French Lentil Soup

This French lentil soup is filled with creamy lentils, sweet butternut squash, and tender chard. It comes together as a one-pot meal that makes ample leftovers to take to work the rest of the week—and which reheat beautifully.

A white bowl of French lentil soup, topped with ribbons of chard.

This French lentil soup is hearty, healthy, and comforting as heck. And it comes together in a single pot and makes enough to last for lunch most of the week. The combination of tender lentils, sweet butternut squash, rainbow chard, and fresh rosemary delivers no matter how often you have it.–Angie Zoobkoff

What are French Lentils?

So what’s the big deal about French lentils? And why are they better than everyday green lentils? There is a difference—and, depending on the recipe, it’s crucial to know what it is. French lentils are both smaller and darker, more importantly, they hold their shape much better than other lentils. Because of this, they’re a perfect choice for soups and salads or anywhere you want them to keep their shape.

French Lentil Soup

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 6
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If using soaked lentils, drain and rinse the lentils.

In a large pot over high heat, combine the drained lentils with the kombu, bay leaves, and water, and bring to a boil. Scoop off any foam that rises to the surface with a small strainer or slotted spoon.

Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are tender. If using soaked lentils, the cooking will take about 20 minutes. If you didn’t soak your lentils, simply increase the cooking time to 30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove and discard the kombu and bay leaves.

Drain the lentils and reserve the cooking liquid. (You should have about 4 1/2 cups liquid. If not, add enough water so you have that much.)

In the same large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and salt and sauté until softened, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes more.

Add the squash and reserved 4 1/2 cups lentil cooking liquid, crank the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the squash is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the drained lentils, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer until the soup has thickened and the lentils are beginning to disintegrate, 10 to 20 minutes more.

Add the chard and cook until the leaves are wilted and tender, about 3 minutes more.

Stir in the tamari or soy sauce and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from the heat, drizzle with olive oil, and serve immediately. (Any leftovers can be covered and kept for up to 3 days and reheated over low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave with a splash of water.) Originally published September 12, 2019.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

This soup was a pleasant surprise. This is a lovely wintertime soup.

You do need to take the extra step of soaking the lentils or cooking them for some time longer. Mine soaked for about 24 hours and, although the lentils cooked to tenderness in 20 minutes, they required more simmering (about 20 minutes) after the chard was added to create the creamy soup as described. So, even after all that soaking, the soup required about 90 minutes cooking time. Not the quick fix that I generally consider lentil soup to be, but worth it anyway.

I didn't have any rosemary in the house (because I forgot to buy it), so I used about 3/4 tbsp. of chopped fresh thyme from my garden. This was plenty to flavor the soup. The tamari and balsamic add a hint of flavor—not overwhelming at all—and took the soup to another level.

I never think to make soup with French lentils and red and green lentils do the job quite well, breaking down into a thick, creamy soup in almost no time.

This is a tasty, hearty soup that will warm you on a cold day. It’s also very forgiving, if you, like me, can be forgetful.

I forgot to soak the lentils, which the recipe said would be fine. Just increase the cooking time. I set a timer for 20 minutes when my lentils were simmering, thinking that I would check them at that point, and then see how much more time they would need to cook. I was chopping the vegetables for the soup while they simmered. I had forgotten to start the timer when I covered the pot and reduced the heat to simmer them. The lentils were done perfectly.

This was the first time I had cooked with rainbow chard. It won’t be the last. The taste is wonderful and the different colors are great. This made a lot of soup. I would say 6 to 8 servings. It reheated wonderfully in the microwave. I also froze lunch-sized portions for future use.

I added some sliced smoked sausage to the leftovers which was quite tasty.


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