The Best Lentil Soup

4.43 from 7 votes

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Let me introduce you to the traditional 🇧🇬 Bulgarian lentil soup which we call “supa ot leshta.” The word “leshta” in Bulgarian means lentils, and this dish is one of the most beloved soups in every Bulgarian home. There is simply nothing more satisfying than coming home from work and enjoying a nice bowl of this healthy, comforting meal. This soup and recipe have been in my family for generations. When I was a little girl, this was all my parents would feed me. It also happens to be incredibly easy to make. It’s a one-pot meal and a hug in a bowl.

Why You’ll Love The Best Lentil Soup

This recipe is so customizable. It can actually be completely plant-based if you omit the 🥓 bacon, which we often do, so feel free to adjust and make it according to your liking. You can also adjust the seasoning to your taste and preferences, which makes it a personalized and delicious dish that the whole family will enjoy.

This soup is beyond easy to make. Whether you’re an experienced cook or a beginner, you’ll enjoy making this lentil soup from scratch.

If you’re wondering about the health factor of this soup, I can’t rave enough about it. Lentils are so healthy! They are high in protein and other essential nutrients. Don’t be worried about whether or not this soup will fill you up, I can tell you it will be so satisfying!

How To Prepare The Best Lentil Soup

  • Soak the lentils in 💦 cold water for at least one hour and then rinse and drain.
  • In a large pot on the stove, heat oil and finely chopped 🥓 bacon until crispy on medium heat. You can discard most of the bacon fat or leave some in the pan, it’s up to ❤️ you!
  • Once the bacon is cooked, add finely diced veggies (onions, celery, carrots) and sauté until soft.
  • Then, stir in 🧄 garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Remember to adjust the salt as needed; as I always say – measure with your heart and remember that you can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away!
  • After you’ve sautéed the garlic for one minute, add in the tomato paste and stir. Then, add the strained lentils, tomato sauce, vegetable broth, and 💦 water to the pot.
  • Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the lentils are soft (approximately 35-40 minutes).
  • Finally, remove the pot from heat and stir in a handful of finely chopped fresh 🌿 parsley. Now your soup is ready to enjoy!

Nonna’s Tip

Leave out the bacon if you are vegan or cannot eat bacon, and simply proceed to sautéing the onions, celery, and carrots.

Substitutes and Variations

Make this soup your own by creating a vegetarian version or by adding even more protein with some meat. As always, let me know if you try any variations or adjustments in the comments. I love hearing from you!

  • You can definitely make this a vegetarian dish by omitting the 🥓 bacon. I do it all the time and it is just as delicious.
  • Feel free to substitute the vegetable broth with chicken or beef broth.
  • Want to boost the health factor of this already healthy soup? Add more 🥬 veggies! You could include 🫑 bell peppers, zucchini, or spinach.
  • Looking for more of a 🌶️ kick to your soup? You can certainly add some chili powder or red pepper flakes to make a 🔥 spicier version. In addition, you could add cumin or coriander to your soup to change the flavors up.

Best Served With

For a complete and hearty meal, consider serving this lentil soup with some delicious homemade bread. Here are some of my favorites:

Similar Recipes

If you’re interested in comforting soups, don’t forget to explore other similar soup recipes on my blog:

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Common Questions

What type of lentils do you use?

I prefer green or brown lentils for this recipe as it’s traditional but any lentils will work.

What is an alternative to the bacon?

You can add kielbasa in lentil soup as we often do in Bulgaria instead of bacon or simply leave out any meat for a plant-based option.

How can I send this to my kids for school?

Start by preheating a thermos with boiling water, and keep it closed. While the thermos warms up, heat the soup on the stove. This entire process should only take about 10 minutes. Once the thermos is ready, empty the hot water, and add the hot soup, leaving some space at the top to prevent a vacuum seal, which would make it harder to open.

What kind of broth do you use?

I love any broths by Kettle and Fire. Click HERE and use my code THEMODERNNONNA for 20% off!

What are the liquid base options?

You can use unsalted vegetable stock or water. I like to mix both and add half and half, but feel free to make it any way you like.

How can I store leftovers in the fridge?

Allow the soup to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. Then, place it in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. Leftovers can be safely stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

Can I freeze this?

If you have more leftovers than you can consume in a few days, freezing is a great option. Portion the soup into airtight containers or resealable freezer bags. Ensure there’s some room for expansion to prevent containers from cracking. Label the containers with the date. The soup can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

How do I prepare this from frozen?

