A Slow-Cooker Soup to Keep on Rotation

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Do you like using a slow cooker? The old-school appliance can transform pantry ingredients into a delicious meal with just a couple steps. So continue our month of soup, we’re happy to share this easy favorite from Hugh Acheson’s The Chef and the Slow Cooker. Here’s how to make it…

Lentil Soup With Kale and Sour Cream
By Hugh Acheson, author of The Chef and the Slow Cooker

I love lentils. They cook quickly, are incredibly nutritious and inexpensive, and have a culinary dexterity about them. Traditionally, lentil soup is about a 4:1 ratio of liquid to lentils, but you can make it as brothy as you wish. Matched with a piece of toasted baguette, this hearty classic soup makes a fine meal.

Lentil Soup With Kale and Sour Cream
Serves 6 to 8

You’ll need:

2 quarts vegetable stock
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 lb green lentils
Kosher salt
2 tsp unsalted butter or olive oil
4 cups stemmed curly leaf kale, chopped into about 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
Sour cream (optional), for serving
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional), for serving

Turn your 4-quart slow cooker to the high setting, add the vegetable stock and heat it, covered, until warm. (This may take 15 minutes.)

Place a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the
shallots and cook for 2 minutes, or until translucent. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 2 more minutes — until they are starting to soften. Add the thyme sprigs, smoked paprika and ground coriander. Stir well and transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.

Rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve under cold running water. Add them to the slow cooker. Add 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste, cover with the lid and cook on the high setting for 3 hours, or until the lentils are tender and the flavors have melded.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Use a ladle to transfer 1 cup of the soup to a blender; puree it, and then return the puree to the slow cooker. (Alternatively, take an immersion blender and buzz the soup a bit to make it a little smoother.)

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter. When the butter bubbles and froths, add the kale and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until it has wilted. Season with a pinch of salt and add the kale to the soup. Add the lemon zest and sherry vinegar, and season to taste with salt. When serving, garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of parsley.

Thanks so much, Hugh! Your slow cooker cookbook is terrific.

P.S. More dinner recipes, including a one-pot dinner and five-ingredient lemony chicken.

(Reprinted from The Chef and the Slow Cooker. Copyright © 2017 by Fried Pie, LLC. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Andrew Thomas Lee. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. This series is edited by Stella Blackmon.)

  1. Linda says...

    How long if I want to cook this in the slow-cooker on low? Also, can I skip the blending? I usually use red lentils and find cooking the soup for 6-8 hours on low softens them up fine.

  2. Jenny says...

    I just made this today and it’s delicious!
    I followed directions as written – I even had coriander seeds that I toasted and ground in the mini food processor.
    I found using the slow cooker was great. I was gone ~ 4 hours this morning so all I had to do was the kale and seasoning.

    The only thing I changed was the amount of soup processed or blended. I wanted a thicker soup so ended up using ~ 3 cups of soup in the food processor. It’s delicious.

  3. sasha says...

    Want to go down the Lentil rabbit hole?

    Fun facts about lentils: my state (Montana) grows a ton, the only senator farmer currently is senator Jon Tester, who grows organic lentils, lentils put nitrogen back into the soil, don’t require fertilizers and are pretty resistant so they are very important for healthy farming practices, they are a wonderful source of vegan protein and nutrients, and they are so cheap.

    We make Korean lentils, lentils sloppy joes, Lentil tacos, sprouted lentils, top on salads, and soup! I’m so excited to try this new recipe!

    Thank you for featuring lentils. I’m a big believer that individual choices can really matter. If you replaced a few meat meals a week with lentils, the impact would be huge.

    • Lisa Hayward says...

      Love this!

  4. This soup looks good and healthy of course.

  5. This looks so good. I just bought A New Turn in the South by Hugh Acheson and I want to make everything in it! Surprisingly user-friendly recipes for a home cook which made me love him even more.

    Lately I’ve been using my slow cooker to make yogurt and chicken stock every week. And also these two easy dinners that my family loves:

  6. This sounds so yummy! I need to invest in a slow cooker. Keep hearing how amazing this appliance is.

  7. can’t wait to make it this weekend! so hearty!

