French Green Lentil and Spinach Soup with Cilantro Yogurt

by formerchef on February 15, 2010

Post image for French Green Lentil and Spinach Soup with Cilantro Yogurt

There’s been a movement lately called “Meatless Monday” (it even has a website, http://www.meatlessmonday.com/) where people are making the conscious decision to eat once a week without meat. This tradition goes back to World War 1 when the government urged people to go one day without meat to aid the war effort and it continued during WW2. Today, the goal is “goal is to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”
The website says, “going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.” For me, while I’m on the 21 day cleanse diet, every day is Meatless Monday, at least for the next week.

Many people assume that with a plant-based diet they are not going to get enough protein. This is an easy assumption when you are used to eating dairy or meat protein with every meal. But a large percentage of the world’s population counts on either soy or lentils as their staple protein. In India and Nepal, rice and lentils, called dal, is a staple part of the diet. Many Asian countries count on tofu for the bulk of their protein. These countries have some of the lowest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in the world. Guess which ones have some of the highest?

A great way to get protein into your diet without eating meat is to eat lentils. Lentils have 17.8 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, no fat and 229 calories in an 8 oz portion. They are very inexpensive, costing as little as .69 cents a pound. The fancier French Green lentils used in this recipe were $1.99 a pound but this soup will make at least 8 portions.

Brown lentils are what is typically seen on grocery store shelves. These are perfectly fine and can be used in this recipe, but they tend to cook down to a very soft mushy consistency. Yellow and red lentils which can be found in many Middle Eastern groceries are similar, but just a different color. All of these lentils work very well if you want a pureed soup.

Dried French Green Lentils

French green lentils are special because the seed coat of the legume is left on when it is dried. This gives the lentil it’s pretty blue speckled slate green color and allows it to retain its shape and texture when cooked. They are perfect for soups and cold salads. I found these lentils in the bulk bin section of Whole Foods but many regular grocery stores carry them too. They many be a little more expensive but they are worth it. French green lentils are thought to have a peppery flavor which comes from the volcanic soil in the Puy region of France where they originated. Sometimes they are called Lentilles de Puy but they are also now grown in Italy and North America.

I have no intentions of becoming vegan or vegetarian full time, but for me it’s important to realize that it’s possible to eat a healthy, delicious meal without meat as the main protein. Lentils are a great way to get filling, nutritious, and tasty protein.
Do you participate in Meatless Monday? What do you make? What do you think about making a conscious decision to eat this way, even once a week?

French Green Lentil and Spinach Soup Recipe
Printable Lentil Soup Recipe in PDF

1 lb French green lentils
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
32 oz vegetable stock plus 3 cups of water
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 bay leaf
8 oz fresh spinach
2 Tbsp olive oil.
salt and pepper

Rinse the lentils in cold water and remove anything which isn’t a lentil. As with all dried beans and legumes, it’s possible sometimes there might be a small stone or something in the mix.

Heat a large soup pot and add the olive oil. Saute the carrots, onions and celery until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and the spices and saute one minute more. Add the lentils and the 32 oz of vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Keep cooking the lentils at a simmer As the stock gets absorbed, add the water, one cup at a time as needed to keep a thick soup consistency.

The lentils are done when they are tender all the way through, but not mushy. Cooking time is 30-40 minutes. Before serving, stir in the fresh spinach until it wilts.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with Cilantro Yogurt.

Cilantro Yogurt

4 oz plain yogurt*
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp lime juice
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together.
*I used soy yogurt, but if I wasn’t eating vegan right now, I would use regular plain yogurt. Thick Greek yogurt would be excellent here.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Myra February 15, 2010 at 8:14 am

I swore I’d take a break from lentils this week (since I’ve been eating them a lot lately) but I can’t resist this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

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2 Mom February 15, 2010 at 8:57 am

These lentils were so good, I ate them cold! Really–try it.

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3 Tiffany February 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Guess who just dropped on a mini-food processor? This girl! Guess who forgot that lentils have protein? This girl!
I almost threw a red flag at you with the creamy addition in the picture. Were you really able to get the soy yogurt to have the same tangy-sweet taste of yogurt with the lime?

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4 formerchef February 15, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Ha! So you are familiar with the funky taste of soy yogurt? Real yogurt is one of the first things I’m going back to eating when I’m off this diet. Yes, the lime and the cilantro helped with the taste immensely.

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5 nina February 16, 2010 at 12:44 am

I want to just hop under a blanket with a bowl of this soup…..delicious with the yogurt!!!

