My Favourite Vegan French Lentil Soup

Created by Laura Wright
5 from 12 votes

This is my favourite smoky vegan French lentil soup with tomatoes, smoked paprika, tarragon, and garlic. This simple recipe is high in protein with only 10 core ingredients.

Image taken from overhead shows a pot of deep red soup with little green flecks of parsley. A ladle is sticking out of the pot.
Image taken from overhead shows wide bowls of a deep red soup with little flecks of chopped parsley. A bowl of the chopped parsley is nearby.
Image taken from overhead displays prepped ingredients for a lentil soup.
Image shows a wooden spoon stirring up some vegetables and herbs in a pot.

A version of this vegan French lentil soup is one of the first things I learned how to make when I decided to try eating 100% plant-based! I didn’t grow up eating a lot of soup, so was slightly intimidated by the idea of making my own. The flavours of tarragon and smoked paprika combined with the garlic and tomatoes were an instant winner for me. I loved how hearty and simple the recipe was—and I still do!

French lentils have a nice little toothsome bite that give some body to this soup. Pretty much all of my favourite vegan soups have lentils in some form! See also: Ginger Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Stew with Lentils & Kale, Smoky Chickpea, Cabbage & Lentil Stew with Kale, Deep Green Lentil Stew with Spinach, Tahini & Lemon, and Lentil Soup with Coconut, Spinach & Lime.

This soup is very simple to prepare and follows typical soup-making methods. You sauté aromatic onions, carrots and celery on the stove, add some spices and herbs to the pot, let the French lentils simmer for about 30 minutes, and then adjust your seasonings and enjoy!

I like to use a lot of olive oil as the base of this recipe. It just really gives this simple soup some good body. The smoked paprika is probably the most key element here. It gives the soup its main flavour note. If you don’t have French lentils, you can definitely use brown lentils. I think red lentils would cook too quickly and disintegrate into the soup unfortunately.

Hope you enjoy this recipe that also makes an appearance in my cookbook! Also, here’s some more vegan soup recipe inspiration.

Image shows some cooked down vegetables and herbs in a pot.
Image is a closeup of some dry French lentils in low lighting.
Image shows an overhead glance at a big Dutch oven filled with a deep red soup that’s flecked with bits of chopped parsley.
Image taken from overhead shows wide bowls of a deep red soup with little flecks of chopped parsley. A bowl of the chopped parsley is nearby.

My Favourite Vegan French Lentil Soup

My favourite smoky vegan French lentil soup with tomatoes, smoked paprika, tarragon, and garlic. A simple recipe that's high in protein with only 10 core ingredients.
5 from 12 votes
Image taken from overhead shows wide bowls of a deep red soup with little flecks of chopped parsley. A bowl of the chopped parsley is nearby.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 8 -10

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, small dice
  • 1 stick celery, small dice
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ⅓ cups french lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 6 cups vegetable stock , plus extra if needed
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley (optional)

Notes

  • I know a 1/4 cup sounds like a lot of oil, but I think it’s warranted for the resulting texture. The volume of oil helps to stew the onions, garlic and herbs so that they “melt” into the soup, meshing all of the flavours seamlessly. Alternatively, you can use less oil and add spoonfuls of stock gradually to prevent sticking/over-browning.
  • I love to serve this soup with a drizzle of olive oil, maybe a a sprinkle of chili flakes, and some good bread.
  • You could use crushed tomatoes instead of diced for a thicker, more stew-like vibe!

