Whether you’re looking to eat better in the new year or chase away the winter doldrums (I need to do both), this lentil soup is just the ticket. I love it for its many layers of flavor: the smokiness of the bacon, earthiness of the lentils, and sweetness of the vegetables. The key to success is to use French green lentils, which hold their shape when cooked and thicken the soup without turning it to sludge (which is, sadly, the fate of most lentil soups).
In some cultures, lentils symbolize luck and prosperity. I wish that for you — as well as health, happiness, and everything you hope for in the new year. Much love, Jenn
What you’ll need to make French Lentil soup
You can find French green lentils, or lentilles du Puy, in the bulk section at Whole Foods or other specialty food shops. You can also order them online (affiliate link). They are definitely worth going out of your way to find but if you can’t get them, go ahead and use common green or brown lentils; Just watch the cooking time carefully as they can get mushy. Whereas the French green lentils will need to simmer for 45 to 50 minutes, common green or brown lentils will need just 20 to 25 minutes.
While I love the flavor that bacon lends to this soup, if you don’t eat pork or are a vegetarian, you can omit the bacon. The soup will still be delicious but you might add a pinch of smoked paprika to mimic the smoky flavor of the bacon.
How to make French Lentil soup
Begin with the prep. I like to chop the bacon, onions, and celery very fine, so they aren’t too discernible in the finished soup. However, I keep the carrots a bit larger so they don’t disappear.
To make the bacon easy to dice, wrap the slices you need in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes. They will be a bit stiffer when you remove them and much easier easier to cut.
Cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Don’t be tempted to discard the bacon fat before you add the vegetables to the pot; you’ll need to cook the vegetables and it also adds flavor.
Add the olive oil, onions, celery, carrots, and garlic.
Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, lentils, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender but not mushy, 45 to 50 minutes (less for common lentils).
Using an immersion blender, purée the soup a little bit at a time until the broth is slightly thickened. Go easy — if you purée the soup too much, it will get too thick and you’ll lose the integrity of the lentils. If you don’t have an immersion blender, simply transfer a few cups of the soup to a standard blender and purée, then return the blended soup to the pot.
Season to taste and adjust the consistency if necessary (the soup tends to thicken as it sits, so you may need to add some water).
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.
You may also like
- Smoky Chickpea, Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup
- Indian Spiced Red Lentil and Chicken Soup
- Pasta e Fagioli
- Summer Vegetable Soup with Pesto
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