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Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish red lentil soup is undoubtedly one of the most frequently made soups in our house. More so in fall, when our palates demand foods more comforting and warming. Or, perhaps, because this soup is highly evocative of fall itself, with it colors matching the color palette of the leaves slowly falling off the trees and weaving a beautiful carpet on the ground. I learned how to make this soup from my Turkish friend Seda, when I had just married and had just plunged into the world of Turkish cooking, which I now love with passion -  as much as I love Azerbaijani food.  In Turkey, this soup has numerous variations, but most stick to the use of the same ingredients. Here’s how I make mine, two ways.  Choose one that speaks to your heart louder than the other and enjoy!

TURKISH RED LENTIL SOUP (Mercimek Corbasi)

Serves 4

1 cup red lentils
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 cups water
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste (you can also add hot red pepper flakes for added heat)
1-2 tablespoons butter

To Drizzle - this step is optional, done for a prettier presentation.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
about 1/3 teaspoon paprika

To Serve:
lemon wedges
bread

Variation 1:

Put the red lentils, onion, potato, carrot, tomato paste, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until all the ingredients are soft. Remove any froth that may rise to top. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Pour the soup into a blender and puree. Put the pureed soup back in the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the butter and stir. For a law-calorie soup, do not add any butter.

Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls. Now, heat the butter or oil in a small frying pan. When it is hot, add the paprika and stir. It will sizzle. Remove from the heat. Drizzle some of this mixture over soup in the bowls. To serve, squeeze some lemon juice on top. Serve with bread.

Variation 2:
Here, the onions are fried in butter with tomato paste, and this adds a whole new dimension to the soup.

Put the red lentils, potato, carrot and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, while you prepare the onion. Remove any froth that may rise to top.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a medium frying pan. Add the onion and saute until it just begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the onoin-tomato paste to the saucepan with the other ingredients, and cook together, for about 20 minutes, or until the ingredients are soft. Pour the soup into a blender and puree. Put the pureed soup back in the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls. Now, heat the butter or oil in a small frying pan. When it is hot, add the paprika and stir. It will sizzle. Remove from the heat. Drizzle some of this mixture over soup in the bowls. To serve, squeeze some lemon juice on top. Serve with bread.

NOTE 1: This soup thickens as it stands. Loosen with some hot water.

NOTE 2: If you do not have a blender or, if you prefer a chunkier soup, just cook using either recipe, but grate the carrots and potatoes on a coarse side of a box grater and chop the onion very finely.

If you are hungry for more red lentil soup recipes, here are additional links for you from some of my favorite Turkish food bloggers. Enjoy!

Give Recipe
Almost Turkish
Turkish Food Passion
NY’s Delight

31 Comments
  1. Yum, Yumm!

  2. Feride, both versions sound so comforting. And both photos here are gorgeous!
    I love red lentil soup and you know my version. As you say, there are numerous versions of this soup. One of my friends makes the second version you mention, but she adds pepper paste instead of tomato paste. It also changes the dimesnison of the soup. And another friend makes this soup without any oil or butter. She just boils all the ingredients, purees, and seasons it. Then she squeezes lemon on it. All versions are perfect for the coming cold days.

  3. A wonderful soup! Red lentils are so delicious!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. oh farida, I can’t tell you how fortuitous this post is. I just bought a bag of lentils from the turkish market and I was about to look up the recipe. thanks so much.

  5. Hello dear!

    Delicious!!!

    Kisses

  6. I love the texture of red lentils and also make a variation of this soup. Do you pronounce “Corbasi” as “shorbasi”?
    In India, these kind of soups are called “shorba”.

  7. Perfect for a chilly winter evening!

  8. carrots, yummm!!! could be good to freeze it i guess.

  9. I *love* this soup!!! I am so sad, because I have not been able to find red lentils since we moved to Florida :-(
    But we won’t be here much longer! Hopefully I will be able to find it near our new place!

    I just love their color!

