Lentejas (lehn-teh-hahs) is the Spanish word for lentils. This hearty Mexican style lentil soup, Sopa de Lentejas is loaded with veggies and is super healthy. This is Mexican home cooking at its finest, I’ve never seen lentejas in a restaurant, at least not in Texas, but wish it was on more menus. My recipe has a great mix of fragrant spices, carrots, potatoes, and fresh spinach, and for this version of lentejas I am making it vegetarian. However, this is a great soup to add ham bone, bacon, Spanish chorizo, and other meats if you like.
Almost every Spanish speaking country has its version of Sopa de Lentejas. My Mexican version is also referred to as Lentejas Mexicana. I particularly like the Spanish version, Lentejas Españolas, with the hard-sliced Spanish chorizo in it. But, today I am being a little bit healthier and making a vegetarian soup. The great thing about it is that it is hearty enough that even you die heard meat and potatoes crowd won’t miss the meat.
Like many of the Mexican recipes I make at home, the toppings are what make the meal great. I love this spicy soup with fresh slices of avocado, sour cream, and queso fresco. Fresh, hot flour tortillas and a bowl of chips and salsa are perfect. The only weird thing I do is over-cook the tortillas so they are a little crispy, like a cracker.
Rice and Lentils are a Complete Protein
A heart-healthy combination, rice, and lentils (lentejas) provide the same essential amino acids as red meat does. A great source of protein for vegetarians, as well as an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. Combined with all the great veggies, Sopa de Lentejas is definitely one of the healthiest recipes I make on the blog.
Sopa de Lentejas Ingredients:
- Lentils: The lentejas. Any color will work, I used red lentils in the photos, but green lentils are great as well.
- Aromatics: Fresh garlic, celery, and onions help create amazing flavor and aroma. Very healthy, these antioxidants used together work great for the immune system and are anti-inflammatory.
- Spice Mix: Ancho chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, and Mexican oregano, plus a little salt and black pepper. A mild spice mix that is good for children and people who don’t like too much spice. Spicy toppings can be added for people that want a little more kick!
- Carrots, Tomatoes, Jalapeños, and Fresh Spinach: A fresh, healthy assortment of veggies are colorful and delicious. They add a great flavor, round out the soup as a complete meal, and have tons of vitamins and minerals. Potatoes are optional; however, I usually serve my Sopa de Lentejas with rice.
- Veggie Stock: Keeping these Lentejas healthy and vegetarian, I use a good quality vegetable stock.
These are just a few of the toppings I like on my Sopa de Lentejas. I’m sure there are dozens that you could choose from to make these lentejas exactly how you want them.
- Rice: Rice and lentils make a complete protein and help round out the meal. I usually use plain brown rice with lentils.
- Cilantro: Chopped fresh cilantro adds a bright fresh flavor to the Sopa as well as a beautiful green color. Flat-leaf parsley is a good alternative for people that can’t eat cilantro
- Pico de Gallo: This salsa adds a nice fresh flavor and reinforces the flavors of the tomatoes and onions in the lentejas.
- Guacamole or Avocado: The cool refreshing flavor of avocado is perfect with Sopa de lentejas. I also enjoy using guacamole on the lentejas.
- Sour Cream: The Sopa de Lentejas has a little spice to it, many people like the creamy cooling effect that the sour cream adds to the recipe.
- Jalapeños and Green Onions: Fresh, pickled, or roasted, they all have different flavor profiles. Each one brings something different to the soup. Pan-roasted jalapeños and green onions are my favorite topping for these lentils.
- Corn or Flour Tortillas: Flour tortillas I over-cook so they are crisp like a cracker. Corn tortillas I like soft, it varies, depending on my tastes that day, lol.
Sopa de Lentejas Variations
- Lentejas Españolas: This version adds diced pork loin and the hard-Spanish style chorizo. With diced potatoes, this is one of my favorite non-vegetarian versions of the soup. Serve it simply garnished with flat-leaf parsley and a nice loaf of bread.
- Potaje de Lentejas: This Cuban version uses a ham bone or ham hocks to give the lentils a nice smoky meat flavor. Green bell peppers, with sweet potatoes and a milder spice mix, is another amazing lentil soup.
- Sopa de Lentejas con Queso: An Ecuadorian version of the lentil soup uses milk and diced cheese to give the soup a creamy cheesy texture.
- Sopa de Lentejas con Tocino: Tocino is Spanish for bacon. Mmmm, bacon. I use my same recipe but add a ½-pound of crispy bacon that I add at the end. And, I use the bacon grease to sauté the onions and celery, etc. Definitely not vegetarian.
Here is my recipe for Sopa de Lentejas
Sopa de Lentejas
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Cup Onion 1/2-inch dice
- 1 Cup Celery 1/4-inch dice
- 2 Teaspoons Garlic Crushed and chopped
- 1/4 Cup Jalapeño Seeds removed, fine dice
- 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
- 1 Tablespoon Ancho Chili Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Paprika
- 2 Teaspoons Mexican Oregano Mediterannean oregano is a good substitute
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 2 Cups Tomatoes Large dice
- 1 Pound Lentils Any color
- 2 Quarts Low-Sodium Vegetable Stock Or Water
- 3 Cups Carrots 1/2-inch dice
- 3 Cups Red Potatoes 1/2-inch dice
- 3 Teaspoons Salt
- 1 Lime Juice only
- Place dried lentils in a fine sieve and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear, sort through the lentils to remove any debris
- Place a large heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and the onions, and celery, sauté for 3-minutes until soft. Then add the garlic, tomato paste, and jalapenos and sauté for 1-minute
- Add all of the spices except salt and sauté for 1-minute to temper the spices and wake them up. Add the tomatoes to deglaze the pan for a minute.
- Add the veggie stock and lentils, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30-minutes.
- After 30-minutes, add salt, tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes, return to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 1-hour, stirring frequently. At the end of cooking, stir in the juice of 1-lime.