The Evolution of Lentil Soup: From Traditional to Modern

One of the most famous soups to enjoy at any time throughout the year is lentil soup. It is probably one of the oldest soups in history, since lentils were one of the first crops that were grown during the agricultural revolution. There are so many versions of lentil soup today, and you can essentially make the soup your own.

No matter how close you make it to the original versions, it is still packed full of nutrients and is one of the most popular soups today. Below is the evolution of lentil soup, and what you can expect of it today with modern twists.

Humble Origins

Cooked in some of the earliest times of history, lentil soup is believed to be one of the original meals found in the Bible and Mesopotamia through old writings and translations. The recipe would not have the modern twists that we have come to love, but would be a simple soup of dried lentils added back into either some type of animal broth or water.

There were probably a handful of spices added to expand on the flavor some, but the soup would have been very simple and often served with bread. The lentils used could be green or brown, depending on what they had available at the time.

This soup came about because of early trading between civilizations for spices and the use of lentils. Lentils could be grown easily in this area, and they could serve as a great source of protein and nutrients, especially when the meat was scarce. Lentils were able to be dried and stored, lasting a family for years if they had a prosperous harvest.

Classic Lentil Soup

Over time, as more civilizations were able to grow more vegetables and diversify their pantries, the love for lentil soup still remained, but it developed into the classic soup recipe that we have all come to know and love. As international trading continued, the Middle East started establishing certain bases and spices with this soup.

Carrots, celery and tomatoes are just some of the common faces you find in a traditional lentil soup. The herbs consist of thyme, rosemary, garlic, and a bay leaf to grasp that fragrant Middle Eastern taste.

Lentil soup remained a vegetarian dish up to this point because it was served during holidays when families would be fasting from meat or often times when meat just wasn’t available to eat. It also became a popular dish cooked in homes stretching from Asia, through the Middle East and into all corners of Europe. A classic lentil soup recipe includes the following:

  • One onion, diced
  • Three celery ribs, chopped
  • Three carrots, peeled and chopped
  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • One tablespoon of minced garlic
  • Eight cups of vegetable broth
  • Two cups of dried lentils
  • One can of diced tomatoes
  • Two bay leaves
  • One teaspoon of rosemary
  • One teaspoon of coriander
  • One teaspoon of dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your veggies first during this recipe, and then saute them down in a large soup pot with the olive oil. Once they start to get tender, add in your spices, liquid and lentils to a boil.

After the soup boils for a couple of minutes, turn it down to simmer and cover for 20 minutes so the lentils rehydrate and soften up. It will be ready to serve after.

Modern Twists

After migrating to North America, lentil soup took on new versions and upgrades as most classic soups have. Depending on where you are in the country, these changes will reflect the local cultures.

Coconut Milk or Cream Addition

One of the more modern fusion twists on lentil soup is the addition of coconut milk to the lentil soup. This gives it a creamy texture and thickens the soup up naturally. This modern twist actually hails from Southeast Asia where coconut milk is life and they pair it with most dishes.

There are some versions in New England and the Midwest where every soup is a cream soup, so you can expect some heavy whipping cream to be added to the broth. In order to get additional thickness of the soup, you might even see a little flour added to the ingredient list, also.

Adding Pasta

One of the newest additions you’ll find in lentil soup is the addition of pasta. Many vegan recipes for lentil soup look for a way to imitate chicken noodle soup, and the classic lentil soup has most of those same flavors. This also makes the dish heartier and can stretch out to feed a larger group for much less.

Because the lentils are so large, the pasta noodles that are used are often smaller in size and do not need to be large. You would get small elbow noodles or little pasta wheels that will swell just a little. You could take spaghetti noodles and break them up into small pieces and sprinkle in the soup when you add in the lentils so that they cook through, also.

Bacon and Ham

For those who are not looking to keep any dietary restrictions, adding bacon pieces or even chunks of ham has started showing up in classic lentil soup. This has been a great way to utilize leftover meats and improve the protein numbers for those who want more of a well-rounded dish. This version of lentil soup is usually done in a slow cooker so all that salt and pork flavor carries throughout the soup.

Spice it Up

While there are some native spices in lentil soup, more modern recipes are adding a spicier twist to the lentil soup, introducing ingredients like cayenne pepper, jalapenos and hot sauce as a way to bring the heat to a classic dish.

If you want more of an Indian or Mediterranean taste to your lentil soup, add in some curry and slices of ginger to bring some of that heat to keep you warm on a chilly day.


Another modern twist happening to a lot of soups, including lentil soup, is the addition of toppings. After each pot of soup is a counter of toppings to add and elevate the bowl to your personal preference. Hot sauce is always on the counter, but the others have started being added to lentil soup in recent years:

  • Parmesan cheese
  • Shredded Mexican cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Jalapeno slices
  • Cilantro

Honestly, I have to say that my favorite way to enjoy this soup is most likely with the cilantro garnished right on top. The way it pulls the flavor out of the soup can make this one of my favorite soup bowls of the year.

You can also read:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *