Red Lentil Soup with Aleppo Pepper and Ham
Red lentils are cooked until tender and creamy in a broth flavored with paprika, cumin, and a few pieces of ham, then topped with bright, flavorful Aleppo Pepper Oil and fresh parsley. This simple recipe is one of my favorite things to make on lazy evenings when I want a hot, comforting, nutritions meal in under an hour, with very little effort.
What is Aleppo Pepper?
I love, love, love Aleppo Pepper so much that I have a difficult time not using it in everything I cook. The spice is named after the city of Aleppo in Syria, although with all the turmoil in the region, most of the Aleppo pepper available today comes from Turkey and a handful of other places.
Aleppo Pepper comes form a chili known as the Halaby Pepper. After Halaby peppers are picked, the seed are removed and the peppers are dried, then ground into Aleppo Pepper. Traditionally, Aleppo pepper is used to season meat or beans, or sprinkled over salads and vegetables. But, it can be used in place of any other variety of dried red pepper with abandon.
The thing I love most about Aleppo Pepper is how much flavor you get for the amount of heat the pepper packs. Aleppo is about half as hot as crushed red chili flakes but packs double the flavor. Ask anyone in my family, and they'll tell you I have an incurable habit of going overboard with chilies and peppers, and often serve food that makes steam come out of our ears. The problem is that I LOVE the flavor that red peppers add to foods and want to add as much of that flavor as possible.
With Aleppo, I can add twice as much and get four times the flavor without burning off our tastebuds. 🙌 And this, my friends, is why I am currently obsessed with the stuff.
In this dish, simmering Aleppo Pepper in olive oil for a couple of minutes helps to release it's flavor while also adding flavor to the oil. That way, when you drizzle it over bowls of soup, it spreads throughout the lentils, adding richness and flavor throughout.
Aleppo Pepper and Red Lentils are a Perfect Match
I've never met a lentil I didn't love, but if you're wanting to cook up a pot of lentils in a hurry, red are where it's at.
Red lentils are split into halves and their outer covering is removed. This allows them to cook much faster than green lentils. Red lentils also have a slightly nutty flavor, while green lentils are on the peppery side.
I almost always have both red and green lentils in my pantry and love them both equally. But, in this dish, I went for red lentils for three reasons:
- The Color. I just love how the bright red Aleppo Pepper oil and sprinkle of green parsley looks over a bowl of red lentils.
- The Flavor. The nuttiness of red lentils are a perfect match to the other smoky, spicy flavors in this dish.
- The Timing. I really wanted this soup to be one of those things that tastes like it's been cooking for hours, even though it requires relatively little time to prepare. Red lentils are falling apart and so tender they are almost creamy in about 30 minutes, making them the perfect choice.
Eating Vegetarian/ Vegan? Just leave out the ham.
In this recipe, the ham is really more of a condiment, supporting the flavor in the lentils and Aleppo pepper. I like the meaty texture it adds and how it works with the smoked paprika to increase the depth of flavor and infuse every bite with savory smokiness.
Having said that, if you don't eat meat or just don't have any ham on hand, you can most certainly just leave it out. If you do, I would suggest increasing the amount of smoked paprika slightly and, if possible, adding a dash or two of liquid smoke. Another good option is to use Hickory Smoked Sea Salt. Both liquid smoke and smoked salt will add a lovely meaty, smoky flavor without the need to add any ham.
More Popular Soup Recipes:
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If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #alittleandalot on Instagram.
- 3 tbsp salted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 ½ tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 cup red lentils
- ¼ cup long grain rice
- 1 ½ tsp salt (more to taste)
- ¾ lb ham pieces, chopped into bite size pieces (*see note)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tbsp Aleppo pepper (*see note)
- 1 large lemon
- ¾ cup fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
- Add butter and chopped onion to a large saucepan and set it over medium heat. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer.
- Add tomato paste, paprika, and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Stir in lentils, rice, 5 cups of water, 2 tsp salt, and the pieces of ham. Raise the heat and bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pan, and let simmer for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are soft and breaking down. Lift the lid to stir from time to time and adjust heat as necissary to maintain a gentle simmer.
- While the soup simmers, add the oilve oil and Aleppo pepper to a small skillet and set it over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, until the oil comes to a rapid simmer. Remove from the heat and let stand until ready to serve.
- Remove the soup from the heat and stir in about 1 tbsp lemon juice. Taste, and add more salt and more lemon juice if desired.
- Serve soup in bowls topped with a drizzle of Aleppo pepper chili oil and a sprinkle of fresh, chopped parsley.
- Use any kind of ham you like in this soup, but thicker chunks work best. I especially love to use leftover scraps. You can also use a hambone or two, especially if they are on meaty.
- If you want to leave out the ham, I suggest increasing the amount of smoked paprika slightly and, if possible, adding a dash or two of liquid smoke. Another good option is to use Hickory Smoked Sea Salt. Both liquid smoke and smoked salt will add a lovely meaty, smoky flavor without the need to add any ham.
- If your local supermarket doesn't carry Aleppo Pepper, you can purchase it online. The brand you'll find in my pantry is The Spice Way Crushed Aleppo Pepper.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 431Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 1905mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 8gSugar: 5gProtein: 26g