Smoky Lentil Soup with Almond Picada

October 19, 2017
5 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This is one of my favorite lentil soups, one that tips its hat to Catalonia. It starts with a base of sofrito, the Spanish building blocks of onion, garlic, and tomatoes (though I’ve added carrot, as well, because I like the way its sweetness pairs with earthy lentils), and ends with almond picada, a dense paste of fried bread, almonds, garlic, olive oil, and parsley. The soup is delicious on its own, but it’s all the better because of the picada, which you can add during the final minutes of cooking to flavor, and then bring to the table as a garnish. I like a crumbly picada with this soup, but a smooth paste (almost purée) is more traditional. Feel free to go either route.

Notes: If you can't find piquillo peppers, use a smaller amount of regular roasted red peppers (jarred or freshly roasted). —EmilyC

What You'll Need
  • Lentil Soup
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion (from 1 large onion)
  • 1 cup diced carrot (from 1 large or 2 small carrots)
  • 1 dash Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed lightly
  • 5 roasted piquillo peppers (jarred or freshly roasted), roughly chopped (about 1/2-cup), or 2 roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika, or more to taste
  • 2 cups French lentils or Spanish pardina lentils, rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, plus water, as needed, to thin the soup
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons picada, plus more for serving
  • Almond Picada
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 slice day-old peasant-style bread (about 1/2-inch thick), crusts removed
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup skinless (blanched) almonds (whole, slivered or sliced)
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 dash Kosher salt, to taste
  1. Lentil Soup
  2. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and a pinch of salt, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Move the ingredients to one side of the pan to create a "hot spot" for the tomato paste. Add the tomato paste and toast for a minute or two, stirring the paste a few times to prevent burning, then combine with the onions, carrots, and garlic.
  3. Add the tomatoes (I like to lightly crush them with my hands or cut them into coarse chunks with kitchen shears), piquillo peppers, thyme, smoked paprika, lentils, bay leaves, broth, 2 teaspoons of salt, and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, lower heat and simmer (uncovered) for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Add water to thin, if needed. Reduce heat to its lowest setting and add sherry vinegar. Adjust seasoning and acidity to taste. Stir in a few tablespoons of picada to flavor the soup, then cook for another minute or two. Turn off the heat, remove bay leaves, and serve, passing more picada at the table for sprinkling over the soup.
  1. Almond Picada
  2. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the bread and cook until toasted and uniformly golden (almost the color of cornflakes) on both sides. Turn the heat down if the bread starts to burn or color too quickly; it should gently sizzle in the oil. Remove bread from the pan, and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into small cubes.
  3. Return the skillet to the burner (no need to wipe clean) leaving any leftover olive oil from toasting the bread in the pan. Lightly toast the almonds and garlic until lightly golden, stirring frequently, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner.
  4. Transfer the cubes to a food processor. Add the almonds, garlic, any remaining olive oil from the skillet, and the parsley. Pulse until finely chopped for a crumbly picada, or pulse longer (drizzling in a few teaspoons more olive oil) for a more traditional smooth paste. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to pound the picada into a crumbly or smooth paste.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Angie
  • shanfrancisco
  • stefanie
  • sexyLAMBCHOPx
  • EmilyC

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

10 Reviews

Angie August 29, 2022
This soup is 100% worth the trouble. It's exactly what I wanted, so warm and fragrant. I served it with a poached egg on top but it would have been fine without it. I used red wine vinegar because it's what I had and it was still perfect.
shanfrancisco October 31, 2020
I wasn't convinced this soup was going to be worth the trouble until I actually served myself a bowl of it. Absolutely *delicious*. A gloriously bold blend of scents and flavors. The picada really elevates the entire thing and I loved the step where you grill the bread in olive oil to make it. I used a sourdough levain from a local bakery. The way the tang of the bread blended with all the other flavors was really special. I was short on lentils, so I used one cup of lentils and one cup of brown rice for my grains. That worked well. Thick, stew-like texture. In the soup, I skipped the vinegar step at the end, as it was already tasting *plenty* acidic to me with all that tomato.
stefanie February 16, 2019
Super delicious and very easy to throw together! I didn't have sherry vinegar, but a splash of red wine vinegar did the trick. Took about 55 minutes for my lentils to become tender, and the end consistency walked the line between soup and stew. For the picada, since I already had the oven heated from roasting the peppers, I just tossed the bread, almonds, and slivered garlic with some olive oil and toasted in the oven and it came out great too.
sexyLAMBCHOPx October 19, 2017
Is the consistency that of a soup with liquid coming into the spoon with lentils or thick, stew-like that it can be served as a side? I can't tell by the ingredients or photo. Love the flavor combinations for sure.
EmilyC October 19, 2017
It's a soup! It gets pretty thick as it cooks, but can be thinned with water as needed. Hope you try and like it!
tammany October 19, 2017
I wonder if the picada would freeze nicely. I do love have gremolata (say the great winter greens gremolata recipe from here!) in the freezer, ready to go at a moment's notice. I've jazzed up many a plain grilled thing (veg, meat, fish, carbon) with it! I'd love to have some of this around at all times as well!
EmilyC October 19, 2017
I have never frozen picada but it should work well. Great idea!
tammany October 19, 2017
Thanks for the feedback I'm going to give it a whirl!
EmilyC October 19, 2017
Of course! Please report back with results!
Nancy October 20, 2017
Most pestos freeze well (up to a year) and this picada has a similar ingredient profile (nuts, oil), so it should do well.