Lentil and Sausage Soup for a Cold Winter's Night

By • December 28, 2009 259 Comments

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Author Notes: This hearty one-dish-supper soup is in my regular fall-winter rotation, and has been a family favorite for quite a long time. That means three things: it tastes great, it’s not complicated, and I usually have on hand everything needed to make it. Once it’s served, people dig in and suddenly, the table’s quiet for a minute or two. Serve it with a hearty whole grain bread and follow it with fruit and cheese for a lovely, easy dinner at home. You'll see that the primary herb is marjoram. That's not an herb that you see often in recipes, but to my mind, it's what makes this soup so tasty. Enjoy!!AntoniaJames

Food52 Review: The beauty of this soup is that it manages to be soul-warming but not overly heavy. The broth is light, and aromatic with wine and marjoram, and you feel like you've won the lottery each time you come across a piece of garlicky sausage. AntoniaJames has you simmer the lentils and veggies until they're just cooked through, so that they retain a bit of a bite and the soup, while filling, seems fresh rather than leaden. A sprinkle of red wine vinegar adds a bright hit of acidity. - A&MThe Editors

Serves four adults with plenty of leftovers.

  • 1 1/2 cups French green lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil, divided
  • 3 or 4 sausages made with herbs and/or garlic
  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup sturdy red wine
  • 3 stalks of celery, and their leaves if possible
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram or an equivalent amount of fresh
  • 4 or 5 carrots, depending on their size
  • 4 cups chicken or beef stock (preferably homemade)
  • 3 tablespoons organic ketchup
  • 2 cups chopped spinach (frozen is fine, if you don't have fresh; just use 1 1/2 cups instead)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Red wine vinegar, to taste
  1. Fill a tea kettle with water and put it on the stove to boil while you do the following step.
  2. Heat 2 T of oil or bacon fat with one of the bay leaves and gently saute the sausages, if they are not already cooked. If they are pre-cooked (or if not, once you've cooked them), slice them into ¾“ slices and brown them in the bacon fat or oil. Remove the sausage slices with a slotted spoon and set them aside.
  3. Rinse the lentils in cold water two or three times, pick out any stones or other debris, and put the lentils on the stove in a saucepan with at least three cups of hot water from the kettle. If it hasn’t boiled at this point, don’t worry about it. Stir the lentils and cook them over medium heat, while you chop the vegetables. Be sure to keep an eye on the cooking lentils and stir them occasionally. Add more hot water as they cook, if they start to look dry. (You don’t have to do this step if you have a lot of time to make this soup. I.e., you can put them in the soup, uncooked, with the hot water, after you have cooked the onions and garlic.)
  4. If time is short, heat your stock in the microwave or on the stove so it will be nice and hot when you need it, in a few minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, dice the onions so they are about ½” square; chop the garlic. Add the remaining oil or bacon fat, as well as the onions and garlic, to the pan in which the sausages were browned; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the onions start to look a bit translucent, push them aside with a spoon and add the wine. Cook for a minute or two to deglaze the pot.
  6. Stir the lentils in with the cooking water. It doesn’t matter whether they are cooked. Just add them now, and add the stock.
  7. Chop the celery into small dice and chop a small handful of the celery leaves, if you have them; add to the soup. Add the marjoram and stir well, continuing to cook.
  8. Cut the carrots into slices or chunks, depending on how thick they are. Add them to the pot, with the reserved sausages, and the salt and pepper to taste, and stir well. (I add the sausages at this point, rather than earlier, because the kind I use tends to fall apart, even after browned, if I cook them much longer. You can add them when you combine the lentils and their cooking water, if that's not a problem for you.)
  9. Cook for at least another ten minutes, adding more water if necessary and stirring occasionally, to prevent the lentils from sticking. At this point, you can also turn it down to simmer, if you have the time, but do keep an eye on the lentils, please, and add more water if necessary.
  10. Add the ketchup and stir well. Cook until the carrots are tender.
  11. Test and correct the seasonings. Add the spinach and the parsley. Heat until the soup is very hot.
  12. Pass the red wine vinegar separately, for people to add, to taste. Serve with a hearty whole grain bread and fresh butter.
  13. Enjoy!!!

