French Lentil Soup

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Chockfull of vegetables and bacon, this lentil soup is a hearty and healthy meal unto itself.

French Lentil Soup with Bacon

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 lentils. These small green lentils hold their shape when cooked and thicken the soup without turning it to sludge (which is, sadly, the fate of most lentil soups).

What you’ll need to make French Lentil soup

how 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.

how to make french lentil soup

Add the olive oil, onions, celery, carrots, and garlic.

how to make french lentil soupCook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

how to make french lentil soup

Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, lentils, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

how to make french lentil soup

Bring to a boil.

how to make french lentil soup

Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender but not mushy, 45 to 50 minutes (less for common lentils).

how to make french lentil soup

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.

how to make french lentil soup

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).

how to make french lentil soup

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.

how to make french lentil soup

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French Lentil Soup

Chockfull of vegetables and bacon, this lentil soup is a hearty and healthy meal unto itself.

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, chopped
  • 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 to 5 minutes. Add the olive oil, onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Do not brown; reduce heat if necessary. Add the tomatoes (with their juices), broth, lentils, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover partially, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are tender, 45 to 50 minutes (less for common lentils). Fish out the bay leaves and discard.
  2. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup until the broth is slightly thickened, or to desired consistency. (Be careful not to 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.)
  3. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The soup can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Serving size: about 1 3/4 cups each
  • Calories: 318
  • Fat: 12g
  • Saturated fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 35g
  • Sugar: 8g
  • Fiber: 12g
  • Protein: 17g
  • Sodium: 878mg
  • Cholesterol: 17mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • I’ve always loved lentil soup and this one doesn’t disappoint! I add a chopped up sweet potato…. adds a little richness. Thanks for a great recipe 🙂

    • — Mary on July 29, 2021
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  • I stumbled upon this recipe and site when looking for a lentil soup recipe. Wow! Not only is the soup fantastic, but now I have a whole site worth of recipes I can’t wait to try. The soup is going into regular rotation. It’s amazing.

    • — Jacki on July 9, 2021
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  • Wow is this soup delicious!! Really! The depth of flavor it has is incredible. I used turkey bacon because that’s what we eat and it was yummy. It was a huge hit with the family including the 13 year old boy so that means it’s really special! This will be my go to lentil soup recipe from now on!

    • — J. Manley on June 29, 2021
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  • Again, absolute perfection. I’ve made many versions of so many of your recipes and you’ve always take it up a notch (or two+). Thank you!

    • — Lorraine Rossi Marier on June 29, 2021
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  • Wow! You’ve taken the humble lentil soup to a whole new level for me! Thank you so much – the bacon is how my husband will eat it and he loves it to! Making it again tonight for the 4th time in the past couple months.

    • — Sheila on June 22, 2021
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  • loved it..first time i’ve used french lentils and think they are terrific…body and flavor…
    definitely be making it again…didn’t have any parsley on hand but i did have some gremolata that i made previously , hence the the reason i had no parsley and used that for a garnish and it worked really well……. your recipe calls for 3 slices of bacon and that to me was a lttle obscure as bacon slices vary in length from region to region..could you please give us an approximate weight for that ingredient…sorry to be so pedantic but would appreciate it
    thanks so much

    • — Paul on June 2, 2021
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    • Glad you enjoyed it! I would guesstimate the bacon would be the equivalent of about 3 ounces.

      • — Jenn on June 3, 2021
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  • Loved this soup. I blended it a little extra so it was all blended but still a little chunky. Lived in France as a kid and thought I was back there enjoying a great potage. The smokey bacon flavor made it that much better. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

    • — Louis on May 29, 2021
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  • I was looking up French Lentil Soup and saw you had one, so I had to use yours as most all your recipes are a 5 star. I double it and the only thing different is I add finely chopped kale and 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika and a 1/4 t of hot chile flakes. Now, remember I double this. Yes, this is a 10 star. I am making it for a friend who just came out of the hospital and made extra for my family and so glad I did.

    • — Barbara on May 20, 2021
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  • Have made this so many times and now a family favourite. I leave out the bacon for a vegetarian version and it’s hearty and delicious, and a meal in itself with crusty bread. Thank you for the recipe!

    • — Jo Khan on April 29, 2021
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  • Delicious! I have plenty of du puy lentils and have been wanting to put them to use. This soup was super easy to make and even though I couldn’t get my hands on celery or the bay leaves, it still turned out wonderfully.

    • — Siobhan on April 26, 2021
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  • 5 Star Wonderful!

    • — Myrna on April 23, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can this recipe be made in the crockpot? How long would it take if using common lentils?

    • — Janet on April 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Janet, I’m honestly not sure. I don’t have a lot of wisdom to share because I don’t have experience with a slow cooker, but these tips may help you convert the recipe. Hope you find them useful!

      • — Jenn on April 14, 2021
      • Reply
      • Thank you for the link—very helpful. We have made this recipe 2 or 3 times on the stove and once in the instant pot (not quite as good). This is a wonderful tasting recipe, simple, but it seems very gourmet. Whole family loves it. I want to see if I can make a crockpot version using the tips on the link you provided. Thanks again!

