Healthy Roasted Pepper and Lentil Soup is just the type of simple, warming soup you want right now! Using only a handful of basic ingredients, you can transform lunch into the main event it ought to be! This recipe uses either fresh or jarred roasted red peppers, so you can go all out, or get a meal on the table FAST!
Health Benefits of Red Lentils
Are lentils healthy? Well, eating more legumes is associated with better health overall, and a healthy heart in particular. Red lentils are no exception! Lentils have been studied for their ability to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as help to relax the arteries, leading to lower blood pressure (1, 2).
Lentils are, of course, an important source of fiber and protein throughout much of the world. But they also have a high antioxidant content (3), allowing them to potentially mitigate the inflammation that leads to heart problems before it even begins (4, 5). Legumes in general provide high quality carbohydrates, which are also helpful in managing diabetes - a condition which can lead to heart disease if not managed carefully.
Health Benefits of Red Peppers
Red bell peppers are a great addition to your heart healthy diet, too. They are very low in calories, only about 30 calories per cup, so they are great to help in weight management. They're also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and are exceptionally high in vitamin C. Fiber and potassium are two nutrients of concern, especially for people with heart disease. Few people in the US consume enough of either one.
Red bell peppers also contain capsiate, which is a non spicy type of capsinoid. These compounds are known for their ability to activate brown fat, which can improve metabolism and aid in weight management in some people (6). Having excess weight is a risk factor for heart disease, so managing it is prudent to help prevent problems.
Do you need to soak red lentils?
No! That's one of the great things about cooking with red lentils - or any lentil for that matter. They cook ultra fast, so no soaking required! Can you soak them? Sure. There are some benefits of soaking lentils. They'll cook in about half the time - again, they're already a fast-cooking ingredient, but soaking will make them cook even faster. And there are some people who find they are better able to digest legumes in general when they are soaked before cooking (i.e. less gas!).
If you find consuming legumes makes you clear out the room, so-to-speak, then you might want to try soaking them first. To do that, simply place them in a large bowl, and pour enough water into the bowl to cover them by several inches. The lentils will soak up some of the water and grow in size, so you want to make sure they don't grow out of the water. Cover the bowl, and soak them overnight, either on the counter or in the refrigerator. Then when you're ready to cook them, drain off the water (do not reuse the water!), and cook them in half the time! They'll require less liquid, too.
What goes well with lentil soup?
Lentil soup pairs well with so many dishes. That's because lentil soup is highly customizable in the first place. My red pepper lentil soup has an Italian or Mediterranean flair, with the roasted red pepper, garlic, and basil. But lentil soup can also have curry spices added for an Indian or Thai flavored soup. Or Mexican inspired flavors like chilies, oregano, and/or some kind of mole.
The flexibility of the soup allows for a great number of side dishes. Here are some of my favorites:
- Crusty bread (of course!)
- A side salad - try this Deconstructed Pesto Salad!
- A main dish salad - I recommend this roasted kale salad
- Healthy pizza! Consider Salad Pizza or Curry Chickpea & Mango Pizza
- Olive Oil Biscuits are perfect alongside lentil and pepper soup!
- Serve it as a side to broiled chicken and veggies or whatever warming meal you've made!
How to Roast Peppers on the Stove
Roasted red peppers are easy to make at home, but they do require a bit of time, and the right equipment. DO NOT try this method on an electric stove. For this particular method, you need an open flame. You could do it on a propane or charcoal grill outside, but if you have a gas stove with an open flame, this method is for you. Use the broiler method if you don't have a gas stove.
Reference the below pictures for a good visual for how to flame roast peppers. And feel free to share the infographic below on social media (given proper credit, of course)!
First, make sure your peppers are clean. Rinse them under cool water to remove any dirt or debris. If the pepper has a long stem, snip it off with a pair of kitchen shears. It will catch fire! Voice of experience here. The stem on the pepper in the first two photos is too long. You can see it was snipped off in subsequent photos! Give the stove grates a quick wipe down, too, if they need it.
Turn on the burner to a medium sized flame, and place the whole pepper directly on the grate, above the flame. You don't really want the flame to be touching the pepper. The flame will begin to char the skin of the pepper. As this happens, use a pair of tongs to slowly rotate the pepper, so all sides become charred and blackened. You want the majority of the skin blackened, but if some of it remains red, that's fine. The pepper will also begin to soften as this happened, and may slip through the stove grate, so keep an eye on it.
Once your pepper is fully blackened (it will take about 10-15 minutes depending on how big the pepper is), move it to a large bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. You want to have a relatively airtight seal, because now you want the pepper to steam in its own heat for a bit. This is going to release the skin and allow you to slip it right off!
After about 20-30 minutes, the roasted pepper will be cool enough to handle. Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl, and use your fingers to gently "massage" the skin off of the pepper. It should slide off easily. If there are small bits that won't come off, that's fine. You just want most of it off. Rinse the pepper to remove all the charred bits that remain.
Now you have roasted red peppers that are ready to use! Cut into them and remove the stem and seeds before you use them. For this recipe, you'll need to roughly chop them.
