Lentilles du Puy: French Green Lentil Salad Recipe

What f I told you that there was a caviar you can buy for around 3 bucks per pound?

You might say, “David, you’re crazy!”

Well call me fou…(which wouldn’t be the first time) but lentilles du Puy, the French green lentils from the Auvergne, are not called ‘the caviar of lentils’ for nothing.

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I’m sure many of your out there might lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling, thinking, “Gee, I wonder if David’s right and there really is a different between ordinary green French lentils and lentilles du Puy?”


I will save you a sleepless night and say, “Yes!”…there is.

Lentils from Puy are indeed the most fantastic lentils in the world and I’m one of their biggest fans. I didn’t think it was possible to get so excited about a grain (well, they’re actually a ‘pulse’, but that sounds funny) until I tried them. Their unique, nutty flavor is attributed to the volcanic soil they’re grown in, sans fertilizer, which gives them their fine, mineral-rich taste. The climate in the Auvergne also contributes to their unique texture: a lack of humidity and abundant sunshine, courtesy of the surrounding mountains and volcanic deposits, ensures that the lentils dry on the plant all by themselves. Consequently lentilles du Puy have less starch than other green lentils, so they don’t get all mushy and muddy when cooked like those hippy-dippy soups people used to make.

So how does one know if they have real lentilles du Puy as opposed just ordinary French green lentils?

It’s simple; look for the AOC seal on the package, which certifies they’re truly lentilles du Puy, and not tiny, disk-shaped, vastly-inferior impostors. And they will say du Puy too. And don’t be tempted to buy the less-expensive, ordinary French green lentils which cost about a third of the price. Believe me, there’s no comparison.

Been there, done ‘em.

I always keep a bag of lentils from Puy in my pantry since they can be prepared really quickly and they’re a great side dish, equally good served warm or at room temperature. They make a great accompaniment to everything from grilled fish to roast pork, or even a vegetarian dinner alongside baked butternut squash or pile of caramelized roasted root vegetables like parsnips, celery root, and carrots.

But I often prepare this lentil salad as a meal in itself by mixing in chunks of fresh, crumbly goat cheese along with a handful of toasted hazelnuts, then finishing it with a fragrant drizzle of extraordinarily good toasted hazelnut oil.

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Salad of Lentilles du Puy
About 6 servings

I like this lentil salad best when the diced carrots, onions and fennel are sautéed in olive oil until just-tender, then mixed into the warm lentils along with the vinaigrette. The fennel isn’t necessary (well, neither are shoes) but it’s quite nice if you like it. You can also simmer the vegetables along with the lentils if you want to save a step but be sure to add them to the vinaigrette while warm, which helps them absorb the dressing.

Be sure to use very good olive oil for the vinaigrette: yes, it does make a difference! No cheating. I use Spanish arbequina oil that’s fruity and really quite delicious. Since les lentilles du Puy lend themselves to so many variations, I’ve included a few at then end of the recipe to encourage improvisation.

For the lentils:

  • 1¼ cup (250 gr) French green lentilles du Puy
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few springs of fresh thyme
  • salt
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 bulb of fennel (optional), finely diced
  • freshly-ground pepper

For the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, peeled and minced

1. Rinse the lentils and remove any foreign matter.

2. Transfer the lentils to a large saucepan then cover with a copious amount of water, which should cover the lentils by at least 3-4 inches. Add the bay leaf and thyme.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add a bit of salt, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, adding more water if necessary. Be sure not to overcook them.

4. While the lentils are cooking, heat a few spoonfuls of olive oil in a skillet and add the carrots, onions, and fennel (if using). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently until tender. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

6. When the lentils are done, drain them well, then toss them in the vinaigrette with the cooked vegetables. Stir a few times to release the steam. Taste, and season with more salt, pepper, and olive oil if desired. Remove bay leave and thyme sprigs.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cooked lentils will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. They can be reheated in a pan on the stovetop or in a microwave.

Some other ideas:

Dress the lentils with less vinaigrette and omit the mustard. When the lentils are cool, dress them right before serving with a very, very good-quality walnut or hazelnut oil and a handful of toasted nuts.

Once cool, add a big handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and more fresh thyme or savory.

Add other root vegetables, like celery root or parsnips. Oven roast cubes of them in olive oil with salt and pepper until browned, then add them with the vinaigrette.

Add morsels of cooked, smoky bacon.

Stir a spoonful of duck fat into the warm lentils.

Crumble coarse chunks of fresh goat cheese into the room temperature lightly-dressed lentils. This is particularly good drizzled with walnut or hazelnut oil.

Although they’re available in many specialty shops, my favorite source in Paris for lentilles du Puy (and all grains) is from José Ferré’s shop:

La Graineterie du Marché
8, Place d’Aligre
Tél; 01 43 43 22 64
Open daily, except Monday

For US residents, French green lentils from Puy can also be mail ordered here or in specialty shops.

20 comments

  • I just made lentilles de Puy for dinner the other night! They are indeed delicious little things. And I’m so glad we’ve moved on from hippy dippy soups to nice, sharp salads.

