A bowl of Turkish red lentil soup (mercimek çorbası) will make any gloomy day 100% better. It’s so comforting, filling, and most importantly extremely delicious. Served with a buttery spicy sauce and drizzled with lots of lemon juice, this lentil soup packs a punch of flavor. You’ll spot this soup on the menu of every kebab restaurants in Turkey (and it’s a great way to gauge the restaurant’s overall quality) but it’s also very common to make it at home.
A FORGIVING RECIPE
In France, lentils are mainly eaten as a side with sausages but I was so glad to learn new ways of cooking them in Turkey. They can be used for soups, they can be mashed, or you can turn them into patties, etc… A few years ago lentils wouldn’t even make it into my top 10 of favorite carbs but Turkey definitely turned me into a lentil enthusiast.
Every family has its own Turkish red lentil soup recipe so you’ll never taste two identical ones. Some people prefer yellow lentils whereas others don’t put any vegetables at all. If you don’t have all the ingredients for this recipe, just do with what you do have in your cupboard/fridge. As long as you have round lentils, some sort of paste, butter and 1 lemon, you’ll get an amazing bowl of Turkish red lentil soup.
A SOUP FOR EVERYONE
If you want to delve into the world of Turkish soups, you should definitely start with a lentil soup. It’s extremely easy to make and just as easy to love. It’s smooth, velvety and super flavorful. Mercimek çorbası is for everyone! This might not be the case for beyin çorbası (soup made with brains) or kelle paça çorbası (soup made with feet). I do love an offal soup since I grew up in the Caribbean, but they are harder to digest (pretty greasy) and I think you would have a hard time convincing a picky eater to go anywhere near your soup.
Turkish red lentil soup is usually served as a starter but it can definitely be filling enough for dinner. Especially if you serve it, like in Turkey, with slices of white fluffy bread.
TURKISH RED LENTILS
→ Which lentils to use for a Turkish red lentil soup? If you can go to a Turkish grocery store, great! Pick a bag of red lentils (kirmizi mercimek) in the dry goods aisle. They can also be labeled as futbol mercimek because of their shape (futbol -> football -> soccer). Turkish red lentils are round and thick. If you can’t get to a Turkish grocery store, it’s fine. You can use any red lentils that are more readily available to you in your local supermarket as long as they aren’t split red lentils.
TURKISH RED PEPPER PASTE
The same goes for salça. Red pepper paste (biber salçası), tomato paste (domates salçası) or a mix of both (karışık salça) are used quite interchangeably in Turkey depending on personal tastes or family recipes. So if you don’t feel like getting biber salçası for this recipe, just use any tomato paste and your Turkish red lentil soup will still taste great and pretty similar to mercimek çorbası. However, if you do purchase a jar of salça, pour a bit of olive oil to cover the paste after using it for the 1st time. This will help the preservation and the salça will keep for ages in your fridge.
Are you wondering what to do with tatlı biber salçası? Here are some other recipes to use it up:
- Braised leeks (Pırasa yemeği)
- Spaghetti with red pepper paste (Salçalı makarna)
- Turkish Fry up (Kızartma)
Turkish red lentil soup
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Yield: 3 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stove
- Cuisine: Turkish
- Diet: Vegetarian
Turkish red lentil soup is comforting, filling, and most importantly, extremely delicious. Served with a spicy buttery sauce and copiously drizzled with lemon juice, this lentil soup packs a flavor punch. It will make any gloomy day 100% better.
For the Turkish red lentil soup:
- 400g red lentils (kirmizi mercimek) (2 cups)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 potato
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- 2 tsp salt, heaped
- 1 tsp Turkish mild red pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası), heaped (or use tomato paste)
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1.75L water (7 ½ cups)
For the soup toppings:
- 40g butter (3 tbsp)
- ¾ tsp Turkish kirmizi biber (or use your preferred red chili powder)
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Wash the lentils. Place the lentils in a strainer and rinse well under cold running water for 1 min, rubbing the lentils between your fingers. Set aside.
- Cook the vegetables. Peel and roughly chop the potato, carrot and onion. Heat the oil in a deep non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the vegetables along with the salt. Cook for 10 min mixing often with a wooden spoon.
- Make the soup. Add the flour and stir thoroughly. Add the red pepper (or tomato) paste and spread it all over the vegetables with the spoon. Cook for 2 min then stir in the strained lentils. Top everything with the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 35 min. The lentils should be totally soft by then. Remove from the heat and blend the Turkish red lentil soup with an immersion blender. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Return the pan to low heat while you make the sauce.
- Make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the kirmizi biber (red chili powder), stir with a wooden spoon and sizzle for 30 seconds. Keep an eye on the pan because the powder can burn pretty quickly (it’ll turn dark and bitter and you’ll have to start again).
- Serve. Ladle the Turkish red lentil soup into bowls, drizzle the sauce over the soup and serve immediately with wedges of lemon.
The soup will thicken as it cools down. Gently warm it through and the consistency will turn back to normal. You can also stir in a little bit of just-boiled water to thin it down.
Turkish red lentil soup can keep for up to 3 days covered in the fridge. If you want to keep it for longer, don’t hesitate to freeze it (for up to 3 months).
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 698
- Fat: 20g
Keywords: lentil soup, turkish soup, red lentils recipes
why ther isn’t the dryed mint in the recipe?
Hi! I didn’t come across mercimek çorbasi that included dried mint leaves during my time living in the West of Turkey. I’ve frequently seen it added to yogurt-based soups though. I suppose there could be regional differences and every family has their own way of making mercimek çorbasi. If you want to add dried mint leaves inside the soup, I would add 1 tsp of it when you stir in the flour. Otherwise, a lot of people don’t pour spicy butter sauce after serving but sprinkle crushed chili flakes (pul biber) over the top instead. Dried mint leaves could also be sprinkled at this moment too.