Velvety Lentil Chestnut Soup Recipe

Velouté de Lentilles aux Marrons

[Velvety Lentil Chestnut Soup]

I think I am getting the hang and love and joy of soup. I told you before the odd intimidation it provoked in me, but after preparing a few successful pots of simmering velvety goodness, I think I can declare myself officially and fully over it.

The other day, browsing on Maki’s excellent blog i was just really hungry, one of her soup recipes caught my eye, a Lentil-Chestnut Soup. Lentils and chestnuts are two of my favorite things, it sounded simple and versatile, and I had (almost) everything on hand to make it. When so many elements confer to make you try a recipe, it is usually a good omen!

I set about making this on a weeknight, coming home from work, and it was, as Maki promised, nicely uninvolved, with hardly any peeling and chopping, just a bit of soul-warming dumping, timing and stirring. As always, I didn’t follow the recipe to a T, and subbed or omitted a few things here and there, so I will share with you my take on it. (Maki suggests a few interesting variations too, including using sweet potatoes in place of the chestnuts.)

I have to tell you : this soup we have here, my friends, this soup, is a small masterpiece in its own right. It is creamy with delectable chunks, and has the light and subtle sweetness I adore so much in chestnuts. It is a fantastic dish for a winter night, and reheats to even more greatness (and covetous looks from your coworkers) for lunch the next day. Thank you, Maki, for a wonderful gift of a recipe!

Velouté de Lentilles aux Marrons

– 200 grams (7 ounces) green lentils (I used the AOC lentilles vertes du Puy)
– 200 grams (7 ounces) raw chestnuts, frozen
– 2 yellow onions
– 2 garlic cloves
– 1.5 liters (6 cups) vegetable stock
– 3 dry thyme twigs
– 2 dry bay leaves
– 1 tbsp crème fraîche
– olive oil
– salt, pepper
– 1 tsp honey or cassonade or molasses (optional)

(Serves 4.)

Peel and chop the onions, by hand or (preferably on a weeknight) in the food-processor. Peel and chop the garlic. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat up some olive oil and cook the onions and garlic on medium heat until translucent, for about ten minutes.

Add the stock, lentils, herbs, a bit of salt and a bit of pepper. Bring to a boil, and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the chestnuts (no thawing necessary), and cook for another 20 minutes.

Try a spoonful (caution, it’s hot!) to see if the lentils and chestnuts are cooked to your taste, and correct the seasoning. This is when Maki adds something sweet (honey or molasses, I also suggest cassonade), but I omitted it this time, not wanting to make the soup too rich. Transfer some or all of the soup in the food processor (or use an immersion blender if yPou have one) and mix it. I wouldn’t mix it too thoroughly, as chunks are particularly desirable in this soup.

Return the mixed soup to the pot, add the crème fraîche, and stir over low heat until the cream is nicely blended. Alternatively, you could add less or no crème fraîche at this point, and add a dollop in each steaming bowl as you serve.

Cooking/baking time: 25 min

  • looks really good. what kind of lentil did u use?

    from the pic, can only guess the colour would be the green bean version.

    i usually like the green bean boiled in water until soft. add sugar in. makes a great dessert during wintertime. also, during summertime, the mixture can be frozen to make ice-lollies.

    wanna try some peanut soup? granny cooks it with normal peanuts or kidney beans.

    search for ‘peanut soup’.

    pic is here :

  • I’ve only ever had chestnuts in that refrigerator cake I told you about, Clotilde, and I’ve never had lentils — so I must try this! (And contributor Dcake has just posted a lentil pasta sauce on my blog, so I think the universe is trying to tell me something about this ingredient!)

    According to Nigella Lawson, Puy lentils are the best, with the similar Italian ones from Umbria coming a close second.

  • Desdemona

    Salut Clotilde!: Your new haircut reminds me of Amélie (“Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain”.. that Amélie for those who’ve never seen the movie).
    All of this food looks delish.
    J’ai l’eau a la bouche!

  • Wena – The peanut soup sounds great, thanks!

    Jackie – Never had lentils? I think every French kid has had lentils at least once in his life, as it is a commonly served (and revoltingly disgusting) dish in school cafeterias. And that’s why we all think we hate it until we taste something prepared well, with real lentilles, preferably from the Puy (glad Nigella agrees!). And yes, this is a must try, you’ll love it!

    Desdemona – :) Yes, I’ve people make that same remark! It wasn’t planned, but I take it as a nice compliment! And I’m glad you like the blog!

  • it sounds even better when it’s called “velouté de Lentilles aux Marrons” than plain old Lentil Chestnut soup.. :P

    i’m glad you liked it Clotilde! :)

  • Vanessa Parody

    Ooh Jackie, try Nigella’s Toulouse sausage and Puy lentil New Year’s dish as soon as possible – it’s exactly what you need in this not-much-of-anything-but-generally-unpleasant January weather we’re having! And the lentils are supposed to signify good fortune and prosperity in the new year. Apparently!

  • snackish

    This sounds wonderful. I like the de Puy lentils so much better than the muddy brown ones.

    I also read that if you briefly cook lentils – 5 to 10 minutes – with an acid, like tomato juice or wine, that they hold together and do not break down to mush. I tried this and it worked beautifully.

    But this recipe sounds like you want a little breakdown to add body.

  • Vanessa – This sure sounds good! I’ll have to hunt for the recipe… And it’s beautiful how your name sounds and looks like “Vanessa Paradis”!