  • Luisa: I did see your post…but since you didn’t specifically call for Lentils from Puy, I felt it would be a grave disservice to my readers to recommend any recipe except those that call for lentilles de Puy.

    Now about the Chocolate Fudge Cake…!

  • I laughed out loud when I saw the picture that goes with this post title. These are, by far, my favorite kind of caviar.

  • Thanks, David! I’ve got a bag of Puy Lentils in my pantry that I haven’t used yet because I didn’t have just the right recipe. The salad sounds great!

  • Sounds delicious! These lentils also make a really tasty bed for salmon. With a few lardons scattered across… mmm.

  • Reminds me of a dish my grandmother from Luxembourg used to make – it’s a lentil soup made with similar ingredients to your recipe – but with the addition, during cooking of a very strong meat, she used the German Thuringer. She would put in about 1 lb or more of the Thuringer type salami – whole….and lots of extra black peppercorns…then to serve – she’d cut up some pieces of the meat add to the lentil soup – and add at least 1 full Tablespoon of really good vinegar….I think there is something very complimentary between the green lentils and the vinegers.

  • I just had a great lamb roast on a bed of LDP salad and vine roasted cherry tomatoes – for antipodes, that’s at Globe Cafe, Prahran, Melbourne.
    Definitely much better than the orange ones in the plastic packets that turn to sludge when cooked!

  • Here in Lyon there is a dish called Caviar de la Croix Rousse made from lentilles de Puy. We love them and I also keep them in my cabinet at all time. I always throw in a bacon rind and a bouquet garni as well.

  • David!

    What kind of fish did you use in the photograph!
    I once made something similar with salmon (but now I’m bored with salmon! I once ate the wild variety and now won’t eat anything else, but the wild ones are so hard to get by). But that looks like halibutfilet. And if so are the lentils roomtemp?

    Love, Saskia

  • Saskia: I don’t remember what the fish was, but that’s from a restaurant in Paris. I think the lentils were served hot, and at home, I enjoy them hot or room temperature.

  • It’s “Lentilles DU Puy.” The town is Le Puy. Hence, lentilles du Puy. (“Du” is always used instead of “de le.”)

    OOps. Will fix that, this is an older post, before my French was up to snuff ; ) -dl

  • Now I might go crazy. My food co-op has about 5 varieties of lentils, including ones that look exactly like those – tiny, mottled black, but they are labeled French black lentils. Nothing du puy.

    And they are my second favorite lentil (reds are a lovely smoky), so they could not possibly be the famous lentilles du puy!

  • Love the recipe, David, but I have a question – Where do I get bay leaves in Paris?I’ve been in common stores and fancy ones, and the market on Rue Cler, no dice. At Hediard, they looked at me like I was nuts! I just gave up and brought some with me when we were there last month, but I’d love to know where to find them locally.

  • Marie: I get mine from a friend with a tree, who lives in Normandy. (I raid it every time I visit, then dry them myself.) You can find the trees in other places; in fact, there’s one in the courtyard of my building, except I saw the gardener spraying it with something, so I don’t use them.

    At almost any outdoor market, vendors who sell herbs often bunch laurier with fresh thyme, or sell branches, which you can dry yourself: hang them upside down in your kitchen until dry, then store in an airtight container.

    I’ve not seen bay leaves sold already dried either, except as part of those bouquet garni’s that they sell in supermarkets, which look a little sad.

  • I once used a darker type lentil like the one shown here, though I don’t *think* it was du Puy. I used it for a lovely soup (which recommended lentils du Puy), the only problem was that the dark color of the lentil seemed to bleed off in the broth, making the whole soup a mucky dark grey…it didn’t affect the flavor but I have to say didn’t look that good. Do you know if lentils du Puy do that too? I’ve heard how great they are but would be hesitant to use them in soups if their color comes off.

    Thanks so much for your lovely blog!

  • Although I’d never eaten them before, I bought lentilles du puy on a whim when visiting my parents in another state. I’d been saving them for a special recipe and made this salad over the weekend for a small dinner party. (I included the fennel and added cubed and roasted acorn squash.) It was a hit! And the next morning, I even violated my strict no-non-breakfast-foods-for-breakfast policy. My boyfriend thinks he’s finally rubbing off on me, but really I just made an exception for this lovely dish.

    Unfortunately, I already find myself craving them again and none of the so-called gourmet markets near me carry them! You’ve completely converted me and now I’m stuck ordering them off the internet.

    Have you ever had Castellucio/Umbrian lentils? I saw a bag of them in a local market–they are similar in price point to lentilles du Puy, so they must be prized for something.

  • it all looks yummy but…………..where do i buy these wonderful lentils???
    i called couple of grocery stores and they never heard of them.
    thanks for your help.
    henny

  • The lentil salad was beautiful, especially the vegetables sauteed apart and then added. We ate them with a frisee salad dressed with an anchovie-garlic vinaigrette and a soft boiled egg on top for our New Years lunch. My Italian partner and I enjoyed theis lighter French version to the classic Roman puntarelle that we cant find in California. The lentil salad was a welcome change from the heavier lentil stews of Italy.