        • — Janet on April 14, 2021
        • Reply
  • I used about 200 g of Speck bacon
    Added pasata instead of chopped tomato
    Minus 1 cup broth
    Added 1/4 tsp celery seed
    Everything else as per recipe/method
    But my twist was add 1 cup medium grain rice with 10 mins cooking time left.
    The dish was transported to the inlaws for easter lunch and let me tell you it stole the show
    Called it a french speck lentil risotto lol
    The kids ate every last bit on their plates.
    Great recipe that is very versatile .
    Thank you
    You literally saved my bacon on easter day !

    • — Andy on April 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 5, 2021
      • Reply
  • Really easy and so good!!

    • — Flo on March 11, 2021
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  • Yumtastic. I had to make do with brown lentils but it was still a hit. (Already ordered les lentilles vertes du puy on Amazon for next time because yes, there will definitely be a next time.) The bacon fat and bay leaves knocked this one out of the park for us. Oven baked the bacon as I find it splatters a lot less and cooks more evenly. (Plus, the oven method doesn’t “baconize” our tiny one bedroom apartment lol.) Used slightly more lentils and slightly less broth as we like a high ratio of vegetables to broth in our soups. For anyone who has to go the common route, I found that 20 minutes of simmer time was ample. Skipped the immersion as we prefer brothy soups. Had a strong feeling we were really going to like this so made a double batch. So glad I did because now some can go into the freezer. Jenn, you’ve become my go-to source when I think “Hmm, I need a recipe for _______.”) I really appreciate your clear instructions and helpful photos. And your responsiveness to those who have questions is impressive. Thank you!

    • — Shelley on February 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad this was a hit and always happy to help! 💗

      • — Jenn on February 15, 2021
      • Reply
  • This soup is ridiculously good! I used ordinary lentils and simmered it for about 25 minutes and I can’t stop eating it. Another great recipe from you. Thank you and keep them coming!

    • — Lisa on February 13, 2021
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  • Holy bacon! That was definitely the stand out flavour in this dish. I love bacon so I was a big fan. It gave it a nice richness. The pairing of the vegetables, protein and fat made it a well balanced dish in both flavour and substance. I did substitute the chicken stock with veggie and used green lentils (I cooked it for 35 mins since I forgot to check on the lentils). The lentils were still intact but it could have used less cooking time, perhaps 25 minutes. If you live in a wintery climate like me it’s a great soup to make in the colder months. I like using what’s in season, which is sparse in February, so I like using pantry items and this puts them to good use.

    • — Catherine on February 8, 2021
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  • I have tried to get my husband to try lentil soup before to no avail. This time he came into the kitchen while I was cooking the bacon to ask what I was making. He said he would try it since there was bacon in it. Good thing I doubled the recipe because he had 2 bowls. Perfect for cold snowy weather. The only thing I didn’t double was the salt. Also, pay attention to the blending part, it really does thicken up. Delish. Thanks Jenn.

    • — Myra on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi. I made this soup tonight. Although our nights in LA aren’t exactly chilly, they are cool and occasionally gloomy. I loved this recipe because it was easy and nutritious and very delicious. I have never used bacon as a base flavor but it gave a lovely deep smoky flavor to the soup. Served with warm crusty rolls, this soup dinner became a a family hit!

    • — Cindy Park on February 1, 2021
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  • The bacon really adds depth to this recipe. It is SO tasty! I have also made it without the bacon for a meatless meal, and we added a bit more salt and liked it just as well.

    • — Mary E on February 1, 2021
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  • This soup is AMAZING. The bacon adds the right Smokey flavor. French lentils make all the difference – don’t substitute. It freezes well and is a delish soup to add to your winter rotation. Love it.

    • — Siobhan Kearney OBara on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • This lentil soup is excellent! Actually even better the next day.

    Do yourself a favor and use the green French lentils. They hold up well in the soup, and have a depth to their favor.

    • — beth snyder on January 30, 2021
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  • We loved all of the vegetables in this soup. They kept their fresh taste even after becoming leftovers. I substituted a package of Kielbasa sausage for the bacon just because we like that in lentil soup. This is my new lentil soup recipe.

    • — Beth Mouser on January 30, 2021
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  • A winter favourite in my household! Quick and easy (and healthy and inexpensive!)

    • — JENN BROWNLEE on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have made lentils soup a hundred times, but hands down this was the best recipe… my kids devoured it. Next time I doubling the recipe.

    • — Christina L on January 29, 2021
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  • I followed the recipe as written and it was delicious! My husband, son, and I loved it… the only thing I would do differently next time is double the recipe! I wanted leftovers for lunch tomorrow, but we all went back for seconds (and thirds) so all that was left over was an empty pot! Thanks Jen!

    • — Jill on January 28, 2021
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  • This soup is perfect! My kids normally won’t eat lentils, but they gobble this stuff up. I love it with bacon, but I made it once with pancetta, and that worked great as well.

