French Lentil Soup

Tested & Perfected Recipes

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

  • This has been a go-to soup in our house for at least 5 years. I tend to be loose with how I follow recipes, but have learned (the hard and disappointing way) that this soup wants the amounts of the ingredients in the amount stated … although one less slice of bacon didn’t hurt it (I only had two slices on hand) and a little extra thyme and salt is okay too. The upshot, it’s a fabulous soup and/or meal, and well worth the effort. (It’s not really hard: just a bit more dicing than you might like, but it’ll be okay when you place it in a bowl on the table and taste your first spoonful. The remaining spoonfuls build on the first and can transport you to a tasty happy place.

    • — Robin S. on January 23, 2021
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  • Excellent recipe. Added sliced hot Italian chicken sausage. Very hearty and tasty.

    • — Hilary on January 13, 2021
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  • In the recipe French Lentil Soup did you mean “a stalk of celery” which is the whole thing you buy at the store or a “rib” of the stalk of celery. There’s a big difference.

    • — Nancy Craig on January 12, 2021
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    • Hi Nancy, by stalk, I mean one rib. Hope that clarifies and that you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 13, 2021
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  • Dear Jenn,
    I never ate lentils before so I was anxious to make and taste your recipe. Today makes 3 times. This time I added an extra half cup of lentils and five ounces of fresh baby spinach. Amazing!! Thank you, Gemma

    • — Gemma on January 3, 2021
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  • Lovely soup! Comforting and flavorful. My son and I enjoyed it immensely.

    • — Jacqulyn on January 2, 2021
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  • I made this soup exactly as written; my husband, his daughter’s family and I loved it! I’ve just made my second batch in 5 days. It’s delicious!

    • — Doreen McCarthy on December 23, 2020
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  • Not sure if I’m missing something about the bacon. After it’s cooked, do you just keep it in the pot? Remove it and chop it and put it back in? Or just remove it? Thanks.

    • — Esty on December 21, 2020
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    • Hi Esty, You chop bacon when it’s still raw. Your first step will be to cook the bacon (and you leave it in when adding the other ingredients). Hope that clarifies and that you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 21, 2020
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      • Very tasty. I make a pot of this with the stock I make every time I cook a chicken or turkey. Now I’m cooking chicken and turkey more often. I use a whole bag (2.5 cups) of lentils and increase the ingredients proportionally, although I add a lot more bacon and carrot and less chopped tomato. Thanks for a fine recipe that is in heavy rotation!

        • — George on December 30, 2020
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  • This soup is delicious. I’m eating a bowl right now. I’ve tried other recipes that are very dense with lentils. This is perfect. Thank you!

    • — Patty on December 17, 2020
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  • Can I use fresh diced tomatoes instead of canned

    • — Sue on December 15, 2020
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    • Sure, fresh tomatoes will work (make sure to include the liquid that comes from the tomatoes when you cut them). Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 15, 2020
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  • Very good soup! You may find it too salty if you use store bought broth. I make my own broth from scratch with no salt so started with the 1 tsp and it was just right with making 1.5 times the recipe. I didn’t use the immersion blender as I like my soup really brothy.

    • — Anne on December 3, 2020
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  • So disappointed in this soup. I love this site and have used it many times.

    • — Ellen Anderson on November 30, 2020
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  • Enjoyed this recipe very much. Had lots of flavor and texture. I added a bit of chopped fresh spinach. Definitely a keeper. Thank you.

    • — L. Pennington on November 22, 2020
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  • I made this soup today – the only changes I made were (1) chopped 6 Roma tomatoes and added that instead of the canned chopped tomatoes (I needed to use up tomatoes from my fridge), and (2) substituted homemade vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. The result was delicious with a garlic bread and cheese side. Ty

    • — Alison Strachan on November 11, 2020
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  • loved this recipe — I was a Sunday dinner rock star making this! really came out great.

