Scottish Red Lentil soup is a big bowl of warmth and comfort. It’s so easy to make, thick and satisfying with a hearty bite of bacon, plus full of healthy veggies.
Traditional Lentil Soup
I grew up eating lentil soup. Here in Scotland, everybody will tell you their Granny has the best recipe. Honestly, though, I don’t think I’ve ever had a lentil soup that isn’t a delicious bowl of comfort. It’s pretty difficult to get it wrong.
This Scottish Lentil Soup is based off the classic recipes I have been eating all my life. It uses red split lentils, ham stock and neeps for the comforting taste. I prefer my lentil soup to be roughly blended, but you can leave it chunky if you prefer.
Lentils are full of protein, fibre, iron and folate. This lentil soup also contains lots of vegetables including turnip/swede/rutabaga which is full of nutrients including vitamin C, A, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
It’s traditional for this quintessential Scottish soup. And red, yellow and orange split lentils soften much more easily than other types when cooked, making them ideal for soups. You can use any of these orange-hued split varieties in this recipe, but do not use green or brown lentils for this particular dish.
No – unlike beans, red lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking. They start to dissolve as they cook and become deliciously soft and creamy – perfect for a comforting soup!
This Scottish Lentil Soup is made with Ham Stock. If you want to get really traditional, you can use homemade stock made with ham hock. Obviously the homemade stock is superior, but to be 100% honest, it’s just a bit too much effort for me. It’s cold outside, I want to bundle up and be lazy, so I typically use stock cubes.
This lentil soup is made using bacon and ham stock, but you can easily swap in vegetable stock and skip the bacon to make a vegan version.
Yes, in fact I highly recommend making a big batch and keeping some handy in the freezer – this red lentil soup makes the perfect quick and easy meal anytime of the year. Simply defrost overnight in the fridge or use the defrost setting on a microwave.
Reheat on the hob or in the microwave until piping hot. You may want to add a splash of water when reheating as the soup can thicken up when it cools.
I love my Scottish lentil soup best served with a soft buttered wholemeal roll for dipping. A warm cheese scone is also a lovely treat, or a crusty baguette.
What is a Neep?
This recipe for Red Lentil Soup calls for what we refer to in Scotland as a Neep. We also call it a turnip, but apparently, we are the only ones. (I learnt this the hard way when I ordered a single turnip with my grocery delivery last week and received something about a sixth of the size I was expecting.)
If you are from other parts of the UK I think you may call it a swede, and in the USA it’s a rutabaga. When I eventually tracked down the actual vegetable I was looking for in my local Lidl, it was conveniently labelled as a King Edward Potato…. who knew a simple root vegetable could cause such confusion?! And if you do fail to find a neep/turnip/swede/rutabaga then you can easily substitute some humble potatoes instead.
Crispy Bacon Topping
The crispy bacon to top off the soup really makes the bowl – it adds a crunchy, salty bite of texture and makes it feel a lot more decadent than a bowl of basic blended veggies. You can cook the bacon whatever way you prefer, but my favourite method is to oven cook it.
Lay out rashers of streaky bacon on a baking tray lined with baking or greaseproof paper. Place the tray in the middle of a COLD oven, turn the heat to 200c/180fan/400f/gas 6 and cook the bacon for about 20-25 minutes until it reaches your desired crispness.
I hope you like this recipe as much as I do! Please leave a comment or tag me on Instagram @carrieskitchen_ if you make it!
More Comfort Food Recipes:
- Cream of Vegetable Soup
- Sausage and Bean Casserole
- Roasted Butternut Squash and Harissa Soup
- Chicken, Sweetcorn and Potato Gratin
Scottish Red Lentil Soup with Bacon
- Soup Pot
- Stick blender or food processor
- 250 grams red split lentils
- 400 grams carrots – peeled and chopped
- 600 grams turnip/neep/swede/rutabaga – peeled and chopped You can also substitute potato.
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 white onions, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut into ½ pieces plus more to garnish – 1-2 slices per bowl
- 2 bay leaves
- 1.5 litres ham stock made with 3 stock cubes
- Before cooking, rinse your lentils well to remove any debris.
- Heat the oil in your pot over a medium-high heat and add the bacon. Fry until just starting to crisp, then add the onions.
- When the onions are starting to soften, about 3-5 minutes, add the garlic and the rest of the vegetables and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the bay leaves and lentils, pour over the stock and give everything a good stir.
- Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes – the vegetables should be soft and easily sliced with a fork.
- Pick out the bay leaves and blend the soup – you can either use a stick blender or carefully transfer to a food processor in batches. Leave some chunks if you prefer. You may wish to add some extra water after blending if the soup becomes too thick.
- Season to taste, and serve topped with pieces of crispy cooked bacon, a sprinkle of parsley and an optional crack of black pepper or dash of chilli flakes.