Lentil Soup

Sopa de Lentejas Colorada

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean

Sephardic Flavors

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 2000

  • About

When served during the Nine Days of Tisha B’Av, lentil soup is traditionally accompanied with cheese borekas for a complete meal, although you can serve this soup any time you like. Méri Badi's recipe is fairly austere, but some optional spicing would be a pinch or two of ground cumin, a small pinch of cayenne, and a spritz of lemon juice to brighten the flavors. Sometimes cooked wheat or rice is added. Greek Jews commonly pass olive oil and vinegar at the table.


  • cups red lentils
  • ¼ cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 or 3 onions, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 or 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • Lemon juice or vinegar (optional)


Pick over the lentils for any stones or other impurities and rinse well. Place in a bowl with water to cover and let stand for a few hours. Drain.

Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the lentils, celery, carrots, tomatoes or tomato paste (if using), parsley, bay leaf, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 1 hour.

Remove the bay leaf and add the salt, pepper to taste, the cumin, and the cayenne and lemon juice or vinegar to taste, if using. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Ladle into bowls and serve.