Winter Favorite Recipe: French Lentil Soup

My view for most of January.

My favorite ways to stay warm during winter: fireplace, hot tea, hot bath, warm food. Are you tiring of your winter stand-by recipes yet? A couple of months ago Shannon shared her French lentil soup recipe with me. I am not exaggerating one bit to say my family has cooked this dish every single week since then. It’s so good that we’re sharing it with you. It’ll keep your family warm and happy.

Guest recipe from Shannon of Nourishing Days:

I am not what you might call an organized person. Our home exists in a semi-ordered state on good days and on bad… well it’s not pretty. I have finally accepted this and try to focus on everyday upkeep and just having less stuff.

Even with all of my type B tendencies, though, cooking makes sense to me. When given a few ingredients from our garden or farmer’s market I can map out dishes that I just know will be good. I can’t explain it, I just seem to “get” the flavor profiling concept.

Cooking is organized flavors like music is organized sound. When you combine just the right ingredients in just the right way you end up with something that is more than the sum of its parts. Add one too many ingredients, though, and the balance is gone. That is why good, nourishing food is simple food.

So I guess you might say that I do create order, but only in the kitchen. Just don’t look at my bookshelf.

Simple French Lentil Soup with Bacon

from my seasonal real food cookbook Simple Food {for winter}


2 cups French lentils
4 strips of bacon, diced
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups chicken stock or water
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 bay leaf
sea salt & black pepper to taste


Soak lentils in water for 24 – 72 hours, rinsing and changing the water every 12 hours or so.

Place a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about five minutes until fat has been rendered.

Add onions and carrots and season with a pinch of sea salt. Sauté until onions are translucent, about another five minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute further.

Drain lentils, and add to the pot. Cover with stock and add thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer on low for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until lentils are tender.

Taste and correct seasoning if desired. Serve hot with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Note from Rachel: French lentils are the dark green kind. You can also use plain green lentils. Red lentils will taste good, but they’ll turn to mush. Even though the recipe tells you you’re supposed to soak the lentils first, I never plan ahead to do that, and it still turns out fine. Actually the whole recipe tastes better the second day, as all good soups and one-pot meals will do. A lot of times my family will serve it over brown rice.

Simple French Lentil Soup with Bacon is one of thirty wholesome recipes from the cookbook Simple Food {for winter}. (affiliate link)

All the recipes in the book are designed to be simple using a short ingredient list of seasonal foods that you can prepare with just a knife, a cutting board, and a good pan. Also, the recipes in this cookbook are grain-free, so you won’t find thirty variations of pasta here! I thought it was really good and it covered skills about how to eat seasonally in winter, so be sure to check it out.

What are you eating this winter?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. It sounds lovely… We eat a lot of soup in the winter, it is warm and nice and a great way to use vegetables that needs to be eaten NOW. A question though – what is a dutch oven?

  2. I’ve known this kind of soup since my childhood and in my family we all love it! We always have wieners with it and add a tablespoon of white vinegar!
    I think I will cook this next week!
    Bianca´s last post…Die lesende Minderheit – Aufgabe für Januar – The reading Minority – Challenge for January

  3. Sounds delicious! And perfect for a cold winter day.
    I Live in an Antbed´s last post…Deer Chili

  4. I’m so glad you like this soup, Rachel. It is one of our favorites – so frugal, so easy. And we probably make it every other week, especially on busy Sundays. And your fireplace is only spurring on my deep desire for a wood burning stove :).

  5. Very clever Shannon how you introduce this from an organizing perspective. I love how you are accepting your Type B tendencies. Good for you. Go with what you’ve got girl because you obviously have a lot of gifts and talents (cooking being just one) and I see you popping up everywhere these days!

  6. Hmmm… we tried lentils not that long ago and I couldn’t finish mine; they were really bland and I’m not sure I cooked them properly.

    That being said, my husband adores lentil soup. He’s been trying to convince me to make some for a long time. Maybe I’ll just have to try it. Thanks for the recipe!
    Jennie´s last post…DURTY the Triceratops

  7. Wow, I impulse bought some French Lentils this week and was planning on making some for dinner tonight, with a side of rainbow chard. I’ll add brown rice and my husband will be making puppy dog eyes at my all though dinner! Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Hi-
    Is the bacon essential? I’m hosting a vegan family for lunch next weekend and was searching for some recipes. This sounds delicious, but would need to leave out the bacon (and use veggie broth). Will it lose all of its flavor?

