Comforting and delicious, this lentil and brown rice soup is vegan, gluten-free, highly nutritious, and super satisfying. Made with simple, pantry-friendly ingredients, it is a hearty and warming soup you will love any time of year!
I never did build a bomb-shelter pantry during the pandemic, but whoa did I ever stock up on lentils. A few days ago I was organizing my pantry and found an embarrassing amount of bagged lentils. Which is crazy because I make lentil soups so often I thought I was getting low. Well then, time to use them up pronto before spring is here and we want nothing to do with legumes for a while.
I love a one-pot, one-bowl meal that is delicious, hearty, and satisfying and this lentil and brown rice soup is just that. It’s a crowd-pleasing soup that is loaded with mineral-packed lentils, veggies, brown rice, and boosted with plenty of fresh greens. Because lentils do not need to be soaked, it’s also relatively quick to cook, making it a perfect weeknight meal.To finish, I like to drizzle the soup with extra-virgin oil olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes. Lovely served on its own, but even better with chunks of sourdough bread, or homemade naan. Nutritious, easy, and beyond delicious, I know you will love this soup as much as we do.
The Best Lentils For This Lentil And Brown Rice Soup
Originating from Asia and North Africa, lentils are incredibly nutritious and good for you. They are low in fat and high in protein making them a great addition to a plant-based diet. They’re also rich in calcium, iron, potassium and other nutrients and make fantastic, satisfying vegetarian meals. Dried lentils can be stored in a dry place for up to a year which makes them a great pantry staple.
You can use any type of lentil for this soup. If I am making a large batch for leftovers or for freezing, I prefer using green lentils, French Puy lentils, or black lentils (also known as Beluga). They take a little longer to cook but hold their shape well and have a wonderful peppery flavour.
Red lentils are milder in flavour and break down quickly when cooked becoming a little mushy. They make delicious soups but if used for this recipe, it is best to cook the rice separately since brown rice takes quite a bit longer to cook. Brown lentils are the most commonly found and might be my least favourite in both texture and flavour. That said, brown lentils are very versatile and can also be great in this soup if not overcooked.
Ingredients And Notes
- Lentils: I used Puy lentils. See above for more info on which lentils to use.
- Brown rice: I like to use brown rice for this soup which cooks at the same time as the lentils. See below for more info on what other rice you can use.
- Veggies: You could get away with using only onions for this lentil and brown rice soup. Carrots and celery just make it heartier and more flavourful.
- Canned tomatoes: You can use fresh tomatoes or canned for this recipe. To keep things easy, I use my favourite canned Mutti Polpa.
- Olive oil: Sautéing the veggies in olive oil adds great flavour to the soup. I also like a drizzle over the finished soup.
- Spices and seasoning: Lentils are very earthy and somewhat bland. A few spices can really add great flavour to the soup but feel free to play around with what you have on hand, and simply omit what you don’t have. As long as you season the soup well with salt and pepper, it will be super delicious.
- Broth: A homemade broth is always ideal but this soup likes a lot of broth and we want to keep it easy and weeknight friendly. Use a store-bought low sodium broth, I like this brand, or use water if you prefer. If you use water, taste the finished soup and add more spices and seasoning, if needed.
- Bay leaves: I like the subtle fragrance bay leaves lend to soups, but they are not essential. Feel free to omit if you don’t have them on hand.
- Fresh herbs: Adding fresh herbs brings lovely freshness to any soup. Here I add a few sprigs of thyme but you can add parsley or oregano if you prefer.
- Leafy greens: Here I used baby spinach but any hearty green such as kale, chard, or collards would be nice.
- To finish: I like to add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice at the end of cooking the soup. Try not to leave this out, something acidic in an earthy soup adds a high back-note and a bit of oomph. Crushed red pepper flakes are optional, but again, just a pinch will make the soup a lot more interesting.
Lentil And Brown Rice Soup: Frequently Asked Questions
Do the lentils or brown rice need to be soaked?
No, lentils do not need to be soaked. However, much like dried beans, lentils should be picked over for any small rocks, pebbles, or debris, then rinsed well. Brown rice does not need to be soaked either but again, it needs to be rinsed well so it is less starchy. That said, if you have time to soak the brown rice for 1 hour, it will cook a lot faster.
Does the rice need to be cooked before being added to the soup?
No, it does not. For this recipe, the brown rice and green lentils require the same cooking time (about 40 minutes) so the rice is added at the same time as the lentils. If you are using red lentils to make this soup, however, you will need to cook, or par-cook, the brown rice ahead of time. Red lentils are cooked in about 15 to 20 minutes which doesn’t give the brown rice enough time to cook.
