Classic Lentil Soup With Ham

Classic lentil soup with ham recipe

The Spruce Eats / Nita West

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 80 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
199 Calories
7g Fat
27g Carbs
9g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 199
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 8%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 8mg 3%
Sodium 906mg 39%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 7g 25%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 9g
Vitamin C 8mg 39%
Calcium 79mg 6%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 501mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Your family will love this classic, slow-simmered lentil soup. Hearty and filling, it gets flavor and texture from carrots, celery, and onions, while meaty cubes of leftover ham or ham hock add a smoky profile. Our easy-to-make homemade croutons are a great way of repurposing stale bread, and they add creaminess and crunch to the soup. A bowl of this recipe makes an excellent lunch with a sandwich or salad, or just a piece of crusty bread is a great accompaniment. Alternatively, offer freshly baked biscuits or cornbread.

Lentils are a great legume to add to your recipes, as they cook faster than other dried legumes and are very nutritious. For a vegetarian-friendly version, cook with vegetable broth and keep the meats outside of the pot; serve them on the side so each guest can take a portion and add to their soup if wanted. The lentil soup by itself is delicious and filling, serving all the goodness of lentils in a bowl: high fiber, high protein, and high folate and iron. For meat lovers, add extra diced leftover ham, sliced smoked sausage, or diced cooked bacon in addition to or in place of the ham.

Our recipe is very forgiving and leaves room for you to experiment with the seasonings and vegetables: more garlic or spring onions for pungency; mint, parsley, thyme, or sorrel for an herbal fragrance; or a handful of chopped fresh spinach, kale, or Swiss chard for color and nutrients. By skipping the croutons and checking that your broth doesn't have any added wheat or wheat-based thickeners, this dish is actually gluten free.

"This soup uses common pantry staples and comes together fast. The ham hock adds tons of flavor. The croutons add a fantastic bit of texture and crunch. I had a large smoked ham hock and the smokiness really made the soup delicious. Next time I make it I might double those tasty croutons." —Danielle Centoni

Lentil Soup with Ham Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For the Croutons:

  • 2 to 3 slices firm bread

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Garlic powder, to taste, optional

  • Dried herbs, such as marjoram, sage, or oregano, to taste, optional

For the Lentil Soup:

  • 1 ham bone (or 1 large ham hock)

  • 6 cups water (or low-sodium or unsalted vegetable or chicken stock)

  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils (brown or green)

  • 2 cups sliced carrots (3 to 4 medium carrots, sliced)

  • 1 cup chopped celery

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon sugar, optional

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Chopped parsley , garnish

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this soup is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Croutons

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Crouton ingredients

    The Spruce / Nita West

  2. Cut the slices of bread into 1/2-inch cubes. 

    Bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes

    The Spruce / Nita West

  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

  4. Toss the bread cubes with the extra-virgin olive oil. 

    Toss bread cubes with extra-virgin olive oil

    The Spruce / Nita West

  5. Spread the bread cubes out on the prepared baking sheet and then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. 

    Seasoned bread cubes on a baking sheet

    The Spruce / Nita West

  6. For seasoned croutons, sprinkle with the optional garlic powder and dried herbs, as desired. 

    Season croutons with dried herbs on a baking sheet

    The Spruce / Nita West

  7. Bake the croutons for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Reserve.

    Baked croutons in a bowl

    The Spruce / Nita West

Make the Lentil Soup

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for lentil soup

    The Spruce / Nita West

  2. Place the ham bone in a stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the water or stock, lentils, carrots, celery, onion, salt, optional sugar, black pepper, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. (If using a ham hock, simmer the ham hock with the water or stock first for 30 minutes, then add the other ingredients and proceed with the recipe.)

    Soup ingredients combined in a pot

    The Spruce / Nita West

  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the lentils are tender.

    Soup simmering until lentils are tender

    The Spruce / Nita West

  4. Take out the ham bone or hock and remove the meat from it, chopping it into bite-sized cubes.

    Ham is removed from the pot

    The Spruce / Nita West

  5. Return the meat to the pot.

    Ham is chopped and added back to the pot

    The Spruce / Nita West

  6. Remove the bay leaf and stir well to incorporate the ham.

    Bay leaf is removed from the pot

    The Spruce / Nita West

  7. Ladle the lentil soup into bowls and top with fresh chopped parsley and croutons, as desired.

    Bowls of lentil soup with parsley garnish

    The Spruce / Nita West

Tips

Here are some expert tips to make a great pot of this flavorful soup:

  • If using salted broth or stock, don't add additional salt until the last minute. Taste the soup before serving and adjust your seasoning accordingly. Store-bought broth is usually high in sodium and adds sufficient salt to soups and stews.
  • We make the soup with brown or green lentils, but other lentils are great, too. Red lentils will soften much more and add a lot of creaminess to the soup, whereas black or green hold their shape and bite more. Black lentils—known as beluga lentils because of their resemblance to caviar—are amazing too, plus they are beautiful to look at.
  • Our cooking time is designed for brown or green lentils. If using other types, taste at the 45-minute mark as red lentils can soften much faster. If you don't want mushy soup, remove from the heat when they still have their shape intact but are soft inside.

Do I Need to Soak the Lentils?

  • Unlike other legumes, lentils do not need to be soaked overnight. Not even for an hour. This makes them an easy ingredient, as you don't need to prepare in advance. Simply rinse well and pick out any small debris that might be in there.
Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lentils, Raw. FoodData Central. Published 4/1/2019