Joeli Pence’s

Red Lentil Soup with East Indian Spices

(Masoor Dal)

Red lentils are a small, flat, orange-colored legume. They are different than the normal gray-green lentil in flavor and appearance. A lovely Indian vegetaraian restaurant in Seattle called Silence-Heart-Nest serves this very flavorful and satisfying soup called Masoor Dal.


  • 2 teaspoons ghee or butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1–2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne ← or spicy curry powder
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes ← good substitute is tomato paste
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon each cumin and mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ghee or butter ← olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro


  1. Heat butter or ghee in a large pot.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic in ghee until brown.
  3. Add spices and stir for 2–3 minutes. 4. Add tomatoes and cook until they break down.
  4. Wash and drain lentils.
  5. Add lentils and water to pot.
  6. Let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often. Stir in salt.
  7. Heat ½ teaspoon ghee in a small skillet and fry seeds until they pop.
  8. Stir fried seeds and cilantro into finished soup.

Preparation time: 1 hour

Makes 4 servings


Reserve ¼ cup red lentils and simmer in a separate small pan with 1 cup water to make a simpler soup for baby.