Lentil Salad

Food

This zippy, fresh Lentil Salad is my latest obsession! With tender lentils, fresh veggies, and the ultimate tangy lemon vinaigrette, you are going to be hooked on this recipe!

We love lentils! Use up leftover lentils in this Lentil Soup, this hearty Lentil Bolognese, or this Lentil Curry.

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

When my husband and I traveled to Dubai, we enjoyed so many incredible regional dishes. This Vegetable Masala and Curry Lentil Soup were both inspired by the trip. And we’re adding another recipe inspired by our trip to the mix –Lentil Salad.

We had so many variations of lentil salads during our vacation and I could not get enough of them. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, really Chelsea– a lentil salad?! It doesn’t sound like something to leave a lasting impression, but since coming home, I haven’t been able to get those salads out of my mind! I’ve re-created our favorite of the many lentil salads we enjoyed in Dubai (with a few tweaks of my own, of course).

QUICK TIP

Lentils are very economical and they’re packed with protein, making them filling and sustaining. Only 1/2 cup of cooked lentils provides about 12 grams of protein!

Process shots-- rinsing and cooking lentils

Process shots-- rinsing and cooking lentils

Let’s talk lentils

First things first, make sure you’ve got the freshest dried lentils possible. Older lentils take a lot longer to cook and often shed their skins during cooking. Here’s information on how to tell if your lentils are fresh.

Lentils do not need to be soaked before using in this salad. You do, however, want to give them a good rinse in a colander (with cold water). Sift through the lentils to make sure there aren’t shriveled lentils or bits of debris away that got missed.

You’ll want to use dried lentils for this salad; here’s why I use brown lentils and recommend brown or green lentils:

  • Brown/green lentils cook quickly (between 20 and 30 minutes) and have a mild flavor.
  • Red/orange lentils are more processed, break down quickly (about 20 minutes), and then turn mushy; this is ideal in many Indian curry dishes where the lentils are meant to thicken the dish, but they don’t work well in a salad.
  • Puy lentils (French lentils) take nearly 45-50 minutes to cook, so it will make prep time on this salad quite a bit longer.

When using lentils in this salad, I like to cook them in a combination of vegetable or chicken stock and water. Don’t forget to add some salt to the lentils as they cook, to ensure they are well seasoned. 

Process shots--assembling Lentil Salad

Process shots--assembling Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad Ingredients

Beyond the lentils, there are five primary salad ingredients, discussed below:

  • Sun-dried tomatoes with herbs. These are my current favorite sun-dried tomatoes. They’re sliced (julienne cut) and packed with herbs and olive oil, and pack such a punch of flavor in this salad. I don’t recommend the sun-dried tomatoes in a packet; they’re too dry for this salad.
  • Flat-leaf Italian parsley. Typically there is flat-leaf Italian parsley and curly parsley in the produce section of the store. Avoid curly parsley– it’s usually used as a garnish and won’t contribute much flavor to this salad. If you prefer, you can use fresh basil or cilantro instead.
  • English or Persian cucumbers (sometimes labeled as mini cucumbers). I don’t recommend regular cucumbers because they lack flavor and texture. They also break down more quickly, which isn’t ideal in this salad.
  • Red onion. We love the bite that red onion adds, but note that it does intensify as this dish is stored. If you are sensitive to red onion, feel free to reduce or leave out this ingredient. Alternatively, it can be replaced with green onions or shallots which are both a bit milder.
  • Feta cheese. This salty addition pulls everything together in this salad! Goat cheese is another good cheese alternative and if you don’t like either, the salad is still tasty without cheese — it just may need a bit extra salt.

Lemon vinaigrette

We dress Lentil Salad with a light, fresh, healthy, and tangy (and slightly sweet) vinaigrette. Here are a few tips:

  • Dress to your preference. I love a generously dressed salad, but you may feel differently. Add the dressing slowly and to your personal preference. You probably won’t want the entire batch of dressing on this salad, but then again, you just might want it all! I’d rather you have more than not enough. Leftover dressing stores nicely for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. (See “quick tip” below.) 
    • We often use leftover dressing over roasted vegetables, side salads, and raw garden veggies.
    • Note that as the salad stores and sits, it continues to absorb the dressing–which makes it even more flavorful on day 2.
  • Use fresh lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice doesn’t pack the same flavor as fresh, and lemon is the main flavor here. The dressing also relies on lemon zest which another reason to use fresh lemon.

QUICK TIP

Leftover dressing will separate and solidify a bit since olive oil solidifies at cold temperatures. Simply let the dressing stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes and then shake to re-combine– and it’s ready to use! If you don’t want extra dressing (and prefer a minimally dressed salad) feel free to make a half recipe of the dressing — it halves nicely!

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad Variation Ideas

This salad is so easy to customize to make it just how you’d like it.

Below are a few other ideas:

  • Add some protein: Although this salad contains no meat, it still has plenty of protein, thanks to the lentils. That said, it still lends well to adding additional protein; I recommend leftover shredded rotisserie chicken — a lemon-herb flavored one if you can find it! A side of grilled chicken is also a great option. 
  • Use fresh cherry tomatoes: Halved cherry tomatoes will work great, either in addition to or instead of the sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Add more veggies: If you want even more toppings, add in some more veggies. Some ideas include Kalamata or black olives, roasted red bell peppers, chopped green bell pepper, roasted zucchini, or eggplant.
  • Swap dressing: If want a different dressing, I’d recommend a good balsamic vinaigrette instead. Try the citrus-balsamic dressing on this Beet Salad or the plain balsamic dressing on this Panzanella Salad.

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad Storage

Once dressed, this salad stores nicely for up to 3 days. Be sure to toss it well before serving it; the dressing settles at the bottom of the container as it stores. If you plan on storing this salad and enjoying it for a few days, I recommend adding all of the dressing. The lentils do continue to soak up the dressing and become more and more flavorful as it sits in the fridge.

Lentil Salad FAQs

1What seasoning is good with lentils?

Lentils lend really well to all kinds of seasonings depending on the flavor you’re looking to achieve. In this recipe, we add Italian seasoning to the lentils, which pairs nicely with the veggies and lemon vinaigrette. Also, don’t forget to salt lentils to further enhance their flavor.

2Do you have to soak lentils?

No, lentils do not require soaking for this salad. Be sure to first rinse them before cooking and remove any debris or dust.

1 cup of lentils needs about 3 cups of liquid to properly cook. I like cooking the lentils in vegetable or chicken stock and water to infuse extra flavor.

4Can you eat lentils cold the next day?

Absolutely! I like Lentil Salad even better the next day! The dressing has further infused the mixture and amped up the flavor.

5Are canned lentils already cooked?

Yes, canned lentils are already cooked and can save some time if you’re pressed for it. That said, canned lentils don’t have quite the same texture and flavor as dried lentils.

6Can I use canned lentils instead of dry?

You can, but I prefer using dried lentils in this salad for flavor and texture reasons — plus, they’re more economical. If you do opt to use canned lentils, be sure to thoroughly rinse them before using them in this salad.

7What does a bad lentil look like?

Even dried lentils can spoil or become moldy. Be sure to check dried lentils before cooking them. Lentils that smell sour or bad should be discarded. Lentils should have a mild and earthy smell. Bad lentils will also appear to be shriveled and discolored.

More nutrition-packed salads:

Lentil Salad

This zippy, fresh Lