Is there anything more comforting on a cold, wet day than a steaming bowl of lentil soup? If there is, I haven’t found it yet. Other soups are also warm and inviting, but there’s something homey, something friendly, about lentil soup that warms me spiritually as well as physically.
When cooler weather finally hit Louisiana, about a month or two after the northern areas of the country got it, I started cooking my way through my various lentil soup recipes. Homestyle Lentil Soup is to me the most comforting of the bunch, reminiscent of the beef stew I grew up eating. I’d alternate that with Lentil Soup with Coriander and Cumin, with its spices that warm the body from the inside out. They were unfamiliar flavors to my mother, who lives with my husband and me now, but she’s really taken to them since I started making this soup for her.
Somewhere along the line I went off-script…I mean, off-recipe… and started throwing new ingredients into the Instant Pot along with the lentils. Farro, that nutty, chunky ancient wheat with the soft yet chewy texture, has been playing a supporting role in many of my cooking experiments, especially in soup. I love how it provides a little resistance to the bite alongside the lentils.
So a few weeks ago I made this lentil soup with farro, and thinking it might be a keeper, I jotted down the ingredients and amounts before serving it to my family. I was happily enjoying my soup when I bit into something that tasted and felt kind of meaty. I thought maybe it was the farro and kept eating, only to take another bite that contained a small cube of something tender yet chewy. I panicked a little, racking my mind for anything in the ingredients that could have been contaminated with meat.
And then I remembered. Right before closing the Instant Pot, I’d tossed in a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms that I’d recently bought online. It was a spur of the moment addition that I’d forgotten to write down, and as soon as I realized what the mystery ingredient was, I noticed how the mushrooms gave the soup a deeper, richer flavor, as well as a surprising texture. (I earn a commission on qualified purchases through Amazon.)
I’ve become a little obsessed with mushrooms since my husband and I took a trip in October that culminated in an amazing dinner at Plant City in Providence, RI. I had their Tagliatelle with Wild Mushrooms, and though it was a simple dish of house-made pasta and mushrooms, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The earthy, woodsy flavor of the wild mushrooms is something I’ll never forget. I came back from that trip determined to infuse my food with more mushroomy goodness, even if I had to buy the mushrooms dry and online.
Read More About the Recipe and My Visit to Plant City in the Newsletter
Anyway, enough rambling. Here’s the first recipe my mushroom obsession has led to. I’ve made it three times, and each time it got a little more mushroomy. When I made it the second time and took the photos for this post I hadn’t yet added the fresh baby bella mushrooms. For my third batch, made on the stove, I wanted to see if fresh mushrooms could be a substitute for dried, for those of you who don’t want to order them, and yes, they are an adequate replacement. But for the best results, use both the dried and fresh mushrooms. You’re worth it.
Lentil, Mushroom, and Farro Soup
- 2 cups frozen seasoning blend or 1 large onion, chopped (See Note1 below) (215g)
- 8-10 ounces fresh mushrooms quartered (280g)
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ cups lentils checked for debris and rinsed (320g)
- 15 ounces fire roasted tomatoes or one can diced tomatoes (411g)
- ⅓ cup pearled farro or substitute pearled barley (70g)
- ⅓ cup dried chopped shiitake mushrooms See Note2 below (35g)
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoons dried rosemary crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cubes vegetable bouillon See Note3 below
- 5 cups boiling water NOTE: 6 for stovetop cooking
- 12 ounces frozen green beans or other frozen vegetable (340g)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 Instant Pot optional
- 1 5-6 quart Saucepan optional
- Add frozen seasoning blend to Instant Pot and set it to sauté on a low setting. Stir the seasoning blend and sauté until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients except for nutritional yeast and stir well. Lock the lid on the pot and set it to pressure cook for 12 minutes.
- After the IP has indicated that 12 minutes of pressure cooking have been completed, open the valve to release the pressure manually. Stir in the nutritional yeast. If the soup seems too dry, add extra water. Taste it to check the seasoning and add more herbs if desired. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- Heat a 5-6 quart saucepan and add frozen seasoning blend. Stir the seasoning blend and sauté until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients except for green beans and nutritional yeast. (Use 6 cups of water.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes and then add the frozen green beans.
- Cook for another 15 minutes and then check the lentils to see if they are tender. If not, continue cooking until tender.
- Stir in the nutritional yeast. If the soup seems too dry, add extra water. Taste it to check the seasoning and add more herbs if desired. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- I used frozen seasoning blend as a time-saver. It is mostly chopped onions with some celery, red bell pepper, and parsley added. You can make your own or substitute one large onion, chopped.
- Other brands of dried shiitakes will work. Follow package directions for rinsing (some of them are gritty unless rinsed) and chop or tear them into small pieces.
- The two types of bouillon I use most often are Edward & Sons Not-Chick'n and Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base. Whatever bouillon you use, use the amount that will flavor 4 cups of water. For Edward & Sons, that is two cubes. For Better Than Bouillon, it's 4 teaspoons. Or you could use vegetable broth instead of water, but I find that more expensive.
- Sodium is high because of the bouillon I used. You can reduce it by eliminating the salt and/or bouillon or using a lower-sodium bouillon.
Nutritional info is approximate.