11:36 | 23/12/2021 Print
When it's cold, everyone needs a comforting bowl of soup, and lentil soup wins on so many levels. Lentils are pulses, a member of the legume family, and they are protein-packed: One cup of cooked lentils has six to 18 grams of protein and is also an excellent source of soluble fiber. And unlike their beany kin, lentils cook quickly, making them a great choice for a speedy, satisfying soup made in just one pot.
This soup is a cinch to make, is packed with flavor and is just the coziest meal ever. Lentil soup is also packed with plant-based protein and fiber – each serving has 10g of protein and 15g of fiber! So that means one bowl is filling, hearty and will help give you lasting energy. You can't get better than that!
|Photo: The Simple Veganista|
2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1" piece peeled ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
¼ cup Thai green curry paste
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cut into ½" cubes
¾ cup brown or green lentils
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 13.5-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well
4 cups (loosely packed) baby spinach leaves
½ tsp. (or more) fish sauce
A small handful of cilantro leaves with tender stems and lime wedges (for serving)
|Photo: Simply Quinoa|
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion, garlic, and ginger; season with salt. Cook, stirring often until onion is translucent and starts to soften about 3 minutes. Add curry paste and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly, until a paste is fragrant and slightly darkened and mixture starts to stick to the pan, about 3 minutes.
Stir sweet potato and lentils into the onion mixture, then add broth and 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook soup, stirring occasionally, until sweet potatoes are cooked through and lentils are tender but not mushy 20–25 minutes.
Add coconut milk to soup; return to a simmer. Add spinach and fish sauce and cook just until spinach is wilted for about 30 seconds. Taste soup and season with more salt and/or fish sauce if needed.
|Photo: Simply Quinoa|
Ladle soup into bowls and top with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
Enhancing the flavor
Lentils are very mild and bland in flavor, so they need a little help by using vegetables, spices, and herbs. I like to add a mirepoix, a combination of onions, carrots, and celery when making soups or stews. Sauteing them in high-quality olive oil, along with garlic and thyme, adds strong aromatics to the soup.
A trifecta of bold spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika adds color and earthy flavor. I like to squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the soup right before eating. It adds a bit of bright acidity to the dish.
What to use? Lentils come in different sizes and colors ranging from yellow and red to green and brown and vary slightly in flavor, texture, and cooking time. The good news is you can use any type of lentil in lentil soup. The other good news: Lentils don't need to soak as beans do (though you do need to sort and rinse them before cooking). That's two reasons why lentil soup is such a winner.
Different types of lentils cook in different amounts of time. Some, like red lentils, dissolve as they cook and make for a smooth soup. Others, such as green and brown lentils, hold their shape and make a soup with more texture.
A basic rule of soup-making is that better-quality broth will create a more richly flavored soup. Chicken or vegetable stock is most often used, but if you have some homemade lamb stock in the freezer, that would create a deeply flavorful base; beef stock is also delicious.
A little onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil are all you need to form a flavor base for the soup. A mixture of carrots, onion, and celery brings more aromatic flavors, like in our classic Lentil Vegetable Soup.
Should you want a meaty bowl, bacon, sausage or ham hocks are the pork parts most often called for in lentil soup recipes. Try Lentil Soup with Sausage and Kale or Red Lentil Soup with Bacon for protein-packed options.
Lentils are the starting point. Depending on the herbs and spices you use, your soup can be altogether different. Go classic with thyme and bay or curry flavors or fresh ginger. Garnish with cilantro or parsley or chives when you serve. Always start the soup using the same lentils and vegetables and broth combination, but change it up each time by using a different combination of spices or adding parsley and grated Parmesan when you serve.
Even when making the entire soup from scratch, a meal like this Red Lentil and Squash Curry Soup can be ready in as little as 30 minutes. Just cook the soup until lentils are tender but not mushy and any vegetables are cooked through. We recommend choosing red lentils for the fastest-cooking soup.
Now before we dive into actually making this coconut curry lentil soup, let me answer a few questions about using and making lentils. These are the most common questions I get, so now we have them all in one place!
Nope! Lentils are one of the only beans that you actually don't need to soak before cooking. Cooking times will vary based on the type of lentil you're using, but usually, it's about 30 – 40 minutes for green and brown, 35 – 45 for black and about 10 for red!
You do not need to cook your lentils before adding them to your soup as they'll be cooking in the broth. You'll just need to be sure that you have plenty of liquid for them to cook in or your soup will be too thick. In general, you'll want a 2:1 ratio of liquid to lentils (so 2 cups water/broth to 1 cup lentils).
You can overcook your lentils, but in my opinion, they're still tasty. Lentils get a little mushy if they get overcooked, but you can't really tell in a soup!
And the final thing I want to share with you is some substitution ideas for the soup:
• Vegetables: you can use any combination of veggies you want. Just make sure to use the same proportions (so a total of 6 cups) for the whole soup.
• Coconut milk: I personally think this is what makes this soup flavorful, but you can substitute it with almond or cashew milk if you have a problem with coconut.
• Oil: feel free to saute in the water!
• Fresh spices: you can replace the fresh spices with ground spices, use 2 teaspoons instead.
Storing and freezing
This soup can be stored in individual portions or a large airtight container for up to one week. Make sure that the soup is cooled down completely before refrigerating. Small containers can also be frozen for up to 30 days.
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