    • — Zach R on January 28, 2021
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    • I made this with normal lentils and it was still very delicious!

      • — Jennifer on February 2, 2021
      • Reply
  • In the Italian tradition lentils represent luck, wealth and prosperity and are often served on New Year’s Day. This lentil soup seemed like the perfect dish to make for my family. I followed the instructions exactly and even used French lentils. It was delicious and the bacon added just the right amount of smokiness. Perfection!!

    • — Toni Russo on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Simple and healthy !

    Delicious lentil soup!

    Even my hubby loves it ❤️🥰

    • — Luci Silva on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • this is a great soup. I love to make ahead and have it a few days later to warm up. I have frozen it in small containers and taken to work for lunch to be heated up.

    • — tammy on January 28, 2021
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  • This lentil soup is very flavorful and quite easy to make. My family and I love lentil soup and this one is a winner. I went to a couple of supermarkets and they did not have the French lentils but I found them at Target, of all places. This is now one of my regular meals. Great recipe!

    • — Maricela on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I loved your French lentil soup but I had to rename it common brown lentil soup as that was what I had in my pantry. I will buy some French green lentils for the next time. My husband was especially glad it called for bacon.

    • — Suzy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have been a follower of Jenn’s for many years now and this recipe is one of my family’s favorites. It is the best lentil soup I have ever had – follow the directions exactly as they are, since much like all of Jenn’s recipes, this one has been refined and perfected!

    • — Laura on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Dear Jennifer! Thank you for your yummy recipes! I made this soup last Saturday as I was out of ideas for some comfort food and your website came up in my mind. I found the ingredients in my pantry and it came out perfect in my dutch casserole. My whole family loved it although kids are not big fans or any kinds of beans :-). Bacon added a great touch to the soup and I will definitely will add this recipe to the list my favorites. Thank you!

    • — Olga D. on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve been looking for more plant-based options for lunch, and this soup is perfect. It’s got great texture and flavor, and is very filling. I’ve made it with and without the bacon and it’s good both ways. I divide it into lunch-sized containers and freeze it, so I always have a healthy lunch ready to go.

    • — Carolyn Schult on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is one of my family’s favorites. It’s easy to put together and hearty enough for fall and winter.

    • — Wendy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe has become part of our weekly or at least biweekly rotation. I make a big pot on Sunday and eat it with warm, crusty bread and then we eat it for lunch during the week. It’s soooo good and I feel like I did something good for my family. Often I skip the bacon and add in other vegetables such as zucchini. I also add in small (cubed) red potatoes as my kids love potatoes.

    • — Gitanjali on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This soup is one of the best I’ve ever made. My husband had seconds and it’s the one soup we ate every spoonfull until it was gone. Earthy, yet delicate, a very tasty meal. I’d always shied away from lentils, but no more. I did use French lentils, absolutely delicious!

    • — Susie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • To make this vegetarian, I made this without bacon and with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and it turned out very watery and lacked flavor.

    • — Naomi on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Why would you rate a recipe based on your changes? So basically you gave your own creation 2 stars.

      • — LAURA on January 30, 2021
      • Reply
  • Delicious winter soup (or more like a stew really), great with crusty bread. Freezes well for a lunch during the week too. I sometimes add a couple of handfuls of greens (kale leaves for example) for an extra veggie boost.

    • — Lexley on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the best Lentil Soup recipe ever!!! I serve this soup all the time for “homey” dinner parties and receive compliments and requests for the recipe every time. I make the recipe exactly as Jen wrote it. It is full of flavor and extremely easy to make. Love to keep some in the freezer and heat up for last minute lunches or dinners. A friend who asked for the recipe made it but then called me in a panic because she didn’t have a blender. I told her not to worry, it will taste the same but the consistency will be slightly different. She called later that night and said it came out fine, her kids loved it and never knew the difference.

    • — Lori Armstrong on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This lentil soup was delicious. The bacon added wonderful flavor. It was perfect on a cold winter’s day

    • — Nicole Reynolds on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • We make this soup a couple of times a month lately. It is delicious. Even the 4yr old in the house requests it too. Filling enough on its own to be a main meal.

    • — Jules on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. Did not do the puree step at the end as it seemed thick enough for my taste. Paired it with homemade crusty bread for a great dinner. Will definitely be making this again.

    • — Kathy R. on January 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • I was looking for a soup recipe from a recipe book that I misplaced. It was a little museum cafe in Great Falls MT. As far as I can see, this is very similar to what I used to make! This time, instead of bacon, which I used to use, I had a ham hock from Christmas that I needed to use, so I threw that in the pot for flavor. I will keep this recipe now on my Pinterest board! Thanks!

    • — Lisa Riedel on January 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • Absolutely amazing! I made this recipe “as is” and included the optional parsley at the end. The soup came together easily and was healthy and delicious. It will definitely become part of our meal plans in the future. The arugula salad (your recipe) that I paired it with was scrumptious. I felt like I was eating at a fine restaurant!

    • — Deborah H on January 25, 2021
    • Reply

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