Winter is still going strong up here in Minnesota with temperatures dropping below zero (again) for several days during the coming week. Yikes!
In my book when the weather is cold outside there’s nothing better than coming home to a rich, delicious bowl of soup. Yes, I love soup for lots of reasons, but I believe my lentil soup is one of the tastiest soups around. Filled with protein-packed lentils and tons of veggies, this soup is a perfect pick-me-up for a hearty lunch or an evening supper with the family. And I’ve found that even little kids love the taste of lentils! I like to pair it up with a small side salad or maybe bake a batch of homemade biscuits or cornbread if I’ve got the time. But truth be told, this soup is simply wonderful all by itself!
So let’s get right to the recipe. If you’ve got an hour to let it cook, make it on the stove … but I’ve also shared a slow-cooker option for when you just want to set it and forget it—so to speak. And also, please take a look at the suggested garnish ideas. I really think splashing some balsamic vinegar on top with some nuts, sour cream, and cilantro makes the perfect combination of tastes. But set out some options and let your family pick and choose. After all, giving kids (and adults) ways to customize food to their palates always gets them more excited about a meal!
I hope you’ll give this soup a whirl in your kitchen. If you’ve got any questions or want to share how you like to garnish your lentil soup, just add a comment below!
- 2 cups dry, green lentils (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (see notes)
- 2 cups onion, chopped fine
- 2 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (about 6 cloves garlic)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 ounce)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 8-9 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 4 tablespoons red wine
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped OR 3 cups baby spinach or escarole, chopped
- chopped green onions
- shredded carrots
- chopped cilantro
- chopped parsley
- sour cream
- grated cheese (parmesan or whatever kind you prefer)
- sliced almonds, toasted
- balsamic vinegar
- hot sauce
- Inspect and sort lentils to make sure no small stones or foreign bits are mixed in. Rinse lentils in cold water. Set aside.
- In an 8-quart pot warm olive oil over medium low heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery until vegetables start getting soft and onions become translucent. Add garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, thyme, basil, and oregano. Cook for 1 minute. Add lentils, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes until the lentils start to darken and the vegetables are soft.
- Add broth and turn up heat to high. Bring soup to simmer and lower temperature to medium low and maintain the simmer. Add wine. Cook for about 30 minutes until lentils are tender. Add vinegar and remove the bay leaves.
- For a thicker soup, using an immersion blender, pulse the soup until the desired thickness is achieved. You can also remove 5-6 cups of the soup and purée in a blender.
- Serve up in bowls and garnish. My favorite way to garnish this soup is with some sour cream, cilantro, pistachios, and then I drizzle balsamic vinegar and hot sauce on top. Yum!
I think French green lentils work best. They tend to be a little firmer and less mushy than brown or regular green lentils. That said, green and brown lentils work fine.
Slow cooker option: Cultures that cook with lentils often (like India) recommended sweating the lentils first so they retain their shape and firmness. This involves cooking the lentils first with something acidic (in this case tomatoes) and salt. If you care about a firmer lentil, then follow the order of the directions above. If texture doesn’t matter so much to you, you can opt to cook this soup in a slow cooker. Simply cook all the ingredients except for the wine and vinegar for 6-8 hours over low heat. Then add the wine and vinegar and follow the remaining directions above.
If you prefer, instead of using olive oil you can substitute 6 slices of bacon that have been cut into ½-inch pieces. Fry the bacon over medium heat. Add vegetables before the bacon starts to brown.
I prefer making a big batch of soup so there’s plenty for leftovers and to freeze. If you prefer, this recipe can easily be cut in half.
Kitchen Resources & Tips:
- A great kitchen ladle is a must for any soup or chili recipe. I recently realized the ladle I had been using was old and plastic … which got me wondering what sort of plastic it was made of and then thinking there might be BPA in it. So I decided it was time to replace the old one with something that I didn’t have to worry about, like this stainless steel ladle from ChefLand.
- A great, non-slip cutting board is an invaluable kitchen asset when cutting up the vegetables for your soup. I upgraded to these Epicurean non-slip boards this summer, and I’ve been really pleased with them.
- A high quality set of cutting knives can make a huge difference, especially when you’re cooking REAL food. My local knife shop advised me to invest in the higher quality Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature brand (higher quality than the J.A. Henckels International brand) and time has proven them right. (To make sure you know which Henckels knives are better, here’s a tip — look for the “twins” on the knives vs. the single guy sporting the trident.) While you can buy these knives online, if you’ve got a local knife/cutlery store, support them instead. I love my local cutlery store and bring my knives in every six months or so to get them maintained with a nice, sharp edge!
- If you prefer making this lentil soup using the slow-cooker option, this classic Crock-Pot Slow Cooker with a cook and carry option sounds cool—especially after some of my vegetable soup spilled in my car from my regular Crock-Pot on the way to book club this week.