    • — Janice on November 3, 2020
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    • I’m not a huge lentil fiend but had this bag of French lentils sitting in my pantry for like 2 years. This was my first recipe I’ve tried from this blog. I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the heck out of this flavorable soup. Both my husband and I gobbled it up. Definitely going to try some more of her recipes.

      • — Sonya K on December 2, 2020
      • Reply
    • This is my go-to soup recipe. Absolutely love it! Perfect for whole family.. usually pair it some bread.

      • — Vids on January 29, 2021
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  • Delicious soup, great flavor and easy to put together! 😋

    • — Amy H on November 1, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn would it be okay to use crushed tomatoes? It’s all i have!

    • — Melissa on October 27, 2020
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    • Hi Melissa, It won’t have quite as much texture with crushed tomatoes, but it will work. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on October 27, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn, I plan to make this soon but, can’t find French lentils in any of our markets. Will green lentils still work?
    Thank you for all of the wonderful recipes!

    • — Sharon on October 21, 2020
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    • Glad you like the recipes! Yes, you can use green lentils here – just watch the cooking time carefully as they can get mushy. They will need just 20 to 25 minutes to cook. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 21, 2020
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      • Thanks, I’ll let you know how it turns out,

        • — Sharon on October 22, 2020
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        • Made this last night, it was wonderful! While making it following the recipe I noticed you had stated common lentils were ok to use…oops, thanks for answering my silly question. 😉

          • — Sharon Taylor on October 25, 2020
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          • 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it!

            • — Jenn on October 26, 2020
  • I love lentil soup and have made many over the years. This is the best Lentil soup I have tasted. I did not blend the lentils in the end because they were tender. Will make a double batch next time.

    • — Goga Luna on October 10, 2020
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  • Delicious! I did not purée it. I will definitely make it again!

    • — Kim on October 4, 2020
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  • Made the French Lentil soup last night. It was delicious and quite easy to make.
    Thanks for the recipe.

    • — Leslie Desnick on September 12, 2020
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    • How long would you cook this in an instant pot?

      • — Sharon on September 30, 2020
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      • Hi Sharon, I don’t have enough experience with it to tell you confidently whether or not/how to convert a recipe to an instant pot, so you may want to take a peek at these tips. It looks like they could be useful. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

        • — Jenn on September 30, 2020
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      • I looked at other recipes for lentil soup for the Instant Pot but used Jenn’s recipe otherwise since her ratio of ingredients and spices always works out well. You can saute all the ingredients as written in the pot and then instead of boiling it, use high pressure at 18 minutes (range was between 15-20 minutes) if you are using the common brown/ green lentils. I let it naturally release for 10 minutes. Took out some of the soup and blended it and poured it back in. We have a 6 quart pot.

        It was a bit thinner than I liked but I like thick soups. And the next day, it was the perfect texture. We ate it with fresh cilantro and lemon juice squeezed on top. Worked out really well and family was still asking for it after we finished the huge pot.

        • — Elle on January 27, 2021
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  • Thank you so much for this recipe it is absolutely delicious!! I left the bacon out and used smoked paprika like suggested and it is seriously my favourite lentil soup. 🙂

    • — Jess Marett on August 14, 2020
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  • Honestly, I am impressed with how good all your recipes turn out. I made it without the bacon, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and it is delicious! I didn’t expect something that seems so “common” as soup and lentils to be so tasty. 😋

    • — Eugenia on August 11, 2020
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  • Hi Jen, I plan to make this recipe and was wondering if I use vegetable stock instead of chicken broth? Will the flavour remain same? Thank you Vids

    • — Vids on August 4, 2020
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    • It’s perfectly fine to use vegetable stock – it will still be delicious!

      • — Jenn on August 4, 2020
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  • This recipe is a winner!

