Looking for a warming and healthy plant-based meal you can whip up in your Instant Pot? This warming red lentil soup has you covered. It’s packed with flavor and nutrient-dense vegetables, plus a healthy dose of plant-based protein— from split red lentils. I love it because it’s bright and colorful (compared to the usual brown lentil soup) and very easy to prepare. It’s the perfect recipe for a chilly winter night or a busy weeknight. Vegans and the veg-curious alike will love it!
Why I Love This Instant Pot Red Lentil Soup Recipe
I always looked forward to eating lentil soup with my dad when I was growing up. We always bought the Progresso kind and sprinkled a bit of parmesan cheese on top. It wasn’t a fancy meal, — I loved how it tasted and I loved eating together even more.
As I write this, my dad is sitting in a hospital bed recovering from a nasty bout of appendicitis. Luckily he’s doing just fine and he’ll be out soon, but nonetheless, dad — this recipe is dedicated to YOU!
Aside from the sentimental value of lentil soup, there are so many other things to love about this recipe. It’s a nice little twist on the lentil soups you may have tried in the past. It’s a bit more fresh, brightly colored (instead of brown), lower in sodium, and richer in warming spices and fiber-rich vegetables. This is also a super easy plant-based meal to make in an Instant Pot.
If you check out the nutrition facts below, you can see that this recipe is a nutrition powerhouse. (Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised when I calculated everything out!)
Including a variety of colorful vegetables made this recipe high in fiber and potassium as well as vitamins A and C. (The kale and sweet potatoes, in particular, are dense sources of these nutrients.)
You’ll notice this recipe also contains a surprising amount of protein and iron. How did I accomplish that without meat? Isn’t that where most people get these nutrients? Nope. It was lentils! These little guys are a fantastic source of plant-based protein, as well as many other important vitamins and minerals. Perfect for vegans, vegetarians, or the veg-curious!
What is the difference between split lentils and whole lentils?
You may notice that the recipe includes split red lentils. Isn’t this the same thing as plain ol’ lentils? Nope. Split lentils have been processed a bit more (their core and seed coating have been removed) so they don’t take as long to cook and will have a softer texture.
To avoid mushy lentils, I would recommend not cooking this for too much longer than the specified cooking time and being sure to use the ‘quick release’ option on your Instant Pot.
Tips on using an immersion blender
Immersion blenders are a great tool for soups because you can pureé right in whatever container you’re using (instead of pouring everything into a blender or food processor). I wanted to retain some of the whole veggies in this soup and avoid puréeing the whole thing, so I removed about 1/3 of the soup mixture and blended this portion in a large bowl before adding it back to the soup.
If you’ve never used an immersion blender, I’ll just say this – make sure it is immersed before blending. I know, it’s right in the name, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten that and splattered soup all over my kitchen before. (Oops!)
Don’t own an immersion blender? That’s okay! See the recipe modifications below. Want to buy one? I have this Cuisinart one and I love it.
- Make it with brown lentils – If you’re using whole, double your cooking time. Also, note that your soup will be more brown in color (but still delicious).
- Make it with whole red lentils instead of split – Again, double the cooking time.
- Make it in a crockpot – Sauté spices, then vegetables in a pot or pan on the stovetop, then add all ingredients to the crockpot and cook for 4 hours on low. Add kale shortly before serving to wilt.
- Make it on the stovetop – Do step 1 in a large pot or Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium heat. Lower to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes (or until lentils are soft but not mushy).
- Make it without an immersion blender – Carefully pour 1/3 of the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend. If you’d like to go without blending, that’s fine too! This recipe would be perfectly delicious without blending – it would just be a bit chunkier instead of smooth.
- Make it spicier – Add a few generous shakes of red pepper flakes on top of each serving.
- Make it creamier – Add a dollop of sour cream or stir in a can of light coconut milk after the Instant Pot timer goes off.
- Make it lower in sodium – Use a low-sodium vegetable broth.
Instant Pot Red Lentil Soup
- pressure cooker
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1.5 tsp coriander
- 1.5 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 0.5 tsp paprika
- 0.5 tsp cinnamon
- 0.5 tsp turmeric
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1 large sweet potato diced
- 1.5 cup carrots diced
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 cup celery diced
- 2 medium red bell peppers diced
- 1.5 cups split red lentils
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 1 lemon
- 3 cups curly kale chopped
- Set Instant Pot to 'Sauté.' Once hot, add olive oil. Add garlic and spices and sauté 1 minute.
- Add diced sweet potato and saute until soft. Add diced carrots, onion, and bell pepper and sauteé for another 3 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add lentils and vegetable broth. Stir.
- Set Instant Pot to 'Manual' (high pressure) and set the timer for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes is up, quick release.
- Ladle 1/3 of the soup into a large bowl. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (See recipe modifications if you don't have an immersion blender.) Add the blended soup back to the Instant Pot and stir.
- Cut the lemon in half, add juice from 1/2 of the lemon and cut the remaining half into segments for garnishing. Stir in kale until wilted and serve!