This hearty, flavorful vegetarian lentil veggie soup is a great option for when there are slim pickins in the pantry. Serve it with a big hunk of whole grain bread and you’ve got a dinner that is full of a complete vegetarian protein (and darn delicious)!
Ready in 45 minutes
I’m usually pretty good about menu planning, which means that we almost always have something yummy on the docket for dinner throughout the week. And usually, before we run really low on groceries, I make another menu and head out to the store. But every now and again, life gets in the way (for all of us, right?), and I don’t end up getting to the store before our menu is “out”. And that’s when I hit up some of my favorite pantry recipes. And this soup is one of those staples—even if our fridge is almost empty and the pantry is looking sad, we almost always can scrape together enough stuff to make a big pot of this vegetarian lentil veggie soup.
I love this soup because it’s kinda impossible to mess up. I have a basic combo of spices and veggies down in the recipe, but really, you can experiment, add and change this recipe without worry of messing it up. And that’s what makes it such a good recipe for when the groceries are dwindling. Add more peppers, put in beans, add some spinach, throw in a handful of rice, add some sliced mushrooms, toss in a bag of mixed veggies—it’s pretty much always going to turn out. Which makes this not only a great dish for when your kitchen isn’t full-stocked, but also for cleaning out a fridge that is stocked with some not-so-perfect produce. In fact, I save our sad little baby celery stalks (you know, the ones from the middle of the bunch that are mostly leaves) just for using in soups like these.
If you haven’t done a lot of cooking with lentils, I highly recommend stocking them in your pantry. They are a cheap and healthy source of protein that work really well in soups like this because they have such a mild-flavor. Depending on the type of lentils you buy and how long you cook them, they can either completely dissolve into a creamy, mashed consistency, or, like these brown lentils I use here, keep their shape a little bit. They have a really nice “chew” that I think us carnivores can appreciate in vegetarian dishes. You can leave this lentil veggie soup in tact, or do what I did, and blend up a few cups of it to make the base creamy and thick.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 large stalks celery, diced
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1-14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1-7 ounce can mild diced chiles
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the red pepper flakes, onion and garlic, and cook until tender and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Add in the celery, carrots, and bell pepper. Continue cooking until vegetables begin to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.
- Add in the vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, diced chiles, lentils, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender and the veggies are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves, and serve.
Feel free to adjust and change the recipe to fit with whatever veggies you have kicking around. It's really hard to mess this one up!
I almost always try to keep canned diced tomatoes and canned diced green chiles in my pantry. They're a great addition to soups and casseroles to add flavor.
We always have big zip-top freezer bags full of diced bell peppers in the freezer from our garden. But even if you don't have a garden, freezing peppers in the summer (when they are cheap at the store or farmer's market) is a great way to save some cash on winter and early spring produce—and it means you always have something to put into a veggie soup when your pantry is empty.
If you want a thicker, creamier soup, remove two cups of the soup after cooking, puree until smooth and the stir back into the soup.