    Thank you!

    • I was wondering the same thing. Can the bacon be omitted? My husband is vegetarian (although I think my boys might prefer the bacon in there). Sometimes it’s tough to please everyone!

      • I haven’t tried this exact recipe, but I make lentil soup almost every week and usually make the bacon separate and then crumble it on top…that way you can have regular or vegetarian. Best of both worlds!
        Kait Palmer´s last post…Doing What You Love

    • Amy – Yes, absolutely. I actually have made it that way several times when we are out of bacon. The thyme and garlic give it plenty of flavor. Maybe a nice pinch of paprika would lend a smoky flavor as well.

  9. This sounds delicious, I think we will definitely be trying it sometime this weekend!

    We have also been doing a lot of soups this winter, one of our favorites being Cream Cheese and Chicken Soup from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:
    Susan@SmallCompilations´s last post…Monday Musings

  10. Thank you! We love lentils — and new recipes. Lentils cook well without being soaked, but if you soak them at least 7 hours with a tablespoon of whey (the liquid from yogurt), lemon juice or vinegar, the nutrients will be much easier for the body to use. Can’t wait to try this! Mmm…

  11. We love soup, but I have never cooked lentils. This does sound very good, so I may have to give it a try!
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Move it!

  12. I make a beef lentil soup that’s a family favorite. But reading your recipe, with bacon, makes me think its time to try another version.
    Mama Kelly aka Jia´s last post…What’s Cooking – Indian Thai and African Fare

  13. Sounds good, and thanks for clearing up the difference in lentils. I hadn’t even heard of French lentils! With my usual lentil soup recipe I use an immersion blender for a few seconds to give it a mixed chunky/creamy texture…yummm!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Doing What You Love

  14. Oh, I wish I could eat lentils. They always sounds so good but the last couple of times I made them I had a weird reaction. Boo. Every food is a new adventure these days, and reactions seem to change every few weeks. So maybe I’ll try them again. Looks like a delicious recipe to try it out again. Soaking may make all the difference–who knows?
    Catherine´s last post…Status Report- and latest favorite snacks

    • Have you tried red lentils? They don’t need to be soaked and are for many people easier to precess than other kinds.

  15. mmmmm. Love lentils! We eat lentils A LOT around here. Our favorite winter recipe is Apple Lentil Salad which we eat warm with bread and cheese (blogged here

    I like to know about winter recipes using the staples. Thanks.
    Margo´s last post…A Thank You Note to Jonathan

  16. vermontmommy says:

    Soups and breads

    Here are the recipes for two of our favorite soups and one bread recipe. I make the soups at least once a week.

    Carrot-Tomato Soup

    2 TBSP butter

    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

    4 lbs tomatoes, peeled* and sliced in half with stems removed

    3/4 tsp sea salt

    1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

    fresh sprigs of thyme, oregano or rosemary

    1 medium sized yellow onion, diced

    2 stalks celery, diced

    5 medium sized carrots, diced

    3 cloves garlic, minced

    2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock

    1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

    chopped3/4 cup heavy cream

    Place sliced tomatoes on a baking sheet. Cover with most of the olive oil (reserving 2 TBSP or so), and the salt and pepper. If you’d like a little more flavor, I sometimes add a fresh sprig or two of oregano or thyme atop the tomatoes. Place in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes to roast. – If you don’t have the tomatoes you could use two large cans of tomatoes (diced or whole will work)

    Halfway through the roasting, melt the butter and remaining olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables begin to get soft (15 minutes or so). When the tomatoes are done, add those to the pot (removing the sprigs of herbs), along with the stock. Simmer on low until the vegetables are all tender (another 15 minutes or so).

    Puree the soup.

    Return the soup to the pot and onto the stove. Heat slowly. Add the chopped basil and heavy cream.

