Recipe: Syrian Vegetarian Red Lentil Soup (Shurbat Addes)

Syrian Red Lentil Soup (Shurbat Addes)

This recipe, and the next couple that I post, are adapted from Poopa Dweck's spectacular cookbook, Aromas of Aleppo, The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews.

Aleppo was home to a major Jewish population from the time of the Babylonian exile (600 BCE). They experienced golden ages under the Byzantines and Ottomans, and remained there until the horrendous pogroms of 1947. Their Aleppo Codex is the oldest surviving document of the Old Testament other than the Dead Sea Scrolls, and resides at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Much of the Aleppan community has resettled in New Jersey. Aleppan Jewish cuisine contains elements similar to those found in the other Sepharic cultures, with strong Middle Eastern and Levantine flavors.

I tend to favor cookbooks that have a particularly strong individual point of view, and Aromas has that in spades. Dweck's book reminds me of those wonderful church, mosque or synagogue cookbooks that every immigrant congregation seems to put together after the first generation is well established, to ensure that their kids can carry on the traditions. Only this one somehow got printed in a gorgeous coffee-table sized hardback with world class photography and an outstanding historical introduction. If you like to cook with Middle Eastern flavors, it deserves a proud place on your shelf.

This particular soup is awfully easy to do. Basically you  just boil red lentils until they puree themselves, add a seasoning sautee and a quick garnish. I prefer to make it a little bit thinner than Dweck's version, so that it serves as a relatively light first course, but it also works in a larger and thicker portion as the main dish of a simple meal.

Ingredient notes

Red lentils are available at any natural food or health food store; do not substitute brown/green/black/french lentils. Aleppo pepper is a red pepper that is specific to Syrian food, and is quite hard to find in the US stores, but it is available on Amazon. Instead of the cumin and Aleppo pepper, another great garnish alternative is dukkah, a spice blend from Egypt.

Syrian Red Lentil Soup (Shurbat Addes)
Vegetarian and Vegan
Yields 8 cups, enough for 8 appetizer servings or 4 main course servings

  • 2 c. red lentils (see note above)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. coriander seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, more as needed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • Garnish: fresh cilantro, ground cumin, Aleppo pepper (see note above), dukkah (see note above),  or chili flakes, lemon wedges
  1. Rinse the lentils, pick them over for stones or other miscellaneous material, and bring them to a boil with 2 quarts of water. Lower to a simmer. Stir occasionally to make sure they aren't sticking in a large lump on the bottom, otherwise they may scorch. Simmer for about 40 minutes, until they have dissolved into a puree.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, grind the garlic, coriander seed and salt in a mortar and pestle or a small food processor into a coarse paste. Fry this paste in the olive oil for about 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add to the soup and let simmer a bit longer.
  3. Taste and adjust first for texture first (by adding water). I like it moderately thin, but thick is good too. Then add salt as needed to make it flavorful.
  4. Serve in individual cups garnished with a sprig of cilantro and a pinch of the cumin and pepper, and a lemon wedge on the side.

Pink Lentils on Foodista

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Sunday, April 13th, 2008 in Books, Favorites, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Soups, Vegan or Modifiable.

40 Responses to “Recipe: Syrian Vegetarian Red Lentil Soup (Shurbat Addes)”

  1. Reply
    April 14, 2008 at 12:48 am #

    Hey you’re right – this does look good. And simple! I will definitely give this a try.

  2. Reply
    April 14, 2008 at 8:13 am #

    Oh my word, that looks scrumptious. I have Aroma’s of Aleppo too and so far I’ve only cooked Friday Night Chicken; this will have to be next – it looks that good.

  3. Reply
    April 14, 2008 at 8:50 am #

    Oh – this looks lovely and very similar to one I make already. I’ll have to try this combination. Thanks!

  4. Reply
    April 14, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    Looks like a great recipe – and thanks for the tip to not substitute with other types of lentils! (I generally think a lentil is a lentil is a lentil – but it seems like not in this case).

    The Jew & The Carrot blog

  5. Reply
    April 14, 2008 at 9:07 am #

    Lentils and coriander seeds? Hmm, interesting, and it sounds yummy:) I have to give this a try. And it seems so easy to make. I wonder how it would be if I mixed and matched with my recipe of red lentil soup. Maybe I’ll skip the mint and use bulgur and see how the outcome is. I’ll let you know. Thank you for a great recipe Michael:)

    • Reply
      William Nemecek
      January 29, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

      Why the ? mark on Lentils and coriander seeds? Very common.

  6. Reply
    April 14, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    Wow, what a thrill to see someone else blogging Syrian food! Shurbat addes is so delicious, especially when you squeeze both lemon and orange wedges over the top. Also, Diana, a delicious protein-rich cousin of shurbat addes is kolkeh, which is bulked up with a little bulgur wheat: link to

  7. Reply
    April 14, 2008 at 10:05 am #

    I have become a huge fan of Middle Eastern spices and food. Lentil soup and Dal are some of my favorites. Well done!

  8. Reply
    April 14, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    This sounds pretty good. My recollection of food like this was that the dash of fresh lemon really set it off.

    LOL I feel that whatever recipe I feel like making usually calls for whatever lentil color I DON’T have. 😉 Hopefully, this time I have red.

  9. Reply
    April 18, 2008 at 8:22 pm #

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    From Japan
    link to

  10. Reply
    April 24, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    Michael, I like the simplicity of this recipe and it does sound wonderful, too. Just lovely!

  11. Reply
    May 9, 2008 at 10:53 am #

    We had this for dinner last night and I have to tell you – it was delicious!! Thanks so much for sharing with us!!

  12. Reply
    October 8, 2008 at 9:27 am #

    I just stopped by your site to get this recipe out for the second time! I made it for the family a few weeks back and everyone loved it. I’ve been passing it on to friends ever since, and now I’m back for a second round myself. Really simple to make, and a tasty break from “regular” lentil soup. The fresh cilantro and lemon at the end really make the dish! Thanks.

  13. Reply
    November 17, 2008 at 4:19 pm #

    i love to experiment with food……being a strict vegetarian does drw a lot of curious questions……….the soup u have posted is very close to Indian version of dal or simple “pappu”……we are all the same with our food after all!

    great going!

  14. Reply
    April 20, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    This recipe looks great! I’ve come up with a similar Red Lentil Soup recipe which incorporates similar spices on my blog Hartley Confections:

    link to

  15. Reply
    October 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    I made this last night and, while I loved the simplicity and the spices, I found 1 tablespoon of salt to be a heck of a lot for my taste–maybe I didn’t add as much water as the recipe called for, not sure. I added more lemon and some yoghurt and it was still good.

  16. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 21, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    @Jen – Thanks for the feedback! I've reduced the listed amount to 1.5 teaspoons and emphasized that you should taste and adjust it at the end.

  17. Reply
    December 16, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    Daughter Amazed at Dad’s Kitchen Skill.
    I tried this and it’s great! I love lentil soup and used to make it with tomatoes, carrots and onions, nasturtium leaves, etc., to give it flavor. My daughter tasted one of my richest creations and said, “Where’s the flavor?” Then I tried this soup. The lentils smelled good as they boiled, but when I added the spices, I suddenly had the intense flavor and hearty aroma I love. And my daughter was amazed that her old Dad could make something so delicious–and with so very few ingredients.

  18. Reply
    January 22, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    This is not jewish recipes. It is Syrian food recipes. I don’t know why you are puting it is jewish food if it is not.

  19. Reply
    February 10, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Probably because it came from a cookbook called “Aromas of Aleppo, The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews.” So therefor, it is Jewish food.

  20. Reply
    February 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Oh, and thank you Michael for this recipe. Like the dad above I usually just cook lentils with the normal veggies, but I will definitely be making this one as soon as i can get a hold of some coriander seeds.

  21. Reply
    February 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    This soup is fantastic! I made it tonight and loved it! Yum. It’s definitely going to get put in the monthly recipe collection. Mmm! :)Super simple, super savory! thanks.

  22. Reply
    February 23, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    I love lentil soup and this version looks very inviting! Simple,easy and nutritious – just how I like it! Thanks for sharing..

  23. Reply
    April 17, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    I remember those days when my mom was in the kitchen on a cool autumn or window day making a delicious dish made up of brown and red lentils and I think there was wheat in it, and lots of cumin…. (onions and garlic)??

    I never learned how to cook this and unfortunately this receipe is buried with mom … does anyone from Haleb (Aleppo) Syria know how to make this receipe. She used to have dried pita bread and I think cook sliced onion to put on top of this food………they make a soupish soup at the soup plantation that reminds me of my mom’s meal. forevermine007 us at yahoo dot com

    hemdela el saleme

    • Reply
      March 20, 2018 at 5:36 am #

      Marhaba Nadima ,
      It sounds like mjedderah, but made with wheat. My dad is from Aleppo and we have mad it with rice or the large burghol. Cook the same way as with rice, just add the wheat instead. When it’s done fry up your pile of onions and pour on top. We also have mint, yogurt and fléflé for accompanying.
      Hope this is what you were thinking about!
      Ma salame

  24. Reply
    April 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    What is the difference if a Syrian Jew or a Syrian Christian put this receipe in…..

