Hearty, healthy, veggie-packed and delicious, this vegetarian Italian lentil soup recipe is the perfect way to welcome the New Year and bring a little good luck with it!

a close up of Italian lentil soup in a bowl with a spoon.
Photo Credits: Ali Redmond

Italians have a New Year tradition of gathering with friends and family to enjoy lenticchie. Not because they're protein-packed and nutrient-rich, though that's a nice bonus! The lentils in this Italian soup recipe symbolize abundance, as their round shape represents Roman coins expanding as they simmer. Eating lentils is believed to usher in a year of good fortune. And who wouldn't appreciate a little bit of that?!

Like most family recipes, Italian Lentil Soup varies from home to home, but many traditional recipes often include pork. My version of this comforting, aromatic Italian lentil soup, however, is vegetarian and can easily be vegan. Don't worry! It's still rich with flavor and tradition.

And while I can’t speak to fortune, I do know that wholesome lentils are a welcome break from the holiday cookies, baklava, and sangrias. This gluten-free soup is just the kind of reset I crave! 

With its fragrant blend of Italian seasonings, fresh aromatics, umami-rich parmesan, and rich crushed tomatoes, this soup recipe is so deeply savory you may forget it’s completely vegetarian. 

Table of Contents
  1. What Lentils to Use for Soup?
  2. Ingredients for Italian Lentil Soup
  3. How to Make Italian Lentil Soup
  4. How to Store Lentil Soup
  5. Ways to Mix it Up
  6. What to Serve with Italian Lentil Soup
  7. Hearty, Vegetarian, Delicious! More Lentil Soup Recipes 
  8. Italian Lentil Soup Recipe


What Lentils to Use for Soup?

Lentils, be it brown, green, red, or black, are not only a delicious source of vegan protein, this pantry superstar is also rich in fiber, iron, folate, and zinc–see USDA for the full breakdown. And they absorb bold flavors beautifully as they cook, making them so comforting and delicious. The type of lentil you use depends on soup you're making!

Brown or green lentils are ideal for soups where you want to keep the lentil's velvety yet toothsome texture, as with this Italian lentil soup recipe. In the video below, you'll see I used our all-natural green lentils which are nutrition-rich and cook to tender perfection but won't lose their shape, giving just the right hearty and rustic texture. If you're making a creamy soup like Turkish lentil soup, use red lentils, which become very soft and rich, almost melting into the soup.

Ingredients for Italian lentil soup including olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, canned whole tomatoes, vegetable broth, a bay leaf, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, lentils, baby spinach parsley, red wine vinegar, and grated parmesan cheese.


Ingredients for Italian Lentil Soup

This lentil soup uses simple pantry staples but it’s far from basic. Tried and true seasonings really pull their weight for a vegetarian soup that’s full of flavor and comfort. You’ll need: 

  • Extra-virgin olive oil: I used buttery Italian Nocellara both to sauté the vegetables and finish the soup, giving it a nice richness and depth of flavor. 
  • Aromatics: Onion, garlic, carrots, and celery provide the aromatic foundation of the soup. 
  • Italian seasoning adds big flavor with just a handful of pantry spices—I used a jar of Homemade Italian Seasoning I made a while back. My homemade seasoning is salt-free, so if you opt for a store-bought blend just check the salt levels and season accordingly if it includes salt. 
  • Dried bay leaf adds an aromatic and comforting quality. 
  • Kosher salt and black pepper enhance the flavor. 
  • Canned tomatoes: I love San Marzano tomatoes, which are nicely sweet and juicy. I like to use whole tomatoes and crush them for a rustic texture, but you can use chopped tomatoes if that’s what you have. 
  • Broth: I was craving a vegetarian soup, so I went for vegetable broth. If you have chicken stock or broth on hand feel free to use that instead. 
  • Red pepper flakes add a subtle kick. Leave them out if you don’t like spice, or substitute with Aleppo pepper for a milder option. 
  • Lentils add vegan protein, nutrients, and a texture. I typically use brown or green French Lentils because they hold their shape better.
  • Baby spinach wilts quickly for a nice vitamin boost in the final moments. You can substitute with torn kale or chard but keep in mind it takes longer to tenderize. Stir it half way through simmering the lentils. 
  • Parsley adds freshness to lift the savory soup. 
  • Red wine vinegar’s acidity brings balance to lighten the soup. You can substitute with white distilled vinegar or even lemon juice but do not skip it! 
  • Parmesan adds a delicious salty umami flavor, but you can skip it to keep this soup vegan. And although Parmesan isn't technically vegetarian there are many delicious vegetarian Parmesan options out there. I always prefer to freshly grate the parmesan–the huge difference in quality is well-worth the extra few seconds and dish for the quality.
an overhead photo of Italian lentil soup in a pot with a ladle.


