This Lentil and Ham soup recipe is my top choice for cold-weather comfort food. It's simple to prepare, wholesome, hearty, and comforting, using leftover ham, dried lentils, and just a few common ingredients.
Make the most of a holiday ham! This soup is both nutritious and delicious, making it an ideal, light choice after indulging in a few days of feasting.
This recipe was the first lentil recipe that I really developed. I had no idea it was the gateway recipe to a cooking obsession. Learn more about these amazing legumes, and their health benefits, how to cook lentils, and check out my ever-growing list of lentil recipes.
Wondering where to find a ham bone?
If you don't have a leftover ham bone from your holiday meals, simply visit your local butcher and request a smoked ham hock or ham shank. While a ham hock might have slightly less meat, it will still infuse your soup with incredible flavor. For clarification, the hock is the section of a smoked ham that attaches to the hog's leg, while the ham shank, situated lower on the leg, contains more meat.
Which type of lentils to use?
Choose green or brown lentils when making ham and lentil soup. Yellow or red lentils tend to disintegrate into a mushy consistency and won't contribute the desired texture to the soup.
Preparing the Lentils
When it comes to making hambone and lentil soup, cooking lentils is a straightforward process. Simply add the thoroughly rinsed lentils to the cooking liquid and simmer them until they reach a tender consistency.
Pre-rinsing is a crucial step to eliminate any dust or grit and to ensure there are no unwanted pebbles among the lentils.
Begin by heating olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer.
Sauté the carrots, celery, and onion in the Dutch oven, adding 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook until they become softened, which should take approximately 5 minutes.
Add the spices, chopped garlic, and tomato paste to the mixture and ensure they are thoroughly combined with the onions. Continue to stir for about two more minutes.
Incorporate the broth, crushed tomatoes, lentils, ham bone, and bay leaf into the Dutch oven. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover the Dutch oven and let it simmer for about 45 minutes, or until both the lentils and ham are tender.
Once the lentils are fully cooked, remove the ham bone and the bay leaf. Cut any remaining meat from the bone, chop it into pieces, and return it to the pot. If you have any additional ham to add, do so at this point.
Stir in the lemon juice and season the soup to your liking with salt and pepper, ensuring it's perfectly balanced to suit your taste.
What to serve with lentil soup?
Crusty bread is a must for this hearty soup! I also like some fresh grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Tips, Tricks and Alterations
Taste as you cook- To ensure the perfect seasoning for your soup, taste it at the end. The saltiness of the ham can vary, and you may or may not need that second (or even a third) teaspoon of salt. Start by adding 1 teaspoon of salt when you're sautéing the onions, then periodically taste the soup about every 15 minutes, gradually adding more salt if necessary.
If you don't have ham or a ham bone on hand, you can substitute by frying two slices of bacon (or using Italian sausage) and chopping them up in the Dutch oven. After making the bacon crispy, remove it, and sauté the vegetables in the flavorful bacon drippings instead of using oil. Just before serving, add the crispy bacon back into the soup for a delicious twist.
More veggies- try adding additional veggies. If you're using potatoes, red peppers, or butternut squash, add them along with the lentils and broth. For leafy greens such as kale or fresh spinach or green beans, incorporate them into the soup during the final 15 minutes of the cooking process.
Vegetarian or vegan? If you're following a vegetarian or vegan diet, simply omit the ham bone and use vegetable broth in this recipe. Make sure to use smoked paprika for this version. You can also consider adding a sprig of fresh thyme. For more tips on making the best vegan lentil soup, check out my classic lentil soup recipe.
Have more time? Want the make the house smell amazing all day long? Simmering your soup for an extended period. It's a great way to enhance the flavor, especially when you have a meaty ham bone to make the most of. To achieve this, simmer all the ingredients (except the lentils) with the pot mostly covered for 2-3 hours. Introduce the lentils into the mix during the last 45 minutes of cooking for optimal results.
Slow Cooker Ham and Lentils Soup
- Combine all the ingredients in your slow cooker.
- Use a large spoon to thoroughly mix and combine all the ingredients.
- Cover the slow cooker.
- Set the slow cooker to the low setting and cook for 4-5 hours, or choose the high setting for a 3-hour cooking time.
Transfer your soup into an airtight container, a zip-top bag, or opt for an eco-friendly choice like a reusable silicone bag. Store it in the refrigerator and make sure to reheat and use it within 4-5 days.
Absolutely! In fact, since the flavors tend to meld it might even be better the next day. Making a double batch or preparing the soup a day ahead for even better results. You can then portion and freeze the lentil soup to enjoy another time when you're in a hurry or looking for a convenient meal option.
No, it's not required! Dried lentils can be added directly to the soup and will cook perfectly in about 35 minutes, without the need for soaking.
Absolutely, you have the option to use canned cooked lentils. Just add them in later in the process- with about 20 minutes left. However, it's worth noting that the soup's texture is better when made with dried lentils. Additionally, there's only a 10-minute difference in cooking time, and it's a more cost-effective choice.
Yes, overcooking lentils will result in them turning mushy. To avoid this, ensure that you simmer them gently rather than subjecting them to a rapid boil. Taste as you cook to check for doneness. This method will help maintain their texture.
Looking for more lentil soup recipes? Try these:
Ham and Lentils Soup
- 2 finely chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 finely chopped carrot
- 2 celery stacks
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 pound green lentils
- 1 28- can crushed tomatoes
- 6-8 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
- ½ teaspoon Paprika
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoon Tomato paste
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 Lemon zest and juice
- Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until it shimmers.
- Sauté carrots, celery, and onion with 1 teaspoon of salt until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add spices, chopped garlic cloves, and tomato paste, ensuring thorough mixing with the onions, and stir for an additional 2 minutes.
- Combine broth, crushed tomatoes, lentils, ham bone, and bay leaf in the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes until lentils and ham are tender.
- Once the lentils are fully cooked, remove the ham bone and bay leaf. Cut any remaining ham from the bone, chop it into pieces, and return it to the pot. Add any extra ham if desired.
- Add stir in the lemon juice.
- Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy your flavorful ham and lentil soup!