Winter Favorite: Hearty Lentil Soup with Bacon

Lentils are a poor meal planner's best friend. When there's no meat defrosting in the fridge, and no pinto beans or black beans soaking overnight, I turn to lentils. Here is one of my favorite soups to eat in winter (it's based on a recipe I saw on Everyday Food). I make it extra thick so it's almost like a stew but you can make it brothier if you prefer. This less meat-a-tarian or nearly-vegetarian soup can easily be made vegan: simply skip the bacon and parmesan cheese, and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Although I will say, just a touch of bacon makes it so delicious. This soup showcases one of my favorite ways to use meat: as a flavoring rather than as the star of the meal. I generally freeze my bacon, but it defrosts in just a few minutes submerged in water. Use the rest of the package of bacon for a special weekend breakfast.

I always make a huge batch of this soup. Then we have either leftovers for another dinner and several lunches, or I have enough to take a large container to a new mom or someone else who could use a delicious hot homemade meal. If you want to make a smaller batch, I've included ingredient amounts for that at the end of the post (the first version makes about 50 percent more than the smaller recipe). Homemade white rolls or wheat rolls make a fabulous addition to this tasty, filling, and comforting meal.

Hearty Lentil Soup with Bacon

Serves 6 to 10
3-5 strips bacon (3 to 6 ounces) cut into small pieces
2 medium onions, chopped
6 medium carrots peeled, halved lengthwise (if thick), and sliced
3 to 5 garlic cloves minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/4 cups lentils picked over and rinsed
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
5 1/4 cups chicken broth plus 3 cups water*
1 to 2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon table salt (or more to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
Chopped fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese

*I use 8 cups water total plus 2 T Better than Bullion. You can adjust the water slightly up or down depending on whether you want your soup to be more like a stew or brothy.
  1. In a 5-quart pot with lid, brown bacon for 8 to 10 minutes. The original recipe instructs you to pour off all but 1-2 T of bacon fat at this point, but I never do. 
  2. Add onion and carrots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Stir and garlic and cook 30 seconds. 
  4. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minutes. 
  5. Add lentils, thyme, broth and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. 
  6. Cover and cook until lentils are tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Add an additional cup water if the soup becomes too thick during cooking. 
  7. Stir in vinegar, salt, and pepper. Top with fresh parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
I like mine topped with plenty of fresh parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Yum!

Hearty Lentil Soup with Bacon

Serves 4 to 6
2-3 strips bacon (3 ounces) cut into small pieces (I use kitchen scissors)
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium carrots peeled, halved lengthwise (if thick), and sliced
2 to 3 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups lentils picked over and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 1/2 cups chicken broth plus 2 cups water*
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon table salt (or more to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (1/4 teaspoon)
Chopped fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese
See directions above.

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  1. I love this soup! A friend of mine gave me the recipe a couple of years ago and it is my most favorite lentil recipe I have. I made it these week, in fact! I usually double it and freeze some to pull out on a night that I don't have time to make dinner.

    1. I'm pleased to hear it freezes well! I've never tried that.

  2. I agree with you - I love how fast lentils cook. I just made a similar soup but with ham. My whole family gobbled it up!

  3. I adore lentil soup. What can I sub for the bacon to give it that smoky taste?

    1. How about smoked paprika maybe? I think Becky Striepe of Glue & Glitter suggested that substitution.

  4. Love lentil soup! No bacon for me though. :)

  5. I'm with Brenna. This looks delicious but I don't do bacon. I'll bet it tastes just fine without though.


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