How to Make Italian Lentil Soup

This is a highly “memorizable” recipe: just sauté the vegetables, add the tomatoes, broth and lentils, and simmer until tender. Just three simple steps! 

  • Sauté the aromatics. In a large Dutch oven, heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 chopped onion, 4 minced garlic cloves, 2 chopped carrots, and 1 chopped celery rib. Season with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the veggies are fragrant and somewhat tender, about 5 minutes. chopped onions, garlic, carrots and celery being sautéed in a large pot.
  • Simmer. Add a (28-once) can of whole tomatoes and lightly crush with a potato masher or the back of a fork. Stir in 5 cup of vegetable broth, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1 cup of brown or green lentils. Season with another pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and partly cover the Dutch oven, leaving a little opening. Simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are very tender and cooked through, but still intact.  an overhead photo of a pot of Italian lentil soup.
  • Finish and serve. Turn off the heat and stir in 2 cups baby spinach, 1 cup chopped parsley, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and season with more vinegar, salt, and pepper to your liking. Transfer to serving bowls and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese, if using. Two bowls of of Italian lentil soup, one with a spoon, next to a pot of the soup.


How to Store Lentil Soup

Lentil soup stores and freezes well–make a big batch to get a leg up on takeout temptation. To store leftovers, hold off on adding cheese.

Allow the soup to cool to room temperature, then transfer to airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. If you’re freezing soup, always leave some room at the top to allow it to expand in your freezer. 

Defrost in your microwave or allow the soup to thaw in your refrigerator overnight. Reheat over medium-low heat, stirring until steaming and delicious! 

an overhead photo of italian lentil soup in a bowl with a spoon next to a small bowl of grated parmesan.


Ways to Mix it Up

This lentil soup shines on its own. But if you’re someone who needs leftovers to feel like a whole new dish–or if you just want to experiment with flavors–here are some ways to give this soup a “day two twist.”

  • Add crunch: Top with homemade croutons, like the ones from this caprese chicken salad
  • Add tangy-creaminess: Finish with a dollop of crème fraîche, crumbled feta, goat cheese, or Greek yogurt. 
  • Add flair: Olive oil fried lemon rings are a tart–and pretty–garnish that give this soup a little extra oomph. Or add a runny poached egg for extra richness–you can find my favorite egg poaching method in this Çılbır recipe


What to Serve with Italian Lentil Soup

Lentils are an incredible pantry superfood when you think about it: just a cup will make a simple broth and vegetable soup hearty enough to feed six people. You really don’t need anything more for this gluten free, vegetarian (easily vegan) soup to satisfy a crowd.

But, if you’d like to dial up the comfort or stretch the meal a little bit, crusty bread and a crisp crunchy salad will do the trick. The lentils are velvety-tender, so the Lettuce Parmesan Salad or Focaccia both come to mind.

Hearty, Vegetarian, Delicious! More Lentil Soup Recipes 

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French Green Lentils

A protein-packed, nutrient-rich powerhouse of a legume! Green lentils require no soaking and cook in just 30 minutes or so. Great vegan protein for soups, rice, salads, and more!

