In this article, we present a numerical method to deal with fluid–solid interactions and simulate particle–fluid systems as encountered in soils. This method is based on a coupling between two methods, now widely used in mechanics of granular media and fluid dynamics respectively: the discrete element (DE) method and the lattice Boltzmann (LB) method. The DE method is employed to model interactions between particles, whereas the LB method is used to describe an interstitial Newtonian fluid flow. The coupling presented here is a full one in the sense that particle motions act on fluid flow and reciprocally. This article presents in details each of the two methods and the principle of the coupling scheme. Determination of hydrodynamic forces and torques is also detailed, and the treatment of boundaries is explained. The coupled method is finally illustrated on a simple example of piping erosion, which puts in evidence that the combined LB–DE scheme constitutes a promising tool to study coupled problems in geomechanics. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.