Indian Coconut Soup: Your Gateway to Trying New Flavors
A lot of you might be scared of Indian flavors or at least of trying them in your own kitchens. But, y'all, it's one of the easiest cuisines to cook, not to mention one of the tastiest. Warm spices - cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cardamom; flavor bomb aromatics - garlic, ginger; and most everything is made in one pot and served with bread. And in a season where spring can't decide if it wants to stay or go, the combination of warm flavors but light texture is the way to do soup.
If you feel like you need to be a genius cook to make Indian food, you are as wrong as a Tom and Rita breakup. It's surprisingly simple, and this soup is a great way to get started.
Bonus, if you have multiple dietary restrictions under one roof, Indian food is your new best friend. Almost all of it can easily be gluten-free, dairy-free, and even vegan. This soup is gluten-free and vegan, but everyone is happy.
I'm still pregnant and exhausted, so making dinner is a recent eyeroll-fest. I just hate it, mostly because I have to catch my breath after opening a can. If I can make this dinner with a tenth of a brain and zero cardiac strength, you can, too.
Because we already tend to eat Indian, these ingredients have a home in my pantry. If you don't have them, I encourage you to trust me, purchase a few spices you don't usually have around, and dip your toe in the Indian pool. In the coming weeks, I'll give you a few more recipes that use those same ingredients so they don't get dusty and angry on your shelves. Deal?
Indian Coconut Soup
I found this recipe on Oh She Glows and made some Lazy Genius adjustments. Slash I tried it out for you, so now you don't have to take the risk. Boom. Also there's an affiliate link in there. Thanks for helping support The Lazy Genius site!
INGREDIENTS and their Lazy Genius variations
- 2-3 tbsp fat - She used olive oil, and I used a combo of butter and canola oil because that's the base I use for my Indian dishes (obviously no longer vegan). You could use any combination of fats you want, including coconut oil. Yum.
- 1 large yellow or white onion, diced fairly fine - If chopping onions makes you want to die but dishes don't, use a food processor.
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- warm spices you'll love having around your kitchen - 2 tsp turmeric (the bright orange stuff that will comically stain your fingers and heal your body), 1 1/2 tsp cumin (used in every taco seasoning pack), 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp cardamom (surprisingly delicious in any baking recipe that also calls for cinnamon, aka one of my favorite spices)
- 1 15-ounce can of coconut milk - Please use full fat if you can; there's no comparison.
- 1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes - I ended up blending my soup before I added the lentils because I didn't like the giant chunks of red from the tomato. It just looked gross. If you think the same will be true of you, skip the blending and just add crushed tomatoes.
- 3 1/2 cups or about a box of stock - I used chicken, she uses vegetable (again, vegan), and you can use whatever you like. Honestly if you don't have stock around, feel free to use water. The broth won't taste as rich, but it'll do in a desperate pinch.
- 3/4 cup red lentils - I love red lentils because they cook so fast, but if you don't have them, use any cooked grain but double the amount - rice, quinoa, barley, etc. Those grains need to be cooked separately beforehand or be leftovers from last night's dinner, but the lentils go in dry. Again, they cook mega fast. If you use a previously cooked grain, feel free to cut back on the stock by a cup or so.
- juice of half a lime - Save the other half to squeeze over oven nachos the next night. What, you've never made oven nachos?! We're getting on that one soon, too.
- other additions - If your family is allergic to meals without meat, add shredded chicken. If your people aren't afraid of green foods, add fresh baby spinach to wilt into the soup. If you like punches of flavor, for the love top this stuff with chopped cilantro and even plain yogurt. And absolutely serve this with warm naan or pita bread. I much prefer naan because it's buttery and soft; they carry it at CostCo, and it freezes like a dream.
HOW TO MAKE IT
- Cook the onion. Put a large soup pot over medium heat, and while it heats, chop your onion with your knife or in a food processor. Add your preferred combo of fat to the pot, stir in the onions, add a good pinch or two of salt, and let the onions cook for about five minutes, stirring here and there. They'll be light, soft, and on the verge of turning golden yellow.
- Add the flavor bombs. While the onion cooks, chop your garlic, open the cans, and measure out the spices into a little bowl or even on a scrap piece of parchment or wax paper to save the dish. And please use just a teaspoon to measure to eyeball everything; no need to dirty up multiple spoons for precise measurements. When the onions have cooked five-ish minutes, add the garlic and spices. If the pot seems dry, add a touch more fat. Stir for about a minute to develop or bloom the flavor of the spices. This is how you start almost all Indian dishes, so you're getting great practice at making food sing.
- Add everything else. Pour in the coconut milk, tomatoes, and stock. If you use diced tomatoes and want to blend it like I did, do it before you add the lentils or whatever grain you choose. An immersion or stick blender is magic for this kind of job. I use mine all the time for soups, smoothies, even salad dressings. Once you're blended (or not), add your lentils or cooked grain, as well as about 1/2 tsp of salt and a good bit of black pepper.
- Simmer. That's it! Just let it come to a boil, turn it down to a simmer, and let it gently bubble without a lid for about 20 minutes. Again, if you use a grain already cooked, this is done in 5-10 minutes, just long enough for the flavors to become friends. Midway through the simmering is where you can also add shredded chicken, spinach, or whatever else floats your boat. Now squeeze in that half a lime, and taste the soup. If it sings, you're set. If it doesn't, add more salt and maybe even more black pepper.
- Serve. Ladle into bowls and top with yogurt, cilantro, even green onion if you want. Definitely serve with some kind of bread, and I can't recommend warm naan enough (in the microwave, people, no oven preheating over here).
Do you see how this is a stellar pantry meal? Onion, garlic, spices, canned goods, and grain. These are all things you can easily have around and use for other things, too. The only thing I might have had to buy was a lime, and I already had one for those oven nachos we're having tonight.
And do you see how easy the process is? Saute onion, garlic, and spice. Dump in some cans. Measure some grains (or not). Simmer. Eat. It's so unbelievably easy, and I highly encourage you to give these flavors a try.
Because Indian food is such a staple in our house and I can make our favorites in my sleep, I'm sure I'll be sharing more of those recipes in the coming weeks once this baby decides to come out. Stay tuned, and don't you dare throw out that turmeric.