Turmeric Red Lentil Soup
This soup is one of the most satisfying, warming dishes I may have ever had. It is so simple, filling, and comforting. You would never guess just how good it is for you. All you need is a handful of basic ingredients and about 30 minutes to reach this blissful crossroads of taste and nutrition.
Lentils are the heart of this soup. They are considered a pulse (Yay International Year of Pulses!) and are an incredible source of protein, fiber, phytochemicals, and carbs. One cup of cooked lentils has 18 g protein and 15 g fiber! That is more fiber than most Americans get each day. Including pulses like lentils, beans, and chickpeas in your diet is good for both you and the earth. Pulses are a great alternative to animal protein and actually enrich the soil in which they are grown. Wins all around!
Alliums onion and garlic round out the soup and add complexity. (But really, what great soup doesn’t begin with someone from the onion family?) Then there is the turmeric, that stuff perhaps hanging out in the back of your mom’s spice cabinet infamously known to stain everything highlighter yellow. Turmeric is key in delicious curry dishes and is even now enjoyed in latte form (yes, this is a thing).
Turmeric has been long used for cooking, dying, as well as medicinal purposes across Asia. It is used as a remedy for ailments from congestion to indigestion to skin conditions. Research has shown turmeric does have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, mostly from the polyphenol curcumin. However, this is a case where what you see is not exactly what you get. Many studies providing evidence of curcumin’s abilities are done in vitro, in mice, or with specially formulated supplements. The bioavailability, the amount of a food or substance that we actually can absorb, of curcumin is perhaps only about 1%, and curcumin makes up less than 5% of turmeric altogether. In order to even detect curcumin in the blood stream, a person would have to eat a few grams of it, which is easier said than done. So while this orange spice has tons of health promoting potential, in reality we are only harnessing a small amount when we consume it.
There are much more bioavailable forms of curcumin and turmeric being developed that we hopefully can one day utilize to possibly fight cancer, alleviate arthrititis, etc. For now, including turmeric in your diet is still worth it I think. Many people swear by turmeric when it comes to decreasing inflammation, and maybe it really does help, or maybe it is a placebo effect, who knows. Either way, even at large doses of a few grams (good luck achieving that) turmeric is not harmful. And it tastes great! Like in this soup! Maybe you will feel the healing strength of turmeric, maybe not, but you will definitely enjoy a delicious bowl of soup along the way.
P.S. Just in case, when you make this soup it is probably not the best time to wear that white shirt you care about. Turmeric takes no prisoners.
Turmeric Red Lentil Soup
Makes 2 large or 4 smaller portions
1 tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 ¼ cup total)
3 garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp. total)
2 tsp. turmeric
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup red lentils
big pinch each coarse/kosher salt and cayenne
Greek yogurt, milk, cilantro, fresh black pepper to serve
Heat a medium sized pot on medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil and then the onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook onions, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Mix in the garlic, turmeric, and cayenne, and cook for another minute. Add the stock and lentils. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. The lentils should be very soft and the liquid significantly reduced.
Remove from the heat and purèe the lentils with an immersion blender or a regular blender until mostly smooth. You can add a splash of water if you need to help get the soup well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Mix a bit of Greek yogurt with just enough milk to make it a thinner, pourable consistency. Serve soup with the yogurt sauce, cilantro, and fresh black pepper.
Extras will last a few days in the fridge.
Note: The stock I used was seasoned (has salt), and unless you buy a low sodium one, yours will have a significant amount too. The amount of salt needed to season the soup depends on what stock you use, so make sure to taste and adjust as you like.