Lentil and Escarole Soup Recipe (2024)

By Martha Rose Shulman

Lentil and Escarole Soup Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour 10 minutes
Read community notes

The combination of legumes and bitter greens like escarole is common in southern Italy. Escarole is a bitter lettuce that looks a little bit like frisée but with wider, tougher leaves. It’s high in vitamin A and a good source of iron and potassium. This recipe is adapted from one in “Cucina Rustica,” by Evan Kleiman and Viana La Place. If you can't find escarole, you can substitute any hearty green.

Featured in: Lentils: Packed With Protein — and Flavor

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Yield:Serves four to six

    For the Lentil and Escarole Soup

    • 2tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1small onion, finely chopped
    • 1large or 2 small carrots, cut in small dice
    • 3 to 4garlic cloves, minced
    • ¼teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 114-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice; or ¾ pound tomatoes, seeded and grated
    • 1cup lentils, washed and picked over
    • A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, a few sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a Parmesan rind
    • 6cups water
    • Salt
    • freshly ground pepper
    • 1small head escarole, washed and roughly chopped about 6 cups
    • Optional: 4 to 6 slices country bread, toasted and rubbed with a cut clove of garlic

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (6 servings)

205 calories; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 3 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 3 grams sugars; 10 grams protein; 827 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Lentil and Escarole Soup Recipe (2)


  1. For the Lentil and Escarole Soup

    1. Step


      Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Stir in the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant, five to 10 minutes. Add the lentils and simmer with the tomato mixture for a few minutes, then add the bouquet garni and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and add salt to taste (1 to 2 teaspoons). Cover and simmer 30 minutes.

    2. Step


      Add the escarole, and bring back to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the escarole and the lentils are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bouquet garni.

    3. Step


      Toast slices of country bread if desired and rub with a cut clove of garlic. Place a slice in each bowl, ladle in the soup and serve.


  • Advance preparation: The soup will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator.



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Cooking Notes


My pet peeve is people who completely change up recipes, then review them. Having said that, this is a completely malleable recipe, and a great base from which to work. I live in a neighborhood where all the ingredients aren't readily available, but my improvisation turned out to be quite tasty. The base was onions, carrots, lentils. I used stock, dried herbs (thyme, oregano + fresh parsley) and the escarole in the market looked meh, so used frozen spinach. Grated parm. GREAT.


Sure, you can substitute other lentils, other greens, other cheese, but you owe it to yourself to try the combination of lentils, escarole and parmesan because of how well they complement each other.


Added celery and more carrots. Used vegetable stock instead of water. Sooo good and healthful.


Used red lentils and swiss chard. Colorful and tasty especially with the toasted garlicky bread.


The only thing I changed was I used swiss chard instead of escarole as the stores were out. I didn't find this soup especially pleasing. It's ok and it's healthy, but I've had better recipes for lentil soup. Not making again.


Added celery per a previous comment, and tossed some Arborio rice in (for a GF starch). Tasty!


This is really delicious and so quick and easy to make; plus you can add whatever you like. I used dried herbs because that is what I had, but used the brown lentil, escarole, parmesan crust combination, which was wonderful. Added a cup or so of cooked rice, because we had some, also added some chopped celery, with the other vegetables, for the same reason. Definitely will be making this soup again, and often - and I say that as someone who always has been underwhelmed by lentil soups.

Emily E.

Dayyyyum, this tastes like the platonic ideal of Trader Joe's lentil soup — i.e., delicate, fresh, and brothy. I mostly followed the recipe, including the bouquet garni. Just made three modest adjustments, thanks in part to all the great notes. 1) Began with a fat-loving combo of butter and olive oil. 2) Used one third of each: homemade veggie stock, store-bought chicken broth, and water. 3) Added about a cup of finely chopped turnip. So incredibly good. Thanks for the great ideas!


Skip seasonings use veggie stock.


Fabulous! Adding it to the regular rotation.


I used up the 3 c. of chicken stock I had in the fridge as part of the water. Also added some leftover rice. Didn't have thyme sprigs so just added dried thyme and a bay leaf. Also used a can of diced vs. chopped tomatoes - don't think it was a big difference. This was the first time I had cooked with escarole - it really was excellent in this soup. Will make again!


Use mushroom broth

CG cook

Excellent recipe. We used vegetable stock instead of water.


The recipe calls for 2 Tbsp olive oil. One is used to saute the veggies. What happens to the other Tbsp?

So. Californian Gardener

I'm behind and just discovering a lot of recipes that are new to me. This was the best lentil soup I have made! I, too, had to substitute. I had no parsley and went out to my garden and picked some celantro and put that in instead. Also, because of our recent rain in So. Cal. my collard greens are doing really well. So I substituted collard greens for the escarole. This lentil soup was hearty and super delicious! (We had a small loaf of sourdough bread that we heated up, too.)

Mary Murphy

I've made a version of this soup without tomatoes for years but the addition of chopped tomatoes intrigued me. This recipe adds a whole new level of taste to the lentils! It is now in my winter rotation of hearty dinner soups. I do add tiny meatballs when we are super hungry. I make and freeze them for occasions like this. Escarole is underused and lends a wonderful flavor to soups, losing all its bitterness. Use your day-old bread to soak up the last bites.


I rarely cook with escarole and now is one of my favorite veggies! Never thought to add leafy greens with lentils. What a good combo. I also added chicken sausage and it turned out really tasty! Extra yummy eaten with fresh sourdough bread.


This was delicious! Used 4 c chicken broth and 1 c water, otherwise stayed with the recipe. It's a keeper.


'Twas great! I used some lentils I had cooked and then froze. I added the mostly defrosted (but cooked) lentils when instructed but cooked only 10 minutes (not 30) at that point. I just kept checking the taste and softness of the vegetables to get it right. Also, I didn't bother with the bouquet garni, just added loose thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Everything else followed and 'twas great, as I said!

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Lentil and Escarole Soup Recipe (2024)
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