‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten Always Adds 1 Secret Ingredient When She Makes Lentils

Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten has amazing ideas for lentil soup. Her different takes on this tasty dish include Lentil Vegetable Soup, Lentil Sausage Soup, and Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes. No matter which recipe you choose to make, each one features the same surprising secret ingredient.

Ina Garten smiles as she holds a spoon on the Today show in 2017
Ina Garten on the Today show in 2017 | Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Add Lentil Soup to your dinner rotation with recipes from the ‘Barefoot Contessa’

Lentils might not be something to get excited about. But Garten can turn these little edible seeds from the legume family into a delicious dish with the help of just a few fridge and pantry staples. Never underestimate the Barefoot Contessa!

Lentils are usually categorized by their color, which ranges from yellow and red to green, brown or black. Garten’s recipes always call for Puy, or French green lentils. They are about one-third the size of green lentils and have a peppery taste. Each type of lentil has its own unique combination of antioxidants and are highly nutritious.

Perfect for vegetarian and vegan diets, lentils are made up of over 25 percent protein. They are packed with B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium.

Ina Garten’s surprising secret ingredient for lentils

Garten has shared a variety of lentil soup recipes over her 20+ year career as a cookbook author and TV chef. Her recipe for Lentil Vegetable Soup, Sausage Vegetable Soup, and Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes all feature one surprising secret ingredient — red wine vinegar.

If you really want to bring some dynamic flavor to your lentil soup, Garten suggests avoiding the store-bought chicken stock. Instead, the Barefoot Contessa says to make it from scratch using her special recipe.

Homemade Chicken Stock Ingredients (yields six quarts):

3 (5-pound) chickens

3 large onions, unpeeled and quartered

6 carrots, unpeeled and halved

4 celery stalks with leaves, cut in thirds

4 parsnips, unpeeled and cut in 1/2, optional

20 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

15 sprigs fresh thyme

20 sprigs fresh dill

1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 crosswise

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

You’ll need a 16 to 20-quart stockpot to make the recipe at this scale. For best results, simmer uncovered for four hours. Strain all of the contents through a colander so you can discard the chicken and vegetables, then chill. Once you discard the hardened fat, pack the broth in quart containers.

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The ‘Barefoot Contessa’ has a limited list of ingredients for her Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes

Garten’s beginner recipe for Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes is easy to make and calls for just a handful of ingredients. Of course, you’ll need “good olive oil.” You’ll also need chopped yellow onions, diced carrots, minced garlic, whole plum tomatoes, French green lentils, chicken stock, mild curry powder, chopped fresh thyme leaves, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

The final ingredient on the list is one tablespoon of “good red wine vinegar.” You’ll stir that in at the very end before serving the dish hot or warm.

Ina Garten’s Lentil Vegetable Soup requires lots of chopping

For Garten’s Lentil Vegetable Soup recipe, be prepared to do a lot of chopping. However, it’s worth putting in the work because the results are phenomenal. This recipe calls for chopped onions and leeks, as well as diced celery and carrots.

You’ll also need French green lentils, minced garlic, good olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, minced fresh thyme leaves, ground cumin, tomato paste, and chicken stock. The final two ingredients on the list are red wine vinegar and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add them at the very end and serve this dish hot.

The ‘Barefoot Contessa’s’ Lentil Sausage Soup

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients in Garten’s Lentil Sausage Soup. This is what makes the dish so delicious and flavorful. This recipe yields four quarts, or eight to ten servings. Chances are, you’ll have some to freeze for a rainy day. Or, you’ll have plenty of leftovers.

Garten’s Lentil Sausage Soup has a lot of similar ingredients to her other recipes. The one specific ingredient the others’ don’t have is kielbasa. Of course, just like the other two lentil soup recipes, this one also features red wine vinegar.

The Barefoot Contessa airs Saturdays on The Food Network.