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Curried Lentil Soup (Instant Pot)

Healthy and hearty curried lentil soup is a delicious vegan meal in a bowl. Lentils, curry seasoning, tomato sauce, coconut milk, garlic, ginger and cilantro are the stars of this Instant Pot soup.

Ready in just 35 minutes, this rich creamy soup is warm and savory and satisfying. If you don’t have an instant pot, check out the instructions in the recipe for a stove top version.

bowl of curried lentil soup with cilantro garnish..

Red lentil curry soup is a cross between Indian and Thai flavors. OK, that may sound a bit odd, but it works.

Make the soup as spicy or as mellow as you like. In fact, there are many variations you can try. I’ve listed a few below and in the recipe card.

If you like lentils, check out our very popular Red Lentil Vegetable Soup. Or our Vegetarian Split Pea Soup which uses a different variety of legume.

What’s to like about this soup

  • The thick and hearty texture of this creamy lentil soup makes it suitable to serve as a complete meal in a bowl.
  • The recipe is dairy free, gluten free and vegan.
  • Instant Pot recipes like this one saves a bit of time – about 10-15 minutes in this case. The stove top version works well too (just a big longer).

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

red lentils, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, cilantro, pepper flakes, coconut milk, oil
Ingredients not including broth or water, salt and pepper

Lentils: Lentils are seeds in the legume family. Different type of lentils come in different colors – black, green, red, yellow and orange and brown lentils. We’re using red, orange, or yellow lentils because they are split and break down quickly.

Tomato sauce: You can use store-bought or use homemade tomato sauce.

Red curry paste: This adds a warm flavor without having too much of a bite. You can adjust the amount you use to your liking.

Coconut milk: Full fat coconut milk is a key ingredient to give the soup a creamy and velvety texture.

Variations

  • Add extra veggies: Diced carrots and celery would be great additions during the initial sauté phase. I also add baby spinach for color and nutrition at the end.
  • Thick or thin?
    • To alter the body, change the liquid ratios, but keep the total amount of liquid to about 6 cups/1.4 liters. So you can use more or less tomato sauce, water (or broth) and coconut milk if they still add up to 6 cups combined.
    • If you like your soup less creamy and mellow, reduce the coconut milk and increase the tomato sauce.
    • If you want a thinner soup (this one is quite thick), add more broth or water at the end.
  • Level of spiciness: I use use red curry paste (my brand was not too spicy) and red chili flakes. Start with less and add more as you like.
  • Seasoning options:
    • I love cilantro but I know many people hate it. So leave it out if you prefer or serve it just as a garnish for those who like it.
    • You can also try adding a pinch of garam masala, cumin and/or turmeric. Now you’re turning it into Indian-Thai-Middle Eastern mix!
  • Texture options:
    • The lentils in the recipe break down fairly quickly. You can cook them a little less to maintain more body to the lentils. I like them mushy 🙂
    • Alternatively, if you prefer a smooth soup, puree it (adding the spinach, if using, after).
  • Garnish: Try chopped cilantro, lemon, lime or chopped green onion.

Step by step instructions

onions sauteed in instant pot
Sauté onions for a few minutes. Add garlic and seasonings. Sauté a few more minutes.
cooked lentil soup mixture in instant pot
Stir in lentils, tomato sauce and water (or broth). Cook on on high pressure for 15 minutes.
baby spinach, cilantro, coconut milk added to cooked lentil soup in instant pot
 Add the creamy coconut milk and, if using, spinach. Stir for about1 minute until spinach is wilted.
ladle scooping up lentil soup over pot
Taste and adjust seasonings. Ladle into bowls and add garnishes as desired.
bowl of curried lentil soup with cilantro garnish.

Tips

  1. Make sure to shake the can of coconut milk before opening it. This helps incorporate the thick layer of cream that forms at the top of the can.
  2. If you’re not familiar with the heat of curry paste, start with less. You can always add more later to increase the spice level. Same with the red pepper flakes.
  3. It’s best to check lentils for little stones or other debris. While it’s quite rare, tiny stones or dirt can be present. The best way to do that is to lay them out on a white dish towel or paper plate as you sift through them. Alternatively, rinse them in a fine sieve and pick through them for stones.

Recipe FAQs

Can I make this soup on the stove top?

Absolutely. Use the same instructions for the stovetop. Simmer the soup covered for about 30-40 minutes to get the texture and thickness you like.

