This Vegan Scottish Traditional Lentil Soup is a family favourite bursting with wholesome flavours and plant-based deliciousness. It's really easy and quick to prepare and perfect for batch meal prep as a large potful is perfect for enjoying easy lunches and light dinners throughout the week. Lentil soup is also perfect for the freezer and can be easily prepared for gluten-free diets.
There is literally nothing better than a bowl of nourishing, comforting, satisfying, budget-friendly Vegan Scottish Lentil Soup. Packed full of lentils, vegetables, and plant-based goodness, this lentil soup is pure comfort food at its homely best.
Quick history of Scottish lentil soup
Lentils have been available in Scotland for centuries but it is difficult to pinpoint an exact time when lentil soup first became a staple. Lentils themselves are one of the oldest cultivated crops, dating back to prehistoric times in areas of the Middle East and Asia, with lentils dating back 9,500-13,000 years discovered within the Franchthi cave in Greece. There is even mention of lentil soup in the Bible.
However, lentils didn't appear in British cooking until much later and were likely introduced to Britain during Roman times, but they were not as commonly used as other legumes like peas.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, lentils became less common in British diets and were mostly confined to medicinal uses during the medieval period. It wasn't until the increase in global trade routes during the 17th and 18th centuries that lentils started to become more accessible and used in cooking again.
Vegan Scottish lentil soup
Growing up in Glasgow, during the 80s and 90s, lentil soup was a staple family dinner, and seeing as I decided to become vegetarian quite early on, I quickly learned how to make lentil soup. This recipe for lentil soup is based on our family recipe with the main difference being the stock cubes. Traditionally, a ham bone, is used to flavour Scottish lentil soup but even though my family ate meat, I don't recall any ham being used for our lentil soup, but I can't be certain that the stock cubes were completely vegetarian.
Being vegetarian during the 80s
Back then I decided I was a vegetarian, as plant-based was not even a thing I could consider as I had not even come across the term!, and veganism just seemed so exotic! Being completely vegan wouldn't have been very feasible as our family didn't really have the resources to cater for my dietary preferences and vegan choices were very limited. Apart from lentil soup, cornflakes and salad were my dietary staples! And at primary school being vegetarian meant scraping the mashed potato off the shepherds pie and just eating that for lunch while leaving the meat on your plate! There just was no other options!
Batch prep lentil soup
Our family Scottish lentil soup recipe is perfect for batch prep and food budgeting, as its packed with veggies and cheap red split lentils, and a huge pot is enough to last the week. It also freezes really well so if it won't be eaten within 3 days it can be frozen in portion sizes and thawed out overnight in the refrigerator ready for a quick lunch.
Get the kids cooking lentil soup
As I learned to cook this simple soup when I was in primary school, its a great recipe for enlisting your kids into the kitchen to help cook up a big pot full, especially if they are new to plant-based and vegan diets. Throughout the years, my kids have successfully cooked batches of this soup and its a great simple recipe to have up-your-sleeve when you go off to college and need quick, easy, healthy, and inexpensive meal ideas.
Scottish Lentil Soup is tasty enough to not require any garnishes or toppings, but if extra spiciness or warmth sounds like a nice idea, sprinkle a few red pepper flakes, or chilli flakes, or a dash of paprika or cayenne pepper, for a tasty spicy kick.
How to prepare Scottish lentil soup
Preparing this traditional Scottish lentil soup is literally the easiest pot of soup ever. Bung everything in the pot, cook, and dish up. It's optional whether you would like to give the soup a wee mash at the end of cooking or to leave it chunkier.
First prepare the vegetables, and then add all the ingredients to a soup pot - potatoes, carrots, swede [turnip or rutabaga], onion, garlic, celery, red split lentils,and a bay leaf.
Pour the vegetable stock into the pot and bring to a gentle boil.
Cook for 25-30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, and season with enough salt and pepper to bring all the flavours together. Mash the soup with a potato masher, or if preferred leave as is, or just mash some of it and give it all a good stir.
Enjoy a delicious bowl of Scottish lentil soup simply with a chunk of your favourite crusty bread and you have yourself the best plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian lunch!
Recipe notes and FAQ'S
Lentil soup can be kept fresh in the fridge, within a covered container, for up to 3 days. Or freeze for 2-3 months.
