Turkish Lentil Soup | Mercimek Çorbası

lentil soup
Yields: 4 Servings Difficulty: Easy Prep Time: 5 Mins Cook Time: 40 Mins Total Time: 45 Mins

Turkish lentil soup – mercimek çorbası – is a simple but moreish dish. A perfect starter or light meal when served with bread. This dish is traditionally vegan and exemplifies the deep, earthy flavours that can be found in the Middle East.

Lentil Soups

There are many varieties of lentil soup across Middle Eastern cuisines. Some use red, green, or brown lentils; they have different combinations of spices and can use vegetables or not. Today, I have started with a red lentil soup that is often served as an appetizer in Turkey. This soup is made without too many spices or vegetables but is often garnished with a chilli oil sauce and a slice of lemon. You can find it on most menus in Turkish cafes because it is the perfect food to quench both thirst and hunger. If eaten with lemon, it can even make you hungrier, ready for the main course.

This Turkish lentil soup is a direct translation from mercimek çorbası. Mercimek = lentils and çorbası = soup. (pronounced merjimek chorrbaseh)

Compared to traditional English soups, this delicate dish has a thin consistency. If you prefer a heartier dish, I will be writing an Iranian chunky green lentil and potato soup recipe soon.

Is lentil soup good for you?

Lentil soups are wholesome and healthy because lentils contain protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and are low in fat. Lentils also have slow-release carbohydrates, giving you energy for longer. They are especially good for anyone looking to include more vegan protein in their diet. Eat with fresh lemon juice to aid digestion before a meal.

Cooking Tips

  • Take your time frying the onion, and tomato paste on a low heat to achieve the best taste.
  • When frying the chilli powder for the sauce, avoid burning by using medium heat and watch to make sure the colour doesn’t go too dark.
  • Add more water as needed if water has evaporated.


0/16 Ingredients
Adjust Servings
  • Chilli oil sauce
  • To serve
  • Equipment


0/8 Instructions
  • Dice and fry the onions in oil until soft on medium-low heat.
  • Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. Add turmeric. Fry for 2 mins until the garlic starts to brown.
  • Add tomato puree and stir until the tomato turns a deeper colour. Move on if any of the ingredients begin to burn. Add lentils, water and salt, bring to the boil then cook on a low heat for 20 mins. Use a lid to avoid losing too much water.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Remember that the main spice should be in the chilli oil that we will prepare later.
  • Cook for a further 10 mins, the lentils should be soft and the soup should still have some water in.
  • Blend then taste. Add more water if needed, the final consistency should be a thin liquid rather than a thick dahl.
  • In the frying pan, fry the chilli and paprika in oil for no more than a minute. Stir and watch the colour as it can burn easily.
  • Serve the soup with a drizzle of chilli oil, a wedge of lemon and bread. Enjoy!


Did you make this recipe? Tag @vegan_middle_east on Instagram or comment below.

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