    • — Archie on July 8, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn! I just had to tell you that I made your French Lentil soup. It is wonderful & so easy to make. I ended up having to use crushed tomatoes( It was all I had in the house) & did not blend. That was all I changed. Thank you! This will be my go to recipe!! I have Tried a couple of your other recipes In the past😋❤

    • — Susan D'Amico on June 12, 2020
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  • Another great recipe from this site! Always perfect. This is my go to website along with Italianfoodforever for great recipes. All the recipes are easy to follow with good instructions. On top of the food being delicious. Thank you.

    • — Mara on May 6, 2020
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  • The whole family loves this soup. We make it at least twice a month.

    • — Matt Reagan on May 3, 2020
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  • Absolutely delicious!
    I’ll make again.

    • — Toni on April 22, 2020
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  • This soup is amazing. Rich, wonderful flavor. An absolute winner.

    • — B.J. on April 6, 2020
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    • Can I used canned lentils? If so how much? And would it change the cook time?

      • — Nicole on April 6, 2020
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      • I’ve never used canned lentils here, but I suspect they should work. I’d let the soup simmer for about 45 minutes after adding the tomatoes, broth etc. and then add the lentils in for about 5 minutes so they are heated through. And I believe you’ll need about 2.5 cups of canned lentils. Please LMK how it turns out!

        • — Jenn on April 8, 2020
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      • This soup is delicious!!!! Was a huge hit with the family! Easy to make too. I skipped the immersion part and was still delish! 🙂

        • — Angela on April 19, 2020
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  • I found this recipe awhile back and has become my go-to recipe for lentil soup. It’s simple to make with ingredients I almost always have on hand and is delicious as a leftover. Love it.

    • — Minnie on April 2, 2020
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  • Jennifer: Thank you for sharing your recipes. You always respond quickly with my questions and for that I’m appreciative. I taste your love and passion for food in your recipes! This French Lentil soup tastes so rich and flavorful yet it’s so vitamin packed. I gave my spouse a taste and he thought he was eating beef stew! I froze a batch and when thawed it tasted even better.😁

    • — Laurie on March 29, 2020
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    • Glad you enjoyed it! ❤️

      • — Jenn on March 29, 2020
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  • Hi, I made this soup today as I love lentils and I was feeling brave! I added a very small amount of cooking chorizo instead of 3rd slice of bacon and 2 small potatoes. This soup was absolutely delicious and the thumbs up from my houswhold critics I have shared it with some friends and will be making it again!
    As some in Ireland say – go raibh míle maith agat!

    • — Ruth on March 28, 2020
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  • This is a great recipe, one I’ll definitely make again! Followed the recipe exactly except for adding a pinch of crushed red pepper. Thanks!

    • — Nicole on March 18, 2020
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  • My soup is simmering right now. I had thick bacon and green Spanish lentils. I have foam around the edge. Could it be too much bacon grease? I’ll skim it off if it remains.

    I’ll come back and review later.

    This was so easy, Jenn! And I’m not a natural cook. Thank you!

    Diane

    • — Diane on March 2, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn,
    We are soup lovers and this soup is absolutely delicious especially the next day.
    It is so simple with amazing results. I have added this recipe to my “soup” box.
    Thank you
    M Cabral

    • — Maria Cabral on February 20, 2020
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  • Excellent flavor – I hated to see it disappear. The French lentils are amazing! I was pleasantly surprised to find them at our local natural food store.

    • — Dave on February 13, 2020
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  • A wonderful soup that is in steady rotation at our house. So cozy for a winter dinner, and a reliable hit with guests. Thank you!

    This might sound odd, but sometimes I mix the leftovers With a good amount of small pasta (ex ditalini) and top with Parmesan for a different yet delightful meal. 🙂

    Thank you for your wonderful recipes!

    • — Nora on February 10, 2020
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    • Great idea! Will try with leftovers!

      • — Sacomurphys on March 29, 2020
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  • I made this the other day for lunch. Very flavorful and it was great to be able to make a soup in an hour. I will be sure to make this again. I think lamb would also pair well with the lentils.
    Thanks!

