This simple curry coconut red lentil soup makes use of one of my favorite shortcuts — Indian simmer sauce. You’ll find it in the Asian foods aisle of well-stocked supermarkets or natural foods stores. Available in (usually) 12-ounce jars, these sauces are a fantastic starter for vegan soups like this one, giving you a robust, complex flavor without having to measure and mix lots of spices.
Choose from any one of several vegan varieties of Indian simmer sauce, and make sure to read labels, as some do contain dairy. Look for dairy-free options including Goan coconut, Kashmir curry, Jalfrezi, and Madras curry. Flavors range from from mild to spicy. Favorite brands of mine included Patak’s and Maya Kaimal; Trader Joe’s has some good ones as well.
Tiny red lentils cook up quickly (15 to 20 minutes) and I highly recommend considering them a pantry staple. When you want a robust cool-weather soup fairly quickly, red lentils are a good bet. Bought in bulk, they’re economical as well. Serve this hefty, warming soup with a fresh bread or flatbread.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 14-ounce can light coconut milk
- 2 cups red lentils, rinsed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh or squeeze-tube ginger
- 12-ounce jar Indian simmer sauce, any vegan variety (see Note)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish, or more, as desired
- Sriracha or other hot sauce for serving, optional
- Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until both are golden.
- Add 4 cups water along with the coconut milk, lentils, cumin, and ginger. Bring to a slow boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently until the lentils are mushy, about 20 minutes.
- Once the lentils are done, if you’d like a smoother soup, insert an immersion blender and process until the soup is smoothly pureed. Or, puree in batches in a food processor. However, if you’d like the soup to have more texture, you can skip this step.
- Stir in the simmer sauce. If the soup is too thick, adjust the consistency with just a bit more water. Cook just until piping hot, then season with salt and pepper.
- Garnish each serving with cilantro or parsley, then pass around hot sauce to whoever wants to spice up their soup.
- This soup thickens as it stands. Thin with water as needed and adjust the seasonings.
Indian simmer sauces are available in the Asian foods section of well-stocked supermarkets, and they are delicious! For this dish, some choices of dairy-free simmer sauces include Madras curry (which is fairly spicy) Goan coconut, rogan josh, and jalfrezi.