While staring at 2 big jars of quinoa and red lentils in my cabinet, I wondered if there existed a recipe for a healthy and hearty vegetable soup that combined them both? After a little research, and much trial and error, I found the right mix in this Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup.
Origins of Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup
There is a very classic Peruvian soup, menestra de lentajes, that also has a foundation of red lentils and quinoa. Though, it has a much different profiles since it’s typically made with ginger, coconut milk and bacon.
As I was looking for a healthier soup, I decided to go different direction by leaving out the heavy ingredients such as the dairy and meat. By bringing in more vegetables like red pepper and spinach, this makes it more of a traditional vegetable stew. One might even call it a Peruvian vegetable chili.
Adapting the Soup to Make it Your Own
It may seem like there’s a lot of water and stock being used, just know that the quinoa and lentils will take up a lot of the fluids. On the red lentils, I like to use them in soups as they tend to soften and integrate better than green lentils. Paired with the quinoa, it gives a nice overall texture. If you are looking for a little more “chew” in your soup, consider using barley or wheat berries
If are focused on pure vegetarian cooking, substitute in your favorite vegetable stock for the the chicken stock.
Finally, some of the ingredients might be a bit challenging to acquire depending on where you live. Both the achiote paste and aji amarillo paste came from a local Chicago market that caters to Latino shoppers and may not be in most supermarkets. In this case, your favorite hot sauce could easily be substituted for the aji paste.
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 cup Onion finely chopped
- 1 cup Celery finely chopped
- 1 cup Carrot finely chopped
- 1 cup Red Bell Pepper finely chopped
- 1 15 Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes rinsed
- 4 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 4 cups Flavorful Stock
- 4 cups Water
- 1 cup Red Lentils
- 1 cup Quinoa
- 1 cup Chopped Spinach
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 teaspoons Achiote Paste
- 1 teaspoon Yellow Aji Pepper optional
- 2 tablespoons Cilantro
- In a large stockpot, cook the onion, celery, carrot and red pepper in the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes until clear and softened
- Boil 1 cup of the water and use it to dissolve the achiote paste, aji paste & the tomato paste. Both the tomato and achiote pastes are notorious for clumping in your soup if they aren’t thoroughly dissolved before introducing.
- Add this mixture, along with the remaining water, stock, tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro to the pot
- Bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the lentils, quinoa, spinach and bay leaves
- Cook for 1 hour, or until the lentils and quinoa are cooked thoroughly
- Remove the bay leaves, serve into bowls and garnish with the remaining cilantro