It’s warming, it’s easy, it’s Instant Pot Lentil Soup! Made with nutritious lentils, carrots, celery and onion, this is a plant-based superstar for cozy nights at home.
Is it really fall if you haven’t made soup yet? I really don’t think so, which is why I’m introducing you to this beautiful Lentil Soup today.
This one is packed with goodness… From the thick broth down to the load of vegetables and cute lentils gracing each bowl, it’s an absolute favorite around here.
And while you don’t really need anything to serve it up… I do highly recommend at least a hunk of crusty bread. If you have time, you should absolutely go for a No Knead Bread, or maybe a Homemade Sourdough for extra credit? Also, a squeeze of lemon juice and some parsley… and also some Parmesan cheese if you’re not trying to keep it plant-based… they definitely don’t hurt here 😉
Ingredients you’ll need
Here is a visual overview of the ingredients in the recipe. Scroll down to the recipe at the bottom for quantities.
- Lentils: The type of lentils you’re using will highly influence the outcome. If you’re using French or green lentils, those definitely stay firmer and hold their shape better. For brown lentils, you may want to reduce the pressure cooking time to 12 minutes – they do turn out very soft otherwise.
- Broth: I usually go with vegetable broth here to keep things vegetarian/vegan (we’re not strict vegetarians at all, but we do try to strike a good flexitarian balance). But chicken broth works just as well!
- Carrots: Dice them chunkier if you prefer firmer carrots in your soup, dice them smaller to cook them to fully softened.
- Tomato paste: I usually buy triple concentrated tomato paste, but I only found double concentrated at the store. Any type of tomato paste will work, higher concentrates will have a little more flavor but the slight difference will absolutely not impact your soup.
- Bay leaves: I have them in my yard, so I dry and use them all the time. They do infuse certain dishes with more depth of flavor, are relatively inexpensive and last a long time – so I would highly recommend getting a bag for the fall/winter season!
How to make Lentil Soup in the Instant Pot
1. Start by heating the olive oil on the “sauté” setting in your instant pot. Add the onion/celery and cook until softened.
(This will take at least 5 minutes for best flavor development, if the sizzle gets too hot – please switch the heat to “less” on your instant pot (on my older model, if I repeatedly press the “sauté” button it switches between less – normal – more).
2. Next, stir in the garlic, tomato paste, cumin and thyme. You’ll want to continue stirring and cooking this for about one minute. This will help to develop maximum flavor.
3. Now stir in the water, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the instant pot. Don’t skip this, or you could get a “burn” warning during pressure cooking!
4. Switch off the instant pot and stir through the lentils, diced tomatoes, carrots and broth.
5. Finally, lock the lid on your instant pot and set the valve to the “sealing” position. Pressure cook on manual high pressure for 12-16 minutes (depending on your type of lentils).
It will take about 15-20 minutes for the pot to come to pressure, then it will start counting down. Once it’s done, allow a 5 minute natural release before releasing any remaining pressure manually.
6. Stir through the soup and check to make sure the lentils are fully cooked. If they are done, stir through the spinach and allow it to wilt for 1-2 minutes before serving.
Make sure to have your bread and toppings at the ready – then serve it up and tuck in!
- Cooking time: Like I said, the cooking time will depend on your exact type of lentils. In my experience, “real” green lentils and French lentils take 16 minutes. The flatter brown lentils will be done in around 12 minutes. Always make sure to try them before serving your soup, to make sure they are fully cooked! If they still have a raw taste to them, lock your instant pot lid again and pressure cook for 1-2 more minutes.
- Round it out: If you want to round out your soup with some extra protein, try adding some diced ham. You can also cook crumbled sausage with the onions at the beginning. Or diced bacon, for that matter… If you want to keep things vegan-friendly, diced smoked tofu is excellent thrown in with the spinach at the end!
- Freezer tips: This soup can easily be frozen. This works best with French or green lentils, as brown lentils tend to get mushy. Just let the soup cool, then freeze in freezer friendly containers. Defrost in the fridge overnight, then gently reheat in a pot on the stove with a splash of broth added until steaming hot all the way through!
- Stovetop instructions: Make the soup in a large pot or Dutch oven on the stove (just follow all of the same instructions, just in a pot on the stove). Instead of pressure cooking, simmer the soup with the lid closed. The simmer time will again depend on your lentils – I recommend planning for 30-45 minutes, just check the package of your lentils for an indicated time and use it as your guide.
We like lemon juice, parsley and sometimes a little Parmesan cheese to top off our bowls of soup. My husband is no stranger to adding a little hot sauce.
For dunking, I highly recommend a crusty bread…. But I say this about pretty much every soup, so feel free to tune me out 😉
More soups you’ll love
Instant Pot Lentil Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 sticks celery chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup water
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
- 3 medium carrots peeled and chopped
- 1 ½ cups lentils green, French or brown (see notes)
- salt & pepper
- 2 dried bay leaves optional
- 2 cups baby spinach or baby kale
- lemon juice, parsley, parmesan cheese to serve (optional)
- Heat oil in instant pot on “sauté” setting. Add onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in garlic, tomato paste, cumin and thyme and cook for one more minute.
- Stir in water, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the instant pot. Switch off instant pot.
- Stir in broth, diced tomatoes, carrots and lentils. Season with salt and pepper, add bay leaves if using.
- Close lid, setting valve to “sealing” position. Cook on manual, high pressure for 16 minutes (12 minutes for quicker-cooking lentils like brown ones). Allow 5 minutes of natural pressure release, then release remaining pressure manually.
- Open instant pot and stir through spinach. Serve with lemon juice, chopped parsley and parmesan cheese to taste.
- Lentils: French or green lentils stay firmer and hold their shape better. For brown lentils, pressure cook for 12 minutes – they do turn out very soft otherwise.
- Broth: Vegetable or chicken broth works best.
- Carrots: Dice chunkier if you prefer firmer carrots in your soup, dice smaller to cook them to fully softened.
- Feel free to add chopped bacon or crumbled sausage with the onion, or stir in diced (fully cooked!) ham or diced smoked tofu in with the spinach at the end.
- Cooking time: Always make sure to try the lentils before serving your soup, to make sure they are fully cooked. If they still have a raw taste to them, lock your instant pot lid again and pressure cook for 1-2 more minutes.
- Freezer tips: This soup can easily be frozen (best with French or green lentils). Let the soup cool, then freeze in freezer friendly containers. Defrost in the fridge overnight, then gently reheat in a pot on the stove with a splash of broth added until steaming hot all the way through.
- Stovetop instructions: Make the soup in a large pot or Dutch oven on the stove (just follow all of the same instructions, in a pot on the stove). Instead of pressure cooking, simmer the soup with the lid closed. The simmer time will again depend on your lentils – I recommend planning for 30-45 minutes, just check the package of your lentils for an indicated time and use it as your guide.
More recipe information
Recipe first published in October 2017. Updated with a completely new recipe, new photos and new text on 10/26/2021.