This soup is so good. At once warm and comforting and bright and fresh, suitable for both dinner parties and weekday lunches, Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill belongs in your back-pocket recipe collection. The dill and the lemon work together here to take an otherwise simple soup to new heights. Based on an Alice Waters recipe, but taken in a different direction, this soup uses a basic technique that you can use again and again in making soups. You’ll love Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill!

Giving Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill the proper treatment

Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill has appeared on the blog before, but it’s been buried in posts and never really gotten the proper treatment it deserves. For Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill is absolutely delicious. It’s the recipe I’ve been asked for the most over the years, it’s not hard to make, and you can easily make it your own. This soup belongs in your back-pocket recipe collection. 

A white bowl of Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill, garnished with a dill sprig, on a light wooden surface

I begged for the recipe Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill is based on

Have you ever begged for a recipe after a dinner party? I did that twenty years ago, and that’s how I got the recipe on which this soup is based. I fell in love with Carrot and Cilantro soup, by Alice Waters. The soup itself was delicious, but the little salsa on top was what really made it special. It had cilantro, lime, red onions, and jalapeños.

 

I loved it so much that I talked about it the entire dinner. My host graciously got me a photocopy of it a few days later (the photocopy doesn’t show the book title, but I am pretty sure that it is from Chez Panisse Vegetables), probably so that I’d shut up about it.

 

Haha. Nope.

That recipe helped me learn how to cook

The recipe for Carrot and Cilantro Soup helped me learn how to cook. I hadn’t really done a whole lot of cooking up to that point, but I had a new collection of Le Creuset cookware I’d picked up for a song as an employee at one of their outlet stores and wanted to learn how to use it (FYI, I don’t think the discount is as steep anymore, but goodness, that was the best part-time job I ever had).

I made that recipe for dinner parties (not ones he was at, obviously), and I’ve given that recipe to other people. Once I even won a prize for it at a friend’s Soup-Off party (side note: We need to have more soup-off parties). I stuck to that recipe faithfully, never varying. It helped me to become a better cook. You should try it sometime, because it is delicious.

What's a back-pocket recipe?

A back-pocket recipe is one of those dishes you make on repeat, making it your own over time. It’s one of those dishes you make when you’re not sure what to cook, because you know that it’s just that good

Just one problem

There was just one problem—finding cilantro and jalapeños consistently, at the same time, in New England markets. Too many times I’d fill my basket with onions, carrots, and potatoes, only to find one or the other of those ingredients missing. Once the store was also out of limes. I got frustrated, bought some parsley and thyme, and added a little dried chervil to my soup, drizzling it with a bit of cream to serve.

Hmm . . . that was pretty good! I still make it that way sometimes.

Experimenting and creating a back-pocket recipe

Then I started making it with fresh dill, which was easier to find than chervil. And I liked that even better. I started adding a little bit of lemon and more herbs in the soup base. That was even better. My new incarnation won admiration from my dinner guests.

One time I wasn’t really thinking, and I squeezed in more lemon than I usually do. I was a bit concerned until I tasted it. That extra acid really did it. The next time I served it to guests, one of them blew kisses at me.

Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill is a keeper.

For Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill, think 1:1:2

Don’t worry too much about the amounts in the recipe. The general idea is to get yourself a russet potato, then have about an equal amount of onion, and have twice the amount of carrot (so, if your potato is a half a pound, a large yellow onion, and a pound of carrots). 

This recipe makes about four full-size bowls of soup, but if you really want just a bowl or two, just start with a smaller potato (or use the other half of the potato for something else in your meal—maybe Individual Potato and Chard Terrines?). You can use the tools in the recipe card to scale up.

Technique: Sweating Vegetables

Sweating vegetables means cooking them, covered, slowly over low heat (no browning), often in butter, and with salt. This builds a flavor base that you can use in all sorts of soup recipes and other dishes

Sweating vegetables: the easy technique you can use in so many soups

This soup builds its base by sweating the vegetables, first the onions, then the carrots and potatoes, in a good bit of butter. Sweating the vegetables in butter builds a flavor base (and makes your kitchen smell amazing). It’s a technique you can use in so many soups (Roasted Butternut Squash Soup uses this technique), but here it really stars.

