Welcome to the last vegan French lentil soup recipe you’ll ever need. 10 ingredients, 1 pot, easy preparation, flavors that shine with healthy food that satisfies.
Although there are an endless number of lentil soup recipes out there (I’ve got a few myself), if you’re going to have just one, this is the ONE.
This recipe starts with a traditional soup foundation of sauteed onions and carrots. Then, along with the garlic, comes 2 herbs and 1 spice. That is. These are the essentials:
This earthy, mildly minty herb is a feature of so many soups, stews, and everyday eats. It brings out the slightly peppery flavor of French or other green lentils.
Dried versus fresh
Fresh thyme will have a milder flavor than the dried flakes that most of us have in our cupboards. For this reason, you want to use a bit more of the fresh herb. A general rule is 1 tablespoon of fresh for 1 teaspoon of dried. You can use either in this recipe. If you use fresh, add 2 whole thyme sprigs along with the vegetable broth. After the lentils cook and before adding the kale, just fish out the stems. The leaves will have fallen off into the soup. This is my preferred method because trying to take the leaves off the stems is cumbersome and time-consuming. Why bother? There’s an easier way.
If someone asks you to describe French cuisine, if you know nothing else, talk about tarragon. The leafy, weed-like herb has subtle anise (licorice) flavor that won’t overpower a dish but creates a unique flavor profile. It can be your 'secret' ingredient when people say, "Ummm. What's that flavor?' You can either tell them or give them one of those 'that's my secret' smiles. I get the same reaction when I make tempeh stew, which also has tarragon and French lentils.
Fresh tarragon is not as widely available as parsley or even cilantro. If you’re making a fresh tarragon sauce, I'll suggest you hold out until you can find it. When making soup, dried is the way to go. A fresh herb like tarragon can be expensive, and you will only need a little for this recipe.
I’ve read that a good substitute for tarragon is thyme. That's probably because both have a bit of mint flavor. But neither thyme nor mint will provide the subtle licorice flavor that tarragon uniquely provides.
If you do find yourself in need of a substitute, I have a few other suggestions. It won’t yield the same flavor as tarragon, but let's not stop you from making a big pot of soup. For 2 teaspoons of dried tarragon, use 3 teaspoons of dried chervil or ¼ teaspoon of fennel.
Paprika (smoked or sweet, your choice)
Paprika is what it sounds and looks like, dried and ground red peppers. There are various kinds of paprika with different combinations of smoky, sweet, or hot flavors. My preference is nearly always for hot smoked paprika. It has a more complex flavor than the others. Be sure you buy good quality paprika if you can. It’s worth the investment as it can be used in everything from chili to hummus.
Now, back to our soup. Once you’ve added the garlic, thyme, tarragon, and paprika, add fresh chopped tomatoes. My aim here is not to make a tomato lentil soup. The role of the tomatoes is to provide depth and sweetness without dominating the overall traditional flavors.
It’s a good idea to allow the tomatoes to simmer for about 10 minutes. This helps them to start to reduce and begin building flavor along with the rest of the ingredients. After that, it’s time for the namesake ingredient – French lentils.
Are French lentils and green lentils the same thing?
Yes and no. How’s that? French lentils are a kind of green lentil. What distinguishes them is their dark green color. They are also about the third the size of regular green lentils. Puy lentils are French lentils that come from the Puy region. They are often a bit grayer than ‘regular’ French lentils and more expensive.
So why pay extra for French lentils when you can just use green? Texture. That’s what it’s all about. French lentils are small but durable. They’ll hold their shape and not fall apart. They are the perfect lentil for salads and for a soup, like this one where you don’t want the lentils to turn mushy. French lentils also have a slightly different flavor, a bit nutty, peppery, and earthy.
When it comes to cooking, these little green gems are so forgiving that you won’t risk overcooking them. They do come at a price – time. You’ll need to plan for about 45 minutes of simmering to get them tender. This is a good thing as all the flavor you’ve added to the pot has time to build.
If you need to make a substitution, the best is probably black or Beluga lentils. Be sure if you substitute green lentils that you are careful not to overcook them. Avoid red lentils for this one. They will disintegrate, and you’ll end up with a French dal.
Thoughts about broth
We're talking about vegetable broth. This is soup, and that means a lot of broth. I used 10 cups for this recipe. That’s why I keep a stock of stock – cubes, that is. I’ll be honest, I rarely keep large quantities of prepared stock around unless I make it myself. Space is a precious commodity around my house, so I rely on vegetable cubes.
The decision is all yours and is about your taste preferences. If you use stock cubes, don’t forget to check out the salt content. It’s another reason to wait to add any salt until your soup is done. You can always add salt, but it’s impossible to reduce it once it hits the pot.
After the lentils get tender, there’s just one small step left. Add chopped kale. The heartiness of kale makes it the perfect green for lentil soup. After an additional 10 minutes in the pot, it will soften. Chop it small if the chewiness of kale isn’t something you like.
Big bowls of soup with flavor galore and packed with all the power of good food. I don’t know if it gets better. I made a loaf of my favorite plant-based bread for dipping, and you’re talking the kind of meal you could easily make for a crowd. But Hey now, this makes the perfect lunch. You can even freeze it for those times when you just need something. And because it’s healthy and low fat, you can skip out on the junk food and soup it for a snack. Yes, you can. Peace.Print
vegan French lentil soup
Vegan French lentil soup with tarragon and kale is the last lentil soup recipe you’ll ever need – flavor that shines, food that satisfies.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 75 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 8 bowls 1x
- Category: Soups & Stews
- Cuisine: French
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 ½ cup
- 3 medium carrots, diced (about 2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 tsp. tarragon
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. paprika (smoked paprika is recommended)
- 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
- 2 cups French lentils (Puy lentils)
- 10 cups vegetable broth
- 3 cups chopped kale
- Grab your soup pot and heat it up to medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes). Add water a tablespoon at-a-time if they start to stick.
- Add the garlic, tarragon, thyme, and paprika, sauté for about 30 seconds.
- Mix in the tomatoes, cover the pot and simmer them for 10 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth and lentils. Cover the pot and simmer for 40-45 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
- Stir in the kale and allow it to soften for about 5-10 minutes.
- If you substitute canned tomatoes for the fresh, use 1, 15-oz. (400 gm.) can.
- No tarragon? Try substituting 3 teaspoons of dried chervil or ¼ teaspoon of fennel. The flavor won’t be the same, so try to get your hands on a jar of tarragon if possible. Fresh can also be substituted at 2 tablespoons for the 2 teaspoons called on in this recipe.
- French (Puy) lentils are the preference for this recipe. If you do decide to substitute, black or Beluga lentils hold their shape better than green. If you use green, be sure not to overcook them.
- Vegan French lentil soup will keep in the fridge for 5 days and it freezes well. Set it out in the morning and reheat on the stove or nuke it.
Keywords: vegan French lentil soup