  10. I love any type of lentil soup.

  11. Perfect timing for this soup! I love it during the cool fall evenings we have!

    Its quite interesting to know how many variations of red lentil soup recipes exist. It can be confusing at times to know what recipe to use, in actuality its quite simple make.

    Thank you for sharing…

  12. I adore good red lentils soups & your soup looks truly lovely!!

    I would like to savour a big bowl right about now!

  13. what a lovely deep orange color, here the brown or green lentils are popular but are not nearly as pretty as your red lentil soup.
    Do you know if Azeri’s make a burgul/rice/meat meatball? I heard about a recipe like this in Azerbaijan province in Iran and was wondering where it came from.

  14. MONA: Thank you!

    ZERRIN: Pepper paste is a great idea. I will try it next time.

    ROSA: Thank you!

    MAYBELLES MOM: Enjoy!

    EU MULHER: Thank you!

    APARNA: In Azeraijan, we say “shorba”, in Turkey “chorba” for soup, if used alone. “si” is added if you are using an ingredient or ingredients to refer to a particular type of shorba. Like Pomidor Shorbasi (tomato soup, soup of tomatoes). Do I sound like a teacher here:)

    PARITA: I agree:)

    ASLI: You can freeze it, but don’t treat it to me when I visit you next? Give me fresh soup!

    JEN: Hope you get hold of them soon. Thank you!

    CYNTHIA: Me too.

    AYSEGUL: Thank you, arkadasim.

    SOPHIE: Thank you!

    SARAH: Bulgur is now used in Azerbaijani cooking. I mean, in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Maybe it is a specialty of Azeris living in Iran. Or, a Persian specialty?

  15. Beautiful photos! You make me want to make some! unfortunately, here in Texas it is still summer temperatures!

  16. Can something so healthy possibly look so good?

  17. A wonderful soup! I love those lentils!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  18. I’ve been craving lentil soup for several days… and I think I know what I’m making tomorrow now :). Thanks for posting!

  19. Us Greeks use green lentils but the colour of this soup is striking!

  20. Joumana, S, Rosa, Nicole, Peter – THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS.

  21. If there is any cuisine which I could eat everyday, it would be Turkish. Red lentils is the one which i use the most at home.Your soup has a gorgeous color.

  22. I had mercemek carbasi 100 times when I was living in Turkey (66-68). Here in Greece my wife makes the best, but the lentils are whole. Now, in Turkey it was always a puree as in your recipe. Question: 45 years ago there were no food processors (or electricity fore that matter) in rural Turkey. How did they “blitz” it?

  23. MICHAEL BASH: I leave the lentils whole sometimes too. Both are good. As to your question – they probably mashed it with a potato masher, or fork. Or maybe there used to be a manual blender of some kind.

  24. what do you call red lentil soup in Azerbaijan? “Lamachum?”

  25. DONNA: Lentil soup is merji shorbasi in Azeri. But Lahmajun is something different. Here’s what it is:

    http://www.azcookbook.com/2009/09/09/lahmajun-lahmacun-yogurt-drink-ayran/

  26. ??????, ??????? ??? ???????? ?? ??? ??? ???????! ????? ??????!!!
    Farida, thank you so much for all these recipes! Very delicious!!!

  27. It looks like it’s not taking Russian :)

  28. Yes it was Russian :) so just in case I translated the line into English.
    I am from Baku, been living in US for over 4 years now and never cooked a whole lot of Azerbaijani dishes except couple of them, until I came across your website! Your explanations of our dishes as well as of other cultures’ are so simple and so straightforward! I absolutely love your website! Thank you for all the hard work you do translating and adapting the recipes! Everything I tried to cook so far came out superb! To me it was a blessing as I really wanted to introduce my American family to the cuisines of our region! Thank you! You’re the best! :)

  29. i never leave comments but this was fantastic!

    i added a little sumac and minced parsley and it was divine. thank you!

  30. Thank you, friends!

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