This cozy Italian-inspired lentil soup recipe is easy to make, full of feel-good ingredients, and always so flavorful and comforting.
This Italian lentil soup is one of those back-pocket recipes I find myself defaulting to again and again because it calls for super-basic ingredients that we almost always have on hand. And on chilly nights when we find ourselves craving some feel-good vegetarian comfort food, it’s one of those simple recipes that always always hits the spot. ♡
It’s made with a basic mix of veggies and protein-rich lentils, all simmered together in a tomato-herb broth with a slight kick. Then once the lentils are cooked and tender, I always stir in a few handfuls of kale (or whatever greens happen to be hanging out in the crisper drawer) and some extra fresh basil (if you happen to have some on hand), and then finish off each serving bowl with a generous sprinkling of freshly-grated Parmesan and a few twists of black pepper. It’s one of those simple soups that somehow always tastes even better than we remember and — bonus — also makes for amazing leftovers the next day.
So round up those leftover lentils that have been sitting in the back of your pantry and let’s cook up a big pot of lentil soup together!
Italian Lentil Soup Ingredients
Before we get to the full lentil soup recipe below, here are a few quick notes about the ingredients you will need:
Mirepoix: We’ll use the classic trio of onion, carrots and celery as the base for this soup, sautéed in olive oil to soften.
Garlic: Lots of fresh garlic, either pressed or minced, to season the broth.
Broth: I usually make this soup with vegetable broth, to keep it vegetarian. But chicken or beef stock would work well here too.
Lentils: I recommend basic brown or green lentils for this soup, which cook up in around 30 minutes. But other varieties of lentils (red, French or black) could also work in this soup, if you adjust the cooking time as needed.
Diced tomatoes: I recommend fire-roasted diced tomatoes to add an extra layer of roasted flavor to the soup, but basic diced tomatoes will work just fine too.
Seasoning: This recipe uses a simple pantry mix of bay leaves, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. But if you happen to have fresh Italian herbs on hand, feel free to add them to taste in place of the Italian seasoning.
Greens: Chopped fresh kale, collard greens or baby spinach are all great options for the greens here.
Basil: I like adding a generous amount of fresh basil to the soup, plus adding some as garnish to each of the serving bowls.
Parmesan: Finally, I highly recommend serving each bowl with a generous amount of freshly-grated Parmesan on top. And if you happen to have a leftover Parmesan rind on hand, be sure to add it to the broth as it cooks too for an extra flavor.
Here are some other variations you’re welcome to try with this lentil soup recipe:
Add a protein: Add Italian sausage, ground beef, or shredded chicken.
Add extra veggies: Add bell pepper, fennel, green beans, potato, sweet potato, zucchini or other soup-friendly veggies.
Add pasta: Add 1 cup ditalini (or another small pasta shape), along with an extra 2 cups of broth, about 10 minutes before the lentils have finished cooking. You’ll likely need to adjust the amount of seasonings to compensate for the extra broth too.
Make it spicier/milder: Use more or less of the crushed red pepper flakes, to taste.
Make it vegan: Just omit the Parmesan to make this vegan lentil soup. (You’re welcome to add some plant-based Parmesan or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, if you’d like.)
More Lentil Soup Recipes
Looking for more lentil soup recipes to love? Here are a few of my faves…
This hearty Italian Lentil Soup recipe is easy to make, naturally gluten-free, and full of the best Italian flavors!
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/4 cups green or brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped kale or collard greens
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for topping
fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
Sauté veggies. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and sauté for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the broth, lentils and seasonings. Add the stock, lentils, tomatoes, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer.
Simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender and cooked through, stirring occasionally.
Add the greens and season. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the kale and basil until combined. Taste and season with salt, black pepper, and/or extra Italian seasoning as needed.
Serve. Serve warm, garnished with lots of Parmesan cheese and extra basil. Enjoy!
I know this is an older recipe but I just found it and I’m so thankful!! We had some awesome lentil soup on our honeymoon and I’ve tried several variations since that have never measured up! My husband took one bite and said it was awesome. It is now on our official rotation of meals ;)
Thank you, Ali!!