Can you use white rice?
You can use any variety of rice but if you cook it in the soup, it is best to use a variety with a longer cooking time. Jasmine and basmati rice, for example, cook in about 15 minutes so it is best to cook them separately, then add to the finished soup.
Can you freeze this soup?
Yes! Allow the soup to cool, transfer to freezer safe storage container(s) and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to use, defrost in the fridge overnight, or thaw for a few hours on the counter. Place in a pot over medium heat until completely warmed through. The rice and lentils will have absorbed a lot of the liquid so you may need to add more stock or water.
Is this soup healthy?
So healthy! As mentioned above, lentils are a highly nutritious food. Brown rice is a whole grain that has more fibre than white rice and is a good source of folate, potassium and calcium. In addition, this soup has an abundance of healthy veggies and spices. As written, this lentil and brown rice soup is also vegan and gluten-free.
How To Make Lentil And Brown Rice Soup
The beauty of this soup, aside from being so delicious, is that it is super easy to make and it is a one-pot, one-bowl meal.
- Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the carrots and celery and sauté about 3-4 minutes longer. Stir in the garlic, spices, tomato paste (if using), thyme sprigs, bay leaves, salt and black pepper and sauté for about a minute or until the spices are fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute. Add the lentils and rice and stir to coat. Pour in the stock and bring it all to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until lentils and rice are tender, about 40 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves, and thyme sprigs and discard. Sir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Add the greens and stir until wilted.
- Adjust the seasoning by adding a little more salt and pepper, if needed.
A Few Tips
- Clean the lentils: Pick over the lentils and remove any small pebbles or debris. Rinse them well in a fine mesh strainer under cold water.
- Rinse the rice: You really should always rinse rice before cooking it. This will get rid of the extra starchiness and will prevent mushy rice fiasco. Rinse it a few times in a bowl with cold water, then drain in a fine mesh strainer.
- Be generous with the seasoning: Avoid a bland soup by seasoning it well. Once cooked, taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. That said, if you used a broth that was not low-sodium, add only a bit of salt.
- Add more or less liquid: This lentil and brown rice soup is phenomenal both thick and brothy. Take it whichever direction you prefer by adding more or less liquid.
Feel free to make changes to this recipe depending on what you have on hand. If you have cooked farro, quinoa, or millet use that instead of the rice.
Substitute butternut squash, or sweet potatoes, for the carrots – yum!
This is a plant-based, dairy-free soup. You can, however, add some sausage which goes really well with lentils. Likewise, a little sprinkle of Grana Padano, or Reggiano cheese, over top of the finished soup would be extremely-delicious.
This soup needs little embellishment to be satisfying and delicious. Thats said, a drizzle of olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and flaky salt when serving will really make the soup extra tasty. If you eat bread, a crusty bread or warm naan would be fabulous.
Stretch any leftovers by serving with a lightly-boiled egg, or topped with sliced avocado (my favourite!).
Other Plant-based Meals You Might Enjoy
- Instant Pot Barley Minestrone Soup
- Tofu and Bok Choy Stir-Fry
- Khichdi with Vegetables
- Easy Pantry Tomato Soup Recipe
If you give this Lentil and Brown Rice Soup recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
Lentil and Brown Rice Soup
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 large carrots peeled and diced (can leave unpeeled if organic)
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt plus more, if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
- 1 14 ounce can crushed (or whole) tomatoes or 3 small plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
- 2 cups green lentils picked over and rinsed (*see notes on lentils)
- 3/4 cup uncooked brown rice, rinsed and drained (**see notes if using cooked rice)
- 8 cups low-sodium vegetable stock or chicken stock, or water
- 1 Tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar, or lemon juice (optional, but recommended)
- 2 big handfuls baby spinach or kale, or chard (ribs removed), coarsely chopped in large pieces
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional, for serving)
- In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and sauté about 3-4 minutes longer. Stir in the garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, thyme sprigs, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, and cayenne (if using) and sauté for about a minute or until the spices are fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute. Add the lentils and rice and stir to coat. Pour in the stock and bring it all to a boil, stirring to make sure nothing stuck to the bottom.
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until lentils and rice are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves, and thyme sprigs and discard. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Add the spinach and stir until wilted.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding a little more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve hot in bowls, drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of crushed pepper flakes, if deisred.