I first ate mercimek corbasi during a vacation to Istanbul as a child and I fell in love with the flavors. As soon as I was old enough to start making the delightful soup myself, it became a regular winter warmer in my household.
Mercimek Çorbası is a traditional and popular lentil soup in Turkish cuisine that is a staple during the winter months and Ramadan. Other countries in the Middle East have a similar version which they call shorbat adas. A simple soup made with a few basic ingredients, it also happens to be vegan if you leave off or substitute the dairy garnishes.
Ingredients in Mercimek Corbasi
Most of the ingredients for this soup can be found at your local supermarket (like red lentils, onion, celery, carrot, and vegetable stock). The recipe also includes a few Turkish ingredients which can be substituted if they are difficult to find:
- Pul biber (Aleppo pepper): Grown in Turkey and Syria, pul biber is coarsely ground dark red pepper with a mild smoky flavor and moderate heat. If you can’t find it, substitute sweet paprika or ancho chili.
- Tatli biber salçasi: Make sure you are buying tatli biber salçasi, a sweet pepper paste, and not the spicy version, aci biber salçasi. You can substitute tomato paste if needed.
How to Serve Mercimek Corbasi
The simplicity behind preparing this soup encourages many to create some incredible garnishes to complement it. Common finishes to the soup are:
- Sprinkle of pul biber
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Dollop of Greek yogurt
- Finely chopped parsley
This recipe includes a combination of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of spiced melted butter, olive oil, croutons, and finely chopped parsley for good measure. If you prefer a vegan version, then omit the yogurt and butter or use dairy-free alternatives.
A side of crusty bread or fluffy flatbread also makes a happy companion to this dish.
Creamy, Comforting Soups
Mercimek Çorbası (Turkish Lentil Soup)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons tatli biber salçasi (Turkish sweet pepper paste)
1 1/2 cups (8.8oz/250g) dried red lentils
2 liters (8 1/2 cups) vegetable stock
1 to 2 lemons, juiced, to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons pul biber, plus extra to sprinkle on top
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
6 heaping tablespoons croutons
1/4 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
Cook the vegetables:
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot (4 quarts or larger) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the spices and sweet pepper paste:
Add cumin and oregano and stir the spices into the vegetable mixture. Add the tatli biber salçasi and stir until evenly distributed.
Add the lentils and vegetable stock:
Add the lentils to the pot and stir to distribute evenly into the vegetable mixture. Add the vegetable stock and stir. Let the soup come to a boil.
Turn the heat to low, place the lid on the pot, and let the soup simmer until the lentils and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
Blend the soup and season:
Remove the soup from the heat. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup or work in batches and purée the soup in a blender with the lid cracked.
Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Prepare the pul biber butter drizzle:
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Cook the butter until just beginning to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 2 teaspoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons pul biber. Stir to combine.
Garnish and serve soup:
Ladle the soup into bowls. Add 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt on the top of each soup followed by croutons, a drizzle of the pul biber butter, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley and extra pul biber. Serve.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and eaten within 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat the soup in the microwave or in a saucepan on low heat.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 19g||25%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||39%|
|Total Carbohydrate 40g||15%|
|Dietary Fiber 9g||33%|
|Total Sugars 15g|
|Vitamin C 100mg||499%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|