March 3, 2013

Smoky Tomato Lentil Soup With Spinach & Olives

by IsaChandra

Serves 6 to 8
Total time: 1 hour || Active time: 15 minutes

Smoky Tomato Lentil Soup

I’m not one of those people who freezes soup, although I do occasionally try to be one of those people, and then find the poor victim in the back of the freezer way too late. To avoid that tragedy, I’m usually simmering up a pot a few times a week, and there is almost always a lentil variety in the mix. It’s flexible and easy and takes to new flavors like a champ, so I’m always tinkering.

I rendevous with all manner of lentil; de puy, black lentils, red, you name it. But I always come back to the basic, dependable and oh-so-flavorful brown lentil. It’s my little black dress. And they’re like, what, $1.50 a pound, even for organic? That’s lentils for weeks, my friends.

This week, I had a windfall of smoked paprika. It’s one of those spices I love, but they don’t sell it where I usually do my shopping, and if I don’t make a special spice trip, the jar can languish empty for months. So when I picked up a beautiful fragrant baggy, I wanted to make up for lost time and use it in copious amounts. Add to that the scrumptious kalamata olives I had leftover, and some baby spinach that was dying to be used, and there you have it! A lush, flavorful, healthful soup that was just amazing served with a crusty baguette smeared with homemade hummus.

Recipe Notes

~ Since olives are salty, wait until after adding them to decide if you need more salt.

~ You can use hot smoked paprika instead of sweet, but do remember that it’s hot! So your soup is gonna’ be spicy. Start with a tablespoon and go from there.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
1 cup dried brown lentils (or green lentils)
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1 24 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
4 cups fresh baby spinach (or chopped spinach)
3/4 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives

Preheat a 4-quart soup pot over medium high heat. Saute onions in oil with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 15 seconds or so, then mix in the thyme and paprika.

Add the lentils, broth, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are almost tender. Add the tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes with your hands to get them into small pieces, as you add them. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for another 20 minutes or so, or until lentils are very tender.  Add spinach and olives and stir frequently until spinach is wilted and velvetty. Add water to thin, if necessary.

Taste for salt, and let sit for 10 minutes or so for flavors to marry, then serve!



  • March 3, 2013 at 7:00 pm: janet @ the taste space

    I have been having Mediterranean eats of my brain all week. I just bought olives, too, and it sounds wonderful with lentils and spinach. I am totally adding this to my menu this week. Thanks Isa! :)

  • March 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm: Sophie

    now i know what i’m having for dinner tonight, this looks glorious!

  • March 3, 2013 at 9:38 pm: Jean

    can’t wait to try this! all my favorite things!

  • March 3, 2013 at 10:03 pm: Connie Fletcher

    Boy, have you been busy lately!!! I love it!! This sounds divine…and I know what I need now at the grocery store…Thanks…and keep ‘em comin’. This is great!!! AND..I’m getting ready to make that chickpea tofu you told me about. Tuesday, I think….yum.

    • March 4, 2013 at 1:15 am: IsaChandra

      Oh cool! Let me know how it comes out. (the cp tofu)

  • March 3, 2013 at 11:16 pm: Crista

    this looks amazing. i love soups. loooove the idea of olives in the soup! I’ve never done that.

  • March 3, 2013 at 11:53 pm: Andi

    I can’t wait to make this, tomorrow. All the ingredients were sitting, at the ready, before I even saw this recipe. It was truly meant to be!

    • March 4, 2013 at 1:14 am: IsaChandra

      Love when that happens!

  • March 4, 2013 at 12:05 am: Dana

    This looks like a great dinner! I am trying to incorporate more healthy, low cal vegan dishes to my dinner rotation, and this looks great!

  • March 4, 2013 at 1:32 am: Sophie

    I just polished off a big bowl of this for my dinner. I made it with smoked paprika (not sweet) and it was ridiculously awesome… Especially paired with some big hunks of sourdough bread.

    Isa, you’re a genius! Every one of your recipes that I’ve tried has been wonderful.

  • March 4, 2013 at 1:40 am: Jeannie

    I would love to see a lentil soup recipe that doesn’t call for onions. Sadly, onions just don’t agree with me.

  • March 4, 2013 at 1:53 am: Margaret

    I make a soup like this, also adding capers and sun dried tomatoes, sometimes also sweet potatoes, mushrooms… finished with balsamic vinegar. I call it Italian Lentil Soup. So yummy!!

  • March 4, 2013 at 1:57 am: Margaret

    Jeannie, leave out the onions if you don’t want them! This is soup… anything goes!

