Carrot, Sweet Potato, and Red Lentil Soup with Moroccan Flavors

By • September 24, 2013 • 45 Comments

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Author Notes: This is essentially a "clean out the fridge and pantry" soup, but with the unifying themes of sweet, red, vegetables and lentils, and warm, spicy Moroccan flavors. Very satisfying on a crisp fall day to match the scenery!Burnt Offerings

Food52 Review: WHO: Burnt Offerings is a healthcare consultant with a serious passion for food.
WHAT: A simple, 30-minute soup that'll taste like it took you all night to make.
HOW: Sauté, simmer, spice, then blend it all up. Ladle generously into bowls.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This soup has everything we need in a recipe: it's complex enough for an impressive dinner party, and simple enough for a bring-to-work lunch. On top of all that, it's even better if the flavors have had a bit of time to develop overnight. You'll want to make extra now.
The Editors

Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia or sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chunked
  • 5 to 6 large carrots, peeled and chunked (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon Harissa paste (I use Cava brand - a fresh paste available at most Mid-Atlantic Whole Foods)
  • 2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Nigella seeds (or black caraway) for garnish
  • Greek yogurt for garnish
  • Cilantro for garnish
  1. Sweat the onions in the olive oil for 6 to 8 minutes until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and spices except for garnishes.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 25 minutes until the potatoes, lentils, and carrots are soft.
  4. Let the soup cool a little and blitz it with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. If you want to add some cream or half and half, by all means go ahead, but you don't need to. TASTE the soup. Add more harissa, spice, salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with Nigella seeds, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and some cilantro.
Jump to Comments (45)

Comments (45) Questions (1)

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21 days ago icarlz

This soup is the truth. So easy and so good. I made my own paste that resembled harissa by soaking a roasted bell pepper, roasted serrano pepper, roasted red jalapeno and dried guajillo chilies in boiling water and blending with coriander, cumin and salt.

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5 months ago LittleRobinRed

Made this soup and loved it! I used a powdered Harissa, but failed to read the previous comment about halving the amount, so mine turned out extra spicy. It was still good, though. I added some turkey meatballs because I have the kind of hubby that doesn't know what to do it he doesn't see meat on the table, but it wasn't needed; the soup is a very satisfying meal on its own.

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9 months ago byb

I made this soup last night and it is absolutely wonderful! The flavors compliment each other in a way that I wouldn't have expected. Now, because I'm always up for making extra work for myself, I'm wondering how the results would vary if the carrots and sweet potatoes were roasted a bit at a high temp to brown them a bit before they went into the pot. Has anyone given this a try?

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9 months ago Robin

That's a great idea. Maybe add the lentils to the onions, stock and spices and let them cook then add the roasted veggies. Hmmm, that's worth a try. Roasting vegetables brings out so much flavor.

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9 months ago Robin

Found this simply searching for a vegetable soup. What a hit with my family. I live in the DC metro area but couldn't find Ras el Hanout. My Moroccan friend had the spice. He brought it back from his homeland. If anyone knows where in Northern Virginia I can find this wonderful spice, it would be greatly appreciated. Also, for those, like me, that have never heard of Harissa paste I found Harissa (which Whole Foods considers a dip) in the refrigerator section. The brand is Cava. Couldn't find "paste" in any international stores. Is there a difference? Also, are all red lentils split?

Burnt_offering

9 months ago Burnt Offerings

Thanks Robin! I am a cooking instructor for Williams Sonoma - your local WS store should carry Ras el Hanout. I like the Cava brand of paste - very peppery and bright. My red lentils are whole. Very tiny.

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9 months ago anne

I have made this twice now, with various measurements. The first time had no lentils, ras al hanout, harissa. Subbed mousaka spices (cinnamon, corriander, cumin) and chili sambal. Turned out great! Second time, only had half of a sweet potato, used extra carrot. Still delicious. So very warming on a rainy San Francisco night. And the aroma wafting from my apartment, well, a neighbor commented the next day! Thank you for a great soup that is so low on effort and so high in returns.

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10 months ago plainhomecook

Thank you for tonight's wonderful dinner.

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10 months ago Rhonda35

I made this soup exactly as is right down to the garnishes and it was delicious. The next day, I decided to skip the garnishes and instead added a drizzle of blood orange olive oil...OMG! Out of the world! So, if you ever have the chance to scoop up some blood orange olive oil, go for it and then make this soup. :-)

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10 months ago boggler

Question about soups in general. Should the pot be covered or uncovered when simmering? Thanks in advance for your answer.

