Why are they called ‘French’ lentils anyway? Recipe

The lore of the lentil

Lentils are a great legume to include in your kitchen rotation. They are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, they are easy to prepare, and they are inexpensive and delicious. If you come from an Italian family, you might know it’s a tradition to eat lentils at midnight on the New Year, as it is said to bring forth good fortune. Well, New Year or not, good fortune and health may they bring, I say. 

The deal with the lentil that speaks French

Listen, I don’t know why a French fry is called a French fry, why a French bulldog is called a French bulldog, or why a French lentil is called a French lentil. I try to leave passports and visas out of the kitchen. But this I know: the variety of lentil called ‘French’ (also known as de Puy) is a smaller, darker lentil, often with a spotted look to it, reminiscent of green tortoise shell (I think I’ve seen these referred to as Turtle lentils, but I could be making this up). I find this type of lentil to be tastier than ordinary brown and green lentils, with a more pleasing, al dente texture. They are a bit like black beluga lentils both in size and in flavor, except they are dark green. For a complete guide to pulses, check out my new favorite reference on this subject.  


1 cup of lentils
3 cups water
Bay leaves
2 whole shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
Smoked paprika
Cumin (just a dash)
Herbes de Provence 


The key is to soak your lentils in advance of cooking. You can soak them for an hour, but I like to soak them for a whole day. Some cooks will argue this is not necessary. I do it anyway. 

Cook the lentils in water with bay leaves for one hour. Do not salt the water at this time. After the lentils are fully cooked, strain the water (you can use this water to cook rice, to make gravy, or to water your plants). 

In a saucepan, sauté the shallot and garlic until translucent. Add the strained lentils and season to your liking. The smoked paprika will give this dish a lot of its distinctive flavor. 

Serve warm on top of salad with goat cheese and toast. 

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