  • March 4, 2013 at 2:17 am: Andi

    Okay, I broke down and made it tonight instead of tomorrow…and I’m in BLISS. What an amazing soup.

  • March 4, 2013 at 3:40 am: Laura

    Thank you for giving me a new version on lentil soup! Brown lentils are still my favorite and I could eat lentil soup everyday.

  • March 4, 2013 at 4:13 am: couroupita

    I was just looking for a soup recipe to use some up wilting spinach. I made this for dinner tonight and it’s amazing! So smoky and delicious. Thanks, Isa!

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:27 am: joey gora

    nice dish..lovely staff!

  • March 4, 2013 at 10:01 am: The Peace Patch

    Oh thank you for sharing this magical remedy for the frigid winter dreary greys! It looks superyumful and perfect with a nice dense rustic Italian bread! Cheers!

  • March 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm: Meg UK

    It isn’t easy getting hold of fire roasted tomatoes here in the UK. Is there something we can substitute? Maybe sun-dried tomatoes or ordinary tinned tomatoes with liquid smoke?

    • March 4, 2013 at 4:23 pm: IsaChandra

      You can just use tinned tomatoes, no big deal. I’d skip the liquid smoke.

  • March 4, 2013 at 2:22 pm: Grace @ FoodFitnessFreshAir

    This sounds great! Like you with the freezer, I feel like I always buy lentils in bulk (because they are so cheap), and then they get pushed to the back of my cabinet where they sit there for weeks. I’ve been on the lookout for new lentil recipes to avoid this, so hopefully I can whip this one up soon!

  • March 4, 2013 at 3:37 pm: Ambon

    I am one of those people that freezes soup – any soups that don’t freeze well? Tips for freezing/thawing?
    I had some leftover Chickpea Rice soup but didn’t think that would freeze ok…

  • March 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm: Jenn

    No fire-roasted tomatoes where I live (Mexico)… how can I substitute fresh tomatoes and make them taste like something? Thanks!

    • March 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm: IsaChandra

      I’d just chop em up and toss em in! Maybe a dollop of tomato paste, too.

  • March 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm: Nathan Copeland

    This sounds like a great soup to enjoy now that spring is finally here and things are starting to warm up. Can’t wait to try it!

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm: Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    This sounds so tasty! Yum!

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm: Lesley

    WOW! I need to make this! Thanks, isa.

  • March 4, 2013 at 6:34 pm: Brieanne

    Great soup…devoured a huge bowl of it last night! Very filling and easy to make. Thanks!!

  • March 4, 2013 at 8:32 pm: Chelrabbit

    Hey, foo’, thanks for all the great recipes. If I knew you for real, I’d bake you cookies as a thank you (“merci beaucookie”-style)

  • March 5, 2013 at 1:25 am: Lauren

    Any thoughts about slow-cookering this? Yeah, I ate my lazy biscuits this morning.

  • March 5, 2013 at 2:59 am: Pat

    Yum! Made this to tonight and will definitely make it again!
    Thanks for the great recipe :)

  • March 5, 2013 at 3:19 am: Birgit

    You did it again, I am not ashamed to say between the 2 of us we nearly finished the whole thing.

  • March 5, 2013 at 4:43 am: Erin

    This was outrageously delicious. Absolutely perfect! Thank you!

  • March 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm: Andrea

    Made this last night…it was fantastic! The whole family loved it! Thanks :)

  • March 5, 2013 at 6:27 pm: brook

    ……..and now i know what i’m having for supper tonight! i only have fresh dinosaur kale and black lentils, though. i am optimistic it’ll still be fabulous! thanks for what i anticipate will be another stellar soup creation, isa!

  • March 6, 2013 at 11:55 pm: melissa

    Yes Yes very good, no spinach so added chard worked out fantastically.

  • March 7, 2013 at 3:51 am: Kamila

    Another keeper! Had this for dinner tonight, it is absolutely delicious and smells yummy, too!

  • March 7, 2013 at 7:44 pm: Anne

    I just had this for three consecutive (non-breakfast) meals. Dynamite! I will make this again – thank you.

  • March 8, 2013 at 1:35 am: reese

    i made this last night…my new favorite! tonight for the second time around i added field roast apple sage vegan sausage to it….a perfect flavor addition to the sweet smoky paprika!

  • March 8, 2013 at 6:21 am: Jonathan Alexander

    Made this tonight and although it came out a tad on the salty side it still tastes amazing. I’ll cut down the salt next go.