When you’re ready to enjoy your leftover soup, simply thaw it in the refrigerator overnight if frozen. To reheat, use a microwave, stovetop, or an oven. Make sure to heat it thoroughly until it’s steaming hot. You may need to add a bit of water or broth to adjust the consistency.

How can I make this soup even more traditional?

If you are Bulgarian and know what “Chubritza” is, please feel free to add it in as this herb is traditional in this soup. Chubritza in Bulgarian translates to dry savory in English.

How can I make this dish vegetarian or vegan?

Leave out the bacon if you are vegan or cannot eat bacon and simply proceed to sautéing the onions, celery, and carrots.

What do I do if the soup is too thick?

If you find that the soup is too thick, you can always thin it out with more unsalted broth or water.

How long do I need to soak the lentils?

Soak the lentils for a minimum of one hour to overnight in cold filtered water. Drain before adding them to the soup.

What tomato sauce do you recommend using?

My Italian Tomato Sauce only has tomatoes, salt, and basil in it but feel free to use any clean tomato sauce you like.

The Best Lentil Soup

There is simply nothing more satisfying than coming home from work and enjoying a nice bowl of this healthy, comforting meal. This soup and recipe have been in my family for generations. This recipe is actually completely plant-based if you omit the bacon which we often do, so feel free to adjust and make it according to your liking.
4.43 from 7 votes
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Bulgarian
Servings: 3
Author: The Modern Nonna
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup lentils, dry lentils soaked in water for 60 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or avocado oil
  • 3 slices cubed bacon, leave out for a vegan option
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, finely cubed
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt , to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup tomato sauce, plain
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, unsalted
  • 3 cups water
  • handful of fresh chopped parsley

Instructions 

  • Soak 1 cup of lentils in four cups of cold water for a minimum of one hour. Rinse and drain.
  • In a big pot on the stove, add the oil and finely chopped bacon. Let it crisp up on medium heat. I like to discard 3/4 of the oil once the bacon is cooked and leave a little in the pot before adding the onions but feel free to leave it if you wish.
  • Add the finely diced veggies (onions,celery,carrots) and sauté for a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic, and stir. Add oregano, salt, pepper, and paprika, to taste. You can always taste and adjust for salt as you cook. Sauté the garlic for one minute, add the tomato paste and stir.
  • Add the strained lentils to the pot along with the tomato sauce. Add the vegetable broth and water. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the lentils are soft. This should take 35-40 minutes.
  • When the lentils are cooked, take the pot off the heat, add a handful of finely chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 482kcal, Carbohydrates: 58g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 11g, Trans Fat: 0.03g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Sodium: 1876mg, Potassium: 1187mg, Fiber: 24g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 8293IU, Vitamin C: 16mg, Calcium: 113mg, Iron: 7mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Bulgarian
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Hi! I'm Sneji. Nice to meet you!

I am more commonly known as “The Modern Nonna” on social media where I create easy home cooked meals with a modern twist. I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria and learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world – my grandma’s kitchen. I lived in Greece on the Island of Crete with my parents for a while and then moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 5. I started to really cook and experiment with food 11 years ago when I was 21 years old. Everything I currently know is a reflection of some part of my life…

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14 Comments

  1. I love your chicken soup with hidden veggies (it’s my husband’s favourite!) but this one is so good. I’ve tried many lentil soup recipes, but for me this one is the best! Definitely going into my regular soup rotation!

  2. love the soup, made it couple times and it’s on a rotation to make always at home, i do add potatoes (cubed up). just wanted to check, when adding lentils it can be either the orange or the greens ones?

  3. 5 stars
    I made your lentil soup tonight and my husband loved it. I will definitely be making it again as it came together so quickly and was so delicious . I prepped the veggies, and measured out the spices into a small bowl while the lentils soaked. We had ours with some orzo and toasted homemade bread. Thanks for sharing

  4. Made this recipe tonight and added a few more vegetables I had on hand, and used the meat from one spicy chicken sausage instead of bacon. It was AMAZING! Seriously one of the best soups I’ve ever made. I’ve been searching for a tasty lentil recipe and this hits the mark! Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    So good!! Thanks for the recipe.
    I used chicken broth, because I didn’t have vegetable broth and it is absolutely delicious! Will make this soup again. 🙂