Greek Lentil Soup (Fakes)

I loved this soup when I first ate it, but then suffered severe mental dislocations when I found out how simple it is. No meat, no cheese. (I’d only ever had lentil soups with sausage and/or cheese garnishes before.) No meat or poultry stock, just water! You don’t even have to saute the vegetables, just cut ’em up and boil them with the lentils. And yet Greek lentil soup is the most delicious lentil soup. The base flavor comes from the lentils themselves plus the standard trinity of aromatics: onions, carrots, celery; plus some garlic and bay leaf, maybe some tomato if you’re so inclined. So far a solid but not spectacular dish. But then garnish it with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, and ZING! All the flavors come together in a new and suprisingly exciting way. For me Fakes (pronounced fah-KESS) epitomizes the genius of Greek cuisine.
Simmer together:

  • 1/2 pound (~1 cup) lentils
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced, chopped, or grated*
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 potato, cut into cubes 1/2 inch or smaller
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6-8 cups water

Ingredients for Greek Lentil Soup

After about 30 minutes, when lentils are soft (to your taste) add:

  • 1 pound tomatoes, grated, or a 14.5 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 greek coffee cup extra virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Simmer for another 10 minutes or so.
Bowl of Greek Lentil Soup
Let each person garnish their bowl with red wine vinegar to taste.

*A note about the carrots : Mama just slices them up, but unfortunately Zoe and I both leave the carrots in our bowls when we eat the soup. I started chopping the carrots finely so that we would have to eat them and get the vitamins they provide. Eventurally I started grating them on a box grater because that was faster than fine chopping, and also the carrots dissolve even more unobtrusively into the soup. So if you’re cooking for small children or vegetable-challenged adults, this is the way to go!


  1. Comment by Laurie Constantino

    I’m with you – I hate biting into big chunks of carrots in soup – it’s not the flavor so much as the texture. Grating them is the perfect solution.

  2. Comment by lulu

    When I was a kid we would often have roast beef with carrots and potatoes* on Sundays after church. It was always a huge battle to get me to eat even one cooked carrot. Then one Sunday my grandma showed me how to mash the carrots up with my potato and douse the lot with gravy. It was perfect, and apparently I haven’t grown out of that approach. :-)

    *And onions, but my parents didn’t even attempt to go there with me!

  3. Comment by Andrea

    I used to eat this everyday at a restaurant I worked at (it was an absolute love affair). Took me years of begging before I got the recipe out of the cook and then years to convince myself not to mess with it, because it was too simple to believe!!! Theirs didn’t even have tomatoes in it, but instead had about 4 bay leaves/1 cup of lentils. Thanks for posting, though as I was looking to refresh my memory of proportions. Greek food (even when it is just a piece of broccoli) is just….love.

  4. Comment by Harry

    My grandma makes this for me, I love it :)

  5. Comment by Erin

    my kids love to add crumbled feta to the top instead of the red wine vinegar. Tastes lovely this way as well.

  6. Comment by Paul

    My mother made this without the olive oil for dinner every night during Holy Week, and a lot of the more normal recipe throughout the year. I still love this dish despite the cruel and unusual oil-less version we endured. And yes, grating the carrots is a great idea.

  7. Comment by Lentil Soup Rules

    Can I replace carrots with something? I’m allergic to them. I mean I can eat cooked carrots, but a fresh one anywhere around will send me to a hospital. What else can I use instead of them? Or can you buy already cooked ones perhaps? (Never seen such a thing though.)

  8. Comment by lisa

    speaking of Holy Week/fasting as the devoted Orthodox tend to do….don’t you just love it that our folk forgo olive oil but eat kgs of olives with their bread loaves, just gorgeous!!

  9. Comment by DIMITRIA

    i had to go to 20 websites to find this recipe this is exactly how my yiayia used to make fakes this is the best food ever do you also have the recipe for spanachoriso!?

  10. Comment by Melanie

    Being British and especially fond of swede, I will try adding this to the dish when I make it for the first time. I feel it can only make it taste more delicious.

  11. Comment by amna

    i love the food yummy :)

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