Greek Lentil and Spinach Soup with Lemon

This brightly flavorful, easy soup from an almost three-decade-old cookbook is so good that one fan — Reid Branson of Seattle — has made a batch every week and eaten it for lunch almost every workday for more than 15 years. In addition to all its other virtues, it’s vegan, gluten-free and low-fat. Don’t skip the clean zing of lemon, which makes it sing.

It reminds me of the soup my cousin Jim Syiek makes.


Washington Post Mar 8, 2020

Adapted from “Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread” by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman Publishing, 1992).


  • 1 pound brown or large green lentils, rinsed and picked over

  • 10 cups vegetable broth or water

  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped

  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 medium Yukon Gold, russet or red potatoes (1 1/4 pounds), scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 10 ounces baby spinach, chopped

  • 1 small butternut squash (1 pound), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 2 ribs celery, with leaves, sliced

  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

  • 2 lemons

  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice


  1. In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, combine the lentils, stock or water, jalapeño, coriander, cumin, oregano and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

  2. Add the potatoes, spinach and butternut squash, re-cover and cook until the potatoes and squash are tender, another 15 to 20 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until it starts to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they soften, 3 minutes. Add the mixture to the soup, deglazing the skillet with a little bit of the broth from the soup, then add the deglazed contents back to the soup pot. Season with the salt and pepper, taste, and add more if needed. Pick out and discard the bay leaves.

  4. Thinly slice one of the lemons and cut the other into wedges. Just before serving, stir the lemon juice into the soup. Serve the soup hot, with a lemon slice floating atop each bowl. Pass lemon wedges at the table.


The soup can be refrigerated for up to 10 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

From Jim Syiek:

"It's much more sophisticated than Aunt Agnes' recipe, which she made every so often, but much simpler: mostly just lentils, rice and celery I think; something like that. It was very tasty just the same, but heavy on the lentil flavor whereas mine and this one is more of a hybrid lentil/vegetable soup.

Lots of similarities, with a few exceptions. I don't use potatoes for instance, which I've thought of adding but Andy said that would be double carbs as I do use brown rice. And of course, this includes measurements, whereas I make each batch "by feel." I have added a sprinkling of lemon juice after seeing this though, and that's a nice touch. I've also thought of trying bay leaves; I like the idea, but I keep forgetting to pick them up when I'm shopping for the ingredients."