Quick and simple Italian sausage and lentils recipe with fennel and aromatics like onions, garlic, and carrots. Finished with a splash of red wine vinegar and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, this one-pan lentil stew is hearty in the best way possible!
Lentils, like beans, soak up whatever flavor they are cooked with. Here, it is Italian chicken sausage and sweet fresh fennel with other aromatics like onions and garlic for a perfectly hearty lentil stew!
This simple sausage and lentils recipe comes from one of our readers Darryl Patrick Lombard, who makes it often on busy weeknights. I’m so glad he shared it with me because if you thought lentils were bland, wait till you try Darryl’s recipe! Loads of flavor with such little effort.
Flavor-packed lentil stew!
Italians have been doing the sausage and lentils combo for many years, and it is a darn delicious one to try! Plus, the combination of protein-packed lentils and a little bit of chicken sausage makes for a satisfying meal to feed a little crowd.
This recipe starts with one cup of green lentils (black lentils will work too), which do not require soaking overnight and are naturally filling. Simmer the lentils with browned chicken sausage (or Italian sausage of your choice), chunks of subtly sweet fresh fennel, onions, garlic, and carrots, and you end up with a delicious stew in 30 minutes or less.
If you’re worried about the amount of fennel in the recipe, just know that the licorice-y taste you get from a fresh fennel salad will mellow quite a bit once cooked, resulting in a slightly sweet flavor that is well balanced with the saltiness of the sausage.
With a splash of red wine vinegar, all the flavors come to bright attention. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil at the end adds a luxurious, rich finish to this humble lentil stew.
Ingredients - what you need to make this recipe
With just a few ingredients, you can have a main meal that is simple yet striking. Here’s what you’ll need to make sausage and lentils:
- Lentils (green or black) – Green or black lentils are the best choice for this recipe, as they retain their texture when cooked. I used green lentils because I like their nutty flavor and think they go will with the slightly sweet fennel. Don’t use red lentils, as these will get mushy and lose their texture
- Extra virgin olive oil – used to sauté the aromatics and to finish the lentil stew, good extra virgin olive oil is the perfect way to add richness and flavor.
- Italian chicken sausage (or pork sausage), casings removed – the original recipe called for pork sausage, but I opted for chicken sausage which is a bit lighter and tastes just as good.
- Fennel bulb, sliced into chunks. If you haven’t cooked with fresh fennel before, know that it has a pungent licorice taste, but once cooked, it mellows quite a bit and adds a subtle sweetness and good texture to this stew. I also like using fennel fronds to finish the dish for an added pop of color.
- Fresh garlic – adds a very mild garlicky flavor
- Yellow onion
- Carrot, grated – adds a hint of sweetness and color
- Fennel seeds – you can find this near the spices in the grocery aisle. Note that fennel seeds are also an ingredient in Italian sausage, so they play the flavor up well in this recipe.
- Broth – I used chicken broth, but vegetable broth would work as well
- Red wine vinegar – adds a brightness that lifts the earthiness of this dish. If you don't have it, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or even a squeeze of fresh lemon juice will work.
How to make this lentil stew (step-by-step):
This easy green lentil recipe comes together in 30 minutes or less! Here’s how to make it:
- Parboil the lentils. Parboiling basically means partially cooked, so you'll cook the lentils for about 10 minutes, they will start to become tender but will still have a firm bite (don't worry, they will finish cooking later with the rest of the ingredients). Do NOT discard the lentil cooking water, you'll need it for the stew.
- Cook the sausage. In a large skillet, cook 8 ounces of sausage over medium-high heat with a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil, until fully cooked and browned. Use your spoon to break up any large chunks to ensure even cooking.
- Add the vegetables and aromatics. Move the sausage to one side of the hot skillet. Add the sliced fennel, 1 to 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 finely chopped yellow onion, 1 grated carrot, and ½ teaspoon fennel seeds. Mix gently on one side of the skillet until the garlic becomes fragrant. Then stir to combine the sausage, fennel, and other sautéed ingredients. Add about ½ cup of broth and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (don't skip the vinegar, it does elevate and brighten the flavor here).
- Add the lentils with their cooking water. Gently stir the lentils (and their cooking water) into the sausage and fennel skillet. Bring to a boil, then lower and simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve. Finish the green lentil stew with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and serve with your favorite crusty bread!
- If you like a bit of heat, you can add some red pepper flakes. I tried this and it added just the right amount of kick to complement the sweetness of the fennel.
- If you prefer, you can substitute the chicken sausage with regular or hot Italian pork sausage, just be sure to remove the casings.
- You can also sneak in more veggies, if you like. Mushrooms and peas would be good additions to this sausage and lentil stew.
- For a vegetarian version with a similar spirit, try our Italian Lentil Soup.
Make ahead tips
Although this green lentil recipe is quick to make any given night of the week, you can prepare parts of it in advance if you like.
- Parboil the lentils a day in advance. Store in the refrigerator (along with any remaining liquid left over from parboiling).
- Prepare the vegetables up to a day ahead, and store separately in airtight containers in the fridge.
What to serve along
This sausage and lentils with fennel is a hearty meal in itself, and you may not need much to serve along but a nice rustic bread to sop up the delicious liquids and olive oil. I like to start the meal with a big salad .
Leftovers and storage
The beauty of this lentil stew is that it is one of those meals that taste even better the next day once the flavors have had a chance to meld. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat (you may need to add a little more broth).
Other lentil recipes to try:
Sausage and Lentils with Fennel
- 1 cup green lentils, black lentils will work as well
- extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces chicken or pork sausage, casings removed (about 2 to 3 sausages)
- 1 fennel bulb large or 2 small, thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 large cloves garlic, grated
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ cup broth
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- In a saucepan, combine the lentils with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover part-way to simmer for about 10 minutes (the lentils should be cooked just part-way through (there should be some liquid in the pan still).
- In a large skillet, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the sausage and cook over medium-high heat, tossing regularly and breaking the sausage up with a wooden spoon, until fully cooked and browned.
- Push the sausage to one side of the skillet and add the fennel, garlic, onion, carrots, and fennel seed. Add broth and red wine vinegar.
- Add the par-boiled lentils to the sausage and fennel skillet. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasoning. To serve, drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top. Serve immediately with your favorite crusty bread
- What kind of lentils to use? In this recipe, I recommend green or black lentils as they will hold their shape better giving the stew the right texture.
- Recipe Substitutions: If you prefer to use mild Italian pork sausage or a spicy sausage instead, feel free to swap the chicken sausage out for your favorite option. Just be sure to remove the sausage casings. You can add red pepper flakes for more heat, if you like.
- Make-ahead tips: Although this recipe is quick to make, you can par-boil the lentils one night ahead and keep them in the fridge in their cooking liquid. You can also chop the vegetables and save them in sealed bags or containers in the fridge.
- Leftovers and storage: Store leftover cooked sausage and lentils in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat (you may need to add a little more broth).
- Visit our online shop to browse our lentils, quality extra virgin olive oils and all-natural and organic spices and more!