How to Make Lentil Soup, from a Canadian Culinary Icon

A recipe excerpt for lentil soup from the new cookbook Don’t worry, just cookby Canadian chef icon Bonnie Stern and daughter Anna Rupert

Even our family members who have never been particularly keen on lentils are crazy about this soup. If I add more carrots than usual, the sweetness and color intensify, and the tomato paste increases the umami factor. I like using red lentils because they dissolve when cooked and thicken a soup or stew without having to puree them. If you want lentils to hold their shape — for example in salads, side dishes, and certain soups and stews — use green lentils or the tiny black or French lentils.

Lentil soup with carrots and harissa

For 6 to 8 people


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 leek, white and light green part only, trimmed and finely chopped (see note below)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons harissa, depending on heat tolerance
  • 1 cup red lentils, pricked for small stones and rinsed
  • 5 cups water or chicken or vegetable broth + more as needed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt + more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, optional

Recommended toppings

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or thick coconut milk
  • Tahini sauce
  • 1 tsp harissa or paprika mixed with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach or kale 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • Lemon slices, thinly sliced
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  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch Oven Set over medium-high heat, then add the leeks and garlic. Cook gently for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and translucent but not browned. Add the carrots and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, tomato paste, and harissa and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lentils and stir well. Add water or broth, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook gently for 25 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables and lentils are tender.
  2. Place half of the soup in a blender or food processor and puree (or use an immersion blender to partially puree right in the saucepan). Pour the pureed mixture back into the saucepan and stir in the lemon juice. If necessary, dilute with more water or broth and taste again. You’ll need to do this especially if you made the soup beforehand, as it will thicken more.
  3. Serve the soup with one of the suggested toppings: dollops of yogurt, tahini sauce or coconut milk strudel, drizzle of harissa oil, greens, herbs, and/or lemon wedges.

Note on cleaning leeks: Leeks often have a lot of sand between the layers. One of the many techniques that Jacques Pépin shared with us when he taught at my cooking school, and that I still use today, is how to clean a leek. I think of him every time I do it. First, cut off the dark green leaves at the top (rinse and save for the broth). Slice the remaining leek according to the recipe. Pour into a large bowl of cold water. Swirl the leeks around in the water to loosen the dirt. Leave for a few minutes to allow the dirt to settle to the bottom of the bowl. The cleaned leek floats to the top. Lift out the leeks, leaving the dirty water behind.

Don't worry, just cook by Bonnie Stern

excerpt from Don’t worry, just cook by Bonnie Stern. Copyright © 2022 Bonnie Stern Cooking Schools Ltd. and Anna Rupert. Photography © 2022 Tyler Anderson with additional photos by Mark Rupert and Anna Rupert. Food styling by Olga Truchan. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Duplication after consultation with the publisher. All rights reserved.

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