It’s not hard at all—you simply melt butter over very low heat, add the onions, cover, and then let it sweat for ten minutes or so until the onions are soft. You do need to check it to make sure that they aren’t browning, but otherwise, it’s very hands-off. Then add the carrots and potatoes, salt generously, and then cover again for another 10-12 minutes, or until you start to see a bit of liquid in the pot. It just takes a little patience, but it’s so worth it.

From there, Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill is so simple . . . and so good

From there, you add the stock and herbs (reserving the dill for the end), and then the lemon. The recipe calls for the juice of half a lemon—you might want to experiment with a bit less and make it to your taste, but I will tell you that I’ve added the juice of a whole lemon by accident and have not been mad about it.

Cook the soup until the vegetables are tender enough to mash. Add the dill, and blend, using an immersion blender (easiest, and what I use), or a blender or food mill for a smoother soup. Garish with a little dill, and a drizzle of cream or pat of butter, and enjoy your Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill!

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A white bowl of Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill, garnished with a dill sprig, on a light wooden surface

Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill

At once warm and comforting and bright and fresh, suitable for both dinner parties and weekday lunches, Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill belongs in your back-pocket recipe collection. The dill and the lemon work together here to take an otherwise simple soup to new heights. Based on an Alice Waters recipe, but taken in a different direction, this soup uses a basic technique that you can use again and again in making soups.
Don't worry too much about the quantity. I usually let the potato guide me and use about the same amount of onion and twice the amount of carrots. I like a thicker soup; if you like a thinner one, simply add more stock or water and adjust the seasoning accordingly. I use an immersion blender, but if you really want a smooth soup, you can use a standard blender or a food mill and then strain it.
Experiment with the lemon, and be sure to taste for salt. I haven't specified exactly how much, except for when sweating the vegetables, because it depends in part on your stock (and, of course, your taste).
The soup needs a long simmer, and sometimes those carrots and potatoes take a long time to cook. Plan accordingly.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 4 large bowls

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into chunks 454 grams
  • ½ pound russet potato, peeled and cut into chunks 267 grams
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced thickly think onion rings
  • kosher salt to taste, but don't omit in the sweating step
  • 4 cups chicken stock bullion is fine, but use about half the amount normally called for (946 ml). you may need a bit more as the soup simmers. Veggie stock is fine
  • 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ lemon, juiced to taste, you may wish to start with less and add more
  • ½ ounce dill sprigs, long stems removed, plus more for garnish to taste, this is equivalent to several sprigs of dill
  • cream, crème fraîche, or pats of butter to serve, optional

Instructions
 

  • In a heavy-bottomed soup pot with lid (I use Le Creuset), melt the butter very slowly over low heat. Add the onion, stir to combine, and cover. Sweat the onion for about ten minutes, or until the onion is softened. Check every 5 minutes or so to make sure that the onion isn't cooking too quickly or browning
    Butter melting in a brown pot
  • When the onions are softened, add the potato and carrots, and stir to combine. Add a very generous pinch of salt and stir again. Cover and sweat for another 10-12 minutes, or until you see a bit of liquid (not much) on bottom of the pot. As with the onions, check every 5 minutes or so to make sure that they aren't cooking too quickly or browning
  • Remove the cover, and add the stock (make sure that it is enough to cover), parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and a couple of twists of black pepper. Add the lemon juice. Raise the heat to medium
    Herbs and stock added to a soup pot with carrots, onions, and potatoes
  • Stir, and taste. You'll very likely need to add more salt (I usually have 2-3 good pinches total in this recipe)
  • Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to keep the soup at a simmer
  • Skim the foam off the top. You don't need to do this perfectly, but it will improve the flavor of the soup
    A soup spoon with butter foam
  • Continue to cook until the carrots and potatoes are very soft (you will need to be able to purée the soup). If the liquid gets significantly lower, add a little more stock or water and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat
  • Add the dill sprigs (remembering to save a couple for garnish) and stir. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, if necessary. Blend the soup, using an immersion blender, until smooth
  • To serve, return the soup to a simmer. Serve garnished with cream, crème fraîche, or pats of butter (if desired), and a small sprig of dill
    A white bowl of Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill, garnished with a dill sprig, on a light wooden surface

Video

Keyword carrot soup, carrots, dill, lemon
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Travel cooking & Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill

I made Lemony Carrot Soup with Dill while in the Balkans, improvising with ingredients and equipment I had available, in true back-pocket recipe form.