    Thank you whom ever it may be…


  25. Reply
    April 19, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    Well, I’ll try answering that, as a Jew living in Israel where we get bombed frequently by our not-so-nice Arab residents and neighbors. We’ve always been a distinct people, with dietary laws from the Torah that have been kept alive until today. For that reason, our food, no matter where we’ve lived over the past 2K years, has reflected the tastes of the local population, but with twists and blends not found in non-Jewish cooking. For example, a soup like this might make use of meat or chicken (by both Jews and non-Jews) but we could not use butter as the oil, or top with a dairy product as non-Jews would very likely do.

    But more than that, this recipe and others by the author, are relics of a place and time: Jewish living in Syria “back in the olden days.” Today, the Jews have been effectively made refugees from most Muslim countries since the establishment of Israel. There simply aren’t many left in Syria and other middle eastern countries. Just a few months ago the remaining Jewish community in Yemen was sent to Israel under threat of death by the surrounding community after living there continuously for more than 2K years. So, there food and tradtions have not yet undergone such modernizing as many other immigrant Jewish communities in say the US, Israel, etc. So, yes, what difference does it make if it’s a JEwish recipe or a Christian (or I’ll add Muslim)? It sure makes a difference to us Jews, and it’s historically made, and currently make a difference to non-Jews. Thanks for your inquiry. I hope I did it justice.

  26. Reply
    Joel Natkin
    June 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    This is the best and easiest red lentil soup I’ve tried. So much flavor, no stock added. Thanks Michael Natkin

  27. Reply
    August 25, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Hey I’m not sure if you have a lot of healthy recipes of your own that you make, but if you do, you should send them into this contest I know of. I noticed your blog online and I think I have something you will be interested in. You could get great exposure for your recipes and meet celebrity cooks (Bobby Flay, Sunny Anderson, Sara Moulton, or Cat Cora). All you have to do is go to link to to submit one of your healthy recipes. It kicks off on September 4th at the Rockaway Mall in New Jersey. Thank you for your time and good luck with the competition if you decide to enter!

  28. Reply
    January 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I made this soup with my kindergarten class after reading the story of Esau and Jacob. Even most of the five year olds recognized it was delicious.

  29. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    January 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! And I'm glad to know about your blog, great fun. We've gotten some of the books you mention from PJ Library and they have been real favorites at our house.

  30. Reply
    March 6, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Awesome, another dish to help me with my love of garlic! I think I will try the garlic paste with some green beans. It reminded me so much of the garlic they put on the green beans at the White House Grill in Post Falls 🙂

  31. Reply
    June 29, 2011 at 4:17 am #

    At first I was kind of disappointed with the soup because it hadn’t turned out as flavorful as I had hoped. But when I tasted it, having left it sit for about 15-20 minutes, the flavor was amazing! So subtle and yet so flavorful. I sprinkled it with cumin, chopped corriander and a squeeze of lemon and it was wonderful. I also added about 1/2 tsp more of kosher salt to the whole pot. What a great, easy soup. And the aroma of the garlic and corriander seeds as I pounded them with the mortar and pestle was so fragrant! (BTW I only used 1 TBS of olive oil to fry the paste).

  32. Reply
    October 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    I made this yesterday and it was fantastic. I usually do stock, potatoes, carrots, celery, etc in with the lentils and was surprised how much flavor it had with just the spices. The entire family (7 year old, 5 year old, and 20 month old kids) all loved it. Just so you know, our Central Market grocery store carries Aleppo pepper in bulk. I would love more recipes to use this fantastic pepper.

    • Reply
      October 26, 2012 at 7:15 am #

      Thanks, Liz! Glad you liked it, and here are some more recipes that make use of Aleppo pepper: link to

  33. Reply
    December 4, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    Just made this and love it. I’ve never made red lentil soup and I’m not always great in the kitchen, but this was super easy and so delicious. I made a small addition and let the lentils simmer with a few bay leaves. I only had the cumin and lemon as a garnish, but boy, did they help! So savory. I was a little suspicious about adding lemon to this dish, but I’m glad I trusted the pro and the culture, it was a glorious combination.

  34. Reply
    October 3, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    I just made this and wow! This recipe is spot-on. It’s almost as good as my local Middle Eastern restaurant’s lentil soup. Thanks for posting this.

  35. Reply
    December 12, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    OOO looks delicious, Im a big fan of lental soup, reminds me of when my mother used to cook it me when I was little. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  36. Reply
    November 9, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    This looks delicious – thank you for posting it! I’m only about four years late with this suggestion, but Penzey’s Spices also carries Aleppo. Mmmm, I can’t wait to try the recipe!

  37. Reply
    June 23, 2019 at 6:30 pm #

    This is one of my favorite lentil recipes; I pass it along to everyone. If you’re thinking of making it, add all the olive oil; it really makes the soup rich and delicious.

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