    Snackish – Green Puy lentils are indeed much much superior. Thanks for the cooking tip, I’ll have to try that. But you are right, this recipe begs for a little mushiness! :)

  • Meg

    Y’know, I just read this having had lentil soup myself for dinner. . . I don’t use chestnuts, just unfancy things like celery, carrots, and sometimes mushrooms, a little bacon . . . but still, partially pureeing and so on. And it is a warming, comforting dish that takes me right back to my childhood! I’m glad you’ve discovered it.
    We need soup right now since it is below zero. . . farenheit! in New York. Serious cold, which we don’t get often here like they do up north where I grew up. . . ! Which is where I learned that steaming lentil soup can do the trick to warm you up.

  • Meg – Indeed, comfort in a bowl! I heard about the ghastly temps you’re getting in NYC these days, hope it gets better soon!

  • You’ll know this by the time you read this, Clotilde, but I’ve made this now too! You are very persuasive.

  • I made this soup for dinner tonight and it was marvelous! One of the things I love about your blog is that it gets me to try dishes or ingredients that would never have occured to me. The only familiarity I had with chestnuts was from the song, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” When I asked the store clerk if they had frozen chestnuts, he looked at me like I was crazy. They didn’t have them, but they had canned, from France, of course! Another funny thing: green lentils are called French lentils in the states. There are other green lentils, but they are much lighter in color, flatter, and wider. I had never tried this kind. Their appearance reminded me of slightly squished peppercorns.

  • Wow! I didn’t have any chestnuts around, but i made this soup last night with sweet potatoes (per Maki’s suggestion), and a few other adjustments. Delicious! I’ll definitely have to track down chestnuts for next time.

  • How pleased am I that I stumbled over your blog!!! Hmmmmmmmmmm.
    So many recipes to choose from, but this one really caught my eye as I love lentils.
    My stomach is happily rumbling in anticipation…

  • Elizabeth

    Delicious & nourishing! Next time I will sautee some diced pancetta or bacon in the pot first, removing the meat before adding a little olive oil, then the onions and garlic…and 2 stalks of celery, chopped, after 5 minutes. After onions are soft, return the pancetta to the pot and pour in about a 1/2 cup of white wine and let it reduce until virtually evaporating before continuing with the recipe. Do not add the T of sweetness at end & do use the creme fraiche, sour cream or drained yogurt. For some tastes, the chestnuts make the soup a bit too cloying, though sweetness mellows over time. The meat adds complexity and depth and is a perfect foil for the two primary ingredients.

  • Your papounet


  • vegcook

    Hi all–I’m commenting long after this entry was originally posted, but I came across this recipe and loved the sound of it, and thought I’d share the changes I made. I didn’t have green lentils or thyme twigs on hand and was dying for some thick, warm soup, so I used what I did have on hand: black lentils, simmered for the first 20 minutes with the bay leaves and a cinnamon stick. I then removed the cinnamon stick, added the chestnuts and about two teaspons of mexican oregano and simmered the remaining 20 minutes. I loved the resulting flavor. I’ll be curious to try the recipe as originally written the next time however…

  • raquel

    Hello, Clotilde!
    I came across C&Z by chance, but reading it turned out to be an addictive daily activity for me since then!
    Thank you very much both for sharing such a peculiar and personal way of seeing the world of food and your creative and inspiring skills as a cook. :-) And I really like the pictures.
    I would like to share an extremely easy way of cooking lentil soup that I learned from a tv programme.
    Grab a medium pot and fill the bottom with a layer of lentils. Then wash a tomato, an onion (don’t peel it!) and a garlic head (don’t peel it either!) and put them in the middle of the pot, over the lentils. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, season with salt, ground black pepper, and whichever spices you enjoy the most (ground cumin seeds or a bit of thyme match well with this soup). Bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Then remove the tomato, garlic head and onion to a dish so that you can easily peel them and drop that tomato, onion and garlic purée into the pot again. I usually blend everything together with an immersion blender and serve with grated mozzarella spread on top.
    The idea of just putting everything to boil together in the pot without peeling may be a bit unusual, but I like it! :-)
    Keep up the good work!

  • Just wanted to say THANK YOU to you and Maki for a wonderful recipe! I tried it last Sunday and loved it. :)

  • it’s not a pretty soup, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in deliciousness! i made this soup last night and WOW – what a treat. i skipped the sweetener and served the creme fraiche on the side… we actually prefered it without. thanks for this!

  • This recipe was my first intro into using chestnuts. I was looking for a recipe to make all that scoring, boiling, and peeling of those nuts worth it. My husband and I both agreed that this recipe was a winner!

  • Kate

    Hi, this is my first visit to your wonderful site. What took me so long to find you? I guess one has to be searching in order to find…enough philosophy. Balsamic vinegar–I added a teaspoon of it at the end to brighten this soup up a little. Careful not to curdle the cream (I didn’t have creme fraiche handy),I mixed it with a little soup first, then added it all together. I don’t think I needed to worry about it, though. And for the molasses I used a Caribbean concoction Cassareep–perfect complexity. It gave it the color it needed. Sadly I did not have green lentils, so used yellow ones. I suppose I really made a different soup than presented here, but it worked well. This is really a lovely soup and I will make it again and again. Quick, easy, and elegant. Served with garlic toasts on top.

  • Q: do you have instructions for making this with fresh chestnuts? I have never tried cooking with them, but my corner grocer here in Toronto has three types — Italian, Chinese and Portueguese — so I am sorely tempted.

    • You can absolutely make this soup with fresh chestnuts — no need to adjust the cooking time.

  • Absolutely delicious, I can’t believe this recipe has been sitting on the internet for 6 years, and I’ve only just discovered it. For info, I also missed out the optional honey/cassonade. It really doesn’t need it. Merci Clotilde.

    • You’re most welcome, Gareth, I’m glad you liked the recipe too!

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