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for at least 10 minutes, stirring them around frequently. They shouldn’t sizzle too loudly! This is a slow-cooking kind of process, so turn the heat down if you think they’re cooking too fast.
  • When the onions are quite soft, add the thyme, tarragon, and paprika and saute for another 5 minutes, stirring here and there. Add the garlic and stir until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 8-10 minutes, until all vegetables are soft.
  • Add the can of tomatoes and stir to coat vegetables. Cook out and simmer the tomatoes for about 5 minutes. Add the drained lentils and stir to coat in the vegetables, oil and tomatoes. Add a splash of the stock and scrape any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  • Add remaining vegetable stock to the pot. Give the whole mix a good stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, return pot to a simmer, cover with a lid and allow to cook for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Check in on the pot once in a while and give it a stir. Season the finished soup liberally with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley, if using.
  • Serve the soup hot.
Image taken from overhead shows a pot of deep red soup with little green flecks of parsley. A ladle is sticking out of the pot.
16/01/2012 (Last Updated 26/10/2022)
Posted in: autumn, carrots, earthy, gluten free, lentils, main course, nut free, quick, refined sugar-free, salty, smoky, soup, sour, spring, summer, tomatoes, umami, vegan, winter

58 comments

Recipe Rating




  • Shannon Franz

    5 stars
    This recipe is going in my regular list. It tastes like I made a rich beef stock but I didn’t! Made it with my own veg/mushroom stock and it turned out wonderful. Gorgeous soup, thank you

  • Emma

    5 stars
    Incredibly simple, flavorful, comforting soup. Perfect as is and easy to modify with what you have on hand

  • Allison

    5 stars
    I’m only mad I haven’t made this one sooner!! So simple and sooo flavorful.

  • Carol

    I’d love to try this recipe but don’t have fresh thyme as it’s winter and I don’t think our stores carry it right now as I’ve looked before. What could I substitute for that and have a similar flavor?

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Carol,
      Do you have dried thyme in your spice cabinet? You can substitute half the amount with dried thyme with great results.
      -L

  • Laurie

    5 stars
    Great recipe — the soup comes together easily and is simply delicious! I first found it in your wonderful cookbook and have made it several times. Thank you!

  • Charlene

    This looks absolutely delicious.  Sadly, tarragon is one of the few herbs that I don’t care for.  Can you suggest a substitute or should I just omit it?  Thanks for any ideas. 

  • Sandy

    5 stars
    I made this today and it is so comforting and delicious!  Thank you for sharing.  My only change was adding kale instead of parsley.  It’s what I had.

  • shirley

    I have been making this recipe ever since being posted.  From start to finish, this recipe is WONDERFUL ! It’s the only way my husband and I enjoy lentils now. 

  • K.R.

    Don’t put the tomatoes in before cooking the lentils!! Mine didn’t soften despite cooking for more than twice the recommended time.

  • January

    Thanks for the delicious soup recipe!
    It was very easy to put together and so comforting.:)

  • Katherine | Beloved Kitchen

    Hi Laura, this is by far one of my favourite soup recipes. Any time I’m in need of something comforting and satisfying in the wintertime, I turn to your recipe for lentil soup – we absolutely love it and never tire of it! Thank you for all the great recipes and culinary inspiration!

  • Tish Bigelow

    Just made this soup. It is just as good as it looks in the picture. Absolutely delicious! A Keeper.
    Thank you!

  • Danielle

    I just found your blog a few days ago and am questioning why I did not find it before during my internet meanderings!

    This soup is perfectly seasoned. I hardly ever follow a recipe as written, yet I did follow yours re: the seasonings and we were so happy with our dinner! It’s easily the best lentil soup I’ve ever had.

    I follow Dr. John McDougall’s way of eating, so I replaced the oil with Chateau du Sink (water). I also like my vegetables somewhat crunchy in soups so I did not sauté the carrots and celery as long as you, plus I added the garlic a lot later in the sautéing process.

    To season, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper after the lentils were cooked, and it was perfect.

    Thank you very much for sharing such a delicious recipe.

    • Carol

      Thanks for posting Danielle! Chateau du sink – that’s brilliant! :-) I also follow Dr. McDougall so I was wondering how this would turn out without the oil and was convinced that I wasn’t going to try this recipe but I really like red in my soups and really wanted to try it. So, now I think I will!

