Lentils with bacon is one of my favorite side dishes. This version is made with French green lentils, and a vinaigrette made with cider vinegar, smoked paprika, celery hearts and just enough bacon to make them utterly succulent. 

a skillet with lentils with parsley on top

This post was originally shared on January 4th, 2011. I am re-sharing it today with updated images and some of the text has been updated as well. This post contains affiliate links. 

I have been making a version of this French lentil recipe for years! Back when I was a cooking at restaurants, it was one of the side dishes served with salmon. It was sort of a twist on the French bistro classic pairing combo: Salmon with Lentils. The bacon addition was an innovation of the chef, and one that I wholly supported and loved. That smoky bacon flavor, the sour vinaigrette and the fatty salmon was a match made in heaven! 

Ingredients Notes For This Recipe

Dry French Green Lentils

For this recipe look for “green” lentils or those labeled French or Du Puy Lentils. They are great in this recipe because they hold their shape and texture better than other types of lentils.

  • Origin: French lentils, or Du Puy Lentils are dark green and smaller than brown lentils and grown in the central region of France. 
  • Purchasing: You can commonly find green lentils in the bulk section of health food stores and large supermarkets. They are also occasionally available in the rice and bean section of grocery store, often packaged in cellophane bags. They are also available online. 
  • Taste and Texture: They have a slightly nutty flavor and pleasant meaty texture. I love the way they can be sauteed without becoming mealy or falling apart.
  • Soaking: You do not need to soak any variety of lentils in water overnight before cooking them because they cook very quickly from dried. The exception is if you like to soak your legumes before cooking them to make them more easily digestible. In that case, know that French Lentils (and Black Lentils) are varieties that can be soaked without losing their texture. Keep an eye on them while they are simmering to make sure they do not split and fall apart. Note: I do not recommend soaking brown lentils because they overcook too easily.
  • Substitutions: If you cannot find these green French lentils for this recipe, you can substitute another variety of lentils except red lentils which break down too much. Cooking times will vary. 

Bacon

I only used a small amount of bacon to add flavor to theis dish, so it is best to look for thick cut if you can. It has the best chewy texture when mixed into the cooked lentils. 

Extra-virgin olive oil

The olive oil is used to cook the veggies and to moisten the saute as well. I like to reserve a little bit of it to stir in at the end, so if you have a more fruity olive oil for finishing dishes, use that (at least for the final step.) 

Red onion

The sauteed red onion in this recipe help build a more complex flavor and savory taste. I like to dice the onion pretty finely, because all of the other ingredients are so small. I like when it blends right into the lentils. 

Celery hearts and leaves

I like to use the tender light green stalks in the center of the bunch for this recipe. The combo of the light green stalks and frilly leaves have a slightly sweet and slightly bitter taste that balances with the sour vinegar and salty bacon. Chop them finely so they become tender more easily when sauteed with the onion. 

Garlic

This is such a simple dish, and lentils can be pretty flat tasting on their own, so I added two tablespoons of chopped garlic to the veggie mix (in addition to the onion) to really make the flavors are rich as possible.

If you happen to make roasted garlic, two tablespoons of that would be an amazing addition instead of fresh. Stir it in with the vinegar. 

Salt, pepper dry thyme, smoked paprika

For seasoning I used salt, pepper and thyme which are classic ingredients in French Bistro style lentils. I pepped up the smoky bacon flavor with smoked paprika.

Cider vinegar

This recipe would not be complete without the addition of vinegar. I chose cider vinegar today, but sherry vinegar would be my second choice and red wine vinegar a close third. You can read more about the different types of vinegar here.

Feel free to substitute another vinegar, but I do not recommend balsamic because it is too sweet. 

Flat leaf parsley

I think adding fresh raw parsley at the end is essential for contrast and grassy freshness to balance the earthy and smoky lentils. Just chop a handful of washed parsley leaves (no need to measure) and add it in after the lentils come off the heat. 

a skillet and two dishes with lentils

How To Make Lentils with Bacon

Here are some notes and answers about the details of this recipe. The full printable recipe is below. 

Sort The Lentils

Sorting dry beans and lentils is important because they can sometimes include foreign matter (like tiny pebbles) in them that are too hard and could crack your tooth! To sort the lentils follow these easy steps:

  1. Place a large rimmed sheet try on your work surface.
  2. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of dry lentils and pour them onto one end of the sheet pan.
  3. Gently brush lentils from one side to the other, little by little, while scanning them for pebbles, twigs and any foreign particles.  They are much easier to scan when they are separated on the span of the pan. 

Boil the Lentils

Lentils and dried beans can be tricky to cook with acid or salt, and do not soften, so I always recommend boiling them separately. 

As I said earlier, you do not need to soak lentils before boiling them. They cook in about the same amount of time as white rice! 

