French Lentils with Tomatoes, Marcona Almonds and Goat Cheese

As soon as we left Tim’s birthday lunch at Table 3 last week, we began plotting ways to re-create part of our appetizer: the savory lentils beneath our crispy duck confit. I am telling you, these lentils were something else: soft but not mushy, loaded with flavor, concrete proof that lentils will take on the character of whatever you mix them with.

An image of a spoon and a white bowl filled with lentils, tomatoes, and cheese

It kind of cracked me up the way were talking about it — Was that tarragon, or was it thyme? Did you catch that little bit of sweetness in the beginning?

An image of a wooden chopping board with a knife on the right side and a sprig of thyme on the other side.

The oil is just right! — because, seriously, for as long as I can remember, this has been something my mom does: she loves the lamb stew she orders at a restaurant, so the next day she’s buying lamb at the meat counter. I make her a crustless quiche, so she’s blending eggs and spinach the very day she gets back home. 

An image of a electric stove with a hand pf a woman cooking using a frying pan.

And I guess that makes me my mother’s daughter because, even beyond the lentils, I’ll be darned if half our wedding wasn’t the result of someone else’s great idea on Pinterest. The unmatching vintage plates? Something I saw on a blog or in a magazine. The banquet-style tables? Something someone else did, too.

A top view image of a frying pan with tomatoes and lentils in it and a wooden spoon for stirring.

Now, from the burlap wreath on our front door to the way our dining chairs don’t match, I’m always pulling from someone else’s concept, riffing on it to make it my own.

A close up image of a frying pan with lentils and tomatoes in it and a wooden spoon for stirring.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s any real creativity possible in the world — I draw inspiration from so many sources and places; is it even possible to come up with ideas without it? As for these lentils: by the time we’d left our afternoon movie, we’d narrowed down most of the ingredients we thought we’d tasted, and so we picked them up at the store.

A top view image of a white bowl filled with tomatoes and lentils.

I kept telling Tim how great it would be to get this recipe right because lentils are so cheap and so simple and yet they’re one of those foods I’ve always been a little intimidated by, as if making them well was reserved for the Really Good Cook.

A close up image of white bowl with a few remaining lentils and tomatoes in it.

So here is what we did. Saturday, I soaked the lentils overnight; yesterday morning, Tim cooked them in water and set them aside. Then, in the afternoon, in the course of maybe 20 minutes total, we set to work: heating oil, adding tomatoes and almonds and thyme, combining this mixture with the lentils and topping the whole thing with goat cheese.

An image of tomatoes and lentils and a wooden spoon in a pan.


I think the first words out of my mouth were something like, They’re just like those lentils!

A top view image of a spoon and a white bowl filled with tomatoes, lentils, and goat cheese in it.

And this, while maybe not a mark of creativity, in my mind was a real success.

An image of tomatoes and lentils and a wooden spoon in a pan.

French Lentils with Tomatoes, Marcona Almonds and Goat Cheese

  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Yield: Serves two as an entree; four as a side
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 cup of chopped organic grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped, salted marcona almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked French lentils*
  • 2 to 3 ounces of goat cheese


Heat three tablespoons (or a glug or two) of olive oil in a large saucepan on the stove. As the pan raises to medium heat, add in the leaves of six to eight sprigs of fresh thyme.

Add tomatoes and almonds, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and you can smell the nuts roasting.

Pull off the heat and add the cooked lentils, stirring everything together in the pan. Let cool a bit. Add goat cheese (I like to slice it up a little, but you could add whole and just stir throughout—it will slightly melt into the lent


*On soaking lentils: As mentioned in the above post, we soaked the lentils overnight before using them in this recipe. Because lentils are typically easier to digest than grains, soaking them is not necessary, but it can be helpful. Tim says he’s noticed he always feels better when he soaks them ahead of time. If you do choose to soak them, a good rule of thumb is to cover the lentils with water and add a little bit of acid (such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or whey); then, if they absorb all the water quickly, add more. Strain before cooking.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn,, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens,, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World,, Babble,, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Breads French Press Beef Soups & Stews Slow Cooker and Crock-Pot Meals Desserts French Herbs and Spices How To Pies Breakfast and Brunch Cakes Recipes
Sort by

10 thoughts on “French Lentils with Tomatoes, Marcona Almonds and Goat Cheese”

  1. Haha I do that too! I’ve come to terms with the fact that sometimes it’s just impossible to perfectly replicate the food you order in a restaurant because it’s not just the ingredients in the dish, but that atmosphere, your mood that day, the nostalgia of the event… so many factors that I just can’t possible recreate in my kitchen, but I sure can try and get close!

    • Hi Jaime! I like how you brought in the atmosphere factor: Is it the food alone that makes us love a meal or the setting in which we eat it and the people we eat it with? Really interesting to think about! In that way, our re-creations at home can take on entirely different value and beauty because of the goodness of our own kitchens and habitats!

  2. i am huge fan of lentils myself, and it’s a relatively new staple in my pantry.

    i read this article some time ago and it’s stayed with me. it’s a fantastic read about originality, being artist, being yourself…

    being inspired is great, doing something about the inspiration is even better.

    • Great read! My favorite parts: “All advice is autobiographical;” the way he explains stealing like an artist; the freeing realization that nothing is really original; the fact that by trying to create, you learn more about yourself (this blog is a testament to that for me!). Thank you so much for sending that over!

  3. I could just imagine these flavors blending together as I read this post. Gave me a huge craving for marcona almonds, and I found myself cooking up a batch of lentils this morning.

    I can’t wait to try this recipe out. Seems like it would be perfect for a grab and go salad, tossed on a bed of greens.

    I love your piece on inspiration. Nothing is completely new, but there are always new blends. Inspiration is everywhere!

    • Awesome, Jessica! I hope you enjoy these lentils as much as we have. And it’s so true that inspiration is everywhere—I’ve felt so freed since I read the article Lan posted above: all artists are stealing, if you want to call it that, by drawing ideas from some other source. That is how it works. Embracing it is good!

  4. Aside from lentil stew, this recipe is one of the best ones I´ve seen. It´s simple, amazing flavors and quite light! I´m making it this weekend.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.