A hearty, homey soup.
Lentil soup is always in heavy rotation in my home. Easy to make, hearty, and filling, this recipe makes a great vegetarian lunch or dinner all on its own, or with some crusty bread and butter.
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French Lentils vs. Other Lentils
Vive la French lentil difference. French lentils — as opposed to the ordinary brown variety — are smaller and more dense, with a little less starch. This matters. When French lentils are cooked, they retain their shape. It is hard for these guys to break down too much, which would otherwise leave you with brown mush. In that way, they are more forgiving than brown lentils.
French lentils also have a great nutty flavor. And like all lentils, these legumes are a nutrition powerhouse, loaded with fiber, iron, protein, and more.
Recipe Notes: Vegetarian French Lentil Soup
- The base of this lentil soup combines French lentils with the typical soup “holy trinity” of onion, carrots, and celery. From there things get a little more interesting. Tomato paste adds depth of color and a little acid, while thyme and bay leaves add more aroma and flavor.
- Finish this soup with a generous dash of red wine vinegar and a knob of good butter. The vinegar adds brightness and complements the saltier soup base. Butter rounds out the flavor and gives the soup a silky texture.
- This soup recipe calls for French lentils. That said, regular brown lentils are a fine substitute.
- Substitutions. Want to make this vegan? No problem. Skip the butter at the end. Don’t care if this is vegetarian or not? Feel free to use a quart of chicken broth in place of some of the water.
Did you make this Vegetarian French Lentil Soup recipe? Tell us about it!
Vegetarian French Lentil Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- 1 pound celery, peeled and chopped (leafy, pale center stalks removed)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 generous sprig of thyme
- 1 or 2 fresh parsley stems, with leaves
- 1 pound French lentils, or regular brown lentils
- 2 1/2 quarts cold water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 12 turns freshly-ground black pepper
- pecorino-Romano cheese and freshly-chopped parsley, optional, to finish
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped carrots, celery, and diced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have slightly softened. Add the tomato paste and garlic and stir constantly (so the tomato paste does not burn) for 2 minutes more. The tomato paste should coat the vegetables. TIP: I always buy a tube of tomato paste, not a can. The tube lasts longer, is less messy, and is better for small quantities.
- Add the lentils, water, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves. Stir. Bring to a boil, then lower to a generous simmer. Partly cover the soup with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes. TIP: If, for some reason, the soup looks too thick, add a little more water and stir it to the right consistency.
- Add the salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, and butter (if using). Taste for seasoning.
- Fish out the bay leaves and thyme and parsley stems. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated pecorino-Romano cheese, minced parsley, and some good crusty bread.