Kapha-Balancing Recipe: Red Lentil Lemongrass Soup
Originally published in 2017, this recipe is an enduring favorite of ours at Banyan. We're delighted to be sharing it again with you, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
As we transition from late fall into the depths of winter in the Northern hemisphere, we begin to enter what Ayurveda considers kapha season—the time of year that the qualities of kapha increase in our environments, as well as in our bodies. Kapha tends to be cold, damp, heavy, and sluggish—qualities that may also be exacerbated by the holiday season, especially if they are full of sweet treats and heavy meals.
If you are feeling these qualities begin to accumulate in your body, it’s a great time to start incorporating more kapha-balancing foods—foods that bring warmth, stimulation, and a sense of lightness to the body and mind!
Red lentils are one such food that happen to be as delicious as they are healthy. They cook in minutes, are nourishing to all three doshas, and go well with a variety of seasonings. This recipe pairs red lentils with a spicy lemongrass paste, which is ideal for balancing kapha in the winter months and into the spring, or any time the weather is cold and damp.
The combination of ingredients work together to promote overall health and well-being by igniting the digestive fire, bringing warmth to the body, and balancing the slow, sluggish qualities of kapha.
Pippali powder is regarded as a rejuvenating force that supports the respiratory system while soothing the nervous system—great for both kapha and vata. During the winter and spring, I sprinkle pippali on everything (instead of black pepper) to boost my immunity and fortify my lungs.
Lemongrass helps to cleanse the lymphatic system and prevent a buildup of ama, while bringing a sense of calm to the body and mind. Turmeric brings a long list of benefits, including a slightly warm and astringent quality that is great for balancing the damp and cold of kapha.
This recipe is one of my favorite weeknight meals! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Red Lentil Lemongrass Soup
Makes 2 servings
Makes ⅔ cup
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- ¼ onion, chopped
- 2–3 stalks lemongrass with ends trimmed and tough outer layers removed
- 1 inch peeled ginger root or ½ teaspoon ginger powder
- ¾ inch peeled turmeric root or ¾ teaspoons turmeric powder
- ½ Thai red chili, stem removed
- 1 small kaffir lime leaf, vein removed (or 1 teaspoon lime zest and ½ teaspoon lemon zest)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or ghee)
- 4 tablespoons lemongrass paste
- ¼ teaspoon mineral salt
- 1 teaspoon pippali powder
- 2 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- ⅔ cup red lentils
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (or to taste)
- 4 tablespoons cilantro (or to taste)
In a blender, combine the sunflower oil, onion, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, chili, lime leaf, and garlic. Blend to a thick paste. Alternatively, you can do this with a mortar and pestle if you have the time and patience!
Red Lentil-Lemongrass Soup
In a medium saucepan, warm the sunflower oil or ghee over medium-low heat. Add the lemongrass paste, salt, and pippali powder. Sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Stir in the tomato.
Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until lentils are soft. The lentils will lose their shape and become somewhat mushy. Add the lime juice and cilantro to taste. For a creamy consistency, you can purée with an immersion blender. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Kapha can garnish with julienned mustard leaves for even more of a digestion-boosting kick.
Vata and pitta can add some cool nourishment with coconut milk or fresh plain yogurt.
- I buy lemongrass stalks and lime leaves at my local Asian market, then freeze extras in freezer bags to make sure I have them on hand when I’m not able to get to the market.
- The lemongrass paste can be prepped up to two days in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, which will make life a little easier if you are rushing to get dinner on the table.
Recipe and images courtesy of Lois Leonhardi, author of The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook.