When January rolls around, I like to take stock and go through the pantry to see what needs to be used. This year, merry little red lentils were calling, “Use me! Use me!” Well, I did and made Thai Red Lentil Soup with Coconut & Curry.
Years ago, I had a Red Lentil Soup like this in a cafe/bistro and I’ve never forgotten these flavors: curry, coconut & lime, or the garnish of what they called Cilantro Lime Oil that drove all those flavors home. This is my recreation of that soup.
About Thai Red Lentil Soup with Coconut & Curry:
Who knows how close I got to the original soup; it was a long time ago. All I know is it’s fast, easy, and has such a nice contrast of flavors and textures. This is the kind of dish that makes you want to keep eating, and then just keep eating a little more!
There’s no problem with that – Thai Red Lentil Soup is healthy without being “crunchy” if you know what I mean. No need to pull out those Birkenstocks from the back of the closet, yet! Unless ya want to, that is!
I’m a soup lover and my menu of Soups Chowders & Chilis proves it! But you’ll probably pick that up if you follow me (and if you don’t, please do! I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and if you sign up for emails, I’ll send you each new post and NO junk!) But to the point, I will gladly eat soup as a meal. This will also make a great starter for a Thai-themed meal, maybe served in small cups.
Making Thai Red Lentil Soup with Coconut & Curry:
The curry flavors and the heat in this soup come from Thai Red Curry Paste. You can pick curry paste up these days in regular old grocery stores (depending on where you live) and certainly in an Asian market or online. You’ll usually find it in small jars, but sometimes in tins.
You can easily customize Red Lentil Soup to your taste by adding as little or as much curry paste as you’d like. Start with a tablespoon, simmer a bit, and add more if you want. The finish of coconut milk will mellow all the flavors, so keep that in mind. The curry paste will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. If you don’t think you’ll finish the little jar off in a timely manner, toss the contents in a Ziploc and store it in the freezer for next time or for another dish.
In the past, I’ve always blended this soup, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided I like the contrast of the chunky sweet potato and the creamy lentils. Plus, if there are any leftovers, that gives me an opportunity to refashion the soup just a bit by giving it a whirl in the food processor or blender. You do you, though.
If you do decide to blend this soup to creaminess, you may need to add just a bit more liquid. You can add just a bit more stock to get to your desired consistency,
Options for Garnishing:
Do serve this with lime. It not only brightens the whole soup up, but the citrus helps our body make better use of the iron in the lentils. If you’d like to take it one step further, garnish with my Cilantro Lime Oil. It takes about five minutes to make and takes this soup over the top.
I think the perfect garnish for a little added flavor and crunch (shown in some of the soup photos and below) is my Crispy Oven Roasted Chickpeas. Unlike so many recipes for chickpeas, these are crispy through and through and stay crispy forever. They’re a fabulous snack, too! I know, I know, chickpeas aren’t usually associated with Thai-leaning food, so trust me on this!
Storing and Reheating The Soup:
When storing a heavy, dense dish like this, if it’s a larger amount than just a serving or two, add it to the fridge after it has cooled just a bit. Don’t cover or only cover it very loosely until it is chilled. It will cool down faster that way. When cold, cover tightly. The soup keeps well for several days.
Leftover, the soup will get thicker, so add a little liquid when reheating.
- Before you do that, think about having the leftovers as a little dip for some crackers or bread. Any cracker will do for the soup or a dip, and Elaine’s Nut & Seed Crackers go very well!
- Consider the option, too, mentioned above, of blending the soup as a variation. You’ll want to add a bit more liquid in this case, too. It’s always nice to have a “refashioned” leftover.
Saving Money on Thai Red Lentil Soup with Coconut & Curry:
- Red lentils, like all legumes and pulses, are downright cheap compared to so many other protein sources. Check the store for any unadvertised specials after any holiday where ham is served. When beans are discounted (so many make ham and bean soup) often all the items in that section are discounted. You’ll find the best prices at a market rather than your regular grocery store, though.
- Watch for coconut milk if your store has an aisle or area where specialty items usually get discounted as they near their “best if used by date.” Just FYI, I’ve used coconut milk well past that date and haven’t run into a quality issue yet. If your coconut milk has a layer of hardened substance on the top, that’s the fat, which will rise to the top of a liquid. There’s nothing wrong with it. Just spoon that fat off and add it to your pan. Use it to saute the veggies in the recipe instead of adding other fats or oils.
Thai Red Lentil Soup with Coconut & Curry
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Soup
- Cuisine: Thai
Note: soup may be pureed or not, but if you do plan on doing so, the carrots don’t need to be peeled and all the vegetables may be roughly chunked. The garlic doesn’t need to be minced and the ginger may be just sliced.
- 1 can of coconut milk, use a few tablespoons of the creamy oil from the top for a cooking oil, reserve the rest to finish the soup.
- 1 medium onion, large dice
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
- 1” piece ginger, grated or very finely diced
- 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste or more to taste
- 4 cups (may need a bit more) stock (vegetable or chicken) or water
- 1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and cut in 3/4″ dice
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4” chunks
- 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
- the remainder of the can of coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- salt to taste or additional fish sauce
- lime and/or Cilantro Lime Oil, cilantro or parsley for garnish
In a Dutch oven, heat several tablespoons of the congealed coconut milk from the top of the can. Add onions, and cook until onions have softened, stirring now and then about eight minutes. Add curry paste and cook, stirring until fragrant, about one minute. Add garlic and ginger and stir in.
Add 4 cups water or broth, sweet potatoes, carrots, and lentils. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer, partially covered, until lentils and vegetables are tender about 20 to 25 minutes. The soup will be very thick towards the end of cooking time – make sure to check it and stir if necessary to prevent scorching.
Stir in coconut milk, fish sauce, and lime. Add additional stock or water to bring the soup to your preferred thickness. If desired, puree soup in batches until velvety and smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve warm or cold with lime, or other suggested garnishes. Soup will thicken upon standing, and thicken more if refrigerated, so add a little water if reheating.
Keywords: Bargain Meal of the Week, Carrots, Chicken Stock, Fish Sauce, Legumes & Pulses, Lentil, Lime, Soup, Sweet potato, Thai, Tomatoes, Vegetable Stock, Vegetarian Meal