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Red Lentil Masala Soup with Barley

Healthy but filling and gently spiced, red lentil masala soup with barley is a weeknight-easy vegetarian soup that the whole family will love! Vegan & dairy-free.

Red Lentil Masala Soup in a bowl

Winter is digging in its heels here in the Midwest, and if there was ever a time for hot soup to do the catwalk and be all like, “Yes, shivering Humans, love and adore me,” this is it.

And shivering we are. Sigh. Is it wrong to want to just pull the covers over my head and wait for spring? #beargoals

A pot of lentil masala soup, with spice jars

So, hot soups it is.

Lovely, spicy, tummy-filling soups with healthy vegetarian proteins, like beautiful red lentils.

I love lentils. They’re the little black dress of the legume world. They go with soups. They go with salads. They shine in curries. And my favorite adulting sloppy joes is a saucy, vegetarian lentil version that’s way too tasty to be healthy (but is anyway).

Overhead shot of masala soup in a pot

In soups, lentils add tooth in the same way as pasta, only without pasta’s carb-load. If you’re looking to increase your meatless meals without making the fam feel deprived, look to the lentil.

For my red lentil masala soup, I also added barley, which, together with the lentils, make a super hearty, pile-it-high-on-your-spoon soup. The kind where you need only a crusty loaf of bread to fill out your dinner menu.

And we can’t forget about the spices. This soup is deeply flavorful, thanks to generous amounts of garam masala, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic, and turmeric.

The color in this soup = all the pretty, smoky spices.

Red Lentil Masala Soup in a bowl with a spoon

So let’s thumb our collective noses at sub-zero temps and make some extra tasty, warms-you-to-the-bones red lentil masala soup. Take that winter!

Karen xo


Red Lentil Masala Soup with Barley |
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Red Lentil Masala Soup with Barley

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Karen Gibson


  • 2 tablespoon coconut oil plus extra, as needed
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 " knob of ginger peeled and finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 14 ounce can stewed or fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk lite, if you'd like
  • 1 loosely packed cup fresh spinach sliced chiffonade
  • 1 scallion thinly sliced (for garnish)
  • sliced almonds for garnish - optional, but recommended


  • Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a 4-5 quart pot or saute pan over medium until shimmering. Stir in the red onions and cook until transparent. Add the ginger and mix into the onions.
  • Scootch the onions to one side of the pan. Add another tablespoon of coconut oil, and spoon the spices on top of the oil: turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, and garam masala. Stir with the oil to create a paste, and let heat for a minute to bloom the spices.
  • Separate the cilantro leaves from the thicker stem ends and reserve. Finely chop the cilantro stems and add them, plus the minced garlic, to the pot and mix everything into the onions.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the vegetable broth, tomatoes, and pearl barley. Stir to mix in the broth. Let the soup come to an active simmer. There should be blurpy bubbles. Then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer.
  • If using whole red lentils, add those, too, at this time. Most likely, however, you'll have split red lentils (soft red in color, with one flat side), which need less cooking. Add split lentils after 20 minutes. The barley should be nearly tender. Cook for 10-15 minutes, checking the lentils often. You can cook them down to mush, if you'd like - I prefer them with a little tooth.
  • Reduce heat to low, and stir in the coconut milk and spinach. Let the soup rest over low until the spinach is bright green and gently wilted.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves, scallions and almonds (if using).
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.

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Close-up view of Red Lentil Masala Soup

Recipe Rating


Friday 15th of September 2023

Delicious and filling. So fresh and nutritious. Even my finicky eater enjoyed this dish.


Friday 10th of February 2023

An absolute favourite in our home. I make a double batch and freeze two cup containers for lunches. Perfect flavours and textures in this soup. Thanks!

Carol Aaron

Monday 5th of April 2021

Love this recipe. I added sliced carrots and celery which gave its a boost of veggies. Then added spiced almonds for crunch. One of my most favorite recipes and so easy. Plus I always have these staples in the house for a quick last minute “what’s for dinner”, or surprise guests staying for dinner. Add Trader Joe’s garlic naan bread and I’m in heaven.


Friday 13th of March 2020

Second time making this , My husband and I love it. So easy to make also. I add smoked turkey to it and use broth instead of vegetable broth. This definitely a keeper


Friday 13th of March 2020

Thank you, that's so great to hear! :)


Friday 7th of February 2020

This soup was a hit with my husband. I omitted the garam Marsala and smoked paprika. I cooked in my instapot on high pressure for 15 min. And let natural release for 15 min. Lentil were not mushy. Did add 1 more cup of broth with coconut milk to thin out a little. Excellent recipe. It will definitely be on my favorite list. Thank you