Fragrant Spiced Indian Vegetable and Lentil Soup

This hearty (yet not heavy) soup has been hanging around in the back of my head for ages now – fragrant with cumin, turmeric, ginger, garam masala and a hint of chilli, it is a fabulously healthy winter treat with a wee bit of naan or roti on the side. The lentils and vegetables pack a fibre punch, and the turmeric is well known for it’s medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory properties and interestingly for me particularly, possible melanoma-fighting benefits (long story for another day!). The addition of lemon and mint give it a bright note which works well with the mellow curry flavour…anyhoo, I hope you like it, and if you give it a go, be sure and leave me a comment, or come and say ‘hi’ at my Facebook page. Before you go, pop on over to my home page and have a good fossick around my recent posts, hopefully there will be other recipes there that take your fancy!
Well holy moly since I first posted this an awful lot of you have come to visit – yay – and hello! It has prompted me to put another couple of quick notes about this recipe. Firstly – please don’t use canned pumpkin, this recipe is for fresh, unprocessed, regular old straight-from-the-garden pumpkin (we actually don’t even have tinned pumpkin in New Zealand, other than baby food). Secondly, this is a thick soup (hearty as mentioned above). If you want a thinner consistency, feel free to add a little extra stock, I wouldn’t recommend thinning with more coconut cream as you will alter the flavour. Anyway, let me know if you give it a whirl 🙂

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp Rice Bran (or other neutral) oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 onion, medium /finely chopped
1 green chilli, de-seeded and chopped (leave seeds in if you prefer more heat)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp tomato paste
finely grated zest of 1 lime or lemon
1 big tsp honey
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups pumpkin, chopped into 2cm pieces
1 medium kumara or sweet potato, chopped into 2cm pieces
1 large waxy potato, peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1cm pieces
1 1/3 cups red lentils
1 1/2 litres vegetable stock or water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup natural yoghurt (optional / or coconut cream)
handful fresh mint or coriander leaves
1/2 green chilli, sliced
1 tbsp dry-fried cumin seeds
1 lemon or lime, cut into wedges, optional
Heat oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed pot and fry spices for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add onion, chilli, ginger, tomato paste, zest and honey and fry over a medium gentle heat for 10 minutes, adding garlic in the last minute. Add vegetables and fry a further 2-3 minutes so that they are well coated in the spices. Add lentils and stock and bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for an hour and fifteen minutes until the lentils and vegetables are soft. Season well with sea salt and ground black pepper. Add coconut cream and cook a further 5 minutes. If you prefer a smooth soup you can whizz the whole lot, I prefer to take out half then give the remainder a bit of a whizz with the stick blender, then return the chunky bits to the pot. Serve garnished with a spoonful of coconut cream or yoghurt (optional), mint or coriander, chilli and cumin seeds. Pass lemon or lime wedges for guests to squeeze a little over, and naan or roti to dunk. Serves 6


  1. This sounds incredible…I'm always looking for interesting non-meat dinners, and this one is a knock out with all the spices and different vegetables. I was all set to make a vegetable tikka masala this week, but you've changed my mind! Your photos are just stunning.

  2. I've recently become a vegetarian, and I love this kind of tasty, hearty but non-meat dish. Definitely going into the recipe folder!

  3. Mmm I just love the spices in this soup. I make pumpkin soup once a year and I'm thinking that this the version that I will cook up this year!

  4. This looks amazing. Im planning to make it today for dinner. Im using fresh pumpkin. How should I prepare the pumpkin? Im planning to peel it and dice it up, but would cooked, mashed pumpkin be ok too? Its easier. Also, what kind of green chili? Like a Hatch green chili? It looks like a jalapeno in your pick. I have both on hand but dont know which to use. Thanks.

    1. Hi Rachel – thanks so much for your good questions! Prepare the pumpkin by taking the skin off and seeds out, then chop into 2cm pieces. Cooked, mashed pumpkin would be OK to use, but you wouldn't get the slightly chunky texture as per the recipe because I usually only blend half of it – but it doesn't matter if you don't mind a smoother texture! The type of green chilli you use is up to you – the jalapeno would be great, and the hatch hotter – how hot do you like it? Either way, remember to take the seeds out unless you want to amp up the heat even more. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  5. First of all love your blog , the photography is exceptional. Every picture looks like it belongs in a food magazine. I love lentil type soups and thought this recipe looked delicious. However I had trouble with it. Perhaps you can tell me where I went wrong. I followed the directions to the letter with a couple of exceptions (I didn't have rice bran oil so I used veg. oil in the first part of it (the spicing)and in the part with the pumpkin (I live in Vancouver Canada) and I was unsure if you meant to get a real pumpkin and chop it up (lots around right now for Halloween) or whether you meant to use tins of pumpkin puree (not pie filling) the unsweetened pumpkin in a tin(these appear to be the only options in Canada for pumpkin) so this is what I opted for 3 cups of tinned pumpkin puree. I used vegetable stock (Better than Bullion a very good brand) and 1 1/2 litres seemed to equate to 6 cups so this is how much stock I used. However when I put the stock in, reduced the heat etc. It went very sludgy (not like a soup at all) I did add extra stock but it was still very, very, very thick more like a stew than a soup. Also in your pic yours looks a deep rich orangey brown colour and mine looked like bright orange almost like babies you know what. I did later add the coconut milk etc. but still had to thin the stock again, again and again. What did I do wrong. I