Can I freeze leftovers?

You can freeze leftover lentil soup for up to six months which makes this a wonderful meal prep recipe. Keep in mind that lentils will continue to soak up liquid before they are completely frozen. Once the soup is thawed, you may need to add a little bit of water or vegetable broth to thin it out. Consume thawed soup within two days.

Are lentils healthy?

Lentils are highly nutritious with 19 grams of protein and almost 16 grams of fiber per cooked cup. They are also low in calories and fat (but high in carbs) and packed with B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Check out the all the health benefits of lentils in this article on Healthline.

What should I serve with this soup?

The curried lentil soup is a hearty, stand-alone type of soup. It’s delicious with your favorite crusty bread or warm naan bread. You can also serve it with a simple salad like this Festive Winter Salad or Citrus Salad.

I sometimes serve the soup as a side dish in a small bowl or cup. The earthy flavors work well with Sous Vide Chicken Thighs, Chicken Breasts or Marinated Pork Chops.

Shortcuts

The instant pot method is quicker than the stove top version – just 35 minutes.

You can also prep the fresh ingredients ahead of time or the day before. And clean the lentils. This doesn’t reduce the total time, but makes the cooking process quicker when you’re ready to go.

Make ahead 

The flavors of this easy Instant Pot lentil soup develop even more overnight which makes it a great make-ahead recipe. Store the soup in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days or freeze it for up to 6 months..

To reheat the soup, add it to a saucepan over medium high heat, stirring often, until warmed all the way through. Or warm it in the microwave. Defrost frozen soup in the fridge overnight before reheating.

bowl of curried lentil soup with cilantro garnish.

Other vegetarian soups you might like

If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟in the recipe card below. And if you REALLY like it, consider a review in the comments. Thanks!

bowl of curried lentil soup with cilantro garnish..
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4.84 from 12 votes

Curried Lentil Soup (Instant Pot or Stovetop)

Healthy and hearty curried lentil soup is a delicious vegan meal in a bowl. Lentils, curry seasoning, tomato sauce, coconut milk, garlic, ginger and cilantro are the stars of this Instant Pot soup.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time22 mins
Time to pressure8 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course, soups and starters
Cuisine: Indian style, Thai-Style, vegan
Servings: 4 -5
Author: Cheryl

Equipment

  • Instant Pot (I use a 6 quart)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (3 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder (mild or medium)
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (sub with yellow curry paste or more curry powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup red, yellow or orange split lentils, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more if using low salt broth or water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups tomato sauce e.g. marinara
  • 1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth (or chicken broth) PLUS another 1+ cups to thin it out at the end as needed
  • 1 14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, Note 1 (1.75 cups)

Optional but good

  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Garnish options

  • lemon or lime wedges, additional chopped cilantro, chopped green onion

Instructions

  • PRESS SAUTÉ FUNTION ON INSTANT POT: and heat to "HOT". Chop veggies while heating. (See Note 2 for stove top version)
  • SAUTE VEGGIES AND SEASONINGS: Add oil, then onions. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, curry paste, curry, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring for another 3 minutes. Press CANCEL button on instant pot. (See Note 3 for variations)
  • ADD LENTILS AND LIQUID. COOK: Stir in lentils, tomato sauce and water (or broth). Close Instant Pot lid and set valve to 'SEALING', then set PRESSURE OR MANUAL button on High pressure for 15 minutes – or 12 minutes if you prefer lentils less soft (use + or – buttons). The Instant Pot will take about 5-7 minutes to come to pressure depending on size of pot before it starts the 15 minute cooking process. When finished (it will beep), do quick release by turning valve to VENT. When button drops and all remaining pressure has been released, you can open the lid. Turn Instant Pot to OFF.
  • FINISH LENTIL SOUP: Add coconut milk and, if using, spinach and cilantro. Stir 1 minute until combined and spinach is wilted. If soup is too thick, add more water or broth. If too thin, press SAUTE and cook for a few minutes until soup is the consistency you like. Taste and adjust seasonings. Ladle into bowls and add garnishes as desired.