  • Cristin

    When I saw smoked paprika and tarragon my first thought was, “huh?” I honestly would never have thought to pair these two spices. Oh my goodness the flavor and richness of this is like no other lentil soup I’ve had before. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    • Laura

      Hey Cristin! So glad that you enjoyed this recipe. It’s one of my all-time favourites from the blog :)
      -L

  • Brenda Plummer

    OMG I made this today and I cant stop eating it – I added a finely chopped green chilli for an extra kick – next time I am going to add some mixed beans from a can at the end of the cooking just to make it more filling and then we can have it as a main with some clean eating wholemeal bread. delicious and so easy!! Just wonder could this soup be frozen??? to preplan my meals???

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Brenda, this soup freezes like a dream! :)
      -L

  • Tracee

    I’ve made this soup a few times now and I absolutely love it. It’s simple, inexpensive to make (like pretty much every recipe off of the First Mess) and so nourishing. Plus it’s perfectly warming for the winter months. Even my boyfriend couldn’t stop slurping it down. Highly recommended!

  • allison

    this soup is coming out really good, I’m making it now!I’m happy because I’ve tried to make other lentil soup recipes and they were disappointing, but this looked so good from the photo, I thought I’d give it a try and voila! it is delicious!

  • Chelle Gonzalez

    This was so good! I made it tonight for dinner and my son will be taking some for lunch this week. We give it 10 stars ;) thank you!! And your blog and photos are beautiful!!

  • Lauren

    Made this tonight. Realized I didn’t have as many lentil “du puy” as I thought, so I was forced to make do and use 1/2 du puy and 1/2 red lentils. Turned out great–the taste is really good.

    I would say that I come from a big family, so for me a “big pot” is more than this made. After everything was finished, I ended up with about 6 large soup bowl servings, but was expecting a little bit more. Might reduce the oil bc of this next time.

    Great recipe and glad to have it in my repertoire!

  • Jamie G

    I made this soup tonight for good friends including kids and everyone loved it! Thank you so much for your beautiful website and delicious recipes. As a reluctant cook, I am inspired and enjoying cooking more than before!

  • Tina

    Love it, but I can’t even print it out??

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Tina, if you want to print it you’ll have to copy and paste the recipe into a word processor/notepad app/google document for now. Haven’t found a recipe display plug-in that I’m happy with yet. Hopefully some day!
      -L

  • lisa

    Just made this soup for my family and boyfriend. They all loved it and had seconds. I will definitely have to try the rest of your recipes. This one was divine.

  • Linda Atwood

    look forward to trying this recipe

  • Annie | MontgomeryFest

    This is one of our favorite recipes, but my husband usually cooks..this the first time I’ve seen it and I’m LOVing your blog! The photos are beautiful! Thanks for the recipe..

  • Laura

    I made this soup last night and it was delicious! This is the first time I have ever cooked with tarragon, which is a shame because I really enjoyed it. I also added cayenne, because I can not seem to ever make soup and not add it. I am sure it’s going to taste even better after having the flavors sit overnight. I can’t wait to try some of your other vegan recipes!

  • Taylor

    Made this yesterday and I still don’t really understand how such humble ingredients can turn into something so luxurious tasting (though I suspect the 1/4C of oil has something to do with it). Will definitely be making this again. Thank you!

  • Angel

    This looks simply divine! Do you have the nutritional content, by any chance? Thanks!

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Angel, I’m not really aware of the nutrition content, but you can always plug the ingredients into nutritiondata.com if you’re curious.
      -L

  • Sophie

    As a college student who appreciates hearty, wholesome food, this soup was fabulous, especially as it’s getting cold and I’m confined endless studying in my apartment. Not to mention that my boyfriend are two hearty helpings!

  • Inés

    We made this today and it was really great!
    Thank you for the recipe =)
    We had some self-baked bread with it, but less stock (about 2 cups), as we wanted to have something more stew-like.

  • Sarah

    Hey, just wanted to say that I am really impressed with your blog and the recipes I’ve tried so far including this one. Thanks for all your hard work, it is appreciated.

