This healthy lentil and rice soup is the perfect homemade comfort food. All you need are some common pantry staples and a few vegetables for a flavorful soup in no time.
I'll always think of my grandmother when I make lentil soup. She always seemed to have some ready when I stopped by for lunch. Sometimes it was homemade. Other times it was from a can with some of her own vegetables and spices thrown in. Either way, it was good with me.
Lentil and rice soup is pure comfort food. It's made with simple ingredients and takes less than an hour before you can have yourself a big pot's worth. Like many soups, lentil soup reheats well, freezes well, and is easy to double if you want to stretch it out to feed more people or have meals to enjoy throughout the week.
I think lentils get overlooked in today's cooking. I get it; they've been around since biblical times and aren't trendy. In fact, lentils are the oldest pulse (legume grown for its dried seed) known to man. The common lentil variety is tiny and brown, so they're easy to overlook when you're looking for something fun and flavorful.
And yet, lentils remain an affordable source of protein. Though tiny, they're filling, and even better, they cook quickly, too. Unlike many other beans, there's no need to soak lentils beforehand. There are also dozens of varieties that range in color from black to yellow. Though if you ask me, you can't go wrong with the standard brown lentil.
When making this recipe, I thought back to my grandmother's lentil and rice soup. I don't have the recipe for her homemade version, though I wonder if she even had a recipe, anyway. It could very likely have been from the bag of dried lentils. Instead, I thought about how she might include what she already had in the kitchen, and I grabbed tomatoes and greens from my garden, along with ham from the freezer.
I also thought about the spices she would use. She didn't cook with many fresh herbs, and my grandfather wasn't an adventurous eater. Yet I remember a bottle of Mrs. Dash seasoning often being on the table.
I looked up what's in that blend, as I can't say I've ever bought it. It's a combination of a long list of herbs and spices, and I chose a variety from my spice drawer to try and replicate the flavor. It adds a complex earthiness to the soup with just a hint of heat from the cayenne. You may have most of these already in your spice collection. If not, just use those you do have. Or if you have a favorite all-purpose seasoning, that will also do the trick.
🥕 Key Ingredients
- vegetable broth
- brown lentils
- short grain white rice, such as Arborio
- ham steak (optional)
- greens, such as spinach, Swiss chard or kale
See the recipe card below for the quantities and full list of ingredients.
🔪 How to Make Lentil and Rice Soup
If you've ever made a soup before, this will be easy. Start by chopping up the vegetables and then sauteing them in a pot. Add in the spices, and deglaze with some wine.
After adding in the broth and other ingredients, the whole thing simmers until everything is cooked.
Before serving, adjust the seasonings and a splash of lemon juice. That's it. But scroll down to the recipe card for the full details.
🧂 Substitutions & Variations
This lentil and rice soup is easy to make your own. You can leave out the ham to keep the soup vegetarian. As for the spices, you could simplify those too. Soups must be one of the easiest foods to customize as long as you taste it and make adjustments before serving.
- Lentils - You can try other lentils aside from the typical brown, keeping in mind they may take more or less time to cook. Here's a helpful resource on cooking different kinds of lentils.
- White Rice - Want to try barley or maybe bulgur instead of rice? Another rice? No problem, just check the typical cooking time of the grain to see how much you should simmer the soup before it's tender. Brown lentils need 20 minutes or more until they're tender, so you'll want to add your grain to the soup accordingly.
- Ham - Leave out the ham and this lentil soup is vegan. Or if you have already cooked turkey or chicken, you can chop that up and use it instead.
💬 Lentil and Rice Soup FAQs
Should you soak lentils before making soup? There's no need to soak lentils for soup cooking purposes. Lentils cook up fast and will be tender after a short simmer in the soup pot. However, people say that soaking lentils (and legumes, in general) make them easier to digest and produces less gas. If you do soak them, you may find you don't need to simmer the soup as long.
Can you overcook lentil soup? You can overcook lentils to the point that they become mushy. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially in a soup.
How long does lentil soup last? Lentil soup will last about four days in the fridge stored in an airtight container. If you know you'll want to freeze the leftovers of this soup before you start cooking, I suggest cooking and freezing the rice separately and then adding it in when serving. Otherwise, the rice will become mushy. Here are some good soup freezing tips if you want to learn more.
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