  • March 9, 2013 at 2:24 pm: Bonnie

    You are genius!

  • March 10, 2013 at 10:55 am: Andy Cowan

    This recipe looks fantastic and I absolutely LOVE the part where I get to crush tomatoes with my hands!

  • March 10, 2013 at 11:10 pm: Angela

    Loved it! Added some kale as well and all of us preferred the added texture.

  • March 11, 2013 at 6:32 pm: Ashley

    I made this last night and it is, hands down, my favorite lentil soup now. Thanks, Isa!

    • March 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm: IsaChandra

      Woohoo!

  • March 11, 2013 at 9:28 pm: Theresa

    Just made this soup for lunch and ate two bowls. Will probably eat more for dinner… Eating like this has made becoming vegan at 49 easier than I thought it would be! Thanks for another amazing recipe!

  • March 12, 2013 at 1:13 am: Alene

    I made this tonight for my daughter and myself and it was soooo good!!! I didn’t have smoked paprika, so I used a tablespoon of regular paprika and 2 teaspoons of chipotle powder. it was good and spicy!!! We both agreed it was our new favorite soup!

  • March 12, 2013 at 1:38 am: Judy

    This is fantastic and will definitely make it again…and again…and again. A keeper!! Just pre-ordered your new cook book on Amazon, can’t wait! Thanks for the great recipes! As someone who is new the being vegan, I am never disappointed in your recipes!

  • March 12, 2013 at 10:15 pm: Pascale

    C’est absolument délicieux ! Merci.

  • March 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm: Joe

    Cook this for Maggie

  • March 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm: Lesley

    Amazing soup! I made it on Sunday and now I’m sad that it’s all gone. Definitely going to make it into my regular rotation!

  • March 15, 2013 at 9:07 pm: Sharon

    I made this last night and cannot stop raving about it. I didn’t have smoked paprika, but it didn’t seem to matter that much.. as I got two big thumbs up from my vegan bf. I also took the advice of previous comments regarding not adding much salt, as the olives lend a lot. Isa, I cannot get over how ALL of your recipes i have made to date are awesome and delish! Thx!

  • March 17, 2013 at 1:59 am: Nina

    I love the look of this! I’m not sure I can get fire-roasted tomatoes (wilds of North Wales) but a can of peeled ones should work. I’m SO EXCITED to make this /soupvirgin

  • March 22, 2013 at 11:49 pm: Sandi

    I am making it and don’t really like the taste. This recipe is different but you have to have a taste for the ingredients. But I can see why it got rave reviews. I am not adventorous enough I think. You definately need a cup or so of water to thin it. Otherwise it is fine. ENJOY!!

  • March 23, 2013 at 12:32 am: Tory Davis

    I am curious, why do you wait to add the tomatoes? If you added them with the broth, you could probably cut a good 10-20 minutes off the overall cooking time. This recipe sounds delicious by the way.

    • March 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm: IsaChandra

      Lentils take longer to cook when they’re in thick tomato sauce, so I wait.

  • March 24, 2013 at 10:53 pm: Becky

    oh my god, amazingly delicious!!!! this is exactly the type of soup recipe I’ve been looking for. what I usually do is plop in every vegetable and spice I have on hand and it just becomes one night amalgamation of *stuff*. I was really looking for a veggie soup recipe that focused on a few key ingredients that really marry well and compliment eachother well. this is it!! literally just finished a bowl of it as I type. thanks for a fantastic recipe :D

  • April 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm: Chickpea

    I just made this. It is lovely. Thank you x

  • April 27, 2013 at 3:01 pm: Claudia

    Hi, I have a tupperware box full of green lentils which I cooked yesterday and I was planning on using them for this soup – how would that work in term of cooking times? Can it even be done?
    p.s.: Isa, I simply love your recipes. They’re slowly turning my mother and my friends vegan!

  • May 6, 2013 at 1:05 am: Henry

    Awesome. Just made it. My stomach is doing a happy dance. Thanks!

  • May 14, 2013 at 4:28 am: Elisa

    Made this for dinner tonight, just fantastic. Perfect blend of flavors. Thanks for the recipe!!

  • May 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm: cj

    I liked – but didn’t love – this soup as I found it to be a bit bland. I’m going to increase the smoked paprika, thyme and garlic the next time I make this.

  • June 3, 2013 at 5:45 am: Kathleen

    This soup was incredible! I’ve never been a huge soup person, but I think this recipe may have converted me. I feel so fulfilled… and I’m excited for all the leftovers that I’ll have for the rest of the week. I only had 12 or so oz. of canned tomatoes, so I just substituted the rest with fresh tomatoes and some extra salt and paprika! Excellent recipe. I’ll make sure to try you black bean and quinoa recipe later this week.

