If the national dish of Swabia were put up for vote, Schwäbische Linsen mit Spätzle would certainly be one of the finalists. This was always one of my favorite dishes growing up and any time I make it now it’s a nostalgic experience. If you’ve lived in southern Germany and have enjoyed the food down there, you’ll find yourself transported back as soon as you take a bite of these lentils. The flavor and aroma will remind you of your time there.
This German comfort dish is full of protein-packed lentils, bacon and vegetables. This dish is not a soup, rather it’s more like a very thick stew that’s served over traditional Swabian Spätzle along with German Saitenwurst (long, thin German sausages that taste far superior to hot dogs). You can either make Homemade German Spaetzle or use store-bought. It’s generously seasoned with vinegar and the delightful tangy flavor of these lentils is the distinguishing hallmark of Swabian lentils.
Linsen mit Spätzle (also referred to as(süß-saure Linsen, aka sweet-sour lentils).can be found in many restaurants throughout Swabia, it’s a popular dish in many work and university cafeterias, and is a household favorite in Swabian homes. Easy to prepare, filling and delicious, it’s easy to see why it’s practically a staple of Swabian cooking.
Swabian-style German Lentils with Spaetzle is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had time to meld. It also freezes quite well, so feel free to make a double batch.
Let’s get started!
You’ll need a pound of lentils. Unlike many other legumes, lentils don’t need to be soaked overnight. Just give them a rinse and they’re ready to cook.
You’ll also need a large onion, leek, carrot, and some fresh parsley.
To get started, in a soup pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until done. Transfer the bacon to a plate and set aside. Don’t discard the bacon grease, we want that for flavor. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. While the onions are cooking, you can dice the carrots and leek. You’ll want them diced small. Be sure to thoroughly rinse and drain the leek as they’re notorious for collecting and hiding dirt within their layers. Add the butter, carrots and leek and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the lentils, broth, bay leaf, salt, pepper and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft and have absorbed most of the liquid (the lentils should be thick). Add the vinegar and parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. If it’s too thick for your taste, add a little extra beef broth.
Add more salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar to taste.
Serve over store-bought or Homemade German Spätzle. Traditionally served with German Saitenwurst, which are near impossible to find here in the U.S. unless you live near a German deli – so just serve with your sausage of choice.
- 5 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 leek, finely chopped, thoroughly rinsed and drained
- 1 pound dried brown lentils, rinsed and drained (no need to soak)
- 7 cups beef broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- Homemade German Spätzle or store-bought
- Cook the bacon over medium-high heat until done. Transfer to a plate. Cook the onion until soft and translucent 5-7 minutes. Add the butter, carrots and leek and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the lentils, bacon, broth, bay leaf, salt, pepper and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the vinegar and parsley and simmer another 3-4 minutes. If too thick for your taste, add a little extra beef broth. Add more salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar to taste.
- Serve over hot Homemade German Spätzle with a sausage (preferably German Saitenwurst if you can find it).