  • Miachel (Spiced Curiosity)

    Beautiful in the utmost. Lentils are a definite soulfood.

  • Valeria

    We made this last night and we were so so impressed –so tasty! We added a handful of mushrooms we had in the fridge, too. Loved it, especially the smokey note from the paprika. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Lynette

    I have never seen “french lentils” so if I can’t find them can I use other lentils instead? I love lentil soups and usually make a beef lentil and just freeze it up so that I can have it during the cold season.

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Lynette! Brown lentils would also work just fine :)
      -L

  • Emily

    This is my new favourite soup! And by new, I don’t really mean new because I have made it over 5 times this winter.

    I’m making a double batch tonight – half for my freezer and half for a new mum.

    This soup has such lovely, deep flavours and is so nourishing. It is a ‘feel-good’ soup and I am so grateful you’ve shared it.

  • Christina Lockwood

    Thank you so much for another delicious recipe! You had me at the description and pics, lentils are a winter staple always look forward to. My family devoured the soup tonight with smiles :) The only change I made was I used fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and diced, in lieu of the canned tomatoes. A new favorite!

  • Cookie and Kate

    Marvelous recipe and post, Laura! I’ve been hunting for a lentil soup that looks just right and here it is. I didn’t know that you had gone to culinary school, that’s so cool. I really only get nervous that something will be “just right” when I’m cooking for company. When I talk to people about cooking, though, I’m always reiterating that it’s not difficult to make something tasty—just mix together foods that taste good together and it will be, as you said, “edible and quite nourishing.”

  • Sarah

    I made this soup last weekend and it was incredible. I’ve never made anything with thyme and tarragon before – crazy, I know! – and I loved the lemony flavor. Will be making this again!

  • Vanessa

    Your recipes and photos are so gorgeous! Thrilled that I found your site. =)

  • Michelle @ DailyWaffle

    When I saw this soup on this very snowy Seattle morning, I thought, please please please let me have some du Puy lentils in the cupboard. This lentil soup is a keeper, and it was perfect for a wintry night. I have to admit, I did start it off by rendering 3 slices of diced bacon.

  • rx4foodies

    I’m always looking for a good soup recipe… I can’t wait to try this! This is perfect for my 30 days of veganism :)

  • Karin

    Thank you for a great recipe! I haven’t seen French lentils in my stores; I’m wondering if I can sub red or brown lentils?

    • Laura

      Hi Karin, I think the brown might be a better substitute since the red ones cook a lot faster and can go a bit mushy. Or if you can find them under the name “de puy”, those are a good bet too.
      -L

  • Hurst Beans

    Great recipe, thanks for sharing!

  • Carrie

    What a beautiful soup. I just love that red color!

  • jess white @athriftyfoodie

    yes! a lentil soup that is made with dried lentils, you rarely see this!

  • Michelle A

    God knows I love a lentil soup! What a lovely recipe! Will definitely be making this when I’m back in my kitchen. Also: that toast slathered in butter makes my mouth water.

  • Andrea

    Your blog looks great! Complimenti

  • Sarah

    Homemade soup is one of my essentials – I like to take it to work for my lunch throughout the week and the making of it is part of my Sunday rital. I’ll certainly be giving this a go. It sounds wonderfully filling!

  • Anna @ the shady pine

    This soup looks like winter in a bowl…such lovely seasonal flavour.

    I have just come across your lovely blog and look forward to reading more :)

  • Ali Seiter

    Goodness, I’d love to dive right into a bowl of that soup. It certainly looks gorgeous, nourishing, and comforting, that’s for sure. The seasonings are also among some of my favorite spices and herbs–this recipe is going straight onto my “must make” list.

  • Kirsten

    This soup sounds heavenly! The use of smoked paprika and tarragon are intriguing. I just love the look of the French lentils after they’re rinsed and they look like tiny tortoise shells. I find they keep their shape well and see why they’d be great in this soup. This recipe is definitely on my “to-make” list soon. Thanks!