Lentil soup is the perfect one-dish meal. Using a few basic ingredients, you can have a magnificent pot of it ready to eat in just one hour - and only 10 minutes is actual, hands-on time.

A generous, sustaining bowl of this easy lentil soup has just 215 calories, 15 grams of protein, a healthy 15 grams of filling fiber and absolutely no fat, even though it tastes too good to seem true.

Because I make lentil soup so often, I have developed many variations. Sometimes I brighten a bowl of this soup with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Changing the seasoning creates another variation, replacing thyme and bay leaf, for example, with oregano for a Greek taste, curry powder for Indian savor, or ground cumin and coriander for Moroccan notes.

Adding more vegetables creates a variety of textures, colors and nutrition. I'll use diced potatoes and cauliflower, or chopped cabbage and canned tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, cooked chestnuts, shredded spinach or kale, or even diced eggplant and fennel.

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I also use different kinds of lentils. After all, they come in red or orange, slate green, black and brown. All of them make great soup, with peeled, split, reddish lentils turning almost into a puree on their own, while the black and green ones stay nicely firm.

What I never add is fat. The lentils and vegetables go into the pot at the beginning, broth included, no sauteeing first. This keeps the soup lean and quickly gets the mixture to a simmer.

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This soup can be made with any of three different consistencies. Try them all to see which you prefer.

Easy Lentil Soup

Makes 4 servings.

  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 36 oz. fat-free, reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 leek, trimmed and chopped*
  • 2 cups chopped Swiss chard leaves*
  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 Fuji apple, peeled and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 large pretzels, broken into small pieces, for garnish (optional)
  1. Place lentils, broth, carrot, garlic, onion, thyme and bay leaf in a medium Dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.

    *For a chunkier soup, add leek at this point. Simmer 20 minutes, then stir in Swiss chard and simmer 20 minutes more.

  2. Meanwhile, spray a medium non-stick skillet with canola oil and heat oil on medium-high heat. Add apple and saute until golden on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. When lentils are tender, stir in apple and remove bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve as is for a soup with texture.

    For a creamy soup, puree half in a blender and combine with remaining soup. Serve garnished with crushed pretzels, if desired.

Nutritional Info Per Serving:
238 calories,
0 g. total fat,
42 g. carbohydrate,
15 g. protein,
10 g. dietary fiber,
747 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 2 Bread/Starch, 2-1/2 Vegetable, 1 Low-Fat Meat