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My twist on the traditional “Mercimek” soup, or Turkish lentil soup, is straight-forward to prepare and full of goodness. Due to the wonderful properties of our base ingredient, lentils, this dish is hearty and filling whilst being low in fat and cost. I chose to be a little playful with my approach to this timeless classic by swapping the carrots for purple potatoes. This soup turned out so good the first time I made it, that I’ve repeated this recipe multiple times with continuing success and satisfied tummies all round.

This soup is best served with fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Add some chopped mint for even more freshness or sprinkle with extra chile flakes for some added heat. If you’ve got picky dinner guests then serve the soup as is, and let them add their own toppings. I served my guests up with an extra surprise – a topping of sauteed vegan sausage! The sausage is totally optional, but adds an additional crunchiness and texture, not to mention a talking point for your dinner conversation.

Preparing the lentils

Cooked red lentils

Make sure you plan this dish a little in advance as the lentils will need to soak overnight. You could make this with pre-cooked lentils from a jar or a can, but you’ll be missing out on some of the flavour (and the fun!) if you cheat. I had extra time, so I actually cooked the lentils in advance too which cut down on the soup cooking time.

To make this recipe with uncooked lentils, simply add the rinsed lentils when you add the potato, and adjust the cooking time to allow for the lentils to cook thoroughly (soaked lentils need around 25 minutes of cooking time).

I used brown lentils for this recipe which hold their shape more when cooked. Use whichever lentil variety you like. Red lentils are perfect for a wholesome soup like this one, as they break up and go mushy when cooked. I used the hand blender just long enough to get rid of the big chunks whilst leaving the soup with a nice, thick texture. For a creamier consistency simply blend for longer or transfer the mixture to a high speed blender – blenders choice here.

The lowdown on the humble lentil

I’m gonna shamelessly take the opportunity to give a shoutout to one of my favourite legumes here. Lentils in all their varieties are an excellent and nutritious base for all kinds of tasty meals. From curry and salads, to pies and soups, lentils are one of my favourite go-to foods. They are an excellent source of protein, they pack a high fibre content, and are rich in iron and folate. Lentils are basically a great foundation for a healthy diet, especially a vegan one. Not only are they super nutritious and filling, they are really cheap as well.

The mighty purple spud

Diced purple potatoes on a chopping board

Another fantastic ingredient I used in my version of this popular Turkish starter is the purple potato, known as the purple Peruvian. It helps give the soup a thick consistency as well as the beautiful deep red colour. Purple potatoes are not your typical tuber. In fact, I had to Google it myself the first time I got it delivered in my veggie box. This intriguing tater doesn’t just stand out from the crowd because of it’s deep ink-like hue, it’s also jam-packed full of up to 3 times more antioxidants than your standard spud. These potatoes are a great source of fibre, vitamin C and potassium as well.

The purple Peruvian has a slightly earthier texture and more of a distinctive nutty flavour than the white potato. Don’t let the colour scare you away though – they are just as versatile as any potato, and you can prepare and cook them in exactly the same ways. Its striking colour can add pizzazz to your meals too – for fun, try serving your dinner guests a purple-topped shepherd’s pie!

Sautéed onions and garlic with tomato puree added to the saucepan
Red soup boiling in a saucepan

I hope this recipe inspires you to make this soup yourself, or experiment with your own variation of lentil soup. If you do try it out, let me know in the comments below how it turned out and which ingredients you used to make your version tasty.

I’ll continue experimenting with more soup recipes as well as other delicious plant-based meals, so be sure to check back regularly on our recipes page for more inspiration, or sign up to our newsletter to get unique recipes and more plant-based news delivered straight to your inbox.

Turkish Lentil Soup With a Twist

Planet Claire
This twist on the traditional “Mercimek” soup, or Turkish lentil soup, is straight-forward to prepare, full of hearty goodness and a few surprise ingredients.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Soaking Time 8 hrs
Course Soup
Cuisine Turkish


  • Large saucepan
  • Hand blender (or high speed blender)


The Soup

  • 200 g dried brown or red lentils soaked overnight and cooked
  • 1/2 large white onion sliced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic diced roughly
  • 4 purple potatoes (purple Peruvian) cubed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 1 pinch salt I use pink Himalayan rock salt but you can use any other type of salt you prefer
  • 1 pinch black pepper freshly ground
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 200 ml vegetable stock

To Serve

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 1/4 Lemon per person

Sausage Topping (optional)

  • 3 plain vegan sausages Any store-bought ones made from a base of soya or seitan will work.
  • 1 tsp olive oil for frying
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 pinch black pepper freshly ground


Preparing the Lentils

  • Soak the lentils in tap water overnight (at least 8 hours of soaking time).
  • Discard the soaking water and rinse the lentils thoroughly. Remove any shrivelled lentils and check there are no stones or grit.
  • Heat the lentils in water (for each cup of lentils, add double the amount of water) and boil on a medium heat for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are soft to touch.

Cooking the Soup

  • Heat up a tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan then saute the onions and garlic for 2 or 3 minutes, until the onions go transparent and slightly browning.
  • Add the tomato puree, spices and chili flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Fry for a further 2 mins. Add a splash of the vegetable stock if the mixture starts to stick to the pan.
  • Mix in the potatoes and the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the cooked lentils and simmer for a further 5 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.
  • Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  • Use a hand blender to puree the mixture to your desired consistency. Let the soup sit for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of chile flakes.
  • Serve with the sautéed vegan sausage on top for crunch and texture (optional)

Sautéed Vegan Sausage (optional topping)

  • Heat up the oil in a small frying pan. Add the diced sausage pieces when the oil is hot.
  • Sprinkle with paprika and black pepper, and fry for 8 to 10 minutes until the sausages are browned.
Keyword Lentil soup, purple potatoes, red lentils