This delicious and healthy Braised French Lentils recipe is made with red wine, fresh spinach and caramelized pearl onions. It’s chock-full of nutrients and rich, earthy flavor. Plus, it’s vegan, gluten free and on the table in 45 minutes!
This simple recipe is very easy using the classic French way to cook lentils. Vegetables and aromatics are sauteed then the lentils are added and simmered until tender. The lentils are like little sponges absorbing all the delicious flavors from the liquid as they cook.
This French lentils recipe is hearty enough to stand on its own as the main dish or serve on the side.
What are French Lentils?
French lentils are also called French green lentils, Le Puy lentils or lentilles du puy because they were grown in the Puy region of central France. The area is known for its volcanic soil, giving this variety of green lentils a more earthy, nutty flavor.
Here’s what makes them different from other lentil varieties:
- These tiny legumes have a unique slate-bluish-green color and are less than half the size of other lentils.
- French lentils have a tender yet firm texture and hold their shape when cooked, whereas starchier regular green and brown lentils tend to break down. Red lentils get downright mushy when cooked so they’re better in a lentil soup.
- They’re great in side dishes, salads and soup for extra flavor and texture.
- French lentils have a stronger, more earthy flavor than other lentils.
You should be able to find French lentils at your local grocery stores but if you can’t, you can always get them online.
Why You’ll Love this French Lentils Recipe
- Super flavorful!
- Nutrient packed with protein, fiber, folate, iron and potassium, plus low in fat and calories.
- Vegan and Gluten Free recipe.
- Serve a variety of ways.
- Perfect for meal prep.
- Easy on the budget using pantry ingredients!
- French Green Lentils – Star of the show!
- Red Wine – Alcohol in the wine cooks off when simmered and leaves great flavor behind.
- Mirepoix (meer-pwah) – French term for the trio of onion, carrots and celery.
- Fresh Spinach
- Pearl Onions
- Tomato Paste
- Dijon Mustard
- Bay Leaves & Fresh Sage
- Kosher Salt & Black Pepper
How to Cook French Lentils
Here are the simple steps to making this tasty dish:
- Parboil Lentils: In a small saucepan, boil lentils over medium heat for 5 minutes. Drain, discard water and set lentils aside.
2. Sauté Vegetables: In a large saucepan or medium Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and cook onion, carrots and celery until lightly browned. Add garlic, tomato paste and sage and cook a couple minutes until fragrant.
3. Stir in wine, water, mustard, lentils, and bay leaves. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes.
4. Caramelize Onions: While lentils simmer, caramelize pearl onions in a small sauté pan.
5. Wilt in Spinach: When the lentils are tender, start adding spinach by the handful. Let each addition wilt before adding more. Once the spinach is incorporated add pearl onions to the pot and remove bay leaf. You can serve hot or at room temperature.
- Avoid old lentils. Be sure to check the expiration date on the bag as old lentils take much longer to cook.
- Rinse and sift through them before cooking to remove any debris or hidden pebbles. No one wants to bite on a rock.
- For the best flavor, use aromatics and flavored liquids when cooking French lentils. They absorb the flavor of whatever they’re cooking in so take advantage of that opportunity! If you don’t add flavor, they will be bland.
- Parboiling takes just a few minutes and will significantly reduce overall cooking time.
- Using a pressure cooker. I find it easier to make them on the stove but if you’d like to put your multi-purpose cooker to work here’s a recipe for instant pot lentils.
Change the liquid – Instead of wine use vegetable broth or chicken stock if not concerned with keeping the recipe vegan.
Add a protein – You can add diced ham, bacon, sausage or rotisserie chicken. Sear off some tofu if you want to stick with a meatless recipe.
Change up the veggies – Add mushrooms, leeks, squash, swiss chard or kale depending on your preferences. It’s all good!
How to Serve Braised Lentils
This French lentils recipe is so versatile and can be served several ways other than a side dish. You can use them as a filling for vegan shepherd’s pie, sloppy joes, and stuffed sweet potatoes. Plus, you can make a simple French lentil salad or toss with rice and beans.
French Green Lentil FAQs
You don’t have to soak or parboil lentils prior to cooking but it significantly reduces the time it takes for them to become tender. Be sure to give them a good rinse first to remove any debris or little stones.
You can substitute other lentils such as regular green, brown or black beluga lentils, but their texture and flavor will be different. Red lentils will become to soft for this recipe and are better in creamy soups.
Yes it can! Simply refrigerate in an airtight container up to 5 days or freeze in plastic freezer bags up to 4 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and rewarm in a medium saucepan on the stove over medium heat until hot.
More Delicious Vegan Recipes to Try!
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Red Wine Braised French Lentils
- ¾ cup French lentils , well rinsed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil , plus 2 teaspoons
- ¾ cup carrot , chopped
- ½ cup onion , chopped
- ½ cup celery , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage , chopped
- 1 ½ cups dry red wine
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black ground pepper
- 1 ½ cups frozen pearl onions , thawed
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- Bread of choice for serving (optional)
- Parboil the lentils 5 minutes and drain. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté 5 minutes until lightly browned.
- Add garlic, tomato paste and sage. Cook 1-2 minutes more, stirring frequently.
- Stir in wine, water, mustard, lentils, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Gently simmer partially covered for 25 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add pearl onions; season with salt and pepper. Sauté 5-7 minutes until tender and caramelized, stirring frequently.
- Once lentils are tender, add the spinach a couple handfuls at a time allowing each addition to wilt before adding the next.
- Stir pearl onions into the lentils. Remove bay leaf.
- Serve warm in bowls with toasted bread of choice or as a side dish. See post for additional serving suggestions. Enjoy!
- Avoid old lentils. Check the expiration date on the bag as old lentils take longer to cook.
- Rinse and sift through them before cooking to remove any debris or hidden pebbles. No one wants to bite on a stone.
- For the best flavor, use aromatics and flavored liquids when cooking French lentils. They absorb the flavor of whatever they’re cooking in. If you don’t add flavor, they will be bland.
- Parboiling French lentils takes just a few minutes and will significantly reduce overall cooking time.
- Using a pressure cooker. I find it easier to make lentils on the stove but if you’d like to put your multi-purpose cooker to work here’s a recipe for instant pot lentils.
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