To reheat place the leftover soup into a non-stick pan and over a medium heat bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the soup is evenly heated and doesn't stick to the pan. If the lentils have become very thick a little vegetable stock or water can be used to thin down the soup for easier reheating.
Yes, as all the ingredients are naturally gluten-free it is simply a case of using a gluten-free vegetable stock.
We like these Quick Vegan Dinner Rolls with a bowl of lentil soup. As these muffin like rolls use just 3 ingredients [vegan mayonnaise, self-raising flour, and milk] they can be quickly baked while the soup is cooking and served hot from the oven. These are my kids favourite as they can be easily customised, such as add some grated vegan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes for cheesy rolls, or some dried herbs, spices, onion or garlic powder, etc.
Also, these 3 Ingredient Flatbreads are also a delicious accompaniment as is a slice or two of this tasty Irish soda bread [100% wholewheat] or this Australian Damper Bread which is very much similar to a plain soda bread.
Other delicious sides are vegan grilled cheese toasted sandwiches, or a tasty sandwich such as our Old-Fashioned Walnut and Celery Sandwich, or our Tofu 'egg' and Cress Mayonnaise Sandwich, or enjoy a bowl of soup along with a Vegan Ploughman's Lunch Platter or Baguette. Or for a nice salad side try our Vegan Waldorf Salad or our easy Italian Bread Salad.
We often like red lentil soup with a veggie burger or vegan hotdog or carrot hotdog (on a roll or bread bun with some salad) on the side for dinner and the kids love this combination.
Another idea is to bulk out the soup into a heartier meal by placing a portion of cooked rice, quinoa, barley, couscous, Bulgar wheat, buckwheat, millet or your preferred grain, into each bowl before the soup is poured over.
This lentil soup is a no-oil recipe as we find oil doesn't actually add anything to the finished flavour so we just add everything to the soup pan and the result is just as tasty. However, if liked a tablespoon of oil can be used to sauté the onions and perhaps the rest of the vegetables, at the beginning of cooking for about 5 minutes, before cooking the soup.
Yes, you can add extra vegetables or herbs. A few ideas:
*Add some green vegetables to the lentil soup such as chopped kale, collard greens, spring greens or cabbage, which can be added 10-15 minutes before cooking is finished.
* A can of chopped tomatoes [diced tomatoes] transforms the soup into a tasty lentil-tomato soup.
* Add a can or two of your favourite pulse such as kidney beans, butter beans, borlotti, pinto, etc. This can be a great way to stretch the soup further into more portions as well as increasing the soups iron and protein content.
* Half a cup of rice added to the soup can also bulk out the soup further but a cup [250mililitres] of extra stock may be required as the soup may become too thick.
* A diced sweet potato is always a nice addition to soup and pairs well with the flavours of lentil soup.
* A few teaspoons of liquid aminos added to the finished soup can give the soup a meatier taste which mimics the traditional method of adding a ham bone to flavour the lentil soup as it cooks. Liquid aminos is quite a strong flavour and it is personal preference as to the taste, so its best to add a teaspoon at a time. Check out your local wholefood store, supermarket or Amazon for liquid aminos.
Red split lentils are a type of lentil that has had its outer husk removed and has been split into two halves. They are bright orange when raw but turn a soft golden colour when cooked. They are one of the quickest lentils to cook, taking just 15–20 minutes to soften, and they have a somewhat sweet and nutty flavour.
The "splitting" process makes them cook more quickly and allows them to absorb flavours more easily compared to whole lentils. However, they also lose their shape more readily during cooking, which does make them ideal for soups, stews, and recipes which benefit from the lentils ability to thicken up the cooking liquid.
Nutritionally, red split lentils are rich in protein, fiber, and various essential nutrients like iron, potassium, and folate. They are also low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates, making them a good choice for a balanced diet.
No, red split lentils can be used straight from the package as they don't require pre-soaking and can cook very quickly.
Yes, it's generally a good idea to rinse red split lentils before using them as rinsing helps to remove any dust, debris, or potential contaminants that may be present.
Here's how to rinse red split lentils:
1. Measure the amount of lentils you plan to use and place them in a sieve or fine-mesh strainer.
2. Hold the sieve under cold running water.
3. Use your hand to gently agitate the lentils, ensuring that the water runs through all of them.
4. Continue rinsing until the water runs clear.
5. Drain the lentils well before using them in your recipe.
Some recipes may also recommend soaking the lentils, but this is usually not necessary for red split lentils due to their quick cooking time.
