Why I Love Fakes: A Powerhouse, Vegan, Greek Lentil Soup

Originally published on SBS.

This bowl puts those conceptions of Greek food being meat dominated to bed.

There is a traditional soup that is quite divisive in the Greek community called ‘fakes’ (provocatively pronounced ‘fahk-ess’). Fakes directly translates to ‘lentils’ but in most contexts, the word refers to the lentil soup itself. It’s a staple of Greek cuisine – a rustic and comforting dish that is commonly fed to kids to make them strong.

There are plenty of spins on the soup, but it usually has a tomato base and features onion, carrot and celery. It’s a healthy dish that’s high in iron and protein, thanks to the lentils. It’s also vegan like many Greek dishes, despite the belief that the cuisine is meat dominant. And, if you weren’t sold yet, it’s also gluten-free.

I love the dish partly due to the nostalgia it carries, but also because of how many people can eat it, all while being flavourful and substantial. 

Fakes can be eaten all year round, but it’s commonly eaten during the colder months. It’s also a popular Greek Easter meal, ideal for those fasting and not eating animal products before taking communion. 

The soup is easy to make too. First, you must sort through the lentils to make sure there are no duds or cheeky rocks. Then, you need to soak them, but not for as long as you’d think – especially if you want the lentils to retain their bite; an hour in lukewarm water is plenty. Then you drain them and submerge them in fresh water. After this, add chopped onion, garlic, carrot, celery and tomato, followed by some olive oil and vinegar.

The soup comes to life with a combination of dried and fresh aromatics, including parsley, mint, bay leaf and fresh and dried oregano. Forty-five minutes on a low boil finishes it off.

The result is not the most attractive dish – the soup is an iconic dark brown, and that alone is to some people’s distaste. For others, all it has taken is one occasion where they’ve eaten overcooked, mushy fakes to have them blacklist it forever more.

The fakes debate is a regular one in the Greek community. I remember having a relatively heated discussion about the soup at Friday night Greek school (like good little Greek-Australian primary school students do). I’d go on and on about how great fakes are for the aforementioned reasons. Some kids agreed with me, others expressed their utter repulsion. We debated whose family member made fakes better and what dishes people preferred instead.

If you’d like to try your hand at making fakes, here is my mum’s (fantastic) recipe. I’m eager to know which side of the big, fat, Greek fakes debate you fall on.


Serves 6


  • 1½ cups whole green or brown lentils
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 small brown onion
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable stock powder
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Fresh herbs such as parsley, mint and oregano, chopped
  • White vinegar
  • Salt, pepper and dried oregano to taste
  • Fresh chilli or chilli flakes to taste (optional) 


  1. Spread the lentils out on a flat surface. Sort and discard chipped or shrivelled lentils. Ensure there are no stray stones.
  2. Rinse lentils and soak them in lukewarm water for 1 hour.
  3. Dice the onions, carrot, celery and fresh tomato, and set aside.
  4. Drain lentils and place in a saucepan. Add the cold water, vegetable stock powder, onion, carrot, celery, fresh tomato, bay leaves, canned tomato and garlic.
  5. Add ½ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar.
  6. Add salt, pepper, and fresh and dried herbs.
  7. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.
  8. Take the lentils off the heat and add another ½ cup olive oil. Stir through.
  9. Serve with a splash of vinegar.
  10. Add fresh chilli or chilli flakes to add some heat (optional)

Note: you can keep fakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Fakes can be stored in the freezer for up to 4 months.

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