Classic Lentil Soup With Ham

Classic lentil soup with ham recipe

The Spruce Eats / Nita West

Prep: 14 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 74 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
175 Calories
5g Fat
26g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 175
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 834mg 36%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 9%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 6mg 32%
Calcium 69mg 5%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 441mg 9%
*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 smokey 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 your broth doesn't have any added wheat or wheat-based thickeners, this dish is actually gluten-free.

Ingredients

For the Croutons:

  • 2 to 3 slices bread (firm)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt (to taste)

  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

  • Optional:

    garlic powder (to taste)

  • Optional:

    dried herbs (marjoram, sage, oregano; to taste)

For the Lentil Soup:

  • 1 ham bone (or 1 large ham hock)

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

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

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

  • 1 cup celery (chopped)

  • 1 cup onion (chopped)

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • Optional:

    1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Garnish:

    parsley (chopped)

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

    Break up bread
    The Spruce Eats / 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 with olive oil
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  5. Spread the bread cubes out on the prepared baking sheet and then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. 

    Spread bread cubes out
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  6. For seasoned croutons, sprinkle with the optional garlic powder and dried herbs, as desired. 

    Season croutons
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  7. Bake the croutons for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Reserve.

    Bake croutons
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West

Make the Lentil Soup

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for lentil soup
    The Spruce Eats / 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.

    Combine ingredients in pot
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the lentils are tender.

    Reduce
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  4. Take out the ham bone or hock and remove the meat from it, chopping it in bite-size cubes.

    Take out ham
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  5. Return the meat to the pot.

    Chop meat
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  6. Remove the bay leaf and stir well to incorporate the ham.

    Remove bay leaf
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  7. Ladle the lentil soup into bowls and top with fresh chopped parsley and croutons, as desired.

    Ladle lentil soup
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West
  8. Enjoy!

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.

For Best Results

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 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—know 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.
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