Easy Scottish Lentil Soup Recipe (with Vegetarian Option)

Scottish Lentil Soup Recipe in a bowl

January is the coldest and darkest month of the year in Scotland, so we figured what better time to share a heart-warming Scottish Lentil Soup recipe?

Scottish lentil soup is a staple in the family home and in cafes across Scotland. When you’re travelling in the Highlands and pop into a cafe to warm up it wouldn’t be surprising to see it on the menu! Scottish lentil soup is a deliciously creamy soup combining red lentils with neeps, potato, carrot, and with the option of ham or keeping it vegetarian.

Our recipe gives you two options. You can make the traditional lentil and ham soup or stick to a vegetarian (or vegan!) recipe. All are equally good!

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Scottish Lentil Soup - Two mugs of Scottish Lentil soup with bread and books in the background.

Making Traditional Scottish Lentil Soup with Ham

Various forms of lentil soup are traditional all over the world, and while we couldn’t find any exact origins for the Scottish version we suspect that, like many other Scottish recipes, it started out as a simple way to use available ingredients and was passed down from family to family.

Traditional recipes use a ham stock to flavour the soup. It is possible to buy ham stock at the supermarket here, so you can just use this for ease.

However, if you want a little extra traditional flair then it’s not too hard to make your own ham stock too. You’ll need a ham hock or gammon, and you can then add the meat at the end as a nice addition to the soup too!

If you want a quick lentil soup then you’ll need to make either the vegetarian or ham stock version, as making your own stock adds an extra two hours.

Scottish Lentil and Ham Hock Soup - Lentil and Ham Soup in a bowl with bread and books and lentils scattered about

How to Make Vegetarian Scottish Lentil Soup

Not all Scottish lentil soups are vegetarian, so it’s always worth asking if you’re ordering out.

But it’s easy to make your own Scottish Lentil Soup vegan or vegetarian because you can just omit the ham stock and use veggie instead! The rest of the recipe stays exactly the same and it’s quick and easy to make.

Things you’ll need to make Scottish Lentil Soup

  • Large pot
  • Sharp knife and chopping board
  • Wooden spoon for stirring
Bowl of Scottish Lentil Soup with bread

Ingredients for Scottish Lentil Soup

This recipe makes around 6-8 servings at least, depending on bowl size. If you don’t have a big enough pot then you can cut the amounts to suit.

  • 300g red lentils (1.5 cups)
  • 1 medium potato (about 150g)
  • 1 small neep/swede (about 350g)
  • 1 large carrot (about 230g)
  • 1 leek (about 200g)
  • 1 onion (about 200g)
  • 1.5 litres of ham stock *see notes
  • 30g butter or alternative (2 tbsp)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ham hock/gammon *optional see notes

Using Red Lentils

It’s not possible to make this soup with green or brown lentils, because they hold their shape when cooked. The trick to this creamy soup is the red lentils break down and you barely even know they’re there, but they help to thicken the soup and give it a lovely flavour.

Red lentils do also not need to be soaked and they cook quickly. Just rinse them in cold water before using and you’re good to go.

Red Lentils for Scottish Lentil Soup Recipe

What’s a Neep?

A Neep is another name for a Turnip in Scotland. Except that what’s called a Turnip here is often called a Swede elsewhere, from the name Swedish Turnip. It may also be called a Rutabaga in North America.

For the avoidance of doubt, here’s a picture!

Neep, or Swedish Turnip, or Rutabaga, for Scottish Lentil Soup

Using a ham hock or gammon

A ham hock is also known as a pork knuckle. They’re not always sold in the supermarket but you can ask at a local butcher for one.

Gammon is the same joint that has been cured and is more commonly found in supermarkets in the UK. This means that it will be much saltier, in which case you may want to soak it either overnight or for 2 hours before starting the rest of the recipe.

If you are in the UK then most cures are fairly mild and you may not need to do this step, just make sure you taste before adding too much salt to the soup!

Scottish Lentil soup with ham in a bowl with bread

Is Scottish Lentil Soup smooth or chunky?

Scottish Lentil Soup is not usually blended but left chunky. As mentioned, the lentils break down and make the stock creamy, and then you’ll have small chunks of carrot, neep, and potato throughout. It’s up to you how chunky you cut them!

How to make Scottish Lentil Soup – Step by Step Method

Gammon is already salted, so you may want to soak overnight or for at least two hours before starting to reduce saltiness, especially if you have bought outside of the UK and the cure used is strong (ask the butcher). It may not be necessary but just be sure to taste before adding too much salt to the soup!

If you’re using a ham hock/gammon then put this in the pot with 1.5 litres of cold water, bring to boil and turn down to simmer for 2 hours. Remove the hock/gammon, set aside, and drain the stock into a bowl or jug and set aside, then continue with the rest of the recipe as below. Once the soup is ready you can shred the hock/gammon and stir some back through the soup.

Finely chop the onion and leek and set aside, then chop the carrot, potato, and neep into small cubes, size dependent on how chunky you’d like the soup.

Heat the pot and add the butter or butter alternative. Add the onions and leek and cook for about 5 minutes. Don’t allow the onion to brown.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils in cold water and set aside. There is no need to soak them.

Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the stock and lentils.

Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer for 40 minutes. You may need to top up with a little extra water if the soup gets too thick.

Serve with bannocks, crusty bread, or oatcakes (see our homemade oatcakes recipe and bannocks recipe here).

Making Scottish Lentil Soup in a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

Scottish Lentil Soup is the perfect soup to make in a slow cooker, especially if you’re planning on adding a ham hock or gammon to the soup. Just make sure you use about a third less stock as a slow cooker retains liquid and doesn’t evaporate it away like cooking on a stovetop would.

You can add all the ingredients to the slow cooker and leave on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.

An Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker means you can cook the soup much faster. We haven’t tried to adapt this recipe to one ourselves, but from experience with other recipes, it would take around 10 minutes to cook. However, we would probably stick to the veggie or ham stock version for ease.

Two mugs of Scottish Lentil Soup with bread and books

How long does Lentil Soup keep for?

You can keep this soup in the fridge for 3-4 days. It will thicken over time so you’ll need to add a little water when reheating to thin it out again.

We think second-day soup tastes even better as the flavours have had time to steep together, so definitely make a big batch!

Can Lentil Soup be frozen?

Yes! We like to separate it out into portions in separate ziplock bags so that we know how much we have. You can keep it frozen for up to 4 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight to enjoy the next day

More Scottish Soup Recipes

Yield: 6-8

Easy Scottish Lentil Soup Recipe (With Vegetarian Option)

Scottish Lentil Soup Recipe

Scottish Lentil Soup is a heart-warming recipe that's perfect for the cold winter months. This deliciously creamy soup combines red lentils, potato, carrot, swede (neep in Scotland), leek and either a ham stock or vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian Scottish Lentil Soup.

You can use a store-bought stock for the ham version, or make your own in the traditional way using a ham hock or a gammon joint. Our recipe has all the options for you and is simple to make!

The recipe below lists the easiest stock version, so add an extra 2 hours for making your own stock and read the notes on how to do it.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 300g red lentils (1.5 cups)
  • 1 medium potato (about 150g)
  • 1 small neep/swede (about 350g)
  • 1 large carrot (about 230g)
  • 1 leek (about 200g)
  • 1 onion (about 200g)
  • 1.5 litres of ham stock *see notes
  • 30g butter or alternative (2 tbsp)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ham hock/gammon *optional see notes

Instructions

* See notes if you're using a ham hock/gammon

  1. Finely chop the onion and leek and set aside, then chop the carrot, potato, and neep into small cubes, size dependent on how chunky you’d like the soup.
  2. Heat the pot and add the butter or butter alternative. Add the onions and leek and cook for about 5 minutes. Don’t allow the onion to brown.
  3. Rinse the red lentils in cold water. There is no need to soak them.
  4. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the stock and lentils.
  5. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer for 40 minutes. You may need to top up with a little extra water if the soup gets too thick.
  6. Serve with bannocks, crusty bread, or oatcakes.

Notes

What stock to use

Ham stock is readily available at the supermarket in the UK and the easiest way to make this recipe. You can also opt for vegetable stock instead to make a vegetarian version.

Using a ham hock/gammon

If you want to make the soup traditionally or want ham stock but can't get it at the shop then you can make your own.

A ham hock is also known as a pork knuckle. They're not always sold in the supermarket but you can ask at a local butcher for one.

Gammon is the same joint that has been cured and is more commonly found in supermarkets in the UK. This means that it will be much saltier, in which case you may want to soak it either overnight or for 2 hours before starting the rest of the recipe.

If you are in the UK then most cures are fairly mild and you may not need to do this step, just make sure you taste before adding too much salt to the soup!

If you’re using a ham hock/gammon then put this in the pot with 1.5 litres of cold water, bring to boil and turn down to simmer for 2 hours. Remove the hock/gammon, set aside, and drain the stock into a bowl or jug and set aside, then continue with the rest of the recipe as below. Once the soup is ready you can shred the hock/gammon and stir some back through the soup.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 723mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 6gSugar: 5gProtein: 13g

The nutritional data in this recipe is provided by a third party and these values are automatically calculated and offered for guidance only. Their accuracy is not guaranteed.

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9 thoughts on “Easy Scottish Lentil Soup Recipe (with Vegetarian Option)”

  1. Growing up my mother often made lentil soup so buying lentils in a Canadian supermarket in 1960 I was very surprised when a Canadian lady seeing me with a large packet of lentils asked me how to cook them.

    Reply
  2. Unfortunately you cannot buy Ham Cubes in Canada as apparently they are “banned” from entering the country. I know you can get them at Amazon but they are very expensive when you take in the shipping charges.

    Reply
    • What a strange thing to ban! You can use ham hock or gammon to make your own stock which would solve that issue for you. Alternatively, the veggie version is delicious.

      Reply
  3. Just made a batch of the Scottish Lentil Soup and my teenager has declared it my best soup ever. Made mine with chicken stock as ham stock unavailable but completely delish.

    Reply

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