Yay, I’m so happy to hear it! :)
Love the soup! Made it today for my son and daughter in law. I substitutes spinach for collards and added hot sauce to my bowl!! Yummy!
I love this soup! It has great flavor and comes together quickly. I used spinach instead of collard greens and added a lot of fresh flat-leaf parsley, some fresh basil and rosemary. My teenage son complained that I was making lentil soup but ate the entire bowl! I will be making this recipe frequently. Thank you!
Tasty!! Nuff said. Why don’t I eat lentils more?
I am on a lentil soup kick this month. I made a delicious Indian spiced lentil soup. And now I made yours. Wow, it’s wonderful too. I used red lentils. I didn’t have any fire roasted tomatoes, just diced. But I bet it’s even better with the fire roasted tomatoes. I didn’t have any kale and was planning to add fresh spinach when I make it out of the house. But for now I am eating it without any green, and it still tastes great. I plan to freeze these in single portions for lunches. Thanks so much for a delicious recipe.
Turned out so good! I added a pound of sausage and some mushrooms :) Super yummy, thanks for the recipe.
I have made this recipe several times now and each time it comes out amazing! I have used it for a bridal shower menu, comfort food for when family members were sick and for a warm weeknight meal! I love that it is vegetarian so I typically have all the ingredients on hand and I can throw in meat if I want to. Some family members like it a bit more spicy so I add a few more dashes of pepper and red pepper.Thank you!
Omg this was abs delicious. Sooooo tasty.
Definitely will be making this again.
Just so annoyed forgot to take a photo.
10 out 10.
Great recipe! It’s easy, healthy, hearty and delicious! I will definitely make this again. My “meat and potatoes guy” husband loved it, too.
It turns out delicious every single time. I usually make a batch of this soup on a Sunday and have it all week for lunch.
This is delicious! I made it last night. The recipe is a keeper. Thank-you.
Great recipe! Will absolutely make it again!
This (and your potato crock pot soups too) is one our family’s favourite soups now – thank you!
Delicious! Just like other Gimme Some Oven recipes we’ve enjoyed. So glad it popped up on Yummly yesterday. Our variations: Brown pork sausage in stew pot first. Remove sausage, and saute onions in the rendered fat. Adds flavor, saves a pan from washing. Used mixture of red/green lentils, because that’s what was at hand. Increased spices to 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp rosemary, 3 bay leaves. Had some leftover tomato paste, so tossed in a couple tablespoons. Be sure to use good fire roasted tomatoes, like Hunt’s, not store brands. Added five mushrooms (crimini best, white ok). After lentils cooked (25 min), added sausage and my secret ingredient: Half of a Knorr’s chicken bouillon cube. Think umami. Returned to simmer for 5 min. Added collards, returned to simmer for 5 min. Parm cheese and parsley toppers. There’s only two of us, so we’ll enjoy it for dinner again tonight!
Can I just say, this soup is so pretty! I’m in the process of making it now and instead of the broth you suggested I’m using ham bone stock that I had made and frozen and it tastes so good. I didn’t have celery so I’ve added mushrooms and zucchini instead, which are two things I love in soups. So I guess I actually took your recipe and ran with it ;) Thanks for sharing your recipe!
Enjoyed this healthy, wholesome & yummy soup on a cold winters day in oz. Enjoyed by the whole family.
I’m so happy I found this recipe, which my husband described as “phenomenal”. We followed your advice and cooked up a batch of mild Italian sausage (removed from casings) and added it. I couldn’t find collard greens, so I added spinach instead…but will try collard greens the next time. One bowl is so filling and the lentils and veggies really pack a nutritious punch!
This is one of my husbands favorite recipes and I make it several times a year! Thank you!
Love your recipes. Of course I had to improvise due to lack of ingredients and turned it out delicious!! Instead of celery, I used cabbage. Added a spicy italian sausage (crumbled & cooked with Mirepoix); Instead of collard greens, I used curly leaf lettuce (outer leaves similar to collard greens). Instead of canned tomatoes, I used mild salsa and 1/4 c macaroni for hardy soup. Otherwise, I followed the recipe : ) The soup is so good but the parmesan cheese really was the topper!! Even in summer its a hit and had enough for freezer too. PS. Found this on Yummly!
