Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

At six weeks pregnant, my sister Annie learned that at that stage of gestation, her baby was the size of a lentil. And so, from then on, the baby was called, “Lentil.” Even before we all knew she was a she and after she grew to the size of a peanut, and then a grape, and then an eight and a half pound full-term infant, she remained, “Lentil.”

When the baby arrived, I had to meet her, and quickly found my way onto a red-eye flight heading East.

Precious days they were, being in the company of a newborn and her awestruck and bone-tired parents. Having had three babies of my own, I know that a well-stocked refrigerator and freezer is gold in those early days, and so dedicated much of my energy doing just that.
I set to work on dishes that were packed with nourishment and freezer-friendly. I decided to start with a lentil soup spiced with curry and enriched with coconut milk. I didn’t see the irony of what I was cooking until well into my pot of soup. I had to laugh. A soup for Lentil, of course. What could be more appropriate?

And what better way to restore the energy of a new mama, and by turns, her nursing babe, than a pot of Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup. The tiny legume is rich in iron, potassium, and fiber, and has more folate than any other plant-based food. Onions, garlic, ginger, and curry lend balance and flavor, not to mention health benefits all their own, something I touched on here.

The recipe calls for light coconut milk instead of regular because it means a significant savings in both fat and calories. Regular coconut milk weighs in at about 450 calories and 50 grams of fat per cup, whereas light is 150 calories with 15 grams of fat.  Yes, you give up some richness, but there’s plenty of other goodness going on in this soup to make it a work.

I fed it to my sister and her doting hubby that first evening.

Lentil got hers second hand and apparently liked it very much.

As for the name, it didn’t stick around past birth. They’re calling the baby Louisa. Both names do start with an L and have six letters, but the latter will likely go over better come kindergarten.

Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

Yield: 6 generous servings

Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

The red curry paste in this recipe lends Southeast Asian flavor and a hint of spiciness to this soup. It is sold in small jars in the Asian food section of many supermarkets and specialty stores. If you use whole red lentils instead of split, the soup will take longer to cook and likely require more water. I like to serve this with whole wheat pita bread that's been lightly brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and warmed in the oven.


  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red curry paste (more if you like it spicy)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • One 32-ounce box low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (4 cups)
  • One 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups split red lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (or 3/4 teaspoon salt)
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into small bite-size pieces
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into small bite-size pieces
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish


  1. Pour the olive oil into a large pot and set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until tender. Add the garlic and ginger, sauté another minute or so.
  2. Add the curry paste and the water and use a spoon to blend it into the onions. Add the broth, coconut milk, lentils, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and fish sauce and stir well. Taste and add another tablespoon of brown sugar, if desired.
  3. Turn heat to high. When the soup boils, turn the heat down until the broth simmers.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the carrots and zucchini. Cook another 8 to 10 minutes until the lentils are tender and the soup has thickened.
  5. Serve in bowls with cilantro for garnish.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes



Tags: , , , ,



  1. Pamela
    11.05.2012 at 9:34 AM #

    Very special post Katie!

  2. Anne Mullen
    11.05.2012 at 4:40 PM #

    I can’t wait to try this! I’ve never met a lentil soup I didn’t like, and I’d eat curried cardboard, so this sounds perfect. Thanks Katie, and welcome to Louisa.

  3. Emily S.
    11.07.2012 at 2:23 PM #

    Made this last night. It was terrific! Thank you.

    • katiemorford
      11.08.2012 at 10:25 PM #

      Great to hear, Emily.

  4. Anne Mullen
    11.29.2012 at 4:32 PM #

    I finally made this last night, fearing ti would be beyond my very meager kitchen abilities, but not only was it easy, it was delicious! Another lentil soup to love. Thank you, Katie.

  5. Stephanie
    12.27.2012 at 8:04 PM #

    Hi Katie,

    I’m snowed in and am curious to know if there are any acceptable substitutes for the fish sauce. Would oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, or plum sauce do the trick?

    Many thanks!


    • katiemorford
      12.27.2012 at 9:25 PM #

      The fish sauce gives a saltiness to the soup. You can season it with salt in place of the fish sauce

      • Stephanie
        12.28.2012 at 9:04 AM #


        Thank you for your prompt response. I understand now and will give this a try. The snow is really coming down!


