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Italian Lentil Soup

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This cozy Italian-inspired lentil soup recipe is easy to make, full of feel-good ingredients, and always so flavorful and comforting.

Italian Lentil Soup

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

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.

Step by step photo tutorial showing how to make lentil soup

Recipe Variations

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.)

Italian Lentil Soup in Stockpot with Ladle

More Lentil Soup Recipes

Looking for more lentil soup recipes to love? Here are a few of my faves…

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Italian Lentil Soup

Italian Lentil Soup

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 8 -10 servings 1x

Description

This hearty Italian Lentil Soup recipe is easy to make, naturally gluten-free, and full of the best Italian flavors!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender and cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve. Serve warm, garnished with lots of Parmesan cheese and extra basil. Enjoy!

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Recipe rating

129 comments on “Italian Lentil Soup”

  1. This looks so delicious (and healthy!) I love the fire roasted tomatoes in there!

  2. As a guest at each of the brunches described above, I thought they were fabulous. It’s a treat to spend time with friends and family, and eat in Ali’s fabulous loft – even with “al dente” veggie soup.

  3. I made a big pot of lentil soup for New Year’s Eve (considered to be good luck in many cultures) only to discover I was out of Parmagiana. We don’t have an all night cheese store, so I had to wing it with feta as a garnish. YUM! Can’t wait to try greens in my next batch. 

  4. I’m always looking for new Lentil recipes (I just discovered how good they were…yes!) I can’t wait to try this, yum!

  5. give me soup any time of the day and I will be happy…love this recipe and Happy New Year xoxo

  6. This soup sounds great.  I have never had collard greens – what do they taste like?
    Can spinach be sub for collard greens? or some other greens?  Thanks.
    .

    • Thanks Connie, we hope you enjoy this! Collard greens are really hearty, and they have a little bitterness to them (but they are so delicious in this soup)! Spinach doesn’t taste like collard greens, but itcan definitely be used instead, we just wouldn’t add it until the very end, since it’s much more tender and delicate. Kale is a little more similar in texture, since it’s a thicker, sturdier green, so that would work well too.

  7. This soup look soo good! Lentils are my pure fav in soups! I bet roasted tomatoes added another layer of flavor.

  8. I made this tonight and, as always, it was delicious!! I’m sure it’ll be even better tomorrow. 

  9. YUM! Can’t wait to make this! I’d like to add the sausage. When should I add it to the soup?

    • Thanks Katie, we hope you enjoy! :) You can brown the sausage in a separate pan (you can either cut it in slices before or after cooking). Then add it once you bring the soup to a simmer.

  10. I’m putting on my Oakly sunglasses cause this soup is HOT HOT HOT! And the lentils come wife approved! 

  11. This soup looks amazingly warm and cozy and perfect for January. Spinach has been my green of choice for a little while now but I think I am going to have to some of that collard green love. 

  12. I made this on Sunday for my lunches this week.  This soup is very very good.  Added turkey italian sausage, used green lentils (what I had in the kitchen).  Double the carrots, cause they are yum.  It really is fantastic.

  13. I only have kale, and it’s so cold and windy here in Ohio that I don’t want to go to farmers market for collard greens. 
    Wonder how this would taste. I’ve never used collard greens so I don’t know how they compare to kale.

    • We think kale would be awesome (it definitely doesn’t taste like collard greens), but the texture is not too far off (if you use lacinato kale)! We hope you enjoy, stay warm!

  14. Hi Ali!  Your post is timely – I’ve been on a lentil soup kick.  It is my all time favorite kind of soup.  I make it super simple with just carrots and onions.  I like collard greens idea – I’ll try it!  I’m not an official vegetarian… I’m a flexitarian is what I think they’re calling it these days.  I like my lentil soup meatless personally.  Anyhow, this is right up my ‘alley’ ?.  Thank you for sharing! ✨Bita

  15. Made this last night. REALLY good!

  16. I made this last night using homemade chicken stock, and it was heavenly! This will be a regular in my house! Thank you!

    • Thanks, we’re so glad you enjoyed it, and homemade chicken stock is the BEST! :D

  17. This looks delicious and I´m gonna make it tonight using kale. Do you know if collard greens are known by another name in other countries? I´m in Holland and we have Andive, but not sure if that´s a totally different animal?! ;-o…..bedankt :-)

  18. I was looking for a lentil soup recipe and came across your simple hearty healthy lentil soup recipe and your fabulous photos! Thanks , going to make it now!

