Homemade Progresso-style Lentil Soup

April 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Beans, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan: dinner, My brain, soup, Winter recipes) ()

The first food that Derek ever cooked for me was a bowl of lentil soup. He very carefully opened up a can of Progresso lentil soup, and then worked long and hard to “cook” it. And cook it he did, not in the microwave but in a real pot on the stove! It was piping hot and delicious.

Both of us still love Progresso vegetable classics lentil soup, but we can’t get it here in Germany. It’s probably for the best though, as I try not to buy canned foods, plus the sodium levels are through the roof. Still, we miss it, and so I decided to try to make it myself. I looked online for a copycat recipe, but couldn’t find anything that seemed promising. So I just took a look at the ingredient list and nutritional label and gave it a crack. I haven’t had the real thing in years, so I could be off, but to both Derek and I my soup tasted just like the real thing.

The first time I made it Alma wouldn’t touch it (too brown and goopy I guess), but at some point she finally tried it and really liked it. Then the next time I served it she again rejected it. I reminded her that last time she had scarfed it up and that she had even chastised me for finishing all the leftovers. She tried it again and again happily polished off her bowl. Now, however, at almost 5 years old, she isn’t so excited again.


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil (the original uses soybean oil)
  • 90g celery (about 2 medium-large stalks), sliced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste (64g)
  • 1 lb (450g) dry lentils (I used whole Masoor lentils, which are brown on the outside and pink on the inside)
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1.5 tsp. fine salt (~ 9g).
  • 2 cubes Rapunzel vegetable bouillon
  • 200g frozen spinach (about 1 cup)


  1. Add the oil to a 4-quart pot and heat. Saute the celery until soft, then add the tomato paste. Cook for another minute or so, then add the lentils, water, bay leaf, salt, and bouillon cube.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over minimal heat for about an hour. Add the spinach and serve.

My notes:

My soup tasted quite salty to me, but according to my calculations, I would have needed to add 1.5 times as much salt (plus the bouillon cubes) to equal the 810mg sodium per serving in the Progresso soup.

The fifth ingredient in the Progresso ingredient list is modified corn starch. I didn’t end up adding any corn starch, because the soup seemed plenty thick. As a result, the carbs in my soup end up looking slightly lower than the Progresso soup.

If anyone can do a side-by-side comparison of my version with the real thing, I’d love to hear your feedback!

Update Dec 27, 2017:

Today I made this soup in my instant pot: I used 1 pound lentils + 1 tsp. salt + 1 Rapunzel bouillon cube + 6 cups of water. Also 125g celery + 40g sliced carrot + 1 Tbs. olive oil + 1/4 cup tomato paste. I cooked it on high pressure for 10 minutes + NR. It came out well. Next time I will add more carrots (maybe 150g?), even though carrots are not in the original recipe. Alma liked the carrots and they add a bit more color. I used more celery but couldn’t tell the difference. Maybe next time I’ll use 3 stalks of celery instead of 2. I used less water since the instant pot loses less moisture than a stovetop pot, but in the end I had to add a bit more water, as the soup was a bit too thick. But it’s kind of nice to use too little water when cooking the soup, as it comes to pressure faster plus it takes up less room in the freezer.

This soup freezes well, but I only saved one jar of it in the freezer — enough for one bowl for each of us. Next time I will try to make a 1.5x batch and freeze some for later. I have to double check that it will still fit in my instant pot though. I might have to reduce the water a bit.

I’d like to add this soup to our monthly menu rotation, but I’m not sure what to serve it with to make it into a meal. A winter salad maybe, with citrus for some vitamin C to complement the lentils? Or something simple and green like sauteed chard or steamed kale with lemon juice?


  1. Marilyn Pobiner said,

    can you make this without the bullion cubes? I make my own vegetable broth.

  2. Kim Thompsen said,

    How many servings would you say this makes? The progresso can is 2 servings, but this is a lot more soup.

    • captious said,

      I think it makes about 5.5 or 6 cans worth, or about 11 or 12 Progresso-sized 1-cup servings (241g). I always eat more than one cup for a meal though. I would say it makes approximately 8 normal-sized bowls of soup? We usually eat 3 bowls at dinner, take two the next day for lunch (since Alma gets lunch at daycare), and freeze 3 for another dinner.

  3. Rose Hilliard said,

    Thank you for your recipe! This is my favorite vegan soup of all time and sometimes really hard to find at any of the local stores – even online. Many thanks!

    • captious said,

      Did you try the recipe? How did it turn out? The last time I made it I didn’t think it turned out well, but I don’t know why. 😦

  4. Teresa Tsark said,

    I’m just learning to use my instant pot. Did you include the bay leaf and frozen spinach to your instant pot ingredients?

    • captious said,

      Yes for the bay leaf.The frozen spinach I added at the end after opening the pressure cooker. It helps the soup cool off and defrosts the spinach at the same time.

  5. mburton said,

    Regarding the comment on Modified Food Starch made in the 2017 update, the older version of the soup had more lentils and the food starch was not listed in the ingredients (the only difference shown on the label). I just finished my old stock of the soup recently and tried the food starch version for the first time. It was less filling, more watery, less flavorful, and the food starch made the water feel slimy. Of course, everyone’s taste is somewhat different, but that was my experience. Glad to have found a recipe I can experiment with to make the older version.

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