French Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Bacon

lentil-and-vegetable-soup-with-bacon

I love this elegant lentil soup for its many layers of flavor: the smokiness of the bacon, earthiness of the lentils, mild sweetness of the onions and carrots, and acidity of the tomatoes. It’s made with French green lentils, which hold their shape when cooked, and thicken the soup without turning it to sludge (which is, unfortunately, the fate of most lentil soups). With a green salad and crusty bread, it’s the perfect meal for a cold winter night.

You can find French green lentils (lentilles du Puy) in the bulk section at Whole Foods or many other specialty food shops. They’re definitely worth going out of your way to find but don’t worry if you can’t get them — common green or brown lentils will work fine. Just watch the cooking time as they can get mushy.

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, but keep the carrots a bit larger so they don’t disintegrate.

Cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, then add the olive oil, onions and celery and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the carrots and garlic and cook a minute more, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the tomatoes and thyme…

Along with the chicken broth, lentils, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.

Simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender but not mushy, 45 – 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). Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

French Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Bacon

Print Recipe
Servings: 6
Total Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken broth, best quality such as Swanson
  • 1 cup French lentils (lentilles du Puy), or common brown or green lentils
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon in a large pot over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, 4-5 minutes. Add the olive oil, onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic, stirring constantly, and cook 1 minute more. Add the diced tomatoes (with their juices), chicken broth, lentils, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low and simmer until the lentils are tender, 45-50 minutes (less for common lentils). Fish out bay leaves and discard.
  2. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup until the broth is slightly thickened, or to desired consistency. (Do not purée too much or the soup will get too thick, and you'll lose the integrity of the lentils.) If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer about 2 cups of the soup to a blender and purée until smooth, then return the blended soup to the pot. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if desired and serve. (Note: The soup may thicken as it sits; thin with a bit of water if necessary.)
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  • Susan

    The soup looks wonderful, but please note that not all French green lentils are Lentilles du Puy. They must have that marked on the box or package for it to be real. And it makes a huge difference. Coops and Whole Foods sell French green lentils in bulk (at least in the Twin Cities, and they are NOT du Puy.

    • Jenn

      Hi Susan, Interesting. I’ve found the real deal at my Whole Foods in the DC area. In any case, you can tell authentic lentils du Puy by their color — they’re slate green, marbled with flecks of darker slate blue. They look a whole lot different than common brown, red or green lentils so they should be easy to spot.

  • Danita

    Lentils was on my shopping list for this weekend already. I was going to make the Food 52 post for lentil salad, but this looks good too. I’ll have to forego the bacon.

    • Jenn

      Hi Danita, If you want to leave out the bacon, simply use a few more tablespoons olive oil. It will still be delicious.

  • Elizabeth

    We are experiencing a “January thaw” in New England, but it is still cold and this soup will be delicious. It is so helpful to see the ingredients you use in the beautiful photos. Like all your recipes, can’t wait to try it. Thank you, Jenn!

  • Linda

    Hi Jenn,

    I’ve been looking for a good lentil soup recipe and here it is! I bought some the other day but they are “red split” ; the bag gives a cooking time of 12 min. When I make your soup, I’ll let all the flavors meld for awhile and toss in the lentils toward the end. Looking forward to it thank you

    • Jenn

      Hi Linda, Sounds like a good plan. Please let me know how it turns out.

  • Liz J.

    I saw this recipe come through my email while I was at work and wanted nothing else to eat for dinner. We just finished eating this for dinner and it was fantastic. The whole family (especially my 5 year old) loved it. My husband is Greek and adds a squeeze of lemon to just about everything. I had my soup without the lemon and had a taste with the lemon. Both were magnificent! Thanks for such a wholesome and delicious meal!

    • Jenn

      Hi Liz, So glad you all enjoyed. You can also add a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end for a little zing.

  • Beth Hill

    Made this tonight and it was fantastic!!! This is a keeper.

  • Jessica Ford

    This was the first time I’ve ever had lentils. The soup had amazing flavor, but the texture was kind of strange. I think next time I’ll blend it a little more. Thanks for a great recipe!

    • Jenn

      Hi Jessica, You can definitely can play around with the thickness of the soup. I prefer it just slightly thickened, but it’s a matter of personal taste.

  • Kathleen

    I really appreciate the initial picture with the ingredients for this reason: I have a really busy schedule, I look at the picture, know I only need to get the Lentils, and then open the entire email when at home and ready to cook. Love it! Thank you

    • Jenn

      Thanks for the feedback, Kathleen. Good to know!

  • Candi

    OMG! Just made this for dinner! It was amazing! My kids were licking the bowl!! So far every recipe I have made has become a family favorite! Thank you for doing all that you do! You have made me a much better cook!!

  • A double batch of this soup is resting on my stove as i type. I’ll serve it tonight for dinner with a fresh loaf of bread and salad.

    I don’t eat meat, so I skipped the bacon and added the extra olive oil as noted to another poster. After the soup was done and partially blended, I did my usual “taste test”.

    For me the flavor didn’t bowl me over…perhaps I overcooked? I’m not sure. I wound up adding about a tbsp. more of thyme which improves it, but I’m wondering if the loss of the bacon flavor impacts the result more than thought?

    It will be a nice soup (the thyme with lentils has a savory flavor), so it’s not a loss. But it’s not as jazzy as I’d hoped.

    • Jenn

      Hi Robin, I’m sorry to hear you found the soup a little bland. The bacon does add a lot of flavor but it should still be quite tasty without it from all the vegetables. I’m wondering, did you use regular chicken broth or low-sodium? That would make a big difference. In any case, it may just need salt to bring out all the flavors, or else you could try a dash of smoked paprika to mimic the smokiness of the bacon or a splash of balsamic vinegar (add little by little) to brighten it up.