  1. Saucepan with Water: Place the sorted lentils into a large or medium saucepan and cover with four cups of water. 
  2. Simmer: Bring the mixture to a simmer and then reduce heat so that they simmer steadily.
  3. Cooking Time: Cook them for about 15 to 22 minutes, which depends on how old they were. (The older they are the more dry they become and the longer they take to cook.)
  4. Test If Done: To tell if they are done, use a fork to pull up a couple lentils out of the simmering water. Let them cool and then taste them. They should have meaty firm texture but no hard center.
  5. Reserve Cooking Liquid: You will want to reserve some of the cooking liquid to add back to the skillet with the cooked lentils. To remember to do that, set your measuring cup in the colander, that will jog your memory to dip out a half cup of the liquid before draining the lentils! 

Cook The Bacon

While the lentils are cooking, cook the bacon in the skillet. It is only three strips of bacon, but you will want a skillet large enough to accomodate the veggies and the lentils too. 

  • Cook the bacon to render the fat and until it is crispy. 
  • Set the bacon on a paper towel lined plate and pour the bacon fat out of the skillet. 
  • Wipe the excess fat out of the skillet, but do not wash it. The fond (browned tasty bits on the bottom of the skillet) will flavor the lentils.
  • Once the bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble it.

Make Sauteed Veggies

Use the bacon skillet to cook the veggies. 

Add 1 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of the olive oil to the skillet and swirl it. 

Add the onion, celery and garlic as well as the salt and thyme and saute them until the celery is crisp tender. If you need to reduce the heat under the skillet, do so. We do not want to brown the veggies too much.

Add Lentils To The Veggies

Once the veggies are softened, add the cooked drained lentils, the reserved cooking liquid, the vinegar and smoked paprika. Let the mixture heat through and simmer a moment. The cooking liquid will reduce a bit.

Finish and Serve

To finish the dish, pull the skillet off the heat and stir in the crumbled bacon, parsley and a drizzle more of olive oil. 

Serving Suggestions

  • As I said this recipe is a match made in heaven when paired with Salmon, this Easy Baked Salmon in Foil is probably the best recipe to go with it.
  • Or you could make this Easy Salmon with Avocado and Basil which has a nice crispy edge to it that I love. 
  • I also love to make these lentils and top them with a poached egg. The magic of yolk “sauce” is so good with these lentils! Yum!
  • This Crispy Skin Chicken would also be good for a cozy wintertime meal, or make it with Grilled Pork Tenderloin if it is warm enough outside to grill. 

Make Ahead Instructions

This recipe is great for entertaining and can be made ahead easily.

  • Cook the lentils drain them and keep them in a resealable container.
  • You can save the cooking liquid or sub in broth if you like.
  • Saute the veggies in the bacon skillet as directed but then cool them and keep them separate in another container.
  • Both the lentils and veggies can be cooked 24 hours in advance. Make sure to cool them before sealing the containers shut.
  • To heat and finish the dish: heat the veggies in a skillet, and then add in the lentils, a little broth (in place of the cooking liquid) and heat them through. Then add in the vinegar, smoked paprika and pepper. Finish the dish as directed by pulling the skillet off the heat and adding in the bacon, parsley and olive oil. 

More Lentil Recipes

lentils in a skillet with a red and white speckled spoon

Thanks so much for reading. If you make this recipe for French Lentils with Bacon, please let me know by leaving a star rating and review. I would love to know what you think! 

Happy Cooking!

~Katie

 

Print
lentils in a skillet with a red and white speckled spoon

Lentils with Bacon

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: French

Description

Lentils with Bacon, a French bistro inspired way to add lentils to your diet with the indulgent flavor of bacon. Serve as a mostly-meatless main, or with salmon.


Scale

Ingredients

4 cups water

1 1/2 cups dry green french lentils, sorted* see note, about 12 ounces

3 slices bacon

2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large red onion, finely diced

1 1/2 cup finely diced celery hearts and leaves (the tender light green stalks in the center of the bunch)

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry thyme

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Chopped flat leaf parsley for serving


Instructions

  1. Bring water and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer (medium-low) and cook, stirring occasionally until just tender, 15 to 22 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup cooking liquid (see tip*)
  2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until crisp but not burnt, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a towel-lined plate. Pour off the bacon fat and gently wipe out the pan with a clean paper towel. When bacon is cool enough to handle, chop.
  3. Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Add onion, celery hearts and leaves, garlic, salt and thyme and cook,stirring often until the onion is softened and the celery is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked lentils, vinegar, smoked paprika, pepper and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and cook, stirring until the mixture is hot and thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped bacon, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and parsley. Serve warm.

Notes

Note* To sort lentils:

  1. Place a large rimmed sheet try on your work surface.
  2. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of dry lentils and pour them onto one end of the sheet pan.
  3. Gently brush lentils from one side to the other, little by little, while scanning them for pebbles, twigs and any foreign particles.  They are much easier to scan when they are separated on the span of the pan.

Tip* To reserve cooking liquid

Place a large measuring cup or bowl under the strainer. The measuring cup/bowl will catch the cooking liquid.

Can be made ahead and reheated. For best texture and color, add parsley and bacon after reheating. Re-warm on the stovetop with a couple tablespoons of water, stirring often. In the microwave reheat until steaming hot.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 173
  • Sugar: 2.1 g
  • Fat: 6.7 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 19.6 g
  • Fiber: 7.8 g
  • Protein: 9.3 g