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Lentil Soup with Cumin, Garlic, Lemon + Pine Nuts

This soup is an amalgamation of my favorite lentil soups I’ve had over the years. My friend Hitoko was the first person I knew to combine lentils and cumin—and serve it for breakfast. I had a delicious lentil soup, topped with pine nuts, with dear friends Nikki and Karl at a small restaurant in Red Hook a couple of years ago. The garlic-lemon-parsley sauce is my own, but I’m sure it came from someone else along the way. I like to do the partial blending too, but it’s not a must. I hope you’ll take this amalgam of lentil soups from friends and make it your own.


  • 1 Tbsp cumin seed
  • 1 small onion (about 4 oz [120 g]), thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 1 cup [250 ml] white wine
  • 8 oz [225 g] brown lentils (other colors will work, but the texture will be different)
  • 8 cups [2 L] chicken stock or water
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ bunch parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon (about 1 1/2 oz [45 ml]), zest and juice
  • ½ cup [125 ml] olive oil plus more as needed
  • 4 oz [120 g] pine nuts or sunflower seeds toasted


  • In a large pot, heat a glug of olive or neutral oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seed and briefly fry, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and 1 Tbsp of salt and stir to coat. Lower the heat and sweat the onions until soft, about 7 minutes.
  • Add the white wine and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add the lentils and briefly toast, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the stock and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are very tender, about 40 minutes.
  • Mince and smash the garlic with a pinch of salt to make a rough paste. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, parsley, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, pine nuts, and big pinch of salt to make a very lemony, oily sauce. Reserve.
  • When the lentils are cooked through, blend briefly with an immersion/stick blender to make it a loosely chunky, slightly thickened soup. Adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • To serve, portion into serving bowls and top with a heavy slick of the sauce.


Reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission by Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.