Topics: Soup

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Comments (259) Questions (6)

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5 months ago ann hill

This is a great and easy to follow recipe. I followed recipe as written and wouldn't change a thing. Did use organic frozen spinach and thought it was perfectly diced for the soup, so won't go to the trouble of fresh spinach in the future.

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5 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

ann, I use frozen spinach in this as well, more often than not. I find that it's not just terrifically convenient, but good organic frozen spinach is often more flavorful than sad, out-of-season spinach that has traveled a good distance and been in a package or otherwise on the shelf for awhile. We can get a mix of tiny kale, chard and spinach here (Northern CA), which I find quite convenient and flavorful as well. (I don't bother to chop it!) ;o)

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5 months ago dillybug

I really love recipes where every ingredient is carefully chosen and there for a reason. Each ingredient shined on its own and came together to a cohesive whole. What a great hearty meal for my family on a super chilly night. I really like the splash of vinegar at the end- really adds dimension. I had a little leftover side grain salad that I tossed in and I added some white beans as well. Outrageously delicious!

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5 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Sounds terrific, dillybug. So glad you tried the recipe, and like the soup! ;o)

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5 months ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

sexyLAMBCHOPx is a trusted home cook.

Hi Jess - I would use an additional 1/2 of stock. I've made it this way without the wine and it was delicious! Season to taste after you're done.

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5 months ago Jess Cox

Hi I can't use the wine - any suggestions for an alternative? thanks

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5 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Yes, as suggested, use a bit of extra stock; I'd also add a good splash of Worcestershire sauce - at least a couple of teaspoons - to give the flavor a boost, if you have it. ;o)

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6 months ago Francescap

Antonia:
Thanks for your reply and great recipe. My whole home smells like this delicious soup at the moment. So comforting.

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6 months ago Francescap

I have made this soup twice in the past three weeks. I love it, and the spinach is the perfect addition to the recipe. It's been the perfect lunch and dinner for these past cold winters nights. This is a KEEPER recipe!

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6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Francescap, so glad to hear that! I started putting spinach in it to make it a one-bowl dinner - with a couple slices of toast - on cold winter evenings when I was short of time and energy. (I even use frozen organic spinach for convenience on occasion; it works just fine.) Thank you so much for your kind comment. ;o)

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6 months ago LYNN

I made this last year for the firs time and we loved it. It's now our all-time favorite soup . . . and I make a LOT of soups during the Fall and Winter months! In fact, I'm in the process of making it again right now and only came back to check on one detail of the recipe. It's the perfect meal on this cold, snowy day in the New Mexico mountains.
P.S. See my original post below for details on how I tweak it.

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6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Your all-time favorite, Lynn? Well, I am so honored, especially if you make a lot of soups. Thank you so much.
This happens to be my husband's all-time favorite, too, and one that my sons always ask for when they come home during the cooler months. I'm so glad you've been enjoying it. ;o)

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6 months ago manan

This was the BEST lentil soup I have every tasted. Both my husband and I loved it very much. We ended up substituting sausage for meat balls. Just as good! The marjoram gave the soup an amazing aroma. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! Will definitely make it again.

