Cook the Book: Lentil Soup

And so we've come to the end of the road with this week's installment of Cook the Book, the late James Beard's Beard on Food.

"Lentils," Beard wrote, "might have been devised for winter meals. They are a marvelously nutritious, satisfying, and economical food, and to me, their flavor is more interesting and distinctive than any of the beans, except perhaps the fava."

And while it's a probably a little early to start thinking about winter, I don't see why you couldn't make this soup on a chilly fall day.


  • 1 ham or pork bone
  • 1 pound lentils
  • 2-3 quart water or stock
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Thinly sliced frankfurters or knockwurst (optional)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Chopped parsley and crisp croutons for garnish


  1. 1.

    Put ham or pork bone in a deep pot with the lentils and twice the usual amount of water or stock—about 2 to 3 quarts—for in this case the lentils need to be cooked until quite, quite soft, about 1 hour.

  2. 2.

    When cooked, put them through a sieve or food mill, taste the purée for seasoning, and add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste (you won't have to add much of the latter if the meat bone was very salty).

  3. 3.

    Add the finely chopped onions, finely chopped garlic cloves, thyme, nutmeg, and enough additional water or stock, if needed, to make a good thick soup. Cook this down for another 30 minutes, at a simmer. You can make the soup even heartier by adding thinly sliced frankfurters or knockwurst for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time, and richer by stirring in heavy cream for the last 5 minutes, blending well. Taste once more for seasoning, and serve topped with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and crisp croutons.

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