Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

lentil curry soup I teach in an elementary school. Which means that at any given moment of my work day, I’m surrounded by approximately 5,678,942 germs, all eager to attack my immune system. And the kids are in on it. The sneeze on my hand just as I bend over to help them rewrite the letter d. They cough in my face right as I lean in to help them sound out the word pick. They throw up in my garbage can, hungover from their school sponsored sugar-bomb-breakfasts.

split peas

Despite my best efforts (hand washing until I’m chapped, smearing hand sanitizer on my face when sneezed on, you know, the usual) in a typical year, I fight several colds, usually get a nasty stomach flu at least once, and a couple times I’ve even gotten pink eye. And I thought this year would be the worst of all. I mean, pregnancy supposedly makes your immune system weaker than gas station coffee. Plus I didn’t get my normal flu shot. I was braced for a winter of perpetual Stuffy McSneeze Face.

red lentils

But I actually haven’t been all-out sick yet this school year. Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm temps we’ve had; I’ve been able to be outside a lot more. Maybe it’s the outrageous amounts of orange juice and clementines this baby’s been craving. Maybe it’s the neti pot that I’ve sort of become addicted to. But I’ve been cold free….until this week. Each day this week, here’s how I woke up:

Snooze Button.
Maybe I should call in sick today. Those emergency sub plans are just sitting there, ready to be used.
5 more minutes of “sleep.”
But what if when I’m fantastically pregnant and gigantic and miserable, I want to call in sick and I regret using this day as a sick day when I could probably just get myself through the day until I can take a nap this afternoon?
5 more minutes of “sleep.”
I hate that alarm…all condescending in its punctuality.
More sleep.
Alarm. Alarm.
Crap. It’s 6:30. Too late to call a sub in anyway. Blurg.

ingredients And so it went. And I made it to school each day. And then I woke up on Saturday, and my immune system called it quits. I spent the day in pajamas, feeling sorry for myself, and not leaving the house, which in its own way, was glorious. And today, I woke up, and felt pretty much worse. So, still in pajamas, I made this soup. Who doesn’t love soup when they’re sick? And who doesn’t love soup with good things in it like lentils and split peas and ginger to fight all those germs, and just enough curry to make your nose run in a good way?

coconut milk Whether you’re feeling sick or not, this soup is a winter winner. The original recipe from 101 Cookbooks is fantastic, but it’s a breeze to adapt based on what you’ve got in your pantry or fridge. It’s easy to put together, chock full of flavor. The curry makes this feel like India in your mouth, but the coconut milk keeps it from being too spicy. Plus you’re getting lots of goodness in you with those lentils, split peas, and carrots. And this soup will fill you up. It’s definitely hearty, good for a solid meal. Go ahead, make it. Fight off germs. Fight off the cold. And make a big steamy pot of this to get you through the week.

What are your go-to remedies and recipes when you’re starting to feel sick?


(A noteworthy disclaimer: Is that fresh cilantro sprinkled on my soup? Yes. Do I know that cilantro is months away from even being close to sprouting in this state? Yes. Did I buy some anyways? Yes. Why? It’s THAT good in this recipe. It adds so much flavor to every bite. Do I feel ashamed, telling you to carpe´ the season and then buying fresh cilantro in January? A little.)

lentil curry soup

Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

(yields 6-8 servings)

I have made this soup many times, and each time a little differently. Typically, I tweak it by generously doubling the raisins (the raisin bites are the best), tripling the carrots, and using normal raisins instead of golden. This time, I used green split peas instead of yellow, and red onion instead of green onions; I didn't notice much of a difference. Unless you hate cilantro, don't skimp on it. It's so much more than a garnish in this recipe; it adds tons of flavor when sprinkled generously on top!


1 c. yellow or green split peas

1 c. red split lentils

7 c. water

3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 tbsp. curry powder

2 tbsp. butter or ghee

Scant 1/2 c. red onion, diced, OR 8 green onions, thinly sliced

Generous 2/3 c. raisins

1/3 c. tomato paste

1 14-oz. can coconut milk

2 tsp. fine grain sea salt (or seasoned to taste)

one small handful cilantro, chopped


Give the split peas and lentils a good rinse - until they no longer put off murky water. Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with the water, and bring to a boil (uncovered).


Reduce heat to a simmer; add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.


In the meantime, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is quite fragrant. Be careful though, you don't want to burn the curry powder, just toast it. Set aside.


Place the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the onions (only add HALF if using green onions!), the remaining ginger, and raisins. Saute for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the tomato paste and saute for another minute or two more. Add the toasted curry powder and mix well.


Add the tomato paste mixture to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. The texture should thicken up, but you can play around with the consistency if you like by adding more water, a bit at a time, as you like. Or simmer longer for a thicker consistency. We like our soups nice and thick, so I let this simmer for a long time.


Sprinkle each bowl generously with cilantro and the remaining green onions (if using). Great with a toasted piece of bread...or three.

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12 thoughts on “Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

  1. You are so much more motivated than I am when I’m sick! I eat a lot of fruit and drink a ton of gatorade. And once I heated vegetable stock on the stove and had that as a super-lazy “soup” :)

  2. I love that I’m not the only one who should own stock in hand sanitizer companies. My breaking point this year was having to get checked out for lice. (I passed…thank goodness!) I still get itchy just thinking about it. That’s when I knew that working with kids would be one of my greatest achievements and my greatest health risk!!

    Don’t feel bad about buying the cilantro. I always think that if “technically” I had nothing but time on my hands for domestic projects and if “technically” I had a big gorgeous kitchens with sunny south facing windows, fresh cilantro in January would be possible. Right?

    • oh gosh – I’ve probably had Eric comb through my hair 3x a year since starting to teach, because I’m CONVINCED I have lice. I know, so gross, right? The joys of working with the young!
      And the justification on January cilantro: just what I needed!

  3. I was a little confused on whether or not to drain the lentils and peas after they’re done cooking. Or do you just leave the water in as the soup?

  4. I am making this recipe while my kids (3 and 2.5 months) nap this afternoon and it smells awesome in here. Since we won’t be eating for a few hours and I never know when the little one will wake up, I have done everything up to the point of the 20 minute simmer, which is easy to do even if both kids are up and need my attention! Our toddler was super-excited about everything going into this soup and I don’t think she’ll be disappointed.

    • That’s so great! Aren’t meals that you can finish during naptime the best? Kudos to your toddler for eating this soup…and congrats on the new little one (I miss newborns!!)

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