  • August 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm: Dian

    Oh my goodness, I think I have a new favourite soup! I used regular tinned tomatoes as the exitingly-named fire-roasted ones don’t seem to exist in the UK.. I also used a LOT more smoked paprika (I just love it so much) and added some chipotle and garlic sauce I found.

  • October 7, 2013 at 8:46 am: Mandy C

    I made this soup last week and loved it so much that I’m preparing a second batch tomorrow. I didn’t make any alterations to the recipe, nor did I need to since this is one of the most perfect soups I’ve ever eaten. I love you, Isa! You’re my culinary heroine!

  • October 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm: Nancy

    O.M.G. This is incredible. I couldn’t stop eating it.

  • November 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm: Sig Hafstrom

    I made this yesterday for Thanksgiving, oh man was it good. I omitted the olives as there were some whiny non-olive people at my table – why do I dine with them? – but I’m excited to redo with the full ingredients next time. So so good.

  • December 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm: Lori

    OMG! Made this the other night (with a few revisions because I didn’t have olives and spinach on hand and was too lazy to go to the store). I added organic frozen corn instead cuz I LOVE corn and lentils together. Seriously think I could eat a trough full… This is definitely in the regular rotation!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  • January 6, 2014 at 12:43 am: Skye X

    I made this last night with some minor changes: I substituted kale for the baby spinach and added Field Roast Apple Sage sausage. it was absolutely delicious. Thanks for another amazing recipe, Isa!

  • January 23, 2014 at 6:21 pm: sarahfiebs

    This was excellent. I’ve been focusing on eating more veggies, and this soup is great with the spinach. The lentils fill me up and it’s been fantastic for lunches during the week.

  • February 2, 2014 at 3:38 pm: Merski

    We are not vegan but saw this recipe and have made it twice already this fall/winter because it is so yummy. We have an annual mid winter soup party to beat cabin fever and this year we made a double batch of this. It got rave reviews from all kinds of meat eaters and several people who were gluten and lactose intolerant. Thank you for such a great recipe!

  • February 25, 2014 at 2:33 am: ila

    Terrific! Really easy and healthy to make. I am always looking for new soup ideas that are vegetarian and hearty! Thanks! I just used home canned tomatoes that I had on hand and added a bit more smoked paprika!

  • February 25, 2014 at 8:52 pm: Jessica

    Made it, love it. I eat lentil soup a few times a week, so this was a nice twist.

  • March 3, 2014 at 11:20 pm: Karin

    This was just right, a perfect match for a snowy Pittsburgh Sunday! I had just bought really good olives and had everything else on hand. It was easy and a big hit with some of my coworkers today at the lunch table. I am new to your site and recently bought one of your cookbooks , you are making my journey into veganism interesting but not not overwhelming – thank you !

  • April 7, 2014 at 5:21 pm: Nasha

    I just made this soup this week and I love it! I can’t believe I feel so full after only a bowl! Thank you:)

  • May 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm: Austin Jack

    I am one that used to have meat with every mean, but I have had a life changing experience and a wake up call when my domestic partner had to have bypass surgery. I now have become a vegetarian for the most part. I am always looking up new recipes and I find vegetarian cooking to be more challenging and new, but I am also having a lot of fun with it.

    I made your soup recipe last night and I loved it. It was so simple that I plan to make this anytime I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. I was in the mood for kale so I substituted the spinach with kale. Because I have lived in Texas my entire life, I tend to like things with a little kick to them. I added a little chili powder, cayenne and some red pepper flakes as well. I am glad I didn’t add a lot of spice as the olives really complimented the flavor of the soup well. Thank you for the wonderful recipe. I will definitely make this again and experiment with it.

  • May 10, 2014 at 11:38 pm: Laura

    This was great! I messed it up a little because I was out of canned tomatoes and used tomato paste.

  • June 4, 2014 at 1:11 am: lisa

    I added a squeeze of lemon at the end. so tasty. but i used fire roasted tomatoes with chipotle and it was too spicy.

  • August 11, 2014 at 8:55 pm: Lisa

    My absolute favorite recipe of yours so far! I made a pot just about every week this winter. I am due to have my baby next week and just made a pot to freeze for afterwards.

  • August 14, 2014 at 1:06 am: Dawn

    This soup is magically delicious! Thank you!