  19. I loved this lentil soup! I substituted minor red potatoes (quartered) rather than macaroni, utilized 4 garlic cloves, and added red pepper flake. This turned out completely delicious, superior to my most loved Italian restaurant! Including good extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan at the end is a must!

  20. Lentil soup remind me of my childhood. thank you for sharing this recipe…. I will definitely make this for my boyfriend on a rainy day

  21. This soup is awesome!  I’ve made it twice, both times using the slow cooker.  The first time I sautéed the onions and garlic before adding to the crockpot, the 2nd time I just dumped it all in at once.  Both were good, but the carmalizing of the onions gave the soup more depth, which is how I will continue to make it.

    Oh I also had some sundried tomato Tampanade, so I put a big scoop of that in, too.

    I used beet greens and they wear fantastic!  I also tried the spinach, Meh,  they basically disappear.

    The Parmesan really rounds this out!  Highly recommend!

    • Thanks for sharing with us Sarah! That tapenade sounds wonderful! We’re happy you enjoyed this! :D

  22. Thank you! I love to make a soup on Sunday to eat for lunch all week. I can’t wait to try this one. It looks delicious!

  23. I made this tonight – delicious! I used Trader Joe’s split lentils which cut the simmer time in half (12-13 min) and subbed spinach for collards (adding the spinach the last 3 minutes of cook time). I also used hot italian sausage! All good!

  24. This recipe looks delicious! Just wondering if I should use dried lentils or canned for this recipe? 

  25. I find that when cooking legumes such as lentils, tomatoe inhibits the cooking. I have ruined recipes when adding tomatoes before the legumes are tender. Tomatoes should only be added after the legumes or beans are tender.

  26. I just made this lentil soup!!!! Delicious!!  This one will be my all time favorite!  

  27. Hey there! Quick question. I don’t think my local store has greens and I’m going to make your spinach artichoke dip. I was wondering if it would change it much if I used the left over spinach instead?

  28. I made this soup last night for dinner, followed the recipe exactly. And it was delicious! My only regret is not making a double batch. Delicious and healthy! :D

  29. I have made this 3 or 4 times now and it is AMAZING. so healthy, warm, and delicious!

  30. Made this tonight and everyone loved it. My 5 kids ages 13 to 4! They didn’t even realize they were eating collard greens. Thanks for the recipe! Healthy, vegetarian/vegan, inexpensive, and super delicious!

  31. If you plan on making this in the crockpot using sausage should you add it at the end with the collards or is it okay to add the cooked sausage in beginning with the other ingredients?

    • I would recommend cooking the sausage separately so that you can drain off the excess grease. Then, you’re welcome to add it in at the beginning or at the end! :)

  32. I stumbled across this recipe the other day and immediately bookmarked it – I live in a housing coop and regularly cook for (weekly) potlucks, so a relatively quick, vegan dish for a large group of people is the way to my heart (and my favorite Pinterest board)!! When we got a HUGE batch of collard greens from our CSA this week, I knew this was exactly what I was looking for. Made it last night and I’ve got to say – WOW! I threw in some extra cooked lentils and cauliflower, and subbed the fire roasted tomatoes for crushed because we had an open can, and it was amazing! Rave reviews from all of my rabid vegan friends.

    Then I had it for lunch at work today with some crusty bread and I think it’s gotten even better with some time to sit. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe!!

  33. It was incredibly delicious!!!! Thanks

  34. I’ve been looking for something like this for a couple of years, and it looked good.

    I made some, and it is easily the best soup that I’ve ever made!

    I don’t know what collards are, so I used spinach. I didn’t have any crushed red pepper, so I used paprika.

    IT’S AMAZING!

    I won’t be tempted to try to improve it.

    The whole household is swooning at the smell.

    • Thanks for sharing, Roger, and for giving this a try — we’re so happy you loved it! :)

  35. Just finished making this soup. It rocks and I love that there’s so many nutrients in one pot. I used turkey and I just love how the preparation was easy and I found a way to use collard greens. Great recipe.