How to Make Roasted Peppers in an Oven (Broiler)
If you don't have a gas stove, or your stove is being used for other cooking at the moment, you can make roasted red peppers in an oven, using your broiler.
To do this, preheat your broiler on high, and make sure your peppers are clean. If any have long stems, snip them off with a pair of kitchen shears.
Place the plain pepper on an unlined baking sheet, and put it directly under the broiler flame. Watch it closely! The skin of the pepper will begin to bubble up, and char black. Leave it there until all the skin on that side is blackened. Then use tongs to carefully rotate the pepper to a non-charred side. Char that side of the pepper.
Continue rotating and charring until the entire pepper is blackened. This will take 15 or so minutes. Once the pepper is completely roasted (it should look like the roasted pepper in the above photos), place it in a large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. You want it to be air tight. Let it rest for about 30 minutes, until it’s cool enough to handle. You will then be able to slip the blackened skin off very easily. If some of the skin seems stuck on, it's fine to leave it. You just want the majority of it off. Rinse under cool water if it seems messy. Remove the stem and seeds. For this recipe, you'll need to chop the pepper.
What's heart healthy about Roasted Red Pepper and Lentil Soup?
This red pepper and lentil soup makes an excellent make-ahead lunch - perfect for packing! It's hearty and filling, creamy, yet healthy! I made sure it's low sodium by using Homemade Vegetable Broth for the base, and and only adding a pinch of salt at the end if it's needed.
I amped up the protein by using red lentils, which actually serve several purposes in this recipe. Besides protein, red lentils are packed with fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, iron, and vitamin C. What a powerhouse little legume for these long, cold winter months! And blending them up makes the soup lusciously creamy, so no high fat dairy products needed here!
And because the soup is so filling, it's a meal all on its own, without a bunch of extras. Swirl in a bit of tangy (plain) yogurt, and garnish it with fresh basil leaves or cracked pepper. It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.
This also happens to be a vegan roasted red pepper soup (if you use a vegan yogurt for garnish), so everyone in your family can enjoy it!
If you make Roasted Pepper and Lentil Soup, tell me about it in the comments!
Love lentils? Me too! Try these other recipes that use lentils!
Roasted Pepper and Lentil Soup
Healthy Roasted Red Pepper and Lentil Soup is just type of simple, warming soup you want right now! Using only a handful of basic ingredients, you can transform lunch into the main event it ought to be!
- 2 large Red Bell Peppers (or 2 jarred roasted red peppers)
- 2 teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1 large Yellow Onion, chopped
- 2 medium-large Carrots, chopped
- 4 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 cup Split Red Lentils
- 6 cup Homemade Vegetable Broth
- 1 teaspoon Dried Basil
- 1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- Salt (if needed) and Pepper to taste
If using fresh bell peppers, roast them first (If using jarred peppers, skip this step, and proceed directly to chopping the peppers.). To do this you can use a gas stove or your broiler.
For a gas stove: Light a burner to medium-high, and place the peppers directly on the grates, over the flame. The skin of the pepper against the flame will begin to crackle, pop, and char. Keep it over the flame until that part of the skin is almost completely blackened. Using tongs, carefully rotate the pepper to roast another side. Continue doing this until the entire pepper (or the vast majority of it) is blackened. Keep watch on it so it doesn’t catch fire! The whole roasting process should take about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your pepper. Once the pepper is completely roasted, place it in a large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. You want it to be air tight. Let it rest for about 30 minutes, until it’s cool enough to handle. You will then be able to slip the blackened skin off very easily. Rinse under cool water if it seems messy. Remove the stem and seeds, and chop the pepper. Set aside.
For the oven/broiler: Preheat your broiler on high. Place the plain pepper on a baking sheet, and put it directly under the broiler flame. Watch it closely! The skin of the pepper will begin to bubble up, and char black. Leave it there until all the skin on that side is blackened. Then use tongs to carefully rotate the pepper to a non-charred side. Char that side of the pepper. Continue rotating and charring until the entire pepper is blackened. This will take 15 or so minutes. Once the pepper is completely roasted, place it in a large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. You want it to be air tight. Let it rest for about 30 minutes, until it’s cool enough to handle. You will then be able to slip the blackened skin off very easily. Rinse under cool water if it seems messy. Remove the stem and seeds, and chop the pepper. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat, and add the onion, carrots, and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until very fragrant.
Add the lentils, and saute one minute more.
Pour in the vegetable broth, and add the chopped roasted peppers, dried basil and smoked paprika.
Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until the carrots are very soft, and the lentils are completely cooked and beginning to break down; about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat, and transfer the soup to a large blender (carefully!). Add the lemon juice, and blend on high until the soup is completely smooth. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender, but your soup may not be as smooth.
Taste, and add a little salt and pepper if needed.
Serve hot, garnished with fresh basil, a swirl of plain yogurt, and/or cracked pepper as desired. Don’t forget the crusty bread and a side salad to make it a meal!
See above for picture guide to roasting red peppers!