You’re going to love this French lentils recipe with caramelized onions and chopped pistachios.
It’s wonderful as a main or side dish. Serve it over sautéed kale or alongside salad.
I often say that French lentils du Puy are the Cadillac of lentils. (They are also known as green French or Puy lentils.)
They have a painted-on, eggshell appearance that gives them a natural beauty. Their diminutive size is about a third of standard brown lentils.
And like all lentils, they don’t have to soak before using. That makes them an easy, weeknight meal.
Once cooked, they retain their disc-like shape and slightly firm texture, thanks to a thick skin.
It makes them perfect for adding to salads or serving all on their own.
Finally, the flavor of Puy lentils has an earthy, metallic taste that shines with other dense flavors.
I especially love serving them with caramelized onions, chopped pistachios, and a swish of stoneground mustard.
The sweetness of the onions and salty richness of the nuts combines beautifully with the tinny lentils.
Served on top of garlicky sautéed kale, French lentils become a filling and simple meal that is loaded with good-for-you things like fiber, iron, and protein.
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this recipe.
French lentils: These small lentils are also called French lentils du Puy. You can find them in bulk bins or bagged at natural grocery stores.
They’re sold in the dry goods section of mainstream stores like Target for a few dollars. Of course, you can also get them online.
Bouillon: You can use either half of a vegetable bouillon cube or ½ teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon no chicken base.
If you’d prefer, water + bouillon can be replaced with vegetable broth.
Onion: I recommend using a yellow onion over red for optimum sweetness and caramelizing.
Agave syrup: This adds sweetness. It can be replaced with maple syrup or your preferred liquid sweetener.
Pistachios: A handful of pistachios add crunch, nuttiness, and salt. Look for them with other nuts at the supermarket.
Pantry staples: Salt, stoneground mustard, and extra virgin olive oil (or your preferred cooking oil).
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make this recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
Put French lentils into fine mesh sieve.
Wash them & pick out any debris.
Bring the lentils to a boil with water & bouillon in a pot.
Once boiling, turn the heat to low & cover.
Cook for about 25 minutes, until al dente.
In a separate skillet, sauté onions in oil with salt at a medium high heat.
Once they have some color, turn the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, until soft.
Add a drizzle of agave or maple syrup.
Add chopped pistachios, drained lentils, and mustard.
Combine. Add salt to taste.
Make them your own
You can make these lentils your own by varying the ingredients.
- Instead of French lentils, use green or brown lentils. The cooking time may vary. Cook until just al dente.
- Do NOT use red lentils instead. They fall apart into a mush and won’t work here.
- Instead of onions, use leeks or shallots.
- Use agave or your preferred liquid sweetener instead of maple syrup.
- Add herbs like thyme, rosemary, or herbs de Provence.
- Instead of pistachios, use toasted pine nuts or Marcona almonds.
Storage & reheating
This dish is perfect for meal planning. It keeps nicely in a covered container in the refrigerator for about 4 days.
Reheat in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. (Add a splash of water if it gets too dried out in the pot.)
Add a pinch of salt & fresh handful of pistachios just before serving for added crunch.
French lentils with caramelized onions and pistachios
For the lentils
- 1 cup French lentils rinsed and drained
- 2 cups water
- ½ vegetable bouillon cube or ½ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon no chicken base
- Salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- ½ small yellow onion thinly sliced in half moons
- ¼ teaspoon agave syrup or maple syrup
- Handful of pistachios chopped
- ½ teaspoon stoneground mustard
- In a small soup pot, bring lentils, water, half of a bouillon cube (or ½ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon no chicken base), and a generous pinch of salt to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Continue cooking for 25 to 30 minutes. Taste the lentils. The texture should still have a little bite to it without being hard. Once the lentils are ready, most of the water should be absorbed, but if necessary, drain the lentils with a fine mesh sieve.
- While the lentils are cooking, bring a separate medium-sized skillet to a medium high heat. Add oil to the skillet. Once the oil is glistening, add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the onion gets some nice brown color. Then turn the heat to low and continue cooking the onions for 20 minutes, until they are very soft.
- Near the end of their cooking time, add a drizzle of agave or maple syrup to the onions and combine. Add the chopped pistachios to the warm skillet and warm them for a minute or two with the onions.
- Add the drained lentils and mustard to the skillet and combine. Add salt to taste. Serve lentils on a bed of sautéed kale or with salad.
Content, recipe, and photos updated June 16, 2021. Originally posted May 7, 2015.