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Red Lentil, Fennel and Chicken Slow Cooker Soup / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

This is the Story of The Day I Became a Tailgating Football Mom.  Or something like that.

So, I live in New York City.  If you’ve never been, it looks much as it does on tv.  Lots of people, tall buildings,  subways, commerce, noise.  I love it, and smile acceptingly when people often comment, “Oh, I love to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  That’s cool . More overpriced gyros for the rest of us.

And both my kids play football.  One of the first things any non-New Yorker will say upon hearing that is “WHERE? Where do they play?  That’s so weird.”

These are reasonable questions.  The answer is that they play some games at competing schools’ fields, when those schools are in the surrounding boroughs or suburbs.  And their practices and “home games” take place on Randall’s Island, a strange little island across the East River that has a large number of sports fields dispersed amongst a few structures such as a Golf Center, a Sewage Treatment Plant, and a Mental Hospital.

This thick and satisfying lentil soup has tailgating or sidelines or post-game meal written all over it.

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Only when I put things like this down on paper do I realize how odd it sounds.  And how I am actively confirming non-New Yorkers perceptions that we live a very singular existence here in our fair city.

Anyway, the first time I made this soup I ended up bringing it to Jack’s football game, right in the slow cooker.   Gary (who is now a 23-year veteran New Yorker) thought this was just plain odd (even though he grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, where I gather things like this happen all the time.)   We left without the soup, but thenI said “the heck with that” (I did not say heck), and I I went back up to get the big old pot of hot soup.

On the car ride there Gary kept asking where I would put the soup, and how I would serve it, as though I was planning to bring crème brûlée and a blowtorch to the field.  The boys had already left for the game; had they been home they would absolutely have lent their voices to the “this-is-so-weird” protest.

We arrived at Randall’s Island, and luckily got the really, really good field, the one upwind of the Sewage Plant, and with actual bleachers.  Someone had actually brought a table for people to drop off snacks on (thus solving the problem of where I would put it), and I dropped off a ladle and some plastic bowls and spoons next to it (thus solving the problem of how I would serve it).

Red Lentil, Fennel and Chicken Slow Cooker Soup / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /

It was the final game, the Super Bowl, of their league, against their arch rival school, and tensions were high. I will spare you the blow by blow, and jump right to the part where my kids’ school won, completing their first second undefeated season in the history of the high school.  (It’s like I just discovered the italics key for the first time, and I am born again as a writer).

Oh, and the soup?  Gone.  And adorable 16-year old girls came up to me all night, and said, “Did you make the soup – it was so good!” which I may or may not need to tell you makes a middle aged woman feel terrific.

God, that was a long story.  Anyway, this soup is pretty good, thick, fragrant with cumin and coriander, kind of dal-like in personality.   I would definitely add the fresh parsley at the end, though the football game is purely optional.

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Slow Cooker Red Lentil, Fennel and Chicken Soup

5 from 6 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 4 hours
Total: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12 People
This thick and satisfying soup has tailgating or sidelines or post-game meal written all over it.



  • 2 onions chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 large fennel bulb cored and chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 2 large carrots peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ pound dried red lentils
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts diced small
  • 5 cups less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley plus more to serve if desired


  • In a large (5-quart or more) slow cooker combine the onion, garlic, fennel, carrots, lentils, cumin, coriander, chicken, broth and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Stir in the parsley and serve. Sprinkle servings with additional parsley if desired.


This soup travels well and is perfect for sharing at events. Just bring the parsley separate and garnish just before serving.


Calories: 199kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 23g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 48mg, Sodium: 583mg, Potassium: 842mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 2107IU, Vitamin C: 16mg, Calcium: 65mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!


  1. Ok, so I discovered your site looking for pork shoulder ideas, and ended up clicking on this recipe because I impulse bought (long story) some red lentils and have never, ever cooked them and figured, “Hey, two recipes in one Google search, that’s a bargain!” But what brought me to comment was your mention of the sports fields…I live in Iowa, the opposite of NYC, but my kids’ soccer fields were *also* downwind of the sewage treatment plant, so I know all too well the victory of scoring the poop-free field! Our youngest son wrapped up his last season of soccer a year ago, and my husband and I got a little emotional that after 7 years, both spring and fall, our Saturdays would no longer be game days. I mentioned that at least we didn’t have to sit by the poop plant on purpose anymore, and he replied, “Yeah, but…I have good associations with the poop. Poop means soccer.” To each their own. Also, I agree that as a middle aged mom, getting any sort of compliment from a high-schooler (especially one I didn’t birth) is a huge win.

    Bad-smell story aside, my husband is vegetarian, so I’m planning to give this a try using “not chicken” broth/bullion and maybe tossing some baked tofu in on serving. Orrrrrr, I can just make it with chicken, and then it’s more for me and the kids ;) Thank you for sharing it, look forward to trying it out!

    1. thanks for the mom-to-mom love! and if you make it with tofu, let me know how it turns out! here’s to more poop free sporting events.

  2. I don’t have a slow cooker. What if I just stick it on stove top, set the timer for an hour and add water if needed?

  3. So glad to hear! What a great modification – it’s a very flexible recipe. Love the cilantro addition.

  4. Hey Katie! This soup looks amazing! Three of my favorite things- red lentils, fennel and coriander. I gave my slow cooker to my sister but this soup makes me want to get it back. (I have a key to her house…)

  5. I love this concept – first time I made it, I subbed the turkey for cooked leftovers from Thanksgiving, then used a freshly home-made turkey broth. Also subbed cilantro for the parsley, which was AMAZING. Thanks!

  6. Just made this soup – it is delicious. I added more cumin and a little paprika. A delicious recipe on a cold Michigan day!

  7. This recipe looks absolutely delicious, may add in a few of my own seasonings.
    By the way, make the printable recipes one page, if possible. thanks.

  8. This looks delicious!! If you want to put it on in the morning and have it ready when you get home, could you just do it for longer on low? Or will it get too mushy? Thanks!

    1. I would say yes — it’s fairly mushy soup to begin with, which just works here (in my opinion) so I don’t think it will change all that much if you make those adjustment.

  9. Love the football story!
    Your soup sounds amazing. I love Fall and winter because I can have soup for dinner at least once a week. Or more. There’s usually leftovers.
    I’m on a soft foods regime right now so I think this will be perfect. I’m getting the ingredients today!
    Thank you for your monthly newsletter of recipes. The hardest part about dinner is figuring out what to fix.

    1. You can just use celery, about 4 stalks! If you want do add a pinch of crushed anise seed for that slight licorice-y flavor go ahead!

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