Moroccan Lentil Soup

This warmly spicy, soul-satisfying Moroccan lentil soup blends red lentils, tomatoes, onion, celery, garlic, and cilantro with ras el hanout, a North African spice mix. On top? Chile-fried onions. Healthy doesn’t taste any more soothing.

A white bowl filled with lentil soup and topped with fried chiles, greek yogurt, and cilantro

Moroccan lentil soup doesn’t come any simpler or more spectacular than this. It’s subtly spicy from ras el hanout and perfectly tart from a modest squeeze of lemon. It’s truly lovely, luxuriantly aromatic, and richly satiating.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Moroccan Lentil Soup

  • Quick Glance
  • (7)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 8
4.7/5 - 7 reviews
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  • For the Moroccan lentil soup
  • For the chile-fried onions


Make the Moroccan lentil soup

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and sauté the onion and celery until softened but not colored. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 minute. Then add the ras el hanout, lentils, tomatoes, and stock or water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the lentils start to break down and sort of become a purée. The mixture will be quite thick and more dal-like than soup-y. If you prefer a thinner consistency, add more stock or water as necessary.

Make the chile-fried onions

Slick a skillet with the olive oil, place it over medium-high heat, and toss in the sliced onions. Heat until the onions are golden brown and crisp at the edges. Add the cinnamon, sugar, and chile and stir just until the onions are coated. Then let the onions cook only until the sugar has dissolved. Immediately add the lemon juice—and be ready to dodge some spatters. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup

Season the lentil soup with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped cilantro. Ladle the soup into bowls and add a dollop of yogurt and the chile-fried onions. Garnish with cilantro. Originally published January 15, 2014.

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    Moroccan Lentil Soup Variations

    • Ham and Lentil Soup: Make the soup following the method above but omit the spices, celery, garlic, tomatoes, and chile-fried onions. Instead cook 2 onions, 1 potato, 2 carrots (all chopped) and 1 cup lentils in oil. Replace the chicken stock with 6 cups stock made from a ham bone (make sure it isn’t too salty; dilute with water if it is). Sauté flakes of ham or chunks of bacon in butter, adding 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, and sprinkle on top of the soup. Add a swirl of cream, if you please.

    • Lentil and Spinach Soup: Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy pan and gently cook 1 onion, chopped, and 1 celery stalk, diced, for 8 minutes. Add 2 garlic cloves, chopped, and 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 1/3 cups brown lentils, 3 tomatoes, chopped, 2 thyme sprigs, and 4 cups water or chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. If it seems too thick, add stock or water to thin it to the desired consistency. Season well. Shred 10 ounces spinach and add to the soup to wilt. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon and stir in 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Serves 4.

    • Minus the Lovely Chile-Fried Onion GarnishThose of you not inclined to indulge in the chile-fried onion garnish, simply toss 2 chopped, seeded fresh chiles into the soup or stir in a dab of harissa.

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    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    Delicious. Easy. A keeper. On a chilly weeknight, you won't need much else. The fabulous aroma and complex flavor make this vegetarian lentil soup (vegan if you use water instead of chicken stock and skip the Greek yogurt) so satisfying, it won’t leave anyone—meat-loving or not—feeling deprived.

    I cooked my lentils covered and in 30 minutes they broke down to perfectly soft bits. We felt the recipe would serve 6 people at most if the soup is being served as the main dish.

    For the chile-fried onions (I HIGHLY recommend you make these, along with the ras el hanout spice mixture recipe already on the site), I used a Fresno pepper, jalapeño’s red cousin.

    This soup was wonderful! I'm a soup lover and make red lentil soup pretty frequently, but never with this warm, flavorful blend of spices. It's well worth making your own ras el hanout. (I used this ras el hanout recipe. I will surely be making the soup again.

    The suggested 4 1/2 cups of liquid (I used water) resulted in a dal-like consistency. I added an additional cup and the soup was still quite thick. It took about 45 minutes for the lentils to break down and the vegetables to soften. Next time, I would probably add a large diced carrot to up the flavor profile.

    The chile-fried onions, which are a quick version of caramelized onions, are not just a garnish but an essential component. My red jalapeño added a slight heat to the soup and the onions and brown sugar some welcome sweetness. I stirred my onions into the soup and served it with a dollop of yogurt on top. Sautéed or steamed greens (spinach, arugula, chard, collards) or cubed winter squash or sweet potato would be lovely indeed. With some good bread, this is a rich, filling, and delicious meal for a winter's evening.


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    1. I’ve been on a lentil soup binge this winter, and just made this double batch of your Moroccan Lentil Soup. Based on my lunch serving of two full ladles – about two cups total – this produced eight generous servings. My only modifications were a touch of curry powder and red pepper flakes for heat, and about 2T of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. I use ras al hanout quite a bit in cooking, and so it’s always on hand. My red lentils from Bob’s Red Mill broke down beautifully within the specified 30 minutes. I did not prepare the onions for add-on at the end – the soup on its own lived up to my expectations for lively flavors.

      Moroccan Lentil Soup reader photo

    2. I made this recipe last night. I was not prepared for the party that was about to happen in my mouth. This stew had soooo much flavor. It was truly amazing!! Thanks so much for such a wonderful recipe. This is a keeper. And those onions were perfect. That part reminded me a little bit of Majadara.

    3. I made this tonight. It’s a fairly time-consuming recipe, but well worth the effort. The combination of flavors is pretty amazing. I loved the yogurt and onion/pepper combo on top, too. In some ways, the lemon juice and the cilantro were two of the most critical ingredients (for me). I didn’t add any salt, and it didn’t seem to need any. Had it with some really good bread and a bit of cheese. I’m looking forward to leftovers! Thanks for the recipe. 🙂

    4. You can improve the taste of Moroccon lentil soup by adding more lemon juice and tikka masala curry paste! (If it gets too sour, add more palm sugar or brown sugar) Try! Its gorgeous! I also added a very important and tasty ingredient—crushed cardamon—next to the tikka masala curry paste and extra lemon juice.

    5. I must admit, I had never heard of ras el hanout before. Had to look it up. Will try to find this mix and order it, because this recipe sounds outstanding. Thank you!

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