I know French lentil soup is typically considered a hearty winter soup, but I absolutely love it year-round. It’s one of those vegetarian meals I can make on a meatless Monday that is just as filling as it is tasty.
French Lentil Soup
This French lentil soup with spinach is particularly great during spring because of the abundance of fresh spinach that you’ll find at the market. It’s such an easy and delicious way to incorporate those leafy greens.
Traditionally, French lentil soup is made with the green lentil variety called lentilles du Puy. These French green lentils cook a little bit faster than standard lentils and they retain their shape better in the cooking process. No sludgy soup here!
There are so many ways to start a great soup. Like a stew, you can use bacon to add some fat and smokiness to your soup. Or, if you’re like me and don’t always have bacon on hand, a smudge of butter and olive oil will do.
In my opinion, the non-negotiables for this French lentil soup are the tomato paste and dijon mustard. While a classic mirepoix of carrots, onion, and celery start this soup off on the right foot, it’s the tomato paste and dijon that really create the magic.
Some people like to add diced tomatoes to their lentil soup, but I find the flavor of tomato paste to be superior in soups. I’ve found myself taste-testing a soup halfway through the cooking process only to feel like something is off. Then, I’ll immediately remember the previously forgotten tomato paste.
As soon as it’s added, all is right in the world again.
While the tomato paste adds some much needed acidity to the soup, the dijon mustard adds that bit of spice and oomph it needs. You probably wouldn’t be able to pick out the ingredient from a spoonful of soup, but if you did a comparison of one with it and one without, you’d notice the difference.
Like a classic minestrone soup, this French lentil soup has great texture from the lentils and chopped veggies. I was actually inspired by the use of spinach in minestrone, and wanted to recreate that effect in this French lentil soup as well.
The spinach is a lovely addition to a soup like this, adding a touch of green vibrancy.
This French lentil soup is finished off with a few shavings of fresh parmesan cheese, making it the ultimate comfort soup to turn to any time in the year.
French Lentil Soup
A comforting lentil soup with great flavor and an extra addition of spinach!
- 1/2 large onion diced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 carrot diced
- 1/2 celery stalk diced
- 1/4 cup red wine (60 ml)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (16 grams)
- 1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard (8 grams)
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (940 grams) or more as needed
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1/2 cup French green lentils (96 grams) soaked in water ahead of time for several hours (see note)
- 1 cup spinach (15 grams) chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil (13 grams)
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter (14 grams)
- parmesan shaved
In a medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the olive oil, then add in the diced onion. Sauté until softened and translucent. Add the garlic, carrots and celery.
Add in the tomato paste and dijon mustard, and stir everything together. Let this cook for 1 minute before pouring in the red wine. Allow the wine to reduce for a minute or two.
Follow with the chicken stock and drained lentils. Raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Then, lower the heat and add a good pinch of salt, pepper, and the thyme sprigs. Cover the pot and allow it to simmer over low heat for 25 minutes. Just on the level of broth, and if you need more, pour in more chicken stock. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
Stir in the spinach until it's wilted, then serve with fresh parmesan shavings.
It's best to soak the lentils several hours ahead of time. You can do this overnight, or before leaving to work in the morning. Then, drain the lentils and add to the soup as the recipe instructs.
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