The white foam that appears on top of your soup as it cooks is generally composed of impurities that are released from the ingredients during the cooking process.
The foam is particularly common when cooking legumes like lentils, beans, and peas. To reduce the amount of foam rinse the dried ingredients well before use as this can remove any dust, dirt, or even small pebbles! Also, during cooking use a ladle to gently skim the foam off the surface and tip the foam away down the sink.
If you quickly stir the middle of the soup it should move the foam more over towards the sides so that it can be more easily scooped off. Although, don't worry too much about removing all the foam completely as a little left in the soup pot won't do any harm.
Lentil soup or stew eaten with flatbreads may be one of the oldest traditional meals! Evidence of prehistoric lentil dishes and flatbreads have been found in Palaeolithic cave excavations, leading researchers to believe that vegetarian diets were much more common than initially thought! So why not cook a batch of our Easy 3 Ingredient Flatbreads to enjoy with your lentil soup for a traditional prehistoric cave dwellers dinner!
More Easy Red Lentil Recipes
Red split lentils are our all-time favourite staple lentil as they are just so versatile, cook very quickly with no need for pre-soaking, have a lovely savoury flavour, and can beautifully thicken up any dish you like such as soups, stews, casseroles, and pies. For more lentil recipes have a look through our Vegan Lunch Recipes and Vegan Dinner Recipes.
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Vegan Scottish Lentil Soup
- Large soup pan, Dutch oven pot, or similar
- potato masher optional, for mashing the soup a little at the end of cooking
- 350 gram carrots [about 3 large carrots, skins left on if unblemished, diced]
- 115 gram celery ]about 2-3 stalks, diced]
- 360 gram swede [about ½ medium swede, diced. In Scotland a swede is known as a turnip and in the US a rutabaga]
- 480 gram potato [about 3 medium, diced, leave skins on if unblemished]
- 160 gram onion [1 large, rough diced]
- 4-6 cloves garlic [fine diced or minced]
- 300 grams red split lentils [rinsed to remove dust, etc]
- 2 bay leaf
- 2 litres vegetable stock
- Add all the ingredients to your soup pan including the vegetable stock, and give it all a good stir.350 gram carrots, 115 gram celery, 360 gram swede, 480 gram potato, 160 gram onion, 4-6 cloves garlic, 300 grams red split lentils, 2 bay leaf, 2 litres vegetable stock
- Over a high heat bring to the boil, lower the heat to low-medium and gently boil for around 25-30 minutes.Using a spoon skim off any scummy foaminess that may gather on the surface, this is just due to the lentils.
- Check the seasoning, and add enough salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf.
- Optional: Using a potato masher give the soup a mash to break up some of the soup or all off it. Just mash to your preferred texture, alternatively omit the mashing and just enjoy as is.
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Lentil soup will keep fresh in the refrigerator, in a covered container, for up to 3 days.
- Or freeze for 2-3 months, place in an sealed container and leave a little room for expansion as the soup freezes.
- Reheat your lentil soup by gentling bringing to the boil in a saucepan and simmering for a few minutes. Add extra veggie stock or water if necessary to avoid sticking as the soup can become very thick as its stored.
- As a garnish try a sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes, grated vegan cheese, chilli or red pepper flakes, paprika or cayenne pepper, a few drops of hot sauce, or some chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, lemon balm or a few thyme leaves.
- Some freshly squeezed lemon juice gives a nice zesty flavour pop.
- Some pumpkin or sunflower seeds toasted in a dry fry pan over a medium heat until golden and crisp are a delicious garnish.
- Lentil soup tastes even better the next day.
- An idea is to save any water that you have previously used for boiling potatoes or vegetables. Drain, cool and store the cooking liquid in the fridge, covered, for up to 3-4 days. Use the liquid to prepare your veggie stock for soup, by simply adding some bouillon or stock cubes, or stock powder. This saves water but also adds more flavour to your soup, and hopefully any vitamins and minerals that leaked out while your vegetables were boiling will be saved for your soup.
- Try not to omit the bay leaf as they do contribute lots of flavour to lentil soups.
Prepared our tasty Vegan Scottish Lentil Soup? Do let us know how you got on with the recipe by dropping us a comment below, and clicking the star ratings, as we love hearing from you. Its very much appreciated, thanks so much, Jacq x