This Is What Makes Turkish Red Lentil Soup Unique

You've probably had lentil soup before. It's a great, satisfying comfort food. Plus, it's inexpensive to make, and nutritious, too. In fact, if lentil soup isn't in your regular recipe rotation, you might want to add it! Lentils are high in B vitamins, potassium, fiber, protein, iron, and polyphenols, which behave like antioxidants, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Lentils might even help prevent wrinkles!

While most of us have experienced the hearty brown lentil version of the soup, in which the lentils remain whole for the most part, red lentils are a nice way to switch things up. What makes red lentil soup unique, aside from its alluring color, is that unlike brown or green lentils, red lentils break down more easily than their brown, black, or green counterparts. This makes them great for pureeing, so they're perfect for when you want a smoother, creamier soup.

According to the cooking website Unicorns in the Kitchen, Turkish red lentil soup (or mercimek corbasi) is one of the most popular soups in Turkish cuisine. In Turkish restaurants, this soup is often offered as an appetizer but it is satisfying enough to serve as a light dinner.

Why you should make a pot of red lentil soup

According to the website On the Gas, red lentils, whose actual color can fall along the spectrum from gold to orange to actual red, taste not only nutty like other lentils but also surprisingly sweet. Varieties you might typically find on offer include "Red Chief" and "Crimson." 

Traditional mercimek corbasi is seasoned with cumin and Aleppo pepper, which interestingly, tastes similar to a raisin (via The Epicenter). The pepper adds to this soup's sweet and nutty flavor profile with a slow burn, delivering heat that's not too hot at first but gradually rises. The red lentil soup recipe from Unicorns in the Kitchen is wonderfully simple. It requires red lentils, cumin, and Aleppo pepper, as well as olive oil, an onion, a carrot, tomato paste, salt, and black pepper. A recipe from the Lands and Flavors website is a bit more complex thanks to the addition of mint, oregano, paprika, and red pepper flakes.

If you needed more incentive to give this soup a try, consider that most recipes for mercimek corbasi are vegan and gluten-free. It's quick to make because lentils actually soften quickly, usually in about 20 or 30 minutes. To help this soup be its best self, it's recommended that you add a squeeze of lemon juice. You might also consider drizzling paprika-infused oil onto the soup to provide both gorgeous color and an earthy flavor.