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How to make delicious lentil soup

Updated on August 5, 2013
Copyright 2011 Bill Yovino
Copyright 2011 Bill Yovino

Hearty, healthful, and satisfying, this lentil soup is great when the weather turns cooler. I started with a basic lentil soup recipe and tweaked it to my own taste. This simple, quick, and tasty, variation on the classic recipe uses diced tomatoes, which add depth and give it a nice color…unless of course, you prefer the classic grayish-greenish lentil soup look. You can change a few ingredients and make this a vegetarian or vegan dish if you wish.


  • 2 carrots, small dice
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts of chicken or beef stock (or the equivalent of bouillon cubes and water)
  • 1 pound dried lentils, rinsed well and drained
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
  • grated cheese (Romano or Parmasan)
  • cooked ham cubes or smoked ham hock

To make this a vegan dish, use olive oil instead of bacon, substitute vegetable stock instead of beef or chicken stock, and omit the meats and cheese.

The recipe

Use a 3 or 4 quart pot.

If using bacon, cook the bacon until all of the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels for later. Remove and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. If not using bacon, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pot.

Sauté the onions, carrots and garlic until soft. about 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes with the juice, lentils, bay leaf, thyme, and stock to the pot. If using smoked ham hock, add it to the pot. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Mash about half of the lentils with a fork and spoon to thicken soup. Continue simmering (covered) for another 15 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. If you used a ham hock, remove it and set aside.

Add the balsamic vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with cooked ham cubes or shredded ham hock. Top with grated cheese and reserved bacon.

Vegetarian/Vegan version: Omit the bacon and/or ham hock and use olive oil to sauté the onions, carrots, and garlic. Substitute vegetable stock for the bouillon cubes, and of course, skip the ham cubes.


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    • Bill Yovino profile image

      Bill Yovino 5 years ago

      @Billrrr - I freeze left-over spaghetti sauce and sometimes use it in recipes when I don't have tomatoes on hand, but I'm not sure if I ever tried it with lentil soup. Good suggestion. I'd love to hear how you make your Pasta Fagioli. Thanks for the comments!

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 5 years ago from Cape Cod

      Nice hub. In Sicily, and many other places, Lentils were the poor man's 'meat'. Those little round things pack a lot of nutrient power.

      Bill: I like your recipe, but I make mine with spaghetti sauce. Oddly enough; when I make Pasta Fagioli, I do not use sauce.

      Anyway, good article - voted up.

    • Bill Yovino profile image

      Bill Yovino 5 years ago

      I think you'll like it if you like split pea soup. I don't know how to describe the taste, but it makes a hearty, tasty soup. Some people aren't fond of the texture, which can be a little coarse. A sprinkle of olive oil and/or some grated cheese can reduce that.

    • hazelwood4 profile image

      hazelwood4 5 years ago from Owensboro, Kentucky

      I have never had lentils, but would love to give this recipe a try! What do lentils taste like? I am a big fan of split pea soup, and was curious if this might be what lentils taste like. Thank you for sharing this recipe, and I do look forward to making it!

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Bill, I linked to this Hub from my latest on Manischewitz cello soup mixes. I think your approach would be great to try with their lentil soup mix.

    • Bill Yovino profile image

      Bill Yovino 5 years ago

      Thanks, Slaffery.

    • slaffery profile image

      slaffery 5 years ago from Kansas, USA

      Sound really good will have to try. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Bill Yovino profile image

      Bill Yovino 6 years ago

      Thanks. The non-vegan version probably benefits from the added fat to make it less dry in the mouth. Perhaps a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over each serving might help.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I don't like lentils. But I made your recipe (because I had lentils in the pantry, courtesy of my mother, who happens to like them), vegan style, added a dose of freshly ground black pepper at the end, and found it fragrant and taste-bud appealing. Sadly, I still don't like lentils...they leave a dryness in my mouth that I don't like. But total thumbs-up on this recipe.