    • — Liz McLean on February 8, 2020
    • Reply
    • Love the flavor but the veggies were too crunchy even though the lentils were just right.

      • — Patricia on February 14, 2020
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  • Judy again. I forgot but I used my little food processor for the onion and celery.
    Bam.

    • — Judy Schell on January 30, 2020
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  • Excellent soup. The French green lentils are perfect. I did not purée the broth because I prefer a thin broth. It certainly didn’t deter from deliciousness. One question. I have the darker Le Creuset pot. Around my handles are darker caked something which I hate but I don’t want to ruin the finish. How do you keep yours so clean? Judy

    • — Judy Schell on January 30, 2020
    • Reply
    • Glad you like the soup! It may look like my Dutch oven is pristine, but I just angle my camera so it doesn’t get the darker parts in the picture! 🙂 Here are some tips I found online for the best/most effective way to clean a Dutch oven. Hope you find them helpful!

      • — Jenn on January 31, 2020
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  • This was really terrific. The best lentil soup I have made. My husband could not stop eating it.

    • — Jill Schilling on January 24, 2020
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  • I really loved the flavours in this recipe. I made it in my pressure cooker and it was quick and I could not get enough of it.

    • — Thelma on January 24, 2020
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    • How many minutes in the pressure cooker?

      • — jgarmo on January 28, 2020
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  • Wow! That is seriously good lentil soup! This recipe is almost stupid easy to make. It usually takes me twice as long to make a recipe as the originating chef/cook says it will take. Not so with this one, it really is easy and and is quick to make. I would serve this soup to someone I was trying to impress!

    The bacon adds incredible flavor that works very well with the lentils. Speaking of lentils, if you don’t want mushy lentils be sure to keep an eye on how fast they are cooking, they will probably surprise you.

    Since I live alone and I made the entire recipe, I had plenty of left-overs to enjoy!

    • — flytech on January 23, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn

    I made this French lentil soup several times and it’s always delicious. I also made the Smokey chickpea red lentil soup which is delicious as well. I’m wondering if I could use some of the red lentils in the French lentil soup. Would this make a difference in the flavor? Thanks for your help.

    • — Maria on January 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Maria – just keep in mind that the soup will taste a bit different and the red lentils will be much softer than green.

      • — Jenn on January 24, 2020
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  • This is simple and Delicious, I didn’t have thyme. and at the end of cooking after I used the immersion blender I added more parsley & a hand full of spinach. cooked an additional 5 mins..Will Make Again !

    • — Patricia Powell on January 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, do you rinse & soak the lentils prior to adding them to the soup? Thanks!

    Amy

    • — Amy on January 21, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Amy, It’s a good idea to rinse them but no need to soak.

      • — Jenn on January 22, 2020
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  • Made the soup today. Very good, and my husband loved it too. I cheated a little with the proportions, as I had a larger can of tomatoes and less chicken broth. It still came out great. However, I omitted the salt altogether, because of the bacon and the broth. I am glad I did. It definitely was salty enough. So I would caution everybody to read the labels on cans and to be cautious, unless they like really salty soup. Other than that, great recipe!

    • — Anne on January 20, 2020
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  • Delicious -next time I’ll make a double recipe.

    • — Patricia L. Kraska on January 19, 2020
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  • I’m glad I doubled the recipe too! Delicious! Just received your cookbook in the mail yesterday and my next venture will be the pasta fagioli!

    • — Janie on January 16, 2020
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  • Jen!
    So terrific!! Made it without the bacon for my vegetarian daughter. We added the smoked paprika.
    It turned out very very good. First time using the green lentils and absolutely loved them – they keep their shape too!
    The thing I like most about this soup is that you don’t need to add Parmesan or a cracker – the lentils give it what it needs. Save on the extra calories!
    Excellent!! 😊

    • — Lisa on January 15, 2020
    • Reply

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