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.
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
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.
Recipe Testers' Tips
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.
This is a hearty and satisfying soup with excellent flavor and interesting texture. It certainly was more like a stew than a soup. I had a bowl the first day I cooked it and it was good. Two days later, I had another bowl and I think the flavor improved. The rosemary was more noticeable. A little sprinkle of maldon sea salt added to the soup in the bowl provided a good finishing touch.
I did not have time to soak the lentils overnight as I bought them the day I made the soup. I used my pressure cooker and cooked them for 12 minutes using slow release. Perhaps because I didn't soak them, I didn't have much cooking water left. I needed to add 3 cups of water. I ended up using kale instead of rainbow chard and cooked it for a few more minutes to wilt the leaves.
Leftovers were good and reheated well. The soup became even thicker. I think some additional water might need to be added when reheating. As I used kale, the leaves held up quite well.
I made this soup on a Sunday afternoon and was planning to save it for another day. I thought we were having something else for dinner, but once this soup was made and tasted (for seasoning correctness, of course!) we simply had to have it for dinner that very night.
A piece of crusty bread was the perfect accompaniment and with the combination of chard, squash, and lentils, it was a perfectly satisfying meal. This is a combination of ingredients I haven’t seen before, but it works. A great soup for a cold winter night!
This soup was a very simple one to make, although you could easily gussy it up a bit to take the flavour and richness a bit further.
The kombu gives a nice thickness to the broth, although I think the broth would be improved by a cup of white wine or using a portion of vegetable stock. The onions and butternut squash work well, but again, could lend more flavor if they were caramelized a bit before adding in all the liquid. Most of the folks who tasted this really liked it, although one person felt the rosemary was a little dominant and could be reduced with some thyme added.
I used baby kale, tender and as quick as spinach to wilt but with more substance. The first night, we had it plain and on subsequent days the leftovers reheated nicely. It works very nicely as a vegan meal, though for one of the leftover nights, I did top it with some crisp fried prosciutto and one friend mused they craved some sausage with it. One lunch meal, I added some of the lentils (strained with a slotted spoon) to a salad with apples and a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.
Hearty lentil soup is the kind of meal I crave in the autumn and winter. While I have had many soups that are similar in that they contain lentils, squash, and greens, the rosemary in this particular recipe adds a special touch. At first, I feared that 3 tablespoons might be too much, that it might overpower the rest of the flavors, but after everything was together in the pot, the prominence of the rosemary seemed to mellow and it fit in beautifully with all the other flavors in the dish.
The next day, when we ate the leftovers for lunch, the flavors had melded even further and the soup was even better than it was the first night, which I did not think was possible. This is most certainly a new favorite for us.
Seasonally delicious and colorfully appealing—everything from the French lentils to the orange of the squash to the dots of chard to the finish with olive oil works beautifully. This is a lentil soup you could proudly serve to company.
This would also work all the way from early to mid fall when the squash begin to appear at the farmers markets and all the way through the cold of winter, at least January and February and quite possibly into March. I did not plan ahead and cooked the beans unsoaked, and did not have filtered water available, so tap water it was.
I used the kombu, always a fine addition when cooking beans, both for the added nutrients and for its helpful anti-flatulence properties when added to a bean pot. My beans were cooked in 20 minutes despite not having soaked them.
I wilted the chard for 2 minutes, which left it a little underdone, just how I like it, and, by the time I stirred in the remaining ingredients, it had wilted further, perhaps more to my diners’ desires. I salted (not too much) and peppered (quite a lot), and then shared the soup. It’s a hearty soup, even with the slight bit of lightening from the vegetables, and a moderate sized serving suffices even for hearty appetites.
As for reheating, yes! This is a keeper for sure, and can be reheated with excellent results. If it becomes too thick, simply add some more water, stir, and enjoy! Note that I cut my chard smaller than in the photo, so my chard was more dot-like and less prominent than in the accompanying photo.