Turkish Lentil Soup (Mercimek Çorbası) Elevates its Flavor with Delicious Garnishes

I first ate mercimek corbasi during a vacation to Istanbul as a child and I fell in love with the flavors. As soon as I was old enough to start making the delightful soup myself, it became a regular winter warmer in my household.

Mercimek Çorbası is a traditional and popular lentil soup in Turkish cuisine that is a staple during the winter months and Ramadan. Other countries in the Middle East have a similar version which they call shorbat adas. A simple soup made with a few basic ingredients, it also happens to be vegan if you leave off or substitute the dairy garnishes.

Bowls of Mercimek Corbasi (Turkish Lentil Soup) Topped with Greek Yogurt, Croutons, Pul Bibir Butter, and Parsley, and Next to It, a Small Bowl of Parsley, Slices of Bread, and Two Spoons
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

Most of the ingredients for this soup can be found at your local supermarket (like red lentils, onion, celery, carrot, and vegetable stock). The recipe also includes a few Turkish ingredients which can be substituted if they are difficult to find:

  • Pul biber (Aleppo pepper): Grown in Turkey and Syria, pul biber is coarsely ground dark red pepper with a mild smoky flavor and moderate heat. If you can’t find it, substitute sweet paprika or ancho chili.
  • Tatli biber salçasi: Make sure you are buying tatli biber salçasi, a sweet pepper paste, and not the spicy version, aci biber salçasi. You can substitute tomato paste if needed.

The simplicity behind preparing this soup encourages many to create some incredible garnishes to complement it. Common finishes to the soup are:

  • Sprinkle of pul biber
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Dollop of Greek yogurt
  • Finely chopped parsley
  • Croutons

This recipe includes a combination of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of spiced melted butter, olive oil, croutons, and finely chopped parsley for good measure. If you prefer a vegan version, then omit the yogurt and butter or use dairy-free alternatives.

A side of crusty bread or fluffy flatbread also makes a happy companion to this dish.

Bowl of Mercimek Corbasi (Turkish Lentil Soup) Topped with Greek Yogurt, Croutons, Pul Bibir Butter, and Parsley with a Spoon.
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tatli biber salçasi (Turkish sweet pepper paste)
  • 1 1/2 cups (8.8oz/250g) dried red lentils
  • 2 liters (8 1/2 cups) vegetable stock
  • 1 to 2 lemons, juiced, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pul biber, plus extra to sprinkle on top
  • 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 6 heaping tablespoons croutons
  • 1/4 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
  1. Cook the vegetables:

    Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot (4 quarts or larger) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.

    Celery, Carrots, and Onions Sautéed in a Dutch Oven Pot for Mercimek Corbasi Recipe
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
  2. Add the spices and sweet pepper paste:

    Add cumin and oregano and stir the spices into the vegetable mixture. Add the tatli biber salçasi and stir until evenly distributed.

    Sweet Pepper Paste and Spices Added to Sautéed Vegetables in Dutch Oven for Turkish Lentil Soup Recipe
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
  3. Add the lentils and vegetable stock:

    Add the lentils to the pot and stir to distribute evenly into the vegetable mixture. Add the vegetable stock and stir. Let the soup come to a boil.

    Turn the heat to low, place the lid on the pot, and let the soup simmer until the lentils and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

    Vegetable Stock Added to Dutch Oven
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
    Mercimek Corbasi Boiling in a Dutch Oven and Mixed with a Wooden Spoon
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
  4. Blend the soup and season:

    Remove the soup from the heat. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup or work in batches and purée the soup in a blender with the lid cracked.

    Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

    Mercimek Corbasi Blended in Dutch Oven Using an Immersion Blender
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
  5. Prepare the pul biber butter drizzle:

    Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Cook the butter until just beginning to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 2 teaspoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons pul biber. Stir to combine.

    Melted Butter, Aleppo Pepper, and Olive Oil in a Small Sauce Pan for Turkish Lentil Soup
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
    Pul Biber Butter Topping Whisked Together in Small Sauce Pan
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
  6. Garnish and serve soup:

    Ladle the soup into bowls. Add 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt on the top of each soup followed by croutons, a drizzle of the pul biber butter, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley and extra pul biber. Serve.

    Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and eaten within 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat the soup in the microwave or in a saucepan on low heat.

    Did you love the recipe? Leave us some stars below!

    Mercimek Corbasi Ladled into Individual Bowls Next to a Kitchen Towel and a Small Plate with Toppings
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek
    Bowls of Mercimek Corbasi (Turkish Lentil Soup) Topped with Greek Yogurt, Croutons, Pul Bibir Butter, and Parsley, and Next to It, a Small Bowl of Parsley and Lemon Wedges
    Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

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