Hearty, comforting, and very flavorful, this lentil stew is a great way to beat cold weather, tastes even better the next day, and freezes wonderfully! You can use bacon and chorizo or make it completely vegetarian.
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Originally published in 2012, the text and images in this post have been updated to serve you better. The recipe remains the same.
The final version of this fantastic lentil stew came together in the last few years, tweaking this and that until I found the right combination of spice, vegetables, bacon, amount of tomato, and type of lentils.
It was originally given to me by a new friend, after eating it at her house.
Greedy me would've taken the leftovers home, but since it was my first time at her house, I politely asked for the recipe.
This is a very traditional dish here, and as such, there are endless variations; everyone has their favorite and every house has the perfect recipe. Today you'll have to settle for mine.
Use a clear shot of the ingredients for this recipe, prepped, and labeled if necessary. Insert the ingredients into the list below, omitting quantities.
- Lentils: green lentils are my first choice as they keep their shape and bite despite the time the stew is simmering. After that, I opt for dry brown lentils. My experience with canned and red lentils is that they disintegrate too quickly and tend to become mushy.
- Stock or broth: use any type you like, homemade or store-bought. I tend towards chicken or vegetable broth. It's a main flavor component.
- Bacon: slices of bacon are diced or cut into strips and added to the lentil stew. The fats render while the pot simmers away, and the flavor it lends is unique. It makes the stew rich and smoky. Use your favorite type of bacon.
- Canned tomatoes: is a main ingredient that adds flavor and acidity.
- Vegetables: it uses the traditional carrot, onion, and celery trio for flavor. Red peppers add extra sweetness and spice. I sometimes add sweet potato, a small one, that helps to balance the fat and spiciness. But it's optional. Many people don't like it.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt when baking. But regular table salt works just fine.
- Black pepper and paprika: they add flavor and spiciness.
- Parsley: it's added as a garnish at the end and you can eat this lentil stew without it, but I recommend it.
- Oil: use any type you want, including coconut and olive oil. I like sunflower oil.
See the recipe card towards the end of this post for quantities.
Type of lentils
- Dry lentils - they need to be soaked in cool water for an hour or two hours before using them. Otherwise, they take forever and never quite soften as they should. Some brands might take longer. It's an extra step but I recommend them as they will endure the time it takes for the stew to be ready and reheating it.
- Canned brown lentils - there are different types and none are really good for a lentil stew since they need to cook together with the rest of the ingredients for a while and they tend to turn mushy and many may disintegrate.
- Quick-cooking brown lentils - they are a compromise between the two types mentioned above. My experience is that brands vary, some can hold their shape and bite and others turn to mush too quickly. So, unless you're familiar with them, use dry ones.
- Red lentils: they cook too fast and explode easily. I don't recommend them for this. They do make for an amazing lentil squash soup.
Names may vary in each country, but you should not use yellow or orange lentils (the ones labeled Turkish) as they cook too quickly. So go for the sturdy, old-fashioned lentil.
Variations & substitutions
- Spicy: add hot paprika or some other type of hot spice.
- Sausage: it's common to see lentil stew recipes using Spanish sausage in many countries. It has peppers and pork, a dark reddish color, and a very particular flavor. You can use other types of sausage or pepperoni.
- Vegetarian lentil stew: use vegetable stock and omit the bacon.
- Spices and herbs: others can be added to the paprika, such as cumin, bay leaf, and thyme.
- Green leaf vegetables: you can add chopped kale, swiss chard, or spinach to the pot before serving it. Let it wilt a little.
How to make lentil stew
Soaking lentils: it's a great way of softening them and reducing the simmering time of the stew.
Bacon: render some fat by cooking the strips in a skillet before adding them to the stew.
Flavor base: the diced veggies are cooked first to soften and concentrate their flavor.
Simmering: the rest of the ingredients are added to the veggie base and simmered until the lentils are cooked.
Vintage Kitchen tip: if you reheat lentil stew that has been refrigerated, loosen it up by adding some stock and cook it at a low temperature until you reach the desired thickness.
Best tip for lentil stew
My top advice when it comes to lentil stew: Eat it the next day
Stews, in general, tend to be better the next day, some two days after they're made.
I like to take it even further by cooking it until it's almost done and cooking it the next day for half an hour or so, depending on how I want the lentils.