  • Very nice soup and healthy to make at home

  • Berit

    Another great recipe! It tastes great and makes the whole house smell good. FYI: The instructions don’t mention when to add the olive oil. I almost forgot. Thanks again!

    • Jenn

      Thanks for catching that, Berit; it’s been corrected. So glad you enjoyed the soup!

  • One of my favorite soup recipes! I add a bit of Irish Whiskey for an extra zip!

  • Karen

    Love, love, love this soup. I made a special trip to Whole Foods to buy French lentils. I couldn’t find the packaged lentils like you show, I had to buy them from the bulk section. I excluded the bacon. Blending some of the lentils provides this soup with a rich creamy texture. I also added a little cumin. Thank you for the great recipe.

  • Theresa Jenkins

    this was a nice recipes but we tweaked it a little for our 5 grandkids…instead of diced tomatoes,crushed and we add thin spaghetti cut to bit size pieces[cook pasta seperate,save some pasta water if you need more liquid when mixed] and topped spaghetti cheese

  • Vasso

    I absolutely love this recipe!
    I made it exactly as is and it came out great.
    It’s fast, nutritious and delicious. My husband loved it as well, and he usually dislikes lentils.

  • Cindie Dean

    This soup is delicious, have made lentil soup for years, but I also add 2 links of good smoked sausage (no I do not leave out the bacon) to the soup during the last 20 minutes, then remove before serving & slice up into bite size pieces & add back to the soup right before serving. A hearty winter meal with just hot bread.

  • Gayle Snyder

    A wonderful hearty soup. I serve the cornbread recipe with it and it is a great meal.

  • Lisa Ballantyne

    So hearty and good. Perfect for a cold winter night. I love it with a warm whole wheat roll and a greek salad. No need to tweek the ingedients; it’s perfect as is!

  • Yum I love lentil soup and this is by far the best recipe I’ve tried so far. It was very flavorful and I froze some of it for eating later. It worked out great!

  • Mary

    I made this soup with both green lentils and red lentils. The red lentils cooked down much quicker than the green (and were pureed into thick consistency) but both versions were very good. The soup is great comfort food for a cold afternoon with a baguette and salad.

  • Tia

    I have never been a fan of lentils. This recipe looked so compelling I had to try it, and so glad I did. Seriously wonderful. And my husband and best friend loved it as well. I like to try lots of new recipes and have only a few I return to. This will be one. Thank you so much!

  • Lindsay

    I made this with the French Lentils and it was a winner – one of my husband’s favorites! The bacon adds great flavor to the soup. I served it with bread and a salad.

  • Berit

    This was my first time at making lentil soup and it was delicious! I bought the exact lentils shown in the recipe & think it made a difference. Easy to follow instructions made this a keeper.

  • Liesel

    My husband and I are big lentil soup fans so I was eager to try this recipe and we were not disappointed! Absolutely love the flavor combination of bacon, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves. This soup was even better the next day for lunch with a tiny bit of leftover rice added in. Thanks, Jenn – this one is going in to our lentil soup rotation!

  • Joanne

    I’m cooking this tonight (in Darwin, Australia) even though it’s 34C. This soup sounds perfect – and I love puy lentils. Thank you!

    • Jenn

      Hope you enjoyed it, Joanne.

  • Nadia

    The best lentil soup ever!!! Many thanks

  • Absolutely delicious soup. My husband was going to make red lentil soup and then discovered we’d run out but had green lentils. He then found this recipe on the Internet. What a find!!! We’ll definitely be having this again.

  • Cariann

    Made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious! Easy to make and everyone loved it.

  • Renee

    This soup is out of this world! The smokey bacon really makes it amazing. I don’t have an immersion blender so I just go nuts with a potato masher. I’ve played around with this recipe a little by adding barley, sausage, and chiles to give it some kick, however, the recipe is definitely great as is. It’s a keeper for sure!

  • Lisa Kroll

    Made this twice now. The bacon is awesome in this and my family love it!

  • Angela

    I made this soup using pancetta instead of bacon because I had some on hand. It was delicious. Try a bowl of the soup with a warm baguette.

  • This is cooking as I type. I cooked the bacon then took it out of the pan. Left the bacon fat to cook the onions in. My husband and I like the crispness of bacon and was worried it would be chewy. I will throw it in as a garnish. We live in Finland so I got what I could in terms of lentils. Also, there is no such thing as chicken broth here ( in run of the mill type) so we use those gelled pots of flavor you add water too. Usually works ok. But never the same. I do what I can!

  • Virginia Mitchell

    Is there any chance you will include nutritional information soon?

  • Rachael Horn

    Love your site and recipes. I’m now a kale lover thanks to learning about massaging it from you. Would you please recommend an immersion blender? Long ago I had a Kitchen Aid one that broke after only a few uses. Want to get a good one that will last. Thank you! -Rachael

    • Jenn

      Thanks, Rachel! I’ve this one from Cuisinart for years…I love that it comes with a mini food processor, as I use that all the time as well.link to crateandbarrel.com

  • xander

    Hi Jenn. Have made this soup many times and remains top of list for the family. Made it yesterday using stock from a smoked ham I cooked it was amazing didn’t have to add any salt to the recipe. Keep up the good work.

  • Joe

    What a meal! All the ingredients worked well together. I would not change a thing and very easy to make. Will be a regular in our family.

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