Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup

Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup and a Bowl

While staring at 2 big jars of quinoa and red lentils in my cabinet, I wondered if there existed a recipe for a healthy and hearty vegetable soup that combined them both? After a little research, and much trial and error, I found the right mix in this Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup.

Origins of Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup

There is a very classic Peruvian soup, menestra de lentajes, that also has a foundation of red lentils and quinoa. Though, it has a much different profiles since it’s typically made with ginger, coconut milk and bacon.  

As I was looking for a healthier soup, I decided to go different direction by leaving out the heavy ingredients such as the dairy and meat.  By bringing in more vegetables like red pepper and spinach, this makes it more of a traditional vegetable stew. One might even call it a Peruvian vegetable chili.  

Adapting the Soup to Make it Your Own

It may seem like there’s a lot of water and stock being used, just know that the quinoa and lentils will take up a lot of the fluids.  On the red lentils, I like to use them in soups as they tend to soften and integrate better than green lentils. Paired with the quinoa, it gives a nice overall texture. If you are looking for a little more “chew” in your soup, consider using barley or wheat berries  

If are focused on pure vegetarian cooking, substitute in your favorite vegetable stock for the the chicken stock.

Finally, some of the ingredients might be a bit challenging to acquire depending on where you live.  Both the achiote paste and aji amarillo paste came from a local Chicago market that caters to Latino shoppers and may not be in most supermarkets.  In this case, your favorite hot sauce could easily be substituted for the aji paste.

5 from 4 votes
Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup and a Bowl
Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup Recipe
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 40 mins
Total Time
2 hrs
Healthy and Delicious can co-exist in this hearty vegetable soup
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Latin American, Vegetarian
Servings: 8 Servings
Author: Tony Bailey
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Onion finely chopped
  • 1 cup Celery finely chopped
  • 1 cup Carrot finely chopped
  • 1 cup Red Bell Pepper finely chopped
  • 1 15 Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes rinsed
  • 4 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 4 cups Flavorful Stock
  • 4 cups Water
  • 1 cup Red Lentils
  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 1 cup Chopped Spinach
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Achiote Paste
  • 1 teaspoon Yellow Aji Pepper optional
  • 2 tablespoons Cilantro
  1. In a large stockpot, cook the onion, celery, carrot and red pepper in the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes until clear and softened
  2. Boil 1 cup of the water and use it to dissolve the achiote paste, aji paste & the tomato paste. Both the tomato and achiote pastes are notorious for clumping in your soup if they aren’t thoroughly dissolved before introducing.
  3. Add this mixture, along with the remaining water, stock, tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro to the pot
  4. Bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the lentils, quinoa, spinach and bay leaves
  5. Cook for 1 hour, or until the lentils and quinoa are cooked thoroughly
  6. Remove the bay leaves, serve into bowls and garnish with the remaining cilantro


  1. WOW! This looks fantastic! I never considered making quinoa into a soup but totally love lentil soup. Can't wait to try this.

    • tbailey1712

      Thanks, Gretchen! I was inspired by your share of the article on quinoa by Gaston and his use of pasta de aji in every receta. Was lucky to have been able to dine at AyG when we were in Lima.

  2. Sounds like a nice soup, I'll try it. (Don't know whether I'll find the Achiote Paste, though.)
    If you like quinoa – do you know the fabulous book "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals" by Maria Speck? It's one of my most often used cookbooks.

  3. This looks delicious, I love quinoa but have never tried it in a soup yet. I am going to have to change that soon.

    • tbailey1712

      Hey Nik – Same here, it was my first time doing quinoa in soup and am now a big fan. Hope it goes well if you try this out!

  4. I love quinoa! So often people just put it in salads. So great to see it in a soup. And with another big protein like lentils, who needs meat? (Although a bit of that bacon would have been ok with me too!).

  5. I just made a similar lentil soup….the only thing missing? Quinoa. This looks delicious!

  6. This reminds me of a popular dish we make in the Philippines made of mungbeans. We usually add pork belly or chicharonnes (crispy pork rinds) or small dried shrimps. Delicious as it is nutritious.

    No suprise Foodgawker picked up your photo…great one! I've never tried quinoa and your recipe seems just the right one to start. Thanks.

    • tbailey1712

      Thanks for the tip, mungbeans are now going on my list of items to explore further. I'm most familiar with them in cake form, but need to look at their soup side too, it seems.

  7. Sara Blevins

    This recipe is a keeper. If I made it I will link up to your website for recipe if that is ok. Thank you for stopping by. I following you through Google+.

  8. Ruth Guerrero

    Thanks for the recipe. Im ecuadorian (Ecuator is at north of Peru) and we have too "menestra de lentejas " but this is not a soup, it 's for eat like a second plate with white rice, fried beef and "patacones "… do you know what is this? (Like slices of fried green banano) . There is a lentil soup "sopa de lentejas ", this is of course with more liquid (water and milk) and normally is a first plate.

    • Hi Ruth – Just did some reading on patacones and they sound great. I can see how with beef and rice, you have a solid meal. It's always fun hearing about how dishes are prepared differently throughout Latin America. Much like the numerous ways one can make chili here in the US. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Did you use fresh or dried cilantro? Excited to try this recipe!

    • tbailey1712

      Hi Sara – I used fresh cilantro in the recipe. If you use dried, you'd naturally want to cut the amount. But I don't think you'll get the same result since the flavor profile of fresh cilantro is so much different (and brighter) than it's dried out counterpart.

  10. Sardonyx Chapman

    May I ask where you got your bowl from. Its so awesome o-o <3

    • tbailey1712

      Actually picked this bowl up in Peru, somewhere outside of Cusco. Thought it was rather fitting for the soup!

  11. Made this soup for dinner tonight. I didn’t measure the vegetables-used a large onion, 3 carrots, 3 stalks celery and 1 red bell pepper- so I’m sure I had quite a bit more than recipe called for. I did have the achiote paste and the aji paste. The only real change I made was to use a 5 oz bag of baby spinach instead of the cup of chopped spinach, which I added at the end. I was very pleased with the thick rich tasting soup. The achiote, aji and tomato paste added a real depth of flavor but no spiciness. If you are looking for spice you may need to increase the aji pepper or add a fresh Serrano pepper. We loved it and I will definitely make again; I’ll probably increase the spiciness. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!

    • That’s great, I love that you too this base recipe concept and made it your own with what you had and what you like. Thanks so much for sharing the outcome!! Buen provecho!

    • Thanks so much for sharing the results! Great tip on the serrano too. Always fun to hear when people make one of these recipes and come back to share that it worked out well.

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