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6 Kelly @ The Startup Wife February 16, 2010 at 10:28 am

How funny, I made almost the EXACT same thing for dinner last night night! Just slightly different seasonings, chard for spinach, and my yogurt (which was Greek, and you’re right, it was SO good) was cumin/coriander seeds. Great minds think alike I guess. ;) It was so good, and yours looks absolutely delicious and comforting and homey.

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7 Deepa Mahajan February 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Really can’t wait to try this for this week. Seems great to have throughout the week and definitely budget friendly =) Luckily I just picked up the same green lentils at Whole Foods today on a whim. Thanks for the recipe — hope your 21-day cleanse is going well!

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8 Joey February 17, 2010 at 8:35 am

Hi Kristina-

I just wanted to reach out to you and thank you for joining the Meatless Monday movement and for your terrific post about our campaign. It really is bloggers like you who post about Meatless Monday as a strategy for reducing saturated fat and conserving our environmental resources, that helps the movement to grow exponentially.

I’m really impressed with FormerChef.com’s enthusiasm for taking joy in healthful, interesting cuisine (and gorgeous photos too!) I know you’re about to go on a cleanse, but many bloggers think it’s fun to do weekly Meatless Monday posts, usually profiling a meatless recipe or meal, every Monday. Weekly posts really help to spread the word. Do you think that might be something you’d be interested in?

I’d love to be in more direct communication with you so we can better coordinate outreach efforts. If you’re interested in doing weekly posts please email me at jlee@mondaycampaigns.org.

Thanks so much and keep up the great posts!

-Joey Lee
Executive Assistant
Meatless Monday

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9 ieatmypigeon February 17, 2010 at 8:36 am

I’m crazy about lentils du puy and have been looking for a new recipe. This one is right up my alley. Thank you!

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10 Heather on her travels February 17, 2010 at 10:32 am

That does look delicious – I’m not a great meat eater at the best times – when I do I want it to be really good quality and a treat but the rest of the time i’m happy to go veggie.

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11 wandermom February 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm

That lentil soup looks just yummy. Thanks for including the recipe. Even this reluctant cook may have to give that a try…

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12 lo February 17, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Lentils and spinach — made for each other, really. I love a good, hearty lentil soup during this time of the year. And French lentils are always a treat. Gorgeous meatless meal!

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13 Supriya Raman April 27, 2010 at 6:16 am

It is so good to read this post! I am a vegetarian, born and brought up in India. I’ve been in the US for 10 yrs now and have kept up my habit of not eating meat. I also think cuisines of the eastern world are more ‘vegetarian friendly’ than the western world can sometimes be, hugely attributed by the culture and the weather. But it is great to find such blogs about creating awareness. I like that you mentioned it is not about becoming vegetarian full time but just about exploring other options once in a while. I recently did the 21 day vegan cleanse and it made me feel so good health wise. My blog is all about giving options and variety if you want to be vegetarian and I am very happy to see that I am not alone.

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14 jeannette October 14, 2010 at 4:06 am

I recently visited London (Ravenscourt) where a small cafe on Kings Street seved green lentil soup. It was the best soup I think I have ever tasted. Your reciepe looks similar so I am going to try to cook it myself. I will let you know the outcome.

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15 Lady Amalthea February 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

As someone who’s recently started living (and cooking for) a vegetarian, I totally appreciate Meatless Mondays. And lentils are my favorite go-to protein these days. Next time I make lentil soup, I’m definitely trying the addition of your cilantro/lime yogurt. Yum! Here’s my version: http://noshesthoughtsreves.blogspot.com/2011/02/french-style-lentil-soup.html

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16 Marie February 21, 2011 at 3:28 pm

This is just what I was looking for! By the way, I’m doing a 3 wk. cleanse as well right now, but I just started (Standard Process Cleanse). 2 more weeks to go… This looks delicious. Thank you!

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17 formerchef February 21, 2011 at 3:47 pm

You’re welcome and good luck with your cleanse!

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18 Brandi August 6, 2013 at 8:36 am

I’m a crock pot junkie by nature. I have very little time to make dinner with a 2 year old who expects dinner about 20 minutes after getting home from work/daycare. Is this something that you think would work in the crock pot?

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19 formerchef August 6, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Probably, but keep in mind that lentils cook much faster than other beans and peas. You could end up with mush if you let it go too long. Why not try making it on a weekend first so you can watch it?

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20 formerchef February 15, 2010 at 8:59 am

I know! These type of lentils are perfect for cold salads too.

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