Mercimek Çorbası – Turkish Lentil Soup

Happy Soup Saturday! The last soup has been a while, I needed to diminish my freezer stash a bit before I made more. This time, I chose a thick, turkish lentil soup, a spicy concoction of red lentils, tomatoes, carrots, and onions.

The Mercimek Çorbası is a classic recipe and I love the flavors of cumin, lemon and peppermint in it. It sounds a bit weird at first, but it works perfectly. The soup has warm, deep flavors with a little zing and freshness. Perfect soulfood for sunny but icy cold german winter days. Which we have in abundance at the moment.

I wish I brought this recipe from one of my vacations, but truth is I discovered it when I took an online cooking class for traditional turkish recipes during the height of covid. The class had so many great dishes, but this one is my absolute favorite and I make it often. This time I decided to stock up and freeze a bunch for quick work lunches.

You’ll end up with enough soup to fill a 3 liter stockpot. And this is what you need:

  • 50g butter
  • 2 red onions (peeled and diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (sliced)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 carrots (diced)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 120g red lentils
  • 1 can of tomato chunks (about 400g)
  • 60g white wine (not in the photo)
  • 1 liter veggie stock
  • 1 Tbsp turkish spice mix for stews (see bottom of page)
  • generous pinch of salt

for later:

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp dried mint (I like the moroccan variety)
  • 1 tsp mild chili flakes (I used gochugaru, leftover from kimchi making)
  • sugar and salt to taste
  • a lemon wedge per person for decoration and additional drizzles of zing

Sautée the onions and carrots in the butter and sugar until they start to brown just a bit and smell amazing.

Add the garlic, lentils, spice mix and tomato paste and let everything sweat for a few minutes. Be careful and keep stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn or it’ll turn bitter.

Deglaze with the wine, add the lentils, tomato chunks and the veggie stock. Give everything a good stir and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add lemon juice, mint and chili flakes and puree the soup with a stick blender. Season to taste with salt and sugar. You’ll only need pinches, if at all.

Serve with lemon wedges so everybody can help themselves to an additional acidity burst and enjoy.

Turkish spice mix for stews:

  • 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1.5 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp hot chili powder

Roast everything in a dry pan until the spices start to smell just awesome, then grind them into a fine powder. I use a small coffee grinder for it, but pestle and mortar work just as well, just need a bit more elbow grease. Keep the spice mix in an airtight jar and use it up within 6 months to enjoy best quality.

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