  8. This looks amazing! I’m a huge sucker for hardy soup, thanks for sharing <3

  9. I really really wish a bowl of this was in front of me at this very moment.

  10. Alison says...

    Can we talk about stock? I hardly ever make soup recipes because they always call for stock and I never have any on hand.

    What do you all do for stock? Bullion cubes? Cartons of chicken stock in the pantry? Constantly simmer bones on a back burner? Just use water?

    • Christeena says...

      Hey Alison.
      I often use the bones from a roast chook or one from the supermarket, pop that in with an onion, carrot, whatever you have on hand in the slow cooker with water, salt and pepper and voila! Chicken stock! I just freeze portions of it in little tubs and pull it out when I need to.

    • Charity says...

      Totally relateable. Anytime I have bones, i like to make a bone broth. Just fill a pot with them and water and cook for a while. Then save it for later in the freezer. Gallon freezer bag works great. If I dont have time to make the broth just pop them in the freezer for when I do… :)

    • gabi says...

      Better than bouillon. It’s better than any stock or broth I’ve ever bought or made myself.

  11. I just discovered my love of lentils! I made lentil burgers last night and they were so good!
    And I love soup! I’ll definitely make this one!

  12. Oja says...

    I made this last night on the stove, and was it ever delicious!! The lemon zest, kale sautéed in butter, and shallots didn’t take much extra time, and really elevated the lentils. My kids are young and needy, and the extra effort was easy and totally worth it!

    • Rue says...

      Thanks for commenting after you cooked the recipe!!! I love the enthusiasm of “this looks great” comments, but also always want to know how it turned out for folks who really tried it :)

  13. This looks so amazing, I love slow cooker recipes and am yet to find the perfect one – I think this could be it. A lot of people aren’t sure about sour cream but I adore it. Yum! Thanks for the recipe!


  14. Interesting to use green lentils in a soup – they are usually used when you want lentils to keep their shape?
    I don’t have a slow cooker, but will definitely try this on the stove with brown/red lentils instead.

  15. Though I’m paleo-primal and don’t normally eat legumes, lentils are my legume of choice…and this has me very tempted. Looks nourishing, grounding, delicious. Plus, I’m now a new fan of Hugh Acheson!

  16. joanie says...

    All everyone is talking about is their “insta-pot”. At 66, I am loving my slow cooker because all I want is to slow things down, not hurry them up! Thanks for a lovely recipe!

  17. Sounds delicious!

  18. Katy says...

    Can anyone explain the difference between green lentils vs red etc? Does it change cooking techniques? Thanks. (I have old bags of lentils in the pantry – clearly I should eat more).

    I would also bet you could wilt the kale in the slow cooker ok.

    • Charity says...

      Here’s a good link about different colored lentils:
      I would also argue that there is a big flavor difference.
      As for the kale, sure you could wilt it in the slow cooker, but then it wouldn’t be coated in delicious melted butter and the other goodness the recipe has you add into the pan!

    • Katy says...


  19. Samantha says...

    The timing of this is so perfect! Lentils have become a daily must-have in my diet, and I just bought an immersion blender (obsessed!).
    Can’t wait to try this one!

  20. Abesha1 says...

    This is a needlessly complicated recipe, especially considering it’s for a slow cooker… put broth, veg, lentils in pot. Cook. Beat up with a spoon, add kale, let wilt. Garnish and serve.

    • Jenna says...

      I agree. The beauty of my slow-cooker is that I can put everything together and leave it to work its magic. I love to cook and don’t mind labor-intensive recipes but not with the slow-cooker!!

    • Alison Finkel says...

      I was with you – Since lentils will cook in about 15 minutes on the stove, it didn’t seem like the crockpot was the best fit for the job. So, I challenged myself to do this in my dutch oven on the stove top in less than an hour. Victory: It is DELICIOUS.

      I sautéed the veges in olive oil, then added the spices. I added the broth and brought that to a boil. Then, I rinsed and added the lentils and let that cook about 15 minutes. While it was cooking, I wilted the greens in a separate pan, as instructed, and dropped that in the pot. And, with that…scene! Dinner.

