Lentil and Ham Soup is the kind of down-home humble soup that you just know has got to be good! Even though it’s not necessarily a “looker” and is downright cheap to make it’s no less delicious for all that!
This hearty soup can be made using leftover (or store-bought) ham and a stock/broth of your choice as a shortcut or made full-on from scratch using a smoked ham hock. Either way you go gives you great results!
About Lentil and Ham Soup:
This simple soup has graced our table for decades…so long, in fact, that when I first started making it, I had to search out lentils at the “health food” store! These days you don’t have to be “crunchy” to enjoy the health benefits of lentils, and you probably won’t need to search them out. You’re likely to find the common brown lentils that you’ll use in this recipe right in your grocery near the dried beans.
While lentils do have many health benefits, the downside of lentils is that they can be a bit, shall we say, dull? Earthy? But in this hearty soup, they shine, picking up all the flavors of the ham and the caramelized onions, as well as the spices: cinnamon, bay, and thyme.
What to Serve with Your Lentil & Ham Soup:
Whatever you do, when you serve this soup, add a dollop of either plain yogurt or sour cream on top of your bowl of soup. It literally “makes” the soup! Don’t be tempted to leave it off! Trust me on this!
All you’ll need to turn this soup, already chuck full of meat and veggies, into a meal is some good rolls or rustic bread. Naan or any other flatbread would be delish, too. And don’t be afraid to dip!
You can always add a salad to round things out or maybe a sandwich on the side. A fancier grilled cheese made with my no-knead, overnight Crusty Bread and some type of stretchy, melty white cheese, like provolone would go great, here.
Two Possible Variations:
Let’s talk about how to get this soup on the table! A shortcut method is quick and will get you your soup in about 45 minutes. A full-on scratch soup will take quite a bit of time, around two hours or so, mostly hands-off.
The shortcut method:
- Making your soup with the shortcut method is the fastest and easiest way and will have your soup on the table in about 45 minutes.
- Follow the recipe as is, but use purchased or leftover ham along with stock instead of the ham hock and water. Make sure to really pay attention to the veggies and cook them well both to develop flavor so they’ll be nice and soft after the short simmer time.
- Any stock you wish to use will work, but if you have homemade ham stock, that will give the best flavor! If you have a ham bone, it’s really too much for just this pot of soup. I would recommend using my recipe for Best Ham Stock (made on the stove or in the Instant Pot) and divvy it up, using part of the stock (and ham) for this recipe.
For the full-on scratch soup:
- Start thevham hockahead of time in water to cover. Once that ham hock is fall off the bone tender, remove it, shred the meat and reserve the broth. You’ll want to use 11 1/2 cups of that broth – add more water if needed.
- As that ham hock is cooking, saute the veggies at an appropriate time and continue on with the recipe.
Adjusting the Flavor & Seasoning:
The majority of the flavor of Lentil and Ham Soup (other than the ham) comes from the deeply cooked and very flavorful vegetables. The bit of sugar helps to caramelize them.
The bay leaf and thyme should be added to the pot with the ham hock if using. If not, add to the soup when the broth is added. Cinnamon as a savory component can be unfamiliar and overwhelming to some. Go by scent when removing the cinnamon stick. As soon as you can smell it, it will have done its job in flavoring the soup, so it may be removed.
How to Store & Reheat Lentil and Ham Soup:
Store in refrigerator partially covered until cold, then cover tightly. Good for three to five days. Reheat stovetop or microwave.
Lentil and Ham soup freezes beautifullly. Reheat from frozen in microwave or on the stove or thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then proceed. If the soup separates as it thaws, simply stir back together.
Saving Money on Ingredients:
Although this soup is inexpensive to make, most of the ingredients are common ingredients that rarely go in advertised sales.
Look for ham hocks and lentils after any holiday that is likely to have sale priced hams. Stock is often on sale during or before holiday weeks. The best sales are normally from before Thanksgiving through Christmas.
To see what might be on sale around any holiday, see my post Win at the Grocery which lists all the major food holidays and what is normally on sale.
I hope you’ll enjoy this soup; over the years, it’s really become a favorite of mine, whether I shortcut or go by scratch. Just to let you know, I’ve updated text, recipe, and photos as of March of 2023. This recipe was first published in April of 2012, so it was way over due for an update!
Take care, all!
Lentil and Ham Soup
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: varies
- Total Time: 45 minutes to 2 hours
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings 1x
- Category: Soup
Note: the Ham Hock will take an hour and a half or longer to properly cook. Make sure to start it ahead. Start to caramelize the vegetables, which will take at least 20 minutes, as soon as the hock is becoming tender.
For the Ham Hock:
- 1 ham hock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
- water or stock to cover
For the Lentil and Ham Soup:
- 3 onions, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of sugar, optional
- 11 1/2 cups liquid: stock of choice or broth from Ham Hock (see note)
- 1 pound lentils
- 1 small cinnamon stick, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches (see note}
- Pork, reserved from the Ham Hock or ham, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste (see note)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper or more (see note)
- garnish: 6 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream for topping
- hot sauce, optional, for serving
Start the ham hock in water or broth along with the bay leaf and the thyme if using. Once the hock is tender enough (around 1 1/2 hours) remove ham hock and shred. The meat will go in the soup and 11 1/2 cups of the broth (defatted if you wish) will be reserved to add to the soup. If there is not enough broth, add water to measure to 11 1/2 cups. If there is extra broth, save it; you might want to thin down the soup later.
For the Lentil and Ham Soup:
In a Dutch oven or large pot, saute onions, carrots, and celery until nicely browned and caramelized. The teaspoon of sugar, added after the vegetables have softened, is added to aid with the browning. This process will take about 20 to 25 minutes or so.
Add the broth and lentils, bring to a simmer. If not using a ham hock add the bay leaf and thyme now. Add the cinnamon stick (see note.) Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Stir in the reserved meat from the ham hock or diced ham to heat through.
Before serving: Discard bay leaf and cinnamon. Taste for salt and pepper. It will likely need a good amount of pepper and possibly more salt.
Top each bowl with a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream, and pass the hot sauce for those that desire. (The dollop of yogurt or sour cream is what really makes the soup…don’t skip it!)
- The use of a cinnamon stick can be a huge variable, depending on how large, how fresh, or how strong. I often test by “scent.” When I smell the cinnamon, I remove the cinnamon stick.
- If the broth is not of a good, strong flavor, or there is not enough salt, this soup will very likely fall flat. If necessary, supplement with a bit of bullion or base.
- If ham hock isn’t smoked, or if you’d like to, add a few drops of liquid smoke to the soup.
Per Serving: 365 Calories; 5g Fat (11.1% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 27g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 1317mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Keywords: Bargain Meal of the Week, Ham, ham hock, Ham Stock, leftover ham, Lentil, Soup, Sour cream, Yogurt
If you came to this recipe looking for a way to use your leftover holiday ham, be sure to check out the link below for 12 Days of Ham. You might want to see the sister post for 12 Days of Turkey, too.