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Crushed Lentil Soup (on the stove or Instant Pot)

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This Crushed Lentil Soup is an amazing version of the popular Middle Eastern soup, with surprising hints of spicy and sweet flavors. So healthy and so damn delicious! 

The best Crushed Lentil Soup – I via I #vegan #glutenfree

There’s an amazing Middle Eastern restaurant in the Detroit area called “Pita Cafe”. Every time my husband and I get back from a trip, Pita Cafe is the first place we stop on the way back from the airport. I love our little tradition and it’s always something to look forward to when we’re coming back home.

It’s funny because even though I’m not Middle Eastern and did not grow up with this type of food, it still feels like home to me.

Pita Cafe has the most delicious Crushed Lentil Soup, and I’ve finally gotten my recipe to taste pretty close to Pita Cafe’s, although my husband says it’s even better. I’ve literally made this soup dozens of times, testing and retesting it, until it was absolutely perfect. I’m happy to say that this is the #1 most popular recipe on my blog!

The best Crushed Lentil Soup – I via I #vegan #glutenfree

To make this recipe on the stovetop- in a large stock pot on medium-high heat, add the 2 tablespoons vegetable broth, onions and garlic and cook 3-5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add 3 cups vegetable broth, water, red lentils, saffron, coriander, cumin, pepper, salt, and the red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the lentils are no longer firm, 15-18 minutes or so.

Now move the soup mixture to a food processor, which fits perfectly in my 13 quart food processor (don’t fill more than 3/4 of the food processor). Or, if you don’t have one, you can use a blender. Just be very careful doing this. If you transfer too much of the liquid into the blender, it could explode! And it may be possible I’m speaking from experience…(thus, one of the reasons I bought a big food processor….) =) So, if using a blender, you might need to do it in 2 batches.

After you get it all in the food processor or blender, process or blend until smooth. It won’t take long- just a minute or so. Isn’t it amazing how the red lentils give off such a cool yellow color? Yes, I’m easily amazed.

The best Crushed Lentil Soup – I via I #vegan #glutenfree

Add the hot soup back into the stock pot and add the remaining 1 cup broth and the bay leaves. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the bay leaves (if you can find them!) and add the lemon juice. The longer it sits, the more flavorful it gets. After a few hours, it will thicken up even more. I recommend serving this Crushed Lentil Soup with pita bread and garlic sauce, just as I would at my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant.

Would you prefer making this in the Instant Pot?? See the recipe below, under the stovetop instructions. =)

The best Crushed Lentil Soup – I via I #vegan #glutenfree
The best Crushed Lentil Soup – I via I #vegan #glutenfree

Crushed Lentil Soup- (on the stove or Instant Pot)

This Crushed Lentil Soup is an amazing version of the popular Middle Eastern soup, with surprising hints of spicy and sweet flavors. So healthy and so damn delicious!

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Soups
  • Method: Stovetop/Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern



  1. In a large stock pot on medium-high heat, sauté onion with  2 tablespoons vegetable broth and garlic 3-5 min or until onion is translucent. Add 3 cups broth (save remaining 1 cup broth for later), water, lentils, saffron, coriander, cumin, black pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low-medium and bring to simmer. Cover and cook until the lentils are no longer firm (15-18 min).
  2. Very carefully pour the lentil mixture into a food processor (or blender) and puree until smooth. Depending on how big your food processor/blender is, you may need to do this in batches.
  3. Put mixture back into the large stock pot and add remaining 1 cup broth and bay leaves; stir. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove bay leaves, add lemon juice and stir.
  5. Once it sits for a few hours, it will soak up most of the liquid and thicken up a lot.

Instant Pot Instructions: First, set the Instant Pot to the Sauté function.  Add the oil or vegetable broth. Then add the garlic and onions. Cook until the onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, except for bay leaves and lemon juice. Stir and lock on the lid of the Instant Pot. Press Cancel and then choose the Soup function (Manual or Pressure Cook also works) and set to 30 minutes. The Instant Pot will immediately start to warm and cook for 30 minutes. Let it set another 20 minutes (or so) to release pressure. Open the lid and add lemon juice and bay leaves, if desired. Stir and set for 5 minutes. Remove bay leaves and enjoy. *If I make this in the Instant Pot, I won’t blend the soup in a food processor or blender and will just eat a little chunkier. =)


  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 191
  • Sugar: 2.1
  • Sodium: 364.1
  • Fat: 1.2
  • Carbohydrates: 34.4
  • Protein: 11.8

Keywords: crushed lentil soup, vegan crushed lentil soup

Hi, I'm Christin- thanks for stopping by my happy place! Here you will find healthy, original meat-free recipes. No matter where you are in your health journey, I hope I can help and inspire you. Read more...