      Hope you enjoy this too!

  21. Emmie says...

    I credit the slow cooker to my passage of the Cal State Bar Exam. Various bean soups for 3 months while I was studying . . .

  22. Ann-Marie says...

    This looks delicious! Super happy to see a dairy-free recipe. :)

    • Cinder Wilkinson-Kenner says...

      Yes! I have a lentil soup recipe my family loves, which involves throwing it all in the pot and coming home to eat it. I use the slow cooker so I don’t have to use every pan in the house and stand at the stove. Also, Anne-Marie, sour cream is dairy…

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Oh, I’m aware, but it’s an optional, easy to omit topping! Most recipes on Cup of Jo have cheese or some form of dairy integrated so this was a good one for my lactose-intolerant self. :)

  23. t says...

    Sounds delicious but also a bit labor intensive? I stick to crock pot recipes where I just dump ingredients in, set it and forget it. I hope someone less lazy (read: exhausted) than me invites me over for this soup.

    • Amanda G says...

      That’s what I was thinking! I love crockpot recipes that are fix and forget, since I’m at work all day. This recipe has so many steps I’d need to make the soup on a weekend! Sounds delicious though…

    • Morgan says...

      Hahaha – mother of three here who thought the same thing. Yum but maybe out of my wheelhouse.

    • Carrie says...

      Honestly I feel like one could skip those steps if needed. The shallot/etc will soften up nicely while cooking and the lentils break down a lot too. You could always use a submersion blender if you wanted it smoother.

      Kale does take forever to cook down though!!

    • Justine says...

      i freeze a lot ! maybe I’m a freeze freak… I chop/slice everything fresh (celery, onions, carrots, cabbage… really EVERYTHING) when I get the vegetables and then it’s just soooo quick to use them during the week !

    • Cinder Wilkinson-Kenner says...

      Yes! I have a lentil soup recipe my family loves, which involves throwing it all in the pot and coming home to eat it. I use the slow cooker so I don’t have to use every pan in the house and stand at the stove.

  24. Clare says...

    Yay for a yummy meatless meal! Swap Greek Yogurt for the sour cream & you’ll get even more protein from this meal.

    • what a great idea! (i use greek yogurt for chicken wings and tacos)

    • Jeannie Rodriguez says...

      I love swapping greek yogurt for sour cream… people don’t usually even notice!

    • Sarah says...

      Yes Clare! Always! And Jeannie, my dad and father-in-law always seem uncomfortable with that substitution but I’ve often suspected that if I could keep my mouth shut they’d never know!

  25. Erin says...

    I love soup – one of my girlfriends always says that soup is one of the best gifts we can give to our friends and while it sounds weird, I think it’s totally true. It’s homemade, warm, nourishing and delicious. That’s a pretty great gift.

  26. Maud says...

    INSTANT POT! How do I adapt it from old school crock pot to Instant Pot? Thanks!

    • isavoyage says...

      Haha, my thoughts exactly! Looking for good IP recipes right now!

    • Son says...

      Just made this in my instapot! Deeeelish! I just used the saute function to do the onions, carrots and celery…..and then dumped all the other ingredients in and cooked at high pressure for 10 minutes. To make it a little creamier, I used my immersion blender right in the pot.

    • Kelly says...

      just do the saute step in your i-pot and then dump in the rest of the ingredients and hit the ‘soup’ button or set manually to 15 mins.

  27. Did you hear about Instant Pot? it seems like big hyped up thing right now! I can’t wait to try this soup recipe in my slow cooker:)

    and some day in Instant pot :)

  28. Nancy says...

    Split peas are a good sub, they might take a little longer to cook.

  29. Marcy says...

    Does anyone have experience with swapping out the lentils in this recipe or others for another kind of bean? I can’t eat lentils.

    • Laura says...

      In Spain, legumes are traditional dishes all over the country because they were always “poor people’s food”. You can make very, very tasty thick soups with white beans too, try looking for fabada recipes! Also, cocido madrileño with chickpeas, or other kinds of soups with red beans.