Refresh Red Lentil Soup With A Burst Of Lemon

Sometimes a warm bowl of stewy legumes hits the spot like nothing else could, especially when it's a hearty and healthy red lentil soup. Packed with protein, nourishing vitamins, and plenty of fiber, lentils are like a lullaby of all things good. Detractors may bemoan the relatively bland and mushy texture of red lentils when cooked, but that's exactly what makes them ideal for creamy soups with deeply aromatic spices. 

Nonetheless, it sometimes takes a little something extra to snap lentil soup out of its natural complacency. You don't necessarily want to jinx the perfect blend of herbs, aromatics, spices, and alliums in tried-and-true recipes, but worry not. There's a very simple way to perk up the flavor with a little yellow fruit available in any supermarket: the humble yet blindingly colorful lemon. It only takes the juice of one lemon to brighten an average-sized pot of lentil soup, and you'll want to save some lemon zest as well. 

This kitchen trick works with most any lentil soup and is central to this red lentil soup with lemon from Tasting Corner recipe developer Susan Olayinka. Described as a way to combat "soup fatigue," you simply add the lemon juice, zest, broth, and lentils to the pot at the same time, joining already sauteed onions, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, and salt. The lemon juice bubbles away with all its pot-mates for the entire duration, permeating the lentils with lively lemon piquancy.

Another zesty lemon enhancer for lentil soup

If you'd like to be a little more subtle with lemony red lentil soup, look to Italian chefs and their affinity for a condiment called gremolata. It's not really a sauce; more like a vibrant celebration of pure freshness from Mother Nature. It's a simple, uncooked creation of fresh parsley, minced garlic, and lemon zest. As a widely embraced component of Italian cooking, gremolata is used as a garnish or generous topping for vegetables, pasta, and yes, soups. 

Be sure to add gremolata toward the end of the cooking process, preferably even holding off until the soup is ladled into bowls. This retains that last-minute, bright, herby, lemony flavor for an upfront freshness that jettisons lentil soup to heavenly heights. Seek out Italian parsley, also known as flat-leaf parsley, as it's more flavorful than the French or curly leaf variety. 

As with any recipe, there are loads of ways to experiment. Lemon juice and zest are certainly going to brighten any soup, but its citrus counterpart, lime juice or zest, will bring its own subtle tweak to lentil dishes. For less tartness and a touch more sweetness, try orange zest. Different leafy herbs will take lentil soup in new directions as well; consider ditching parsley for cilantro, mint, or one of the many types of basil, including sweet, Genovese, Thai, Greek, cinnamon or lemon basil.