Creamy Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Blending beans and vegetables to create a creamy soup became a “thing” for me several years ago when I was seeking a cream-less way to add richness to a simple puree of broccoli soup. I reached for a can of white beans and never looked back. Pureeing in the beans not only produced the desired body and creaminess, but it also added protein, turning the soup into a satisfying, vegetarian meal-in-a-bowl.

Since then, I’ve been making pureed vegetable soups, using mostly cannellini beans or chickpeas for their neutral color. Most often, the beans are canned, because I need to get dinner on the table quickly.

In this recipe, I run further with the concept, using dried red lentils as the legume. They answer the call perfectly, because they cook fast and lose their shape when tender, lending themselves naturally to being pureed. In this soup, they are simmered in broth with curry spices – onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric and a touch of cayenne – until they’re tender, which takes just 15 minutes.

There’s a little tomato paste in the mix, too, not only for its sweet-savory flavor, but also for the lovely color it imparts with the turmeric. (I’ll never forget my disappointment the first time I made red lentils, seeing their saturated hue become a muted yellow-beige when cooked. The seasonings here bring back that beautiful orange-red.)

Once the lentils are tender, cauliflower florets are added to cook until soft, then the mixture is pureed until smooth. Some light coconut milk stirred in at the end adds creaminess and unites the spices, while a squeeze of lemon juice brings a contrasting brightness.

The result is a sumptuously tasty and beautiful soup that further piques my excitement about the untold bean-vegetable puree possibilities down the road.


Creamy Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Creamy Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup

Here, quick-cooking red lentils and cauliflower come together with aromatic seasonings for a sumptuously tasty and satisfying pureed soup. With layers of flavor from the spices and sweet-savory tomato paste, extra creaminess from coconut milk, and a brightening splash of lemon at the end, it’s a beautiful meal in a bowl that provides equal parts pleasure and nourishment.

6 servings (makes about 9 cups)

Active time: 30 mins; Total time: 1 hour 10 mins

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Gently reheat over low heat, stirring regularly; the soup may thicken as it sits, so you may want to add a splash of broth or water to loosen it up.



2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as avocado or canola

1 large yellow onion (12 ounces), chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric


1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and picked through to remove any stones

7 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, plus more if needed

1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

4 cups bite-size cauliflower florets (from 1/2 medium head)


1 cup light coconut milk, plus more for optional garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste


In a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until aromatic, 30 seconds more. Stir in the cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste to incorporate, followed by the lentils. Add the broth and salt, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. If the lentils have absorbed most of the broth, add more as needed – start with 1 cup – for a thick but soupy consistency. Add the cauliflower and return the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat so the soup is at a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is soft, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. (Or, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender: To prevent spatters, be careful to not fill it more than halfway, remove the center ring from the lid, and hold a kitchen towel over the lid as you blend.) Stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice, then taste, and season with additional salt, if desired.

Ladle the soup among the bowls, garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk, if desired, and serve hot.

Nutritional information per serving (about 1 1/2 cups) | 240 calories: 31g carbohydrates, 0mg cholesterol, 10g fat, 7g fiber, 16g protein, 3g saturated fat, 310mg sodium, 5g sugar

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