best vegan lentil soup recipe // via @thefirstmesspin it!pin it!
When I was going to culinary school, one of our instructors would frequently remind us that all of the fuss, the immense preparation for a 7:30 am cooking lab, the pressure, the precisely laid out plans of attack, the possible fear of inadequacy; it was all just for the sake of food. If you screwed up, the end result would still be edible and quite nourishing, perhaps with a touch more salt, the faintest splash of acid and a bit more time on the fire next time though.

And that was fine. The phrase certainly helped take some of the pressure off; not in a way that made you apathetic either. It just helped your hands to shake less when you were tying up roulades, mindful of the distant but aware gaze from the chef professor. You wouldn’t over-think it if you decided to throw a whole clove in to steep with a savory apple, onion and balsamic jam. You knew it would work and it freed you up to focus on your small dices, sautes, blanches, on and on. It helped us to consider the bigger picture.

The “just food” mantra has worked its way into my home cooking too.  Making soup used to be a rather daunting task to me. I always thought that soup was the one simple thing that showed real kitchen prowess. It was certain proof of authentic experience. Thinking of its transformative nature, its ability to turn inexpensive items, scraps, leftovers and afterthoughts into something comforting and whole, a dish with renewed purpose and character, was intimidating as hell to me.

When it finally kicked in that it was just food, an infinitely variable nourishing substance no matter the end result, the soups started tasting a lot better. I take my time, taste as I go and linger over the pot so as to take it all in with every languid stir. I’ve also realized that most soups can be quite forgiving if you take a wrong turn, use too much spice or absentmindedly forget to stir up some rapidly browning onions. It all comes out in the wash. Everyone eats and feels warm and everything is certainly quite good with a decent crust of bread.

This is my go-to, absolute favourite lentil soup. It’s a bit smoky and rich with pimenton, tomatoes and olive oil, studded with the usual celery, carrots and onions, earthy and lemony  from thyme and tarragon. It is a simple serving of food that has great effect. Rather easily thrown together but complex and rich. Economical but satiating and full of grace. It is something that every home cook can (and should) tuck under their sleeve for when the deep winter chill sets into the bones and the variety of vegetables winds down to a bit of a minimum. It embodies the benefits of preparation and self-care and it makes your heart feel warm, maybe going a little bit past the criteria of “just food.”

best vegan lentil soup recipe // via @thefirstmesspin it!
best vegan lentil soup recipe // via @thefirstmesspin it!
Print the recipe here!
SERVES: makes a big pot
NOTES: I know a 1/4 cup sounds like a lot of oil, but this makes a giant pot of very nutritious food. The volume of oil helps to stew the onions, garlic and herbs so that they effortlessly melt into the soup, meshing all of the flavours seamlessly (and rather luxuriously). Alternatively, you can use less oil and add spoonfuls of stock gradually to prevent sticking/over-browning.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, small diced
4-5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped
2 tsp dried tarragon, crushed up with your fingers a bit
1 tsp smoked paprika
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and small diced
1 large stalk celery, small diced
1 28 ounce can dicd tomatoes
1 1/3 cups french lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
6ish cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium low. Add the onions and saute for at least 10 minutes, stirring them around frequently. It shouldn’t sizzle too loudly, this is a slow-cooking kind of process. When the onions are quite soft, add the herbs and paprika and saute for another 5 minutes, stirring all the while. Add the garlic and stir until very fragrant. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until all vegetables are soft.

Add the can of tomatoes and stir  to coat vegetables. Cook out the tomatoes for about 5 minutes so as to remove some of their raw, tin-y-ness. Add 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 stock, give the whole mix a good stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, return pot to a simmer, cover with a heavy 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 to your liking

Serve hot with a bit of fresh herb on top and a nice crust of bread.

  • Kirsten16/01/2012 - 9:10 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • Ali Seiter16/01/2012 - 10:13 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Anna @ the shady pine16/01/2012 - 10:32 pm

    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 :)ReplyCancel

  • Sarah17/01/2012 - 9:17 am

    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!ReplyCancel

  • Andrea17/01/2012 - 9:52 am

    Your blog looks great! ComplimentiReplyCancel

  • Michelle A17/01/2012 - 7:56 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • jess white @athriftyfoodie18/01/2012 - 6:31 am

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

  • Carrie18/01/2012 - 9:55 am

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

  • Hurst Beans18/01/2012 - 1:11 pm

    Great recipe, thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Karin18/01/2012 - 5:20 pm

    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?ReplyCancel

    • Laura18/01/2012 - 6:09 pm

      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.