Burnt_offering

10 months ago Burnt Offerings

In GENERAL, most soups only have to simmer 20-30 minutes, so it doesn't matter too much if the lid is on or off, but if you're making a soup that needs to be pureed later, or cook a longer time, like split pea, or bean soup, I say lid ON. If you're making a quick soup, or one whose flavor is enhanced by reducing a bit like French Onion, or chicken soup, or a richly flavored broth, I'd say lid off. Obviously, any stew needs a braise, so the lid would be on, so the steam helps to cook the meat and vegetables.

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10 months ago boggler

Thank you!

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10 months ago Ann Whitham Cundy

Can I turn my tin of dried harissa spice bled into pasta? Just add some olive oil? Also, since I'd be blending my own Ras El Hanout, what is this adding that isn't in the harissa? I can just go by taste, but am hoping my 2.5 year-old will eat it, so don't want it to be TOO spiced. Suggestions? Many thanks!

Burnt_offering

10 months ago Burnt Offerings

You could easily substitute a dried harrisa powder for the paste. No need to make a paste out of it, but I would cut the amount in 1/2 and taste it carefully before adding more to taste. The paste has more of a tomatoey / chili base, so you might want to add a TBL of tomato paste to your soup. Ras El Hanout is not in Harrissa, and gives the soup a warm, complex flavor. It does not add heat. By all means, season the soup to YOUR tastes, and those of your family. It is easy to spice it up or down accordingly.

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10 months ago Caroline Cooks

This is a lovely soup! Thank you for the recipe.

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11 months ago peenerbambina

Out. Of. This. World. Very low fat for slimmers. And(for UK readers) I managed to get all of the spices from Tesco. Score!

Burnt_offering

11 months ago Burnt Offerings

So glad you liked it! With temps well below freezing and in single digits Faranheit here - I think I may have to make a batch this week!

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11 months ago boggler

I made my own Ras el Hanout. 2 tsps. each ground ginger, cardamom, and mace. 1 tsp. each ground cinnamon, allspice, coriander, nutmeg, and turmeric. 1/2 tsp. each ground black pepper, white pepper (I used all black), cayenne pepper, and ground anise seeds, and 1/4 tsp. ground cloves. Mix well and there you have it - Ras el Hanout.
Just made the soup and my taste buds are tingling. It is divine - so flavourful and creamy (without any dairy added).

Burnt_offering

11 months ago Burnt Offerings

Brilliant!

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11 months ago evansmom

What is Ras el Hanout, and what can I substitute for the harissa paste, since I *don't* live near Whole Foods nor in the Mid-Atlantic area? I don't have an immersion blender; can I just run this through my food processor instead?

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11 months ago Kate

You can definitely run it through your food processor in batches. Ras el Hanout is a Middle Eastern spice blend - if you live near a middle eastern grocer, they might stock both the Ras el Hanout and the harissa; otherwise, you can look up recipes for both online and use what you have.

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11 months ago evansmom

Thanks!!

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11 months ago sheredel

have absolutely none of the spices you are using! however really want to make this and NO WAY am I venturing out again today! suggestions to try, have lots of other spices-

Burnt_offering

11 months ago Burnt Offerings

Just saw this, but you could use cumin, coriander, garlic, ginger, and cayenne pepper for the heat. It won't taste the same, but it will be good!

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about 1 year ago Rémy Robert

Love this - you're so right that it tastes much more complicated than it is to prepare. I added red quinoa and, after reheating, fresh spinach - makes for a really satisfying desk lunch. Thank you!

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about 1 year ago Kendra A.

I made this on Saturday and it was delicious! I didn't find Harissa paste at my local grocery store but they had a dried mixture so I used that, and I think it worked just fine. I'll keep an eye out for the paste, and this is definitely going into my soup rotation! Thanks!

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about 1 year ago denise&food

I made this today and it was delicious. Spicy,tasty,filling and perfect for the cool weather ahead. We really enjoyed it.

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about 1 year ago The Sheepish Sommelier

The most perfect soup for the first blustery night of the season. We're enjoying every spoonful!

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about 1 year ago Maria

Delicious! Like your description says, it is handy for emptying out the pantry. Well, more like fridge! I liked the spicy touch that the Harissa added. I didn't add any yogurt and ate it with some naan bread.

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about 1 year ago erinbdm

I love this soup! Thanks for the recipe. I couldn't find harissa paste anywhere in my area, so I used harissa spice powder instead. I'm sure the paste would have worked better--I'll have to order some. I found the end result needed just a touch of brightening for my taste, so I added some lemon juice.