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6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Meatballs, manan? Wow, that sounds absolutely delicious. I'll have to try that. I'm glad you like the marjoram. As I mentioned in the headnote, it's not an herb that many people use on a regular basis - so under-appreciated. I'm pleased that you agree what a wonderful addition it is. (Marjoram also works beautifully when combined with thyme in just about any savory chicken dish or soup.) Thank you for commenting! ;o)

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8 months ago Maria

Now this one has really hit me hard. The spice is enough and perfect for me and my kids loved it as well. Cheers! - Flemings Ultimate Garage

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6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Maria. I'm really happy that your kids like it! That's always a good sign (especially for us mothers trying to put on the table tasty, healthy food that our kids will enjoy), ;o)

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8 months ago caseymsy

It just goes to show , that a good recipe can go any where with what we may have in the pantry and our imaginations. Every time I make this it is different

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6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

caseymsy, yes, you are so right. This soup can be adapted in so many ways. I'd love to hear some of your variations! ;o)

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8 months ago skehias

This was delicious! I used: bacon fat for sautéing onions, etc, beef broth, tomato paste instead of ketchup, spicy Bob Evans sausage I had cooked previously for another recipe (just added at end to heat through). Kids balked when I mixed in the spinach but they ate it anyway :)

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6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

skehias, sounds great! (I often use bacon fat, too.) Glad your kids ate it, notwithstanding the spinach. Thank you for commenting. ;o)

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8 months ago Mimi Wan

This is a delicious and EASY soup recipe. I had time and cooked the lentils in the soup. We only had the Beluga lentils and they worked fine. I will definitely make this again. Thank you!

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6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Mimi Wan, thank you. I've never made this with Beluga lentils. I'll have to try that! ;o)

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9 months ago Heidi Vaught

What an amazing soup recipe. I love how simple and versatile it is. I used fewer carrots and added cauliflower, sweet, and russet potatoes because that's what was in our CSA. I also used celery seed since celery is out of season here and I refuse to buy the tasteless grocery store celery. I like the ketchup addition! I will def be making this again and freezing any leftovers we might have.

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6 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Wow, Heidi V, those variations sound amazing. I've never thought to put cauliflower in it - I simply must try that! Thank you for letting us know. ;o)

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11 months ago Jonmac

Looking for a good lentil soup and this hit the spot - John in The Netherlands

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11 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

So glad to hear that, John! Thanks for letting us know. ;o)

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about 1 year ago caseymsy

I think any green veg. would work, I use whatever is in the garden. My favourite is broccoli de rabe , as it is slightly bitter.

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about 1 year ago Jaime Lamborn

Anyone tried substituting swiss chard?

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over 1 year ago Ice Cream Girl

Wow. This is really good. I made it vegetarian by using Field Roast Sausage and Better than Bouillon Almost Chicken soup base and it turned out great. This is my new favorite lentil soup recipe now. It has such complex flavors and a rich and satisfying taste. A small bowl is very filling. Love this recipe. Thanks for sharing it!

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

So glad you like this, Ice Cream Girl! Your adaptation sounds so interesting and delicious, you've inspired me to try it. Thank you for letting us know. ;o)

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over 1 year ago Kgiersch

Wonderful, easy recipe. I didn't have marjoram, so substituted thyme. I also used chicken sausage. Will definitely make again!

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I often use both thyme and marjoram, Kgiersch, but thyme alone, I'm sure, would work well. Thank you for trying this recipe, for letting use know about the substitution, and most of all, for your kind words. ;o)

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over 1 year ago LYNN

I'm always looking for delicious, healthful soups for our cold weather suppers. This soup is delicious and a true keeper! I made mine with low-fat, organic, Italian, chicken sausage. I substituted fresh baby kale for the spinach, as it's now a staple I try to always have on hand to throw into just about everything. I served this with a small loaf of crusty homemade bread, a chunk of aged English cheddar cheese, fresh pears, a small bowl of shelled walnuts, and a great bottle of wine. Ahhh!

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over 1 year ago LYNN

I just would like to add that my husband and I agree that this is one of the most delicious soups we've ever had. Thank you, Antonia!

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Lynn. That's quite a compliment! ;o)

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over 1 year ago Waverly

Absolutely wonderful - cold weather home cooking at its yummiest!

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Waverly. So glad you enjoyed it. And thank you again for posting about it on your blog. I'm honored. ;o)