  • rx4foodies18/01/2012 - 11:51 pm

    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 :)ReplyCancel

  • Michelle @ DailyWaffle19/01/2012 - 12:21 am

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa22/01/2012 - 3:24 pm

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

  • […] French Lentil Soup w/Tomatoes, Tarragon, & Garlic – I’m a huge lentil fan and the pictures of this are just fantastic. If it tastes even half as good as it looks it might be my new favorite dish. (Image Credit: The First Mess) […]ReplyCancel

  • […] I made a HUGE pot of bean soup last Friday. And when I say huge, I mean huge. I took this recipe https://thefirstmess.com/2012/01/16/favourite-lentil-soup/ and switched it a little bit. I did it all in the crock pot and used the 10 bean soup mix from the […]ReplyCancel

  • Sarah26/01/2012 - 6:16 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • […] love Laura’s blog The First Mess, and she posted a recipe last week that was of her favorite lentil soup. I thought, I’ve got to make it this […]ReplyCancel

  • Cookie and Kate27/01/2012 - 12:09 am

    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.”ReplyCancel

  • […] doing a bit of meal planning too. Time to get cooking again, it has been awhile. On the list is lentil soup, tofu balls and tofu ricotta lasagna. That’s a lot of tofu, I swear I don’t eat it […]ReplyCancel

  • Christina Lockwood30/01/2012 - 10:18 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • […] chose 2 dishes – I’m going to make pulled pork in the slow cooker and then french lentil soup.  Both recipes comes highly recommended, pulled pork from my sister-in-law and the french lentil […]ReplyCancel

  • […] ready for lunches. The wee one loves it topped with avocado. You wonder what goes in the soup? This! Sometimes I put a handful or orzo in too, just for good […]ReplyCancel

  • […] the plan was to only make pulled pork and lentil soup, but then I decided to add jalapeno cheddar beer bread and an apple tart to the list. The pulled […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Lentil and Early Carrot Soup: adapted from The First Mess serves […]ReplyCancel

  • Emily18/09/2012 - 3:14 am

    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.ReplyCancel

  • […] One of my favorite simple pleasures in the whole wide world is this. You read a new recipe and you have all of the ingredients in your pantry/freezer already. It was fate. I was MEANT to make this for dinner last night. Have y’all tried smoked paprika? If not you should get some. If you do you can make this soup that my MIL loves—>SOUP […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Bon Appetit’s Basmati Rice and Summer Vegetable Salad; a bathtub-sized pot of Laura’s French Lentil Soup with Tomatoes, Tarragon, and Garlic; and 125 of Leanne’s Candy Apple […]ReplyCancel

  • […] This French lentil soup with pimenton and tarragon. It never gets old. […]ReplyCancel

  • Lynette21/03/2013 - 12:49 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Valeria22/03/2013 - 4:22 am

    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!ReplyCancel

  • Miachel (Spiced Curiosity)01/06/2013 - 10:17 pm

    Beautiful in the utmost. Lentils are a definite soulfood.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah10/09/2013 - 9:27 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Inés02/10/2013 - 6:17 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Sophie21/10/2013 - 3:14 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • […] squash is perfectly balanced by the cauliflower and balsamic caramelized onions. I think I found the perfect lentil soup recipe this week courtesy of The First Mess. I made two minor tweaks: I added a about a cup of […]ReplyCancel

  • Angel15/01/2014 - 12:58 pm

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

    • Laura Wright16/01/2014 - 9:35 am

      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.

  • Taylor19/01/2014 - 4:40 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • Laura21/01/2014 - 3:49 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • Annie | MontgomeryFest28/01/2014 - 4:11 pm

    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..ReplyCancel

  • Linda Atwood30/01/2014 - 3:59 pm

    look forward to trying this recipeReplyCancel

  • lisa07/02/2014 - 9:34 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Tina10/02/2014 - 10:01 am

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

    • Laura Wright10/02/2014 - 4:48 pm

      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!

  • […] Favourite Lentil Soup by, The First Mess {featured above} […]ReplyCancel

  • Jamie G24/02/2014 - 1:02 am

    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!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren20/03/2014 - 3:46 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • 6 Super Filling Soup Recipes28/04/2014 - 11:08 am

    […] Lentil soup is a classic for a reason—beyond its family friendly flavor profile, lentils are considered one of the healthiest foods you could ever eat. Because they’re dried, these little beans take a fraction of the time to soften up, adding body and velvety texture to every bite. One cup of lentils gives you over 60% of your recommended daily amount of fiber, so you’ll be good to go all day. Classic Lentil Soup Recipe […]ReplyCancel

  • Chelle Gonzalez23/09/2014 - 1:11 am

    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!!ReplyCancel

  • allison10/12/2014 - 3:21 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • Tracee02/01/2015 - 12:05 am

    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!ReplyCancel

  • Brenda Plummer02/01/2015 - 3:08 pm

    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???ReplyCancel

  • Cristin13/04/2015 - 4:07 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

    • Laura14/04/2015 - 11:41 am

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

  • Danielle22/05/2015 - 8:52 pm

    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.ReplyCancel

  • Tish Bigelow07/12/2015 - 8:17 am

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

  • […] and peppers, oh so good. Soup is also a real easy one, I love the lentil soup from The First Mess, Link. Plus you make vegan pancakes, which is just flour, sugar, water or almond milk, baking powder and […]ReplyCancel

  • Katherine | Beloved Kitchen02/03/2017 - 12:52 pm

    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!ReplyCancel

  • […] on America's Test Kitchen's lentil soup in The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, with reference to The First Mess' favourite lentil soup. If you love this recipe: You might enjoy my hearty vegetarian chili, best black bean soup and […]ReplyCancel

  • January10/11/2017 - 2:44 pm

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

  • K.R.02/10/2018 - 1:14 am

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

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