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French Lentil Soup

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

French Lentil Soup with Bacon

Whether you’re looking to eat better 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. They are definitely worth going out of your way to find, as they work beautifully in soups and salads. However, if you find get them, go ahead and use common green or brown lentils; just watch the cooking time carefully as they can get mushy.

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 flavored with bacon, this hearty lentil soup is a meal unto itself.

Servings: 6
Total Time: 1 Hour


  • 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
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)


  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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  • Can I substitute red lentils in this recipe? Thank you!

    • — Erika on September 28, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Erika, You can — just keep in mind that the soup will taste a bit different and the red lentils will be much softer than green.

      • — Jenn on September 28, 2022
      • Reply
  • Really, really yummy. My housemate (who’s a very proficient cook) was really impressed!

    Only changes I made were:
    – no added salt (the stock I used was already quite salty)
    – extra thyme – I used half of a dried bunch which I removed before blending.
    – extra blending. I was in the mood for creamy soup, and I love how everything combined to mimic a cheesy flavour.

    • — Sarah on June 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Best soup ever!! I am so glad i didn’t do carry out today!! Definitely worth the effort!!

    • — Mary on June 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this soup yesterday. I used a combo of French lentils and brown lentils and follow the rest of the recipe. It was delicious! Will definitely be making this again. Thanks!

    • — Sarah on April 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is the best lentil soup I’ve ever made or tasted. Followed the recipe exactly.

    • — SandraV on March 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this soup vegan for my BFF. Omitted the bacon and just used olive oil. Doubled the carrot and celery and added about 3c of roasted butternut squash, 8c veggie broth, and 1T hot sauce. Pureed the veggie mix after it was cooked, then added and cooked the lentils. For my non-vegan friends served with a splash of crema on top along with the parsley. SO GOOD!!! The french lentils have so much texture which makes this soup interesting. Received RAVE reviews from all. Thank you Jenn!

    • — Kathleen on March 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • Another great soup! Made exactly as instructed and it came out delicious. Sharing with a friend who loves lentil soups!

    • — Alesha on March 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • Finally found a good lentil soup recipe. Thank you! I added 1 tsp smoked paprika and some diced potato. Its easy to make and next time I will make a double batch!

    • — Annie D. on March 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • Delicious. This is my favorite Lentil soup. I barely used the immersion blender because I like it a little “chunky”.
    Do you think this would freeze very well?

    • — Mark P. on February 18, 2022
    • Reply
    • Glad you like it! Yes, it freezes nicely; see the bottom of the recipe for freezer-friendly instructions.

      • — Jenn on February 21, 2022
      • Reply
  • First time cooking lentil soup – perfect instructions & delicious taste!

    For those without the exact French lentils in the pantry (my scenario)- make the recipe anyway.

    Ended up using green lentils instead of French – and we very much enjoyed this. Next time I will make a point to purchase French lentils as you recommend that.


    • — Barrie Mirman on February 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this soup today and it was delicious and felt in love with the flavor !!!

    Thanks !

    • — Karine on February 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • I usually use the bigger green/brown lentils and didn’t know how to cook the small French lentils. I made this recipe twice already and have loved it each time. I made it for a friend after her surgery, and she said it was the best lentil soup she’s ever tasted. Thank you!

    • — Daniela on January 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • The soup is delicious. I have made many lentil soup recipes and this is right up there at number one.

    • — Normajean on January 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • This lentil soup have become a favourite this winter. LOVE IT

    • — Rose on January 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • Flavors were wonderful. Came out a bit salty though.

    • — Tracy Larsen on January 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this and the arugula salad this past weekend. What a combination. Outstanding!!!

    • — Martha on January 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is a simple, healthy, staple recipe. I substitute anchovies for the bacon since I prefer not to eat pork. It adds a layer of umami flavor and depth. I add a bit of red pepper for spice, too! Delicious.

    • — Jennifer on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this for lunch today, followed the recipe to a “T”, and it was delicious!
    I’ve never made lentil soup without including diced potato but this was superb without it.

    • — George on January 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Another home run recipe! Thank you, Jenn! DELICIOUS!!!!

    • — Christine on January 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Excellent soup.
    I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes with green chilis since that was what I had on hand. Gave it a real nice kick! Also used turkey bacon.
    I’ll definitely keep this recipe and make it again.

    • — Lizzie on January 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wow…I’ve made lentil soup a lot, but this one was so flavorful! I am a vegetarian, but decided to cook with the bacon anyway. I took the chopped bacon out before adding the veggies and stock. I really think the bacon grease added a certain depth to the flavor of this soup, and my boyfriend got to enjoy extra bacon to add to his bowl :). I also used one small yellow onion and one shallot (all I had on hand). Very good!
    Great recipe!

    • — Sara on January 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • Just finished making this. LOVE it and so does my Grandson.

      • — M. McLeod on September 5, 2022
      • Reply
  • I’ve made this soup countless times. It’s delicious. However, I cut back on the salt (personal taste).
    Today, I had to improvise, as I did not have enough brown lentils left. I added some red lentils about 15 min later, as they cook much faster. It worked fine, and actually saved me the puréing step. 😊

    • — Anne on January 5, 2022
    • Reply
  • Substituted the bacon with ham steak and it turned out delicious!

    • — Rachel Coward on December 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! Jenn, you never disappoint! You’ve become my go-to for recipes. Thank you!

    • — Linda on December 19, 2021
    • Reply
    • I feel the same way. No wondering if recipe is good….because Jenns’ recipes are spectacular!

      • — Kathy on January 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • It would help if your article included the amount of each ingredient and not just a picture.

    • — Jack on December 19, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jack, It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions underneath. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an orange/red button that says Jump to Recipe – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on December 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • I made this but was curious why only 1/2 tsp. of thyme for that much soup. I felt it needed more flavoring. Was this a mistake? I also feel it could use more bacon or else my bacon was extremely thin as it looked nothing like the amount of bacon pictured in your photo. I think giving ounces would be helpful.

    • — Nanci on December 11, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Nanci, The 1/2 teaspoon of thyme is not a mistake. Feel free to add more the next time you make this. And you make a good point about the bacon. I’m going to weigh three slices of bacon and add that to the recipe. Thanks for your input!

      • — Jenn on December 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • Easy to make and delicious! Happy it made more than we could eat because now I have 2 servings in the freezer for another day.
    Yes! I will make this again!

    • — Kay McNealy on November 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • I absolutely loved this soup. I was afraid for years to even try lentils. I happened to have it in a restaurant one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Personally, I think your recipe is better!

    • — Robin on November 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made as directed. Made a double batch. Excellent. Easy to make. Thanks for the lovely soup recipe!

    • — Ria on November 16, 2021
    • Reply

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