    1. Hi Dorelle – thank you so much for leaving your comment, and I am so sorry that you had trouble with the recipe. I think all of the problems are from using tinned pumpkin – the recipe specifies chopped into 2cm pieces – it should be absolutely fresh real pumpkin – actually we don't even have tinned pumpkin puree in New Zealand! One of the lovely things about this soup is the texture – by only removing half of the ingredients and whizzing them, the remaining pumpkin, potato and carrot maintain a bit of texture and contrast. I am pretty sure the sludginess, thickness and colour will all be from using the tinned pumpkin. Hope this helps!!!

    2. I think that 3 cans of pumpkin puree are probably equal to 2.5 – 3 times what was called for in the recipe, since fresh pumpkin chunks contain a lot more water (and take up a lot more space) than pumpkin puree. Try cooking and pureeing the fresh pumpkin and seeing how much puree you get.

    3. Here is the USA, canned pumpkin is very common. I've tried fresh and canned and really can't tell the difference.

    4. Hi Anonymous – thanks for your message. Feel free to use canned pumpkin if you prefer, but personally I definitely wouldn't 🙂

    5. Hello. I just was thinking that perhaps there is some confusion about what a "pumpkin" is. In New Zealand/Australia, a pumpkin is what a Canadian/American would call "squash." So I'm thinking that probably this recipe doesn't use the orange Halloween kind, which are a bit sweeter and maybe have less flavour than a "squash." I'm not sure, but my suggestion is to try a butternut or acorn type of squash.

  6. Wow! Made this tonight and I love it! I've been looking for a recipe as satisfying as this for ages and you've done it. Nice complex spice base with just the right amount of heat. I didn't blitz it as I like the chunky texture, but I did loosen it a bit with 1/3 cup water just before I served it because there seems to be no limit to how thick those lentils will get. Followed the recipe exactly (why not?). The flavour was fabulous in the pot but I also did the yoghurt/squeeze of lemon/green chili and mint thing right at the end and it really puts it in another category. Thanks so much!

  7. I just made this soup and roasted a head of garlic in the oven while it simmered. Then I added the roasted garlic to the pot and blended it in….it makes the soup so much more complex and tasty. (as if it wasn't complex enough already) This is the BEST lentil soup I have ever had!!

    1. Hi Maria, thanks so much for your lovely message, and I'm so glad you enjoy the blog – yay! Greetings back to you from New Zealand! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your message – and I'm so glad it feels authentic – such a relief when I have made a recipe up! 🙂

  8. this looks so like a soup they have on the Buffet at the Holiday Inn Silom Bangkok – I am eager to get home to make cant wait to taste looking at all the comments above it looks like it is going to be so yummy

  9. Just found this recipe and noticed the comments on tinned 'pumpkin'. If this recipe is originating from New Zealand I wonder if what you are calling pumpkin would in fact be squash in the North Americas. I spent time in New Zealand and Australia and found that they call our squash pumpkin. I would use a butternut squash or equivalent to make this amazing sounding soup.

    1. Hi – thanks so much for this – hmmm, I must check with a friend of mine from LA now living in Auckland -thanks for the heads-up! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Bec, it's spring here so I haven't made it for ages, but I'm starting to think I might have to whatever the weather! 🙂

  10. I just found this recipe. It looks great! Could I use regular lentils instead of red? and is coconut cream the same as coconut milk? Thank you very much!

  11. Ahhhhh this has been slowly simmering away most of the arvo, ready to go and add in the coconut cream. I can't wait. I can just tell it will be a hit. Been hanging out for soup and the weathers finally packed in enough to warrant it, although it's still muggy as shit. Thank you !!

    1. Haha – I know the feeling Tarina, I made soup yesterday too – just because I needed a change! Hope you enjoy it 🙂

  12. Tried this last night and very simple easy recipe and terrific flavour. Will be keeping this one in my winter repertoire. 1st day of winter here today and weather was suitably COLD made a great lunch thank you

  13. I found your recipe on Pinterest and just wanted to let you know I got a message they were blocking it because the link was suspicious. FYI. I went ahead anyway and glad I did because the recipe looks delish lol.

  14. I found this on pinterest. Thank you so much for this recipe. My house smelled amazing while cooking this delicious soup. I love to cook and this was a great intro cooking with indian spices. I could not find garam masala but a quick internet search lead me to how simple it is to make your own. I will be a follower of your blog. Can't wait to try more of your great recipes!

    1. That's great – thanks so much Jen, I'm so glad you found the blog, and hope you enjoy lots more of the recipes!

  15. I love the colors so much, especially that soup’s color. It looks perfect on a cold night. I will make this tomorrow night! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

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