Notes

  1. Coconut Milk: Use less coconut milk if you want a lower calorie soup or if you prefer a more tomato-y base. You can also use light coconut milk which is less rich.
  2. Stovetop version: Use the same instructions as above but simmer the soup in a large pot or dutch oven. Increase the cooking time to about 40 minutes (instead of pressure cooking in the instant pot) until you get the texture and thickness you like.
  3. Variations: 
    • Add extra veggies: Diced carrots and celery would be great to add during the initial sauté phase. I also add fresh baby spinach for color and nutrition at the end.
    • Thick or thin?
      • To alter the body, change the liquid ratios, but keep the total amount of liquid to about 6 cups/1.4 liters. So you can use more or less tomato sauce, water (or broth) and coconut milk if they still add up to 6 cups.
      • If you like your soup less creamy and mellow, reduce the coconut milk and increase the tomato sauce.
      • If you want a thinner soup (this one is quite thick), add more vegetable broth or water at the end after cooking.
    • Level of spiciness: I use red curry paste (my brand was not too spicy) and red chili flakes. Start with less and add more as you like.
    • Seasoning options:
      • I love cilantro but I know many people hate it. So leave it out if you prefer or serve it just as a garnish for those who like it.
      • You can also try adding a pinch of garam masala, cumin and/or turmeric. Now you’re turning it into Indian-Thai-Middle Eastern mix!
    • Texture options:
      • The lentils in the recipe break down fairly quickly. You can cook them a little less to maintain more body to the lentils. I like them mushy 🙂
      • Alternatively, if you prefer a smooth soup, puree it (adding the spinach, if using, after).
  4. Make Ahead: Keep soup in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days or freeze it for up to 6 months. Warm on the stovetop or in the microwave. 
 
Nutritional value estimates are for a fairly large portion and do not include optional garnishes. To lower calories, serve a smaller portion or reduce the coconut milk. 

Nutrition

Calories: 454kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Sodium: 1298mg | Potassium: 1305mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 4126IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 107mg | Iron: 7mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This soup was inspired by an old recipe from Epicurious. 

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Recipe Rating




11 Comments

  1. Ty very much, sorry i was talking about plastic soup mugs which are about 500-600mls not 240ml US cup measurement
    This is our favourite instant pot soup so far 😁

  2. Very good. I kept getting a burn notice so I just finished it on the stove. Any suggestions on how to avoid the lentils burning on the bottom?

    1. Hi Maria. Sorry to hear about your burn message. Hard to say why that happened. You did the right thing by switching to the stovetop. You could have tried adding a bit more liquid (especially if you are using an 8 quart pot), but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes it just happens. Here are the 7 most common reasons from Amy and Jack pressure cook recipes.
      Here are the 7 common reasons that trigger the Instant Pot Burn Message:

      Not enough liquid in the Instant Pot.
      The liquid in Instant Pot is too thick.
      Pressure cook cream of milk directly in the Instant Pot.
      Did not deglaze the bottom of the inner pot.
      Forgot to turn the venting knob to sealing position.
      Steam is leaking from the silicone sealing ring.
      Objects are stuck under the inner pot above the heating element.

      As far as preventing the burn message goes, there are a number of suggestions from experienced instant pot experts, but none really apply to this recipe. They are: following a tested recipe (you did), scraping the pot after browning (you do this when adding the liquids), avoid thickeners before cooking on high pressure, diluting or delaying adding dairy (which we did in this recipe). I hope some of this information will help the next time or in future IP recipes 🙂

      1. 4 stars
        I got a burn notice in my 6 quart and moved it to the stove top. But, except for that, this soup is absolutely DELICIOUS!

  3. 5 stars
    I made this soup last night, its so tasty!
    Loved the kick the chili flakes made, and the coconut milk topped it off.
    I neglected to use light coconut milk, but will next time to lower the saturated fat content, otherwise I’m going to be eating it for a few days…..oh and so very easy to make..

    1. It is an easy one. Glad you liked it. If you want to lower the fat content, you can also use a bit less regular coconut milk instead of light coconut milk. Enjoy!

  4. 5 stars
    Love love love the curried lentil soup and oh so easy in the instapit or whatever pressure cooker one has
    I added maple syrup for extra sweetness
    Made it twice over the weekend
    ???

    1. Has anyone tried doubling the recipe with same cooking time? Want to make to freeze for me and hubby and only makes 3 soup cups full

      1. Hi Barbara. Those must be big cups you’re using! The recipe should make at least 6 cups.

        As for doubling the recipe, you should be fine since the coconut milk liquid is only added after the pressure cooking. Just make sure your IP isn’t filled more that half way (since lentils expand). With an 8 quart, no problem. With a 6 quart, probably ok. Cooking time will be the same. Hope that helps.