    White Bean, Sausage & Spinach Soup

    1 lb ground pork sausage. Brown it in the crock pot with 3 cloves of minces garlic.
    1 large can diced tomatoes
    1 large can cannellini beans
    1 box chicken broth or home made stock
    A large bag of spinach leaves
    salt and pepper to taste
    Put it on low in the crockpot and it is ready when the spinach leaves have wilted.

    Serve with grated parmasan and some bread.

    You can make on the stove top in less than 30 minutes or let it simmer in the crockpot all day.

    Braided Oatmeal Bread
    2 loaves


    * 1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
    * 1 cup boiling water
    * 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
    * 1/4 cup warm water
    * 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
    * 6 tablespoons honey
    * 3 tablespoons canola oil
    * 4 1/2 cups bread flour divided
    * 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
    * 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
    * Cooking spray


    1. Combine chopped oats and 1 cup boiling water in a medium bowl; let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    2. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Add buttermilk to oat mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in honey and oil. Add the oat mixture to yeast mixture; mix with dough hook attachment until combined. Weigh or lightly spoon 13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups) and whole-wheat pastry flour in dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours with salt. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture. Mix dough at medium speed 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding remaining all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to sides of bowl.

    3. Place dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

    4. Preheat oven to 400°.

    5. Punch dough down; divide in half. Divide each half into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time shape each portion into a 14-inch rope. Place 3 ropes lengthwise on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray (do not stretch). Pinch ends together at one end to seal. Braid ropes, and pinch loose ends together to seal. Repeat procedure with remaining dough to form another braid. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

    6. Bake on center rack of oven at 400° for 28 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

    Honestly, it is super easy. I make this 1-2 times a week. It is great for sandwiches, with apple butter, jam, butter, peanut butter or just plain.

  17. just made this for my hubs last night after the kids went to bed. we yummed it down! it was easy and satisfying and will be a staple in our home every week — it was DECLICIOUS!! thank you so much!

  18. Thanks for the great and easy recipe! We had this for dinner tonight with some GF cornbread and it was super yummy and very frugal.

  19. Can’t wait to try this one; made my first-ever lentil soup recipe awhile back & everyone (even the little ones) liked it! This will be the next lentil recipe I try out :)
    Vicki´s last post…2011 Menu 5

  20. Sounds delicious and perfect for this winter blast coming through!

    So I have a question for you and your readers…any ideas on what to do with all this baby food puree that the baby won’t eat anymore? It’s not enough to sneak it into food (like using it in a muffin recipe or something). I just have one jar of each “flavor”. How do I turn it into a solid so he’ll eat it and it won’t all go to waste?

  21. To me this recipe resonates – comfort food – yum! Not quite right for our Aussie summer weather at the moment – sweltering in 40 degrees heat …. but come winter, and this will be on my menu!!
    Mandy´s last post…The God who sees me

  22. I love a good fire; it’s what keeps me sane on winter nights :).
    Unplanned Cooking´s last post…Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

  23. Ooh.. This sounds lovely.. I must make this for my toddler since she’s not big on green lentils.. Thanks for sharing this!:-)
    Prerna´s last post…A Free eBook to Help You Get Organized- Cut Clutter and Be Productive… Easily!

  24. I will absolutely be trying this recipe! I am fascinated by the idea that “Cooking is organized flavors like music is organized sound” and I will be thinking about this as I make my various winter soups (and our favorite chili!) as the gray days proceed.

    I made a delicious ham for Sunday dinner last weekend and wonder if some of the leftovers might make a decent substitute for the bacon?
    jennifer´s last post…On my needles

  25. I just made this for my family last night using regular green lentils (which I did not soak ahead of time). I added a bit of frozen chopped spinach. It was delicious! I enjoyed it again over rice for lunch today! Thank you for sharing!

  26. Just tried this soup last night and it was wonderful… thanks so much for sharing…

  27. My mother-in-law makes a very similar recipe, which is also delicious. She uses the bone left over from ham that has been eaten during the week with whatever meat is left on it instead of bacon. As for vegetables and herbs, she just uses celery, a green pepper, and onion along with some oregano and rosemary. Instead of adding them right away, she waits until the soup’s been cooking for a couple hours, then sautes them in a bit of oil and adds them before letting it simmer another 30 minutes to an hour. I have started making it often myself. It is a wonderful meal over rice, and a good way to finish up ham.