Savory French Lentil and Barley Soup

This hearty and healthy soup is a perfect meal to quickly pull together on a Monday or Tuesday evening and then eat for the rest of the week.  The taste is best a day or two day after it’s made and the flavors are totally melded.

I make French lentil and barley soup a lot, since all the ingredients are things I always keep on hand at our house.  You’ll notice there are many ingredients used in both this soup and my Hoppin’ John.  In general, my bean and grain soups share several of the same base ingredients, making it easier to shop and keep the pantry streamlined.

If you haven’t had French lentils before, they are my absolute favorite for soups and salads.  They maintain their shape, unlike most lentils, which tend to break down as they are cooked.  I like their firm and chewy consistency.  I also like how they are often available in bulk bins in grocery stores.  At my local grocery store, the French lentils used in this recipe cost us about $1.40.


  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-large onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 T tomato paste (buying this in a toothpaste-like tube makes keeping it on hand really easy)
  • 16 oz canned tomatoes, diced (including the juice)
  • 1 c pearled barley
  • 14 c water (maybe a bit more, depending on how soupy you like your soup)
  • 3 veggie bullion cubes, no salt (I like Rapunzel brand…though I aspire to 1. cook all of my own stock or 2. do this one day.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Parmesan rind (from 1-2 wedges of Parmesan…the more the better!)
  • 2 c french lentils
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 t soy sauce (deepens the flavor of the broth)
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T nutritional yeast (optional)


This recipe takes a little less than an hour from start to finish and yields 10, 12 oz bowls (this is how much I would eat in one serving).

In a big soup pot, heat the olive oil over a medium heat.  Add in the garlic, stir for 30 seconds.  Add in the onions, carrots and celery.  Cook until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the tomato paste until the vegetables are coated.

Add in the barley, the water, bullion cubes, bay leaves and Parmesan rind (incidentally, one time I used the rind from an aged Gouda and that worked beautifully, so really any hard, rich cheese — without wax on the outside! — would be fine).

Next, add the lentils, Dijon and soy sauce.  Continue to simmer for 30-35 minutes.

Taste the lentils and barley to see if they feel done.  Both should maintain their shape and not be mushy.  Add the vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add the nutritional yeast, if you have it (I am so in love with the deep, savory flavor conveyed by nutritional yeast, but I realize that not everyone keeps this at hand.  It’s OK — this soup is still great without it).

Don’t forget to avoid eating the bay leaves and Parmesan rind!

The final result is a rich, brothy soup, packed with protein, fiber, vitamins and umami.  Make it a meal by serving it with a salad tossed with mustard vinaigrette and a hunk of crusty bread.  And  maybe some blue cheese.  Enjoy!


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