Savory and satisfying, this classic Bavarian Lentil Soup with vegetables is simmered in a hearty beef and bacon base.
This lentil soup recipe has adapted from Chef Horst Mager's original recipe, as served at Der Rheinlander restaurant in Portland, Oregon (1963-2017).
What's the Story Behind this Recipe?
Der Rheinlander restaurant was a fixture in northeast Portland, Oregon for nearly fifty-four years. Founded in 1963 by Chef Horst Mager, a native of Wiesbaden, Germany, it introduced Bavarian-style food to generations of Oregonians.
Mr B and I both grew up near the Rheinlander and have found memories of eating there. It was a “special occasion” restaurant; one of the fanciest places around in our working-class neighborhood. Meals came served with Swiss cheese fondue, crusty bread, a bowl of lentil soup, and a roving Tyrolean accordion serenade.
Chef Mager was Portland’s first celebrity chef. He often made appearances on my mother’s favorite noon-time program, KOIN Kitchen. It was he, and the show’s host, Lois Devore, who first sparked my love of German cuisine, and cooking in general. Inspired by their example, I spent hours alone in our kitchen pretending to host my own cooking show.
Chef Mager generously shared his recipes on little printed cards near the restaurant’s front entrance. Whenever we visited, I plucked one up and tucked it away with my small but growing collection; the German lentil soup recipe presented here was adapted directly from one of those treasured little cards.
- Lentils: We prefer to use green lentils, but brown lentils work just as well.
- Potatoes: The original restaurant recipe used russet potatoes; however, we prefer to use Yukon Golds, as they hold their shape a bit better. Either one works.
- Bacon: Use a thick-cut, good quality bacon if possible.
- Beef soup base: We recommend using Better than Bouillon, but any beef soup base will do.
- Onions: For the most robust flavor, we recommend using yellow onions.
- Flour: You can use all-purpose flour; however, we recommend using Wondra. Wondra, or instant flour, dissolves more quickly than all-purpose flour, and mixes into both hot and cold liquids easily. This makes it particularly useful for making smooth, creamy, lump-free soups and sauces.
- Thyme: The original recipe calls for "white thyme"; however, common thyme works just fine. If you have fresh thyme on hand, by all means, use it instead!
- Bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- Dried thyme
- White pepper
- Fresh nutmeg
- Vegetable oil
- Water: The water you use matters. Be aware, if your water is treated and has an overpowering taste because of it (i.e, municipally added chlorine, chloramine, etc.), that flavor may taint your chicken stock, which will in turn negatively flavor whatever you make with it.
How to Make Der Rheinlander Lentil Soup
Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over MEDIUM-HIGH heat.
Add diced bacon, carrots, onions, and celery. Sauté until the onions and celery are translucent; about 10-12 minutes.
Reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW. Stirring constantly, add the flour and cook for 1 minute more.
Slowly add the whole 3½ quarts of water, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
Once the water is fully incorporated, stir in the remaining ingredients; lentils, potatoes, herbs and seasonings.
Simmer uncovered on LOW about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The soup is done when the lentils are very tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot with a slice of crusty bread.
My standard practice when making mosts soups is to use my enameled cast iron Dutch oven. A Dutch oven allows you to sauté and simmer on the stovetop, and the enameled (i.e., glass) surface won't react to ingredients. A good Dutch oven promotes even heating and has great heat retention, and goes from stovetop to table with ease.
You can also use a medium stockpot to make this recipe.
Lentil soup is good for up to 5 days when properly covered and stored in the refrigerator.
Freeze in an air-tight, freezer-safe container or resealable bag. For best flavor retention, eat within 3-4 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat on a stove or in a microwave.
To add a little extra zip, try a sprinkle of red wine vinegar or a splash of hot sauce in your lentil soup!
Green lentils have a more peppery flavor and a harder exterior, so they hold their shape better and longer in a soup. Green lentils take slightly longer to cook than do brown lentils.
Green lentils also have a higher protein content, while the brown lentil have a higher fiber content.
More German Recipes
What to Serve with Lentil Soup
These dishes all pair exceptionally well with lentil soup:
- German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)
- German Sauerbraten
- Hot German Potato Salad (Bavarian Kartoffelsalat)
- Rheinlander Swiss Cheese Fondue
- Classic Rueben Sandwich
- Crispy Sauerkraut Fritters (Easy Air Fryer Recipe)
German Lentil Soup (Linsensuppe)
- 1 Wooden Spoon
- 3 ounces vegetable oil
- 3 ounces bacon diced
- 2 medium carrots diced; about ¾ cup/ 4 oz.
- ½ large onion diced; about ¾ cup/ 4 oz.
- 3 stalks celery diced; about ¾ cup/ 3½ oz.
- ¾ cup flour Wondra or all-purpose flour
- 3½ quarts water
- 1 pound green or brown lentils
- 1 medium potato (Yukon Gold or Russet) peeled and diced; about ¾ cup/ 4 oz.
- 2 tablespoons Beef Soup Base e.g., Better than Bouillon, etc.
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh nutmeg
- Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over MEDIUM-HIGH heat. Add diced bacon, carrots, onions, and celery. Sauté until the onions and celery are translucent; about 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW. Stirring constantly, add the flour and cook for 1 minute.
- Slowly add 3½ quarts of water, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
- Once the water is fully incorporated, stir in the remaining ingredients; lentils, potatoes, and seasonings.
- Simmer uncovered on LOW about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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