Moroccan Lentil Soup

This beauty of this Moroccan lentil soup recipe? It's subtly spicy, ridiculously simple to toss together, and soulfully satisfying. Here's how to make it.

Moroccan Lentil Soup Recipe

Moroccan lentil soup doesn’t come any simpler or more spectacular than this Moroccan lentil soup that’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. This recipe has been updated. Originally published January 15, 2014.Renee Schettler Rossi

Moroccan Lentil Soup Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 8


  • For the Moroccan lentil soup
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils
  • One 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 4 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock, canned chicken broth, vegetable stock, or water, or more as needed
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • For the chile-fried onions
  • 2 onions, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 fresh chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 small lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Greek yogurt, for serving


  • Make the Moroccan lentil soup
  • 1. 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. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped cilantro.
  • Make the chile-fried onions
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. Ladle the soup into bowls and add a dollop of yogurt and the chile-fried onions. Garnish with cilantro.

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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