  36. This soup is filling and perfect for a cold day. The colors and flavors are outstanding!

  37. While Collard Greens is probably the farthest thing from any Italian ingredient I’ve seen, I would substitute them with Broccoli Rabe.
    That would make the title more “factual than fictional”. Trying to call something Italian with Southern Afro American Collard Greens is equivalent to calling Middle Eastern Shawarma to a Italian Meatball Submarine.
    Collard greens are not even close to anything Italian in any “Italian recipe” that I have ever seen. I have 4 grandparents off the Boat from Italy living in South Philadelphia PA, and they never heard of “Collard greens” . Sorry The recipe is great but the title is misleading and a little Insulting to our heritage.

  38. Collard greens is NOT an Italian ingredient. It does not belong in the same sentence as Italian. This should be called Old Southern Soul food Lentil soup. Collard greens Italian, please…………………….

  39. I made the recipe last night and I loved it! Just I used spinach instead of green collard and turkey bacon.

    • We’re so happy you enjoyed it, and we bet the spinach and turkey bacon were delicious in this! :)

  40. I’m itching to try this, but right away I find I have to substitute! Will be restocking my pantry in the near future… Substitutions this time will include coconut oil instead of olive, pureed garlic paste instead of cloves, regular tomatoes instead of fire roasted (can’t wait to try those!), dill instead of red pepper, and spinach instead of collard greens… Hoping to make it according to recipe very soon!

  41. Hi there! 
    I just wanted to ask you if I could substitute spinachos for the collard  greens? I’m making this soup for a group of people who get together and make a different soup. The next week they make something different.  Thanks so much. Dianew 

  42. My husband loves lentils, as do I, so I am always on the lookout for a good lentil soup recipe.  I made this last night.  Very good recipe, we both ate two bowls each.  I did add ground lamb, because I really love lamb with lentils.  Also, I didn’t realize I hadn’t added the fire roasted tomatoes until we had polished off two servings!  So, I added them anyway to what was left over.  This is a very good, very healthy recipe which I know I will make again and again.

  43. Any chance you have the nutritional information per serving for this? BTW loved the soup! But mine did not turn out orangy-red like the picture – any suggestions on what I can do? Maybe swap out some of the liquid with tomato sauce or puree?

    • Hi Wendy! We’re sorry but we are unsure of the nutrition facts/amount of calories in this recipe. We currently are not publishing nutrition facts on the site, as the nutrition calculators available are not 100% accurate, and we never want to publish anything that might be misleading. However, a lot of our readers love the My Fitness Pal nutrition calculator, so feel free to try that for an estimate. As for the color, we’re not sure why yours came out differently (could be the lighting in the photos we took). We wouldn’t be concerned with the color as long as you enjoyed the flavor of the soup though! You could add tomato sauce or extra tomatoes if you want. We hope all of this helps!

  44. I don’t have access to fire roasted tomatoes but really want to make this with my chicken Italian sausage! Thoughts?!

    • Hi Tracey! We think Italian chicken sausage would be delicious in this!

  45. I made this today with homemade broth, made it exactly as written. I did add some browned Italian sausage at the end when I added the collard greens. I thought it was very good, my broth made it a bit sweet since there was fennel in the broth. I think it is a keeper. I was light on the salt and didn’t add any cheese as some of the soup is going to a heart patient tomorrow.

  46. I make this all the time and I love it!! My family loves it also. I teach Nutrition and Wellness and I always cook a pot of this for my classroom. I like to introduce to the students to healthy eating and also to try new foods. Most of my students have never heard of lentils. I only give them a small sample to start with and the majority of the class loves it and comes back for more.

  47. I cook lentils in the winter and I love them. My tip for this recipe is soaking the lentils in water for 4-8 hours it will cut the cooking time in half. I will definitely try this recipe next time, when it get a little cooler here in south Louisiana.

  48. I’ve been looking for more lentil recipes, this was fabulous! I might try it with zucchini or mushrooms next time but wow, very good! Thank you so much!

  49. I made this recipe exactly as written. It is AMAZING! Years ago I had a lentil soup that was similar to this at a restaurant and when I saw this recipe I just had to try it. I made it once using the collard greens and tomorrow I’ll try it with kale. I could have this soup every day, it’s that good. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!!!! I know I’ll be making this over and over again.

    • Thank you so much for your sweet words, Ginger! We’re thrilled that you loved this! :)