally published October 28, 2020