Bag of French Green lentils from the Mediterranean Dish.
4.94 from 49 votes

Italian Lentil Soup

Suzy Karadsheh
An overhead photo of a bowl of Italian lentil soup with a spoon next to a small bowl of grated parmesan cheese and olive oil.
Lentils are a traditional part of an Italian New Year celebration: Their coin-like shape expanding as they cook is said to bring good fortune. But this hearty, healthy, veggie-packed lentil soup is useful well beyond your end-of-year menu! Nourishing and comforting in all the best ways, this flavorful recipe is easy to make, comes together in 40-ish minutes, and freezes well. Good fortune indeed!
Prep – 10 minutes
Cook – 30 minutes
Total – 38 minutes
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 6
Course:
Entree or Side Dish, Soup

Ingredients
  

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup green lentils, rinsed (or brown lentils)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • Splash red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Sauté the aromatics. In a large Dutch oven, heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Season with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the veggies are fragrant and somewhat tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Simmer. Add the tomatoes and lightly crush with a potato masher or the back of a fork. Stir in the vegetable broth, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and lentils. Season with another pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and partly cover the Dutch oven, leaving a little opening. Simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are very tender and cooked through, but still intact.
  • Finish and serve. Turn off the heat and stir in the baby spinach, parsley, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and season with more vinegar, salt, and pepper to your liking. Transfer to serving bowls and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and Parmesan cheese, if using.

Video

Notes

  • If you prefer a thicker soup, reduce the amount of broth to 4 cups. 
  • Leave out the parmesan cheese to make this lentil soup vegan.
  • To store leftovers, hold off on adding cheese. From there:
    • Allow the soup to cool to room temperature, then transfer to airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. If you’re freezing soup, always leave some room at the top to allow it to expand in your freezer.
    • Defrost in your microwave or allow the soup to thaw in your refrigerator overnight. Reheat over medium-low heat, stirring until steaming and delicious, then top with freshly grated parmesan.  
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 161.8kcalCarbohydrates: 30.5gProtein: 10gFat: 0.7gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 915.3mgPotassium: 661mgFiber: 12.3gSugar: 5.9gVitamin A: 5754.9IUVitamin C: 27.1mgCalcium: 91.7mgIron: 4.4mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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4.94 from 49 votes (24 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. Anne F says:

    5 stars
    I made this today. I added mushrooms. It was delicious!

  2. Sarah B says:

    5 stars
    I made this last night and loved it so much that I just ate it for breakfast hahaa
    (I added basil and oregano but it was perfect as is!) The parsley was such a bright, fresh addition. Thank you so much!

  3. Gloria Preciado says:

    Going to try your recipe. I wanted to make something different with lentils. I've made lentils before. And ever delicious away I made. I am trying to follow this recipe, but I am going to change it a little bit. I'm boiling some meat beef meat with bones. Give it more flavor and the juice of the broth will go in the lentil. I'm not going to put chili or vinegar with wine. I wanna taste to see how it goes the way I'm making it. I'm following your directions, but not all the way to the tea. No chili cause my family doesn't like chili. I do, but they don't no chili. And no babe, I don't have babies. I'm going to use yes, salantro. To give it a little spark, I will let you know how it comes out.Thank you for this recipe

  4. Margaret A DeMarino says:

    5 stars
    Thanks so much for this recipe. It's become one of my go-to's. That splash of red wine vinegar at the end really is perfect.

    1. TMD Team says:

      So happy to hear you love this one, Margaret!

  5. Sheryl says:

    Such a good recipe! After I feast on it, I portion it and then freeze for my work lunches😊

  6. Christina says:

    5 stars
    This is so delicious! The vinegar gives it the perfect punch. The only change I made was adding a parmesan rind as it simmered. I'll be making this on repeat from now on!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Christina!

  7. Jana L Hertz says:

    Although I have not made this recipe yet, I was wondering what else can be used instead of spinach or kale?
    I love spinach raw however, I do not like it cooked. Is there any non-leafy vegetable that I can use as a substitute?
    Thank you!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Jana. You could try some swiss chard here as a substitute. You can also just omit the spinach all together, if you prefer.