- That overnight rest deepens the flavor as only time can. The ingredients become friends and exchange subtleties until the flavor is perfect. This is especially important with the bacon. It'll lose some of its fat slowly and become part of the juices. Simply wonderful.
Important: after removing it from the stove, either serve it or transfer it to a shallower dish and put it in the refrigerator to cool down faster. It has tomatoes that might start to ferment, ruining the whole stew.
- Room temperature: it's not recommended due to the reason above.
- Refrigerator: it keeps well for several days in a shallow or not very deep airtight container. Don't store the hot stew directly in a closed container; let it cool down first.
- Freezer: after cooling, transfer it to a freezer-proof container or a Ziploc-style bag and keep it frozen for a month. If using a bag, make sure it's not near a sharp edge or something that can rip it or you'll have a leaking bag when you defrost it.
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The Best Lentil Stew
Hearty, comforting, and very flavorful, this is the best lentil stew I ever made. It's a great way to beat cold weather, tastes even better the next day, and freezes wonderfully! You can use bacon and chorizo or make it completely vegetarian.
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 6 servings
- 3 tablespoons oil (I use sunflower)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ small red pepper, finely chopped
- ½ cup celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 3-4 cups broth (veal, chicken, or vegetable)
- 2 cups dry brown lentils
- 1 ½ cups canned tomatoes, chopped, with juice
- 4 oz. bacon
- 2-3 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
- Soak the lentils in a large bowl covering them with cold tap water. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.
- In a large pot with a lid, heat the oil and sweat the onion, pepper, and celery on low heat. You want to let them soften and release liquid (sweat), but not let them brown.
- Add salt and pepper, carrots, and 2 cups of broth. Cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes over low heat.
- Add 1 more cup broth, lentils, and tomatoes and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- In a small skillet, cook the bacon strips for 2 or 3 minutes until they are a little brown and have released some fat.
- Drain and add them to the pot together with the paprika. Stir to mix and continue cooking.
- Keep on simmering, checking seasonings, and adding more broth if you feel it's necessary. The amount depends on the type of lentils you use and how much the soaking process softened them.
- Check to see if the lentils are fully cooked and tender, and adjust the simmering time until the bite is to your liking.
- Ladle the stew into bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve.
- Or better yet, refrigerate until the next day, and reheat before eating it. The flavors will be amalgamated and richer.
Lentils: don't use quick-cooking lentils as they will probably disintegrate before the rest of the ingredients are done.
My best advice when it comes to lentil stew: Eat it the next day
I cook it until it's just done until the lentils are almost al dente. I then leave the whole thing to cool in the pot until the next day, and I cook it again for half an hour or more, depending on how I want the lentils.
That overnight rest deepens the flavor as only time can. They become friends and exchange subtleties until the flavor is perfect. This is especially important with the chorizo and the bacon. They will lose some of their fat slowly and it will become part of the juices. Simply wonderful.
And lentil stew can be frozen. So keep a few containers with the right servings and enjoy it any time you want!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Soaking time: 60 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Main dish
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: International
- Serving Size: ⅛
- Calories: 334
- Sugar: 9 g
- Sodium: 889.6 mg
- Fat: 11.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 43.4 g
- Fiber: 8.1 g
- Protein: 17 g
- Cholesterol: 11.7 mg
Keywords: lentil stew
Paula Montenegro says
Hi Ethan, so happy you liked it! It's a family recipe that I treasure. Have a great week.
I made this tonight and it was so yummy on a cold day. The chorizo was a little on the spicy side (even though it was supposed to be mild) so we toned it down with a dollop of sour cream or a bit of goat cheese.
Paula Montenegro says
So glad you liked it! The sour cream sounds perfect!
Christian Halfmann says
What a lovely dish! That's something I would like to have tomorrow for dinner ...
Anne @ Webicurean says
Love lentils, so I'm always happy to come across new recipes!
Coombe Mill says
Totally delicious, my kind of food!
Cindys Recipes and Writings says
I love lentils! Thanks for another lentil recipe!
Alaiyo Kiasi says
This is a beautiful stew--and lovely photos as well.
Jennie @themessybakerblog says
Paula, this stew looks amazing! Did I hear bacon? Yum! Your photos are gorgeous. I hope it cools down for you soon.
oh wow! This soup looks too good. I wish I can get my hands on some good chorizo. All I found were packaged ones and they don't look that great. How I would love to get some fresh chorizo. Yummy!