Lentil soup for the New Year

by Eszter Hargittai on December 31, 2006

Apologies as this is too late for most of our readers outside of the Americas, but hopefully still in time for some. Below the fold is my blog entry from exactly four years ago. All the best for 2007!

Hungarian tradition has it that the first thing you should eat in the New Year is lentil soup. The idea is that the New Year will bring you as much in riches as the number of little lentils. The original idea is fully focused on money. That’s a bit materialistic for my taste so I’m going to think about it in a larger context of riches of all kinds.

So I’ll be making lentil soup today and sharing it will all those who are joining me for New Year’s celebrations. Here’s the recipe in case you’re interested in joining in on the tradition.

Lentil Soup for Good Luck in the New Year
(this is fairly free form, sorry, no amounts specified, go with your gut)

paprika (ideally Hungarian)

Take the lentils and after cleaning/sorting let stand in water for an hour.
Chop up some onions and saute in oil until transparent.
Add the lentils, some paprika (ideally Hungarian paprika for authenticity:), and a bit of salt.
Then add quite a bit of water (but don’t fill up the pan completely as more things will be added).
Let cook for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, chop up the carrots. Add to the soup and keep cooking until lentils are soft.
Take a bit of flour (1 tbsp) and mix it with a bit of water (2-3 tbsp) until smooth. Add a few tablespoons of the hot soup to it and mix some more.
Add to the soup.
Keep on cooking.
If you are a meat eater you can add some cut up hot dogs and cook for another five minutes.
Add a bit of vinegar (start with no more than 1tsp) and a bit of sugar (1 tsp).
Finally, take some sour cream, mix it til smooth and add to the soup. Cook for another minute or so then let sit. Let sit for several hours before consumption.

With that, I wish you all the best for the New Year!

UPDATE (1/1/07): See it with images here.



fishbane 12.31.06 at 6:02 pm

Hot dogs?!? The horror.


Kieran Healy 12.31.06 at 6:16 pm

If you are a meat eater you can add some cut up hot dogs

Maybe this is Eszter’s way of saying “If you are a meat eater you can add some cut up hot dogs and bloody well learn your lesson not to eat meat any more.”


blatherskite 12.31.06 at 6:20 pm

Consider “hot dogs” some kind of exotic sausage and maybe it’ll make more sense.

What is it with small beany-type things, New Year’s meals, and good luck? In the US South, black-eyed peas are eaten on New Year’s Day for luck.

Sometimes they are eaten just as a bowl of cooked beans, sometimes in a dish such as the wonderfully named hoppin’ john.

I may try your lentil soup some other time, but for me New Years is for black-eyed peas.


fishbane 12.31.06 at 6:38 pm

I should have added that I’m more of a cabbage and corned beef sort, myself, even though I lack the ancestry to make that mandatory.


Ben 12.31.06 at 8:03 pm

As a vegetarian, I’ve always longed for a recipe to say something along the lines of ‘meat eaters: add meat’ just to even the balance…


Eszter 12.31.06 at 9:56 pm

The one ingredient I forgot to buy in the store today is the meat component. Hah!


Eszter 12.31.06 at 10:23 pm

What is it with small beany-type things, New Year’s meals, and good luck?

This way you can say each lentil or pea or whatever stands for a separate good luck item/occasion/moment/gold coin.;) Imagine how much more you’d have to eat if it was each bagel or donut or *gasp* hot dog for one good luck event in the New Year.

Alternatively, it’s cheap and easy to make so everyone can have it.


dr ngo 01.01.07 at 1:32 am

We’ll be having the traditional (for us) lentils coriander tomorrow, with hot Italian sausage for the carnivore component. Mmmmmm. Now if Michigan can just dispose of the University of Spoiled Children with dispatch . . .


Dr. Minorka 01.01.07 at 5:56 am

Important, when adding paprika:
Take the pot off the oven. Add paprika, stir the whole thing well, and very quickly add water to the soup (to much heat makes paprika bitterish).
Instead of hot-dog try veal frankfurters (in Hungarian “virsli”):


Barry 01.01.07 at 10:45 am

For lentil soup, adding beef jerky is good. The spices in the jerky will flavor the soup, and the hour of cooking will make the jerky edible for those of us with merely human jaw muscles.

Also, what kind of lentils? Green, grey, red, yellow?


Eszter 01.01.07 at 12:42 pm

A few additional notes having gone through the recipe last night:

1. As hard as this is to admit, paprika is not necessary (I don’t have any with me in this temporary kitchen and skipped that step, the soup still tasted great)

2. Barry’s right, all sorts of other meats work, too (like smoked ham is amazing)

3. I used yellow lentils and they end up sort of brownish grey, I’d go with that

4. Dr. Minorka, I thought “hot dog” was the equivalent of “virsli” (although I don’t eat veal so it would have to be a different type)

5. In case you missed the update above, I’ve added some photos. Unfortunately, this is not the type of food that looks particularly good in the end, but it really does taste great! Just make sure there is enough salt. I made a ton and hadn’t put in enough salt. Brief tastings as it cooks helps. It’s never too late to add some salt so it’s not a big issue.


Peter 01.01.07 at 1:38 pm

The same tradition applies in Italy with a slightly less complicated recipe – our family uses green lentils to signify money, not red or yellow. You can also add Zampone, cooked pigs trotters, which increases the luck for the New Year.


Barry 01.01.07 at 1:38 pm

If it’s a recipe using paprika, use red lentils – go for the red!


Thompsaj 01.01.07 at 5:35 pm

In south carolina, it’s hoppin john and collards. The collards are for money because they’re green.


astrongmaybe 01.02.07 at 2:55 am

Thanks for the recipe, I’m going to try it out. And for the thread – the rest of CT today seems quarrelsome and ill-informed: it’s nice to read people pleasantly discussing a topic they know in detail.


luci 01.03.07 at 7:31 pm

Tamales too, for New Year.

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