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Maha's Lentil Soup

by in Jan 2008
Maha’s Lentil Soup
8 votes, 4.50 avg. rating (88% score)
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Total Time: 60 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

My sister-in-law, Maha Tawil-Copps, is a great cook and comes from a family of great cooks, including her mother, three sisters, and sister-in-law Gemma. Every meal she's ever prepared for me, mostly traditional foods from her native Syria, is a feast for the senses. She's an instinctive cook and an artist by training. "I've tried to follow recipes, but I just can't," she says. "I cook by balance, not measuring cups." This lentil soup -- a traditional dish from Syria and Lebanon -- is one of the simpler acts from her amazing repertoire. Maha once tried using spinach as a substitute for the Swiss chard but vows, "Never again -- it was terrible," although she admits that my mom and Aunt Ginny loved it. One more thing -- and this is important: "Squeeze the lemons over the soup only after you've ladled it into the bowl. If the juice sits in the soup too long, or you reheat it, it ruins everything."

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Maha's Lentil Soup
Photo/Art by keller + keller


  • 4 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dry coriander
  • 1 pound dry lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 pound vermicelli or angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 fresh lemons
  • Fried pita chips or unseasoned croutons


In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, sauté onions in 1/2 cup oil until translucent. Add carrots and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add coriander, stir well to coat vegetables, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lentils and stir well to coat. Add water to cover the ingredients by 3 inches (about 8 cups). Stir in cumin. Cook about 30 minutes, or until lentils are al dente (softened, but not completely cooked). Season with approximately 1 tablespoon salt. Add Swiss chard and cook about 10 minutes. Remove 1 cup of broth and whisk in flour, then whisk back into soup pot.

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook pasta in 1 tablespoon oil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add pasta to soup and cook about 8 minutes. Ladle into bowls and squeeze about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice over each serving. Serve with pita chips or croutons.
Updated Monday, December 17th, 2007

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6 Responses to Maha’s Lentil Soup

  1. Ann Bobonick January 8, 2008 at 7:32 pm #

    This was the best soup I have ever made! We used spinach. It was delicious. Make sure to use the lemon juice as described. Croutons did add something, also.

  2. Michelle Hoefler January 19, 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    Easy to make, hearty soup that makes a substantial quantity. Shared it with work friends and all agreed this soup is awesome!

  3. Lara Duston January 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm #

    This was by far the best lentil soup I’ve ever had. My boyfriend raved about it. The flavor combination of cumin, coriander and fresh lemon is so complex and delicious. I used kale instead of swiss chard, which worked fine. I also put potatoes in when I added the lentils, to make it heartier.

  4. Wendy Marquis-Slater February 2, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    I have told many friends about this soup and will enjoy it for many years to come.

  5. Susan Blazek June 21, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Help!! This was my favorite lentil soup recipe, I ripped the page out of my Mum’s copy of Yankee several years ago. Was so happy to find the recipe online! But where are the Instructions? it cuts off after, “In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, saut” !!! Please help!!!!! Thank you!

    • Aimee Seavey June 21, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Hi Susan. It looks like the accent mark in “saute” caused a glitch in our new site that prevented the whole instructions from posting. It’s been corrected and the entire recipe for Maha’s Lentil Soup is now visible. We’re so glad you like it — thanks for letting us know!

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