        • katiemorford
          12.28.2012 at 11:54 AM #

          That soup will keep you warm!

        • Anne Mullen
          12.28.2012 at 4:00 PM #

          I made this with salt instead of fish sauce, and it was delicious, and a big success. The cilantro is a wonderful finishing touch. Happy New Year!

          • katiemorford
            12.28.2012 at 4:09 PM #

            Happy New Year to you too Anne!

  6. Jillian
    01.10.2013 at 5:36 PM #

    I enjoyed your recipe very much! I didn’t have any light coconut milk in a can, so I substituted unsweetened refrigerated coconut milk. I left out the brown sugar and used 5 drops of stevia instead. I think in the future I would leave out the sweetness and add more spice. One last modification- I used plain filtered water since I didn’t have any broth.

    Thanks for the recipe!!! You are very creative!

    • katiemorford
      01.10.2013 at 7:02 PM #

      Thanks Jillian. Love all your modifications. This is definitely a recipe that can be tinkered with according to what you like. It’s also tasty with a squeeze of lime.

  7. Jason
    01.21.2013 at 3:44 PM #

    Excellent. I left out the zucchini and used coconut oil instead of olive oil. I also didn’t have red curry paste so I used green curry paste and added red chili paste. When I make this again I will halve the amount of brown sugar. It was a little sweeter than I wanted it to be. Other than that, its a great recipe.

  8. 07.18.2013 at 7:54 AM #

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked
    submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all
    that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  9. Lisa
    11.11.2013 at 6:29 PM #

    Just came across this recipe while searching the web. Made the recipe for dinner tonight, and it’s wonderful. Thanks for posting.

    • katiemorford
      11.11.2013 at 7:51 PM #

      So glad, Lisa. I always appreciate the feedback.

  10. Helen
    12.12.2013 at 8:54 PM #

    I just wanted to let you know that I just made this recipe (with a few changes) and it turned out truly delicious! I was planning to make red lentil dal, but after talking to a friend about our favorite kinds of curry, I was craving red thai curry. This was the ideal solution!

    The changes I made were: I used soy sauce in place of the fish sauce to make it vegan, left out the zucchini (didn’t have any), used coconut oil, used full fat coconut milk, and left out the sugar (for my tastebuds it really tasted sweet enough without it!).

    Thank you for this wonderful and simple recipe!


    • katiemorford
      12.13.2013 at 7:21 AM #

      Hi Helen

      So glad you liked the soup and I appreciate you sharing your changes … everyone’s tastebuds are different and your ideas might be just right for another reader. Thank you.

  11. 01.09.2014 at 3:42 PM #

    This story brought loving tears to my eyes! So sweet and tender. I love that Louisa had a food nickname before she was even born. Hopefully it’ll stick around as an occasional nickname! The soup sounds quite yummy, too. I’ll have to try it out soon.

    • katiemorford
      01.11.2014 at 8:08 AM #

      Thanks Sarah. Those newborn days are so precious.

  12. 02.13.2014 at 5:50 AM #

    This article has been flagged as spam, if you think this is an error please contact us. If you are interested in photography and are searching for a quality photo Word – Press theme, Mansion might be a solution.

  13. Christina
    09.22.2014 at 8:04 PM #

    I made this for the first time tonight – delicious!! And it is super easy!! I will definitely add this to my favorite recipe binder. Thanks so much for so many delicious, wholesome recipes – I really appreciate it!

    • katiemorford
      09.23.2014 at 7:13 AM #

      I appreciate the feedback Christina. Glad you think it’s a keep. It’s funny I was just planning to pull this one out myself, now that it’s fall!

  14. 12.01.2014 at 2:14 PM #

    I love all types of lentil soups and the ingredients you used in this one sound amazing together!

  15. Ivette
    12.04.2014 at 5:48 PM #

    Overall, my bowl of soup was delish!! BUT I used cream of coconut instead of coconut milk -making the soup super duper sweet (in addition to its spiciness). Suggestion needed to balance out the sweetness to the rest of the soup.

    • katiemorford
      12.05.2014 at 8:07 AM #

      Glad you thought it was tasty. I’d probably leave out the brown sugar and maybe use less cream of coconut and more broth.

Post Your Comment