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Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup or Mercimek Çorbası is one of Turkey's most popular soups. Warming, hearty, healthy and quick and easy to make. Perfect for a cool autumn or spring evening.

There is something truly peaceful about a pot of soup puttering away on the stove, slowly filling the house with tempting smells and the promise of a warming meal.

Nothing more dramatic in the preparation than roughly chopping a few vegetables and throwing them in a pot – and yet the result is rich and inviting. What is the wonder concoction you ask? Turkish Red Lentil Soup.

A bowl of Turkish Red Lentil Soup

About this recipe

Now I know that when most people think of Turkish food, it’s often all about kebabs and köfte, but as befits a vast and varied country, the Turkish kitchen has the most astounding number of recipes.

In particular, there is a soup for just about every corner of the land, but my favourite, and possibly the most popular is Turkish Red Lentil Soup or Mercimek Çorbası.

Turkish Comfort food

Gently spiced, sometimes flavoured with tomatoes, or peppers, it is a wonderfully nurturing, comforting soup that only takes about half an hour to make, and you may even have all the ingredients at home.

Ingredients

This is a simple soup made from mostly store cupboard or basic ingredients. You’ll need:

  • Red lentils: Red lentils are such a useful store cupboard ingredient as, unlike their green or brown cousins, they never need soaking and will bulk out and add their earthy flavour during the cooking process.
  • Red onions carrots and garlic: The base flavourings of the soup. Carrots give it a light sweetness.
  • Cumin, oregano and paprika: Three of the most popular herbs and spices in Turkey.
  • Canned Tomatoes: if you have very ripe tomatoes you can substitute these for fresh.
  • Chilli oil: I like to top this soup with a quickly made chilli oil and some tangy yoghurt, but it’s just as good without.
  • Fresh mint: Dried mint or Taze Nane is really popular in Turkish cooking – I’m not a huge fan so I like to top my soup with a little fresh mint for the flavour and a pop of colour.
  • Yoghurt: The tanginess of yoghurt contrasts with the deep, earthiness of the soup.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I don’t like spicy soup! Can I still make Red Lentil Soup?

That’s the beauty of making your own soup, you can adjust the amount of spice to your taste. Use sweet rather than spicy paprika and bring the chilli flakes to the table so everyone can adjust the heat to their taste. You may like to serve a little extra yoghurt to cool things down too.

Can Red Lentil Soup be frozen?

Yes, it can! It freezes beautifully. Allow to cool to room temperature before freezing.

How can I fix soup that is too salty?

While it’s not the perfect rescue, stirring a little sugar through a very salty dish can mask some of the saltiness. You can also stir through some extra yoghurt. If I am making this with powdered stock I use a quarter less than the recommended amount – eg: 3 tsp powdered stock for 1-litre water.

What is Pul Biber?

A type of dried red pepper flake essential to Turkish cooking, sold from sweet to very very spicy! It’s sometimes known as Aleppo Pepper in English and can be found at any Turkish shop. You can replace it with mild chilli flakes.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Looking for more Turkish/Cypriot recipes? Why not try:

Chicken and Chickpea Pilaf

Turkish Red Lentil Soup Recipe

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Turkish Red Lentil Soup or Mercimek Çorbası is one of Turkey's most popular soups. Warming, hearty, healthy and quick and easy to make. Perfect for a cool autumn or spring evening.

Ingredients

for the soup:

  • 250g (½ lb.) red lentils
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes or pul biber
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 400g (14. oz.) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 litre (1 qt.) chicken or vegetable stock
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

for the chilli oil:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp ground paprika
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes or pul biber

to serve:

  • 3 Tbsp yoghurt, mixed with 1 Tbsp water
  • lemon slices
  • small bunch parsley or mint
  • crusty bread

Instructions

  1. SAUTÉ VEGETABLES: Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onions with a pinch of salt over low heat for 5 minutes until softened, but not browned. Add the carrot to the pan and continue to cook, stirring for 3 minutes.
  2. ADD REMAINING INGREDIENTS: Add the tomato paste, cumin, oregano, paprika, chilli flakes and garlic and stir well to combine. Pour in the tomatoes, chicken or vegetable stock, lentils and 250ml (1 cup) of water, then bring to the boil, stirring to make sure the lentils don’t stick to the bottom. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the carrot is softened and the lentils cooked through.
  3. MAKE CHILLI OIL: Meanwhile, make the chilli oil by stirring together the olive oil, paprika and chilli flakes or pul biber in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly until the paprika has dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. PURÉE SOUP: When the soup is cooked, use a hand/immersion blender to roughly puree the soup - I like to leave it a little rustic, but it’s really up to you. Taste and add salt, pepper or a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.
  5. SERVE: Divide between four bowls, drizzle over the chilli oil and yoghurt and a few leaves of fresh parsley or mint if using. Serve with lemon slices and crusty bread. Afiyet Olsun!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 602Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 561mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 9gSugar: 9gProtein: 44g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.

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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Jay is the author of two cookbooks: 'Tasty' (2017) and 'Simply Summer' (2019). Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 280

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