I cannot believe I have found a vegetable soup recipe that I like so much, but oh my goodness this is amazing. I had almost everything on hand except the greens, but I did have a huge fennel bulb and that was a most excellent substitute since it fits with the Italian theme. With a side of bread warm from the oven and herby olive oil dipping sauce, I absolutely felt like we ordered takeout. Thank you, thank you for this!
Wonderful, hearty flavor. I used your suggestion to add Italian sausage if wanting a meat. Didn’t have collard greens so just used spinach. Tasted like something you would get at a restaurant! Thx for the recipe!
Looks great. I will be making this soon.
I haven’t made this soup yet, but I have lentils and I was looking for a way to use them. I especially like the idea of serving with rice, so I plan to make your soup soon while the weather is still cool. I live alone and love to cook, so I make large quantities and share with different peoples. After reading the comments, it’s always irritating to see some with the recipe almost completely changed. I like reading comments about the recipe as it was made by the person who has spent the time that it takes to prepare and present
a recipe. I cant wait to make your recipe…I know it is going to be delicious!
My partner is Italian and prefers Italian-style lentil soup to the Middle East versions but could never find one as good as his Silician mother used to make. UNTIL THIS ONE! Made it yesterday and he LOVED it. Switched out thyme for oregano to make it more Italian; dried basil would also probably be good. I also finished each bowl with a small glug of basil-infused olive oil. Super-delish!
Super good soup! Very easy to make, and everyone at the table LOVED it. It was especially good with grated parmesan cheese. Will definitely make this again and likely with italian sausage!
Wonderful soup! Thanks.
I made this in the Instant Pot… cook 9 minutes, natural release 15 minutes. So, so easy and so, so good!!! I used kale for the greens, adding them in after cooking. It was great…. except with leftovers, the kale got too fibrous-y, so next time I’d just add it in each serving separately.
Thanks for the Instant Pot timing. I have been making this soup for years and I’d love to try it in the Instant Pot. I am never sure how to convert my soup recipies.
A longtime family favorite. Every time I have house guests I make it to go with an Italian based dinner. I have to give the recipe up every time! It works for me as a full meal. I add a little parmesan cheese and enjoy with a few slices of crusty bread. I like using collard greens because they hold up when you reheat the soup. Spinach can get soggy.
Love it! I added more red pepper and cayenne…we like it extra spicy! May add green chillies next time! Yum!!
This was so good the first time I made it again, this time adding turkey breakfast sausage and hatch green chili seasoning…so yummy…and hot!
Made this soup last night and all I can say is oh my goodness! This soup was easy and so delicious. I make a lot of different soups and this honestly might be one of my favorites. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe.
I’ve never commented on a recipe online before but HOLY MOLEY this was too good not to leave a *raving* review. Came together easily, super flavorful, with just the right amount of kick… it’s safe to say I’m obsessed with this soup. It’s going in my recipe box and will be eaten by my family and me for years to come, I’m sure!
This recipe was incredible. The whole family including the 3.5-year-old loved it. I made exactly as written and it was great but at the last minute of tasting I added about 3 tablespoons of liquid aminos that I felt took it over the edge from fantastic to heavenly. In doing again, I would double the lentils and perhaps up the greens because they did so nicely in the soup. I’ve also made a fantastic sausage ball variation using impossible sausage that I could see pairing nicely in this soup. We’ve already decided we’re making this again next week. Thank you, thank you.
Love it, love it love it. Makes enough to feed 2 and have some to freeze for winter. My husband didn’t even miss the meat.
Easy and quick. Wonderful comfort soup!
Super simple and incredibly delicious!
Made this on a cold and snowy night in Colorado. Could be the best lentil soup I have ever tasted! Thank you!
This recipe was originally stated to have red or green lentils, and it no longer list red lentils at all, which honestly was the best ratio
I definitely recommend red lentils instead of green in this recipe
Delicious and hearty meal. Perfect for a cold winter day. I also added some mixed vegetables, basil and spinach. I would definitely make this again! I made this in a slow cooker and sautéed the vegetables separated before incorporating them.