  • Love the Pita Cafe. I’ve tried to duplicate it and have come close, but I never put in saffron. Can’t wait to try it. Formally a north Detroit native, we now live in the mountains of Colorado where there are no middle east food vendors in sight.

    • Hi Deborah, so glad you found my post! I hope you enjoy the recipe! =)

  • For many years my business was just a couple blocks from Pita Cafe and Hubby and I would go for lunch. He would always say, “You should learn to make this stuff.” and I would tell him I didn’t need to as long as they keep making it. Well, we moved the business about four years ago and have missed that amazing soup greatly. So very excited to give this recipe a try.

    • That’s so awesome Ruth! Enjoy!! =)

  • Hello! I’m excited to make this recipe. Do you know if I could use regular red lentils if I can’t find split red lentils?

    • Hi Jamie, I love this soup!! =) I haven’t tried it, but I think it should work fine. I know red lentils will get mushier than split lentils, but in a soup, I think that’s ok! Let me know how it goes.

  • This looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it out! Question though – I don’t have a stock pot; could I use a dutch over or slow cooker instead? Or would that change the flavor/texture of the soup too much?

    • A Dutch oven would work great! It just needs to be a big pot. Thanks Katrina, I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

  • We live a few miles from Pita Cafe. Today I made your soup: it is as yummy as the original. Went and got their bread and garlic dip (and a Mango smoothie for good measure) and enjoyed an amazingly good dinner. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Yay thanks Linda!! That garlic dip…yum. ?

  • I too, think Pita Cafe has the best crushed lentil soup around! And you have done an excellent job recreating it! Thank you. I look forward to checking out some of your other recipes as I am working toward a more plant food lifestyle. Thanks again!

    • Yay, thanks Mary Ellen! I’m so happy you loved it. Feel free to reach out if you need any tips/suggestions! =)

  • Made this tonight. It was great. We have quite a few middle eastern recipes in Windsor!

    • Thanks Erika! Happy you loved it! =)

  • Christin, I just made this again …. it’s heavenly! Thank you for adding some ‘spice’ to my life 🙂

    • Aww thanks so much Briare- so glad you like it!! =)

  • Amazing! I’m used to Greek lentil soup, and this flavor profile is brighter. Really loved it. Thank you!

    • You’re welcome Michelle, so happy you loved it!

  • Such a yummy healthy treat for a cold winter evening. I was thinking of what to make for dinner, when I read your recipe and decided instantly to try it. It turned out amazing just like in the picture you posted and tasted great too. My husband wants me to make it again today!

    • Yay thank you!! 🙂

  • Hi – The flavors here are amazing as others have noted. You have nailed the flavor profile.

    I used red split lentils from Trader Joe’s and the color was not close to your picture. Not a big deal but curious.

    More importantly, the texture was a bit thick for our taste, and not what we normally experience at a Lebanese/Middle Eastern restaurant here in Detroit metro. Could it be the lentils I used or maybe I just add more vegetable broth for the second phase.

    Thank you for the recipe.

    • Hi Mike, glad you loved the flavors! The color from the photos might be a little due to the lighting I used, not sure. =) I would just add a bit of water so the soup isn’t so thick. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Thank you for this delicious recipe. I’ll cut back a bit on the cumin and coriander next time (personal preference) and might drizzle a little Greek yogurt on it to balance out the spiciness. This was the easiest soup to make and so healthy and yummy!

    • So glad you liked it Michelle! =)

  • I’ve made this recipe at least 6 times and this is the first time it didn’t turn that beautiful yellow color, it’s more orangish (not much different than the color of the lentils before cooking)? Any ideas? Thanks

    • Hmm I’m not sure. Did you use a different kind of lentils?

  • Too funny! I stumbled upon this as I was searching for “crushed lentil soup” in an attempt to make something like my favorite at the Pita Cafe! Every time I am back in Detroit visiting family I have to eat there and always order this (along with that amazing bread). I can’t wait to try this!

    • Aww thanks Nicole! This is my favorite soup ever. Enjoy! 🙂

  • My husband and I just moved from Detroit and were also great fans of the crushed lentil soup at Pita Cafe. Your story sounds like you could be our clone as we always phoned ahead from the airport on our way home to order dinner at Pita Cafe – and the crushed lentil was the biggest draw.
    We are now up in Canada in the wilds (no middle eastern restaurants within a couple of hundred miles!), I was searching for a recipe and found your’s. What a great surprise.

    The soup is cooking in the pot right now and my husband is already salivating!

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe on your site.

    • Aww thanks so much Sandy!! I’m glad I could bring Detroit to your kitchen!! =)

  • My wife and I love our Pita Cafe work lunches and this awesome recipe. I’ve prepared this recipe and used as a base for others many times. I now have a reason to by saffron. I need to look up some of your others. Thanks!!!

    • That’s so great, thanks Dave! =) Glad you like it!


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