Make Ahead

Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup

October  3, 2010
14 Ratings
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4, with some leftovers
Author Notes

Over the course of a year, I make this dish perhaps more than any other single recipe. Sometimes in the summer, I add chunks of summer squash and fresh peas right at the end, and in the autumn and winter, I often stir in a cup or two of thinly sliced cabbage, or of leftover roasted butternut squash or pumpkin. This tastes great the next day, but the lentils are pulses, which break down quickly, so try to eat any leftovers within a few days. This can easily be adapted for vegans by substituting oil for the ghee, using vegetable stock and stirring in some almond milk and an extra squeeze of lime at the end, instead of a yogurt-based raita. Enjoy!! ;o) - AntoniaJames —AntoniaJames

Test Kitchen Notes

The red lentil base here is a soothing blank canvas; one that AntoniaJames matches with the vegetable of the week, cauliflower, but also instructs cooks on how to make their own with an almost infinite combination of pairings, produce and preserves. I can attest to satisfying additions of roasted winter squash, spicy chutney and cooling cucumber raita and look forward to keeping this quick and easy base in my winter soup rotation. - cheese1227 —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 ½ cups red lentils or masoor dal
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee, or vegetable oil or butter (or a combination)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ inch slice of ginger root, minced, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly toasted and ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled or scrubbed, and cut into ½ inch slices
  • 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and broken into bite-sized florets
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
  • Juice of a lime
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Consider stirring in:
  • Mint and/or cilantro chutney (There are several good fresh chutney recipes on food52.) (See note below.)
  • Cucumber Raita (or crème fraiche, sour cream, or Greek yogurt)
  • Or almond or cashew milk
  1. Rinse the red lentils several times in cold water. In a large bowl, cover them by at least two inches of boiling water. Allow them to sit while you do the next two steps.
  2. Heat your soup pot, add the ghee or oil or butter, wait a few seconds, and then add the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from browning too much or burning.
  3. When the onion is translucent, add the ginger and garlic and the ground spices to the cooked onion. Stir frequently as you cook over medium heat, for about 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Pour the lentils and soaking water into the soup pot, then add the stock (or additional water, if not using stock) and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so that the soup simmers.
  5. Add the carrots and continue to cook, stirring occasionally and taking care not to let the lentils stick to the bottom of the pot. Add more water if the soup gets too thick. The lentils will soak up the water and broth very quickly!
  6. After about ten minutes, give the soup a good, thorough stir, and add the cauliflower pieces. If you want to add some sliced cabbage or some roasted winter squash, this is the time to do it. Add more water if the soup seems to be drying out. Turn the heat to low, give the soup another good stir (but gently, please), then cover the pot, and cook for at least 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so.
  7. Check for salt and correct if necessary, taking into account that the chutney and raita, if you plan to use them, may also have salt in them.
  8. Turn off the heat and let the soup sit, covered, until ready to serve. (Refrigerate it though if you won’t be serving for several hours or more.)
  9. Stir in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. (I often don’t chop fresh cilantro when serving our favorite mint-cilantro chutney with this soup.)
  10. Serve with freshly ground pepper and Cucumber Raita. (My recipe for it is on Food52.)
  11. N.B. Sometimes I add a handful of small green peas right at the end of the cooking time, to give it a bit more color. Also, we often stir cooked brown basmati rice into this when eating this is for dinner.
  12. About the chutney: Search for “mint chutney” and “cilantro chutney” on food52 for some great fresh chutney recipes. Kitchenbutterfly's "Coriander Chutney" should not be overlooked!
  13. When adding roasted pumpkin or winter squash to this, I always add the juice of a full lime, even if I plan to stir in some chutney, to balance the sweetness of the roasted vegetables.
  14. About making extra for freezing: I often make a red lentil soup base for freezing by doubling the recipe, up through (and including) the addition of the roasted winter squash, if I plan to use it. The other vegetables get an unpleasant texture when frozen, so remove the portion you plan to freeze, before adding them to the batch you plan to eat right away. When you use the frozen base, thaw and bring the base to a simmer, and then proceed with adding the carrots and cauliflower, etc. I’ve also pureed the fully-cooked soup, with all the vegetables, and frozen that. It tasted great. Add in fresh cilantro and lime juice, or a good chutney before serving, if you do this. ;o)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Angela Rossi
    Angela Rossi
  • Zoei Alley
    Zoei Alley
  • Maria
  • Yve
  • Debbie

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

86 Reviews

kha March 29, 2021
very good. will make it again. added some spinach at the end.
AntoniaJames March 29, 2021
Thank you, kha. So glad to hear that you like this! ;o)
Angela R. November 24, 2019
Great recipe! I just made it and it tastes delicious.
Zoei A. January 2, 2018
Do you find that the coriander and cumin add more flavor? Isn't there typically both of those spices in curry powder?
jeanmarieok September 19, 2016
I've started hitting it with my stick blender. Not too smooth, I leave some chunks, but not as chunky as it is in the picture. It's delicious, either way.
AntoniaJames September 20, 2016
Such a good idea, jeanmarieok. I just happened to be making a dal with cauliflower and carrot last night so I gave it a try. Excellent result! Thank you for letting us know. ;o)
Noxolo January 25, 2016
Hearty, guilt-free winter meal. Was so yummy, I went back for seconds and thirds!
Kerry G. November 26, 2015
This was really lovely. Squeeze of lime a must. Antonia's raita, also a must! The chopped tomatoes in the raita recipe added a fresh and sweet acidity. I'm a sucker for mango chutney, so that was in there too :)
Maria April 2, 2015
I made this soup last night with only a cup of lentils and half a head of cauliflower (but it was a really big head of cauliflower, so I guess this can vary) so that it had a bit of liquid in it and it turned out wonderfully! Adding the lime in at the end really made a huge difference in the taste! I made a cilantro chutney as per your suggestion, which brightened it up even more! I would definitely make it again! My meat-loving husband enjoyed it as well!
tracy P. March 31, 2015
Chris J. January 19, 2015
Hi AJ, we just had this for dinner and it was delicious, will definitely add it to our soup list. Question- how many calories? Thanks, Chris
letta October 7, 2014
I made this soup with most of the ingredients and even with some missing items, this soup was amazing.
AntoniaJames October 8, 2014
Thank you, letta. So glad you enjoyed it. ;o)
Yve July 6, 2014
I've made similar dishes to this many times, but not with lime added at the end. OMG! The secret ingredient. This made it so bright and really good! Thanks!
AntoniaJames October 8, 2014
Yes, Yve, the lime really makes all the difference. I'm it turned out so well for you. ;o)
AntoniaJames October 8, 2014
That should be "glad it turned out so well." Sorry. ;o)
Joe April 6, 2014
I made this yesterday pretty much as prescribed...the only real change was that I added a can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted crushed tomatoes when I added the broth. I think it was a good addition. Also, I used French lentils instead of red because that is what I had, and I used a little extra curry powder. I would probably add a little turmeric next time to brighten up the color. Overall, very delicious and will definitely be something I make on a regular basis.
AntoniaJames October 8, 2014
Sounds interesting, and delicious, Joe. Thanks for the tips. ;o)
Debbie October 8, 2013
I made this soup today and I love it. I added turnip instead of squash and it was great! Thanks for sharing this delicious and hardy soup.
sarabclever September 26, 2013
I'm having this for lunch today. I added some turmeric as I always like to add that when it seems fitting. Love this soup! Interesting first step to pour boiling water over the lentils--I've never seen that before; what's the reason?
AntoniaJames September 26, 2013
I pour boiling water over them to start the softening/cooking process and also, to get a jump on cooking the soup as a whole. I suppose this is kind of obvious, but if you pour hot water/partially cooked lentils into the soup pot, it will start cooking much more quickly. (On evenings when I'm pressed for time, I actually put the lentils in a small saucepan and pour the boiling water -- which I've heated in a tea kettle while I'm rinsing the lentils -- over the rinsed lentils in the saucepan, and let them bubble away gently while cooking the onions, etc.) If you look at my Tomato and Kala Jeera soup recipe -- a first cousin to this one -- you'll see that I do that there, too. Thanks for your kind words. I hope you enjoy this! ;o)
sarabclever September 27, 2013
Thanks, that makes sense--funny I've never seen that before in a recipe, probably because lentils cook so much more quickly compared to other legumes. Will check out the tomato kala jeera soup!
sarabclever September 24, 2013
Perfect: I'm making this next!
Ligu July 15, 2013
What an incredible recipe! I made this in my un-air conditioned kitchen and it was totally worth the (minor) effort. Instead of chutney I used a little leftover salsa verde, crossing my fingers that it would be an ok sub. It tasted fantastic! Thanks for adding another stellar recipe to my arsenal.
erskinechef May 1, 2013
Thanks Antonia for another great soup recipe. My little chefs loved this!
LeeLeeBee April 11, 2013
Made this last night. I added about two cups of cubed (raw) butternut squash with the carrots and about a cup and a half of green beans with the cauliflower. I added two cans of diced tomatoes so there would be enough liquid for all the veggies. Fantastic!
DeirdreMS January 24, 2013
Any reason to not use green lentils? It is all I have.
AntoniaJames March 15, 2013
Sorry I missed this comment . . . Green lentils won't break down as well, so the texture/consistency will be very different, as will the taste. It probably will still taste good. I have to say though that as much as I like this recipe, I'd probably find a different recipe, designed for green lentils, and use that instead. ;o)
KarenOCook January 8, 2012
I was cruising Food 52 looking for something to make with both the head of cauliflower in my frig and the acorn squash in my panty and here is your delicious looking soup using both ingrediants! This will be made tomorrow as I have red lentils too. What luck! Love the various additions mentioned by you and the others to change it up. Also, the custom curry powder recipe was very helpful.