Instant Pot lentil soup features smoky flavors and bacon for a hearty soup recipe. This quick take on a soup classic takes just fifteen minutes of pressure cook time!
What’s a better way to honor the return of sweatshirt weather than to share a soup recipe? This smoky Instant Pot lentil soup is all the things I like about a soup: thick, spiced up, relatively healthy, and easy to prepare.
Really easy to prepare, and quick too, when you consider the fact that it takes just fifteen minutes of pressure cook time. Plus there’s no pre-soaking required for the lentils to become perfectly tender.
Instant Pot for the win (as always).
Here’s how to make this soup
For starters, you’ll brown up some bacon in the Instant Pot using the saute function. Besides adding an extra layer of heartiness to lentil soup, the vegetables will saute in the leftover bacon fat for an efficient and moderately indulgent feel.
If you’re using leftover bacon that has already been cooked, you can simply use about one tablespoon of your favorite cooking oil in place of the bacon fat.
When it comes to bacon, use your preferred variety. I’m not crazy picky, but I definitely prefer thick-cut bacon to regular varieties. Its extra heft holds up well during the cook time, as about half of the bacon will pressure cook in the soup, with the remaining being reserved for a delicious topping.
To take things a step further, using thick-cut smoked bacon is my ultimate pick here, but it’s totally not necessary to go out of your way to find all those particulars.
So! Next is to saute the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in the bacon grease (or your preferred cooking oil, if you’re using leftover cooked bacon). Then you’ll add the spices (more on those later) and two tablespoons of tomato paste to the Instant Pot to cook for a bit before the liquid ingredients are poured in.
It looks a little weird all globbed up and isn’t easy to break up into pieces, but allowing the tomato paste time to brown on the saute function before adding liquid boosts its flavor and allows the sugars to caramelize. It’s something I’ve taken to doing when I make Italian sausage and peppers, and now many recipes with tomato paste.
But don’t worry if extra-browned bits become stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot. In the next step you’ll deglaze the pan with some of the broth, which should bring up everything easily.
Not only does this help ward off an Instant Pot “burn” message while it’s pressure cooking (from registering a too-hot temperature on the bottom of the pot), but deglazing the pan disperses all those wonderfully caramelized sugars into the soup. And that means even more flavor.
All that remains is to pour in the rest of the beef broth, some water, the lentils, tomatoes, and about half of the cooked bacon. I like to reserve the other half for topping.
Give everything a quick stir and pressure cook for fifteen minutes. That’s all the time that’s needed for the dry lentils to become perfectly softened and for this amazing smoky flavor to develop.
The smoky flavor here comes from smoked paprika, ground coriander, and chili powder on the spice front and the bacon if you’re using a smoked variety (highly recommend). It adds a great, subtly smoky twist to lentil soup that complements all the savory flavors going on here with the beef broth base.
And there you have it – Instant Pot lentil soup. Top with the remaining bacon and add fresh herbs if you like, and you have yourself a hearty and nutritious bowl of goodness. I especially love leftover portions as lunches in the days after. Good fuel for getting through an afternoon of work!
If you’re into legumes made speedy in the Instant Pot, you might be interested in Instant Pot split pea soup, too. It has just sixteen minutes of pressure cook time, requires no soaking, and also features smoky pork flavor, this time from smoked ham shanks.
I don’t think I’ve made either of these soups the traditional stove top way since experiencing how quick and easy they are in the Instant Pot.
To make this soup spicy, try chopping up one or two chipotle pepper in adobo sauce and adding it along with the remaining ingredients in step #4. I’ve made that variety before and enjoyed it (as you can see my peppers in the overhead ingredient shot above!), but be warned – it’s pretty spicy! If you’re making this soup for a crowd of varying palates I recommend leaving it out.
To make this soup vegetarian, omit the bacon, saute the vegetables in your preferred cooking oil, and use vegetable broth in place of the beef broth.
- I highly recommend using a variety of bacon that is thick-cut and smoked.
- If you’re using leftover cooked bacon and won’t have bacon fat to use in step #2 below, use one tablespoon of your preferred cooking oil.
- Leftover portions thicken up even more after being refrigerated. If desired, add a splash of water and stir it into the soup before reheating to thin it out some.
- This recipe was tested in a six-quart Instant Pot (affiliate link). While I don’t have personal experience with the eight-quart version, I would imagine that the higher water content in this recipe would be just fine to make in there, too.
- This soup is great to freeze!
Smoky Instant Pot Lentil Soup
- 6 slices bacon, thick-cut and roughly-chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 32 oz reduced-sodium beef broth (4 cups)
- 16 oz water (2 cups)
- 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
- 2 cups lentils (about 13 oz), sorted and rinsed
- Press the "Saute" button on the Instant Pot. Once heated, add chopped bacon and saute until the bacon is fully cooked, moving the bacon around the pan occasionally.
- Once cooked, remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to let it drain. Discard all but 1 tbsp or so of the bacon fat, then add chopped onion, carrots, and celery. Cook for 3-4 minutes, and then add the minced garlic.
- Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then add the Add the salt, smoked paprika, pepper, coriander, and chili powder.. Add the tomato paste and stir it into the vegetables and let it saute for 1-2 minutes.
- With the Instant Pot still on "Saute", pour in about 1/3 cup of the beef broth and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add in the remaining beef broth, water, diced tomatoes, lentils, and about half of the cooked bacon and give everything a stir.
- Press the "Keep Warm/Cancel" button to shut the Saute function off. Close and lock the lid on the Instant Pot, ensuring the pressure release valve is set to "sealing".
- Press the "Manual" button (which I believe became "Pressure Cook" on newer IP models) and adjust the time using the "+" or "-" buttons to 15 minutes. The Instant Pot will take 10-15 minutes to pressurize, during which time you may hear hissing. "15" minutes will appear on the display when it's pressurized and cooking begins.
- Once the cook time is through, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, and then carefully switch the valve to "venting", taking care not to burn yourself on the steam as the rest of the pressure releases. You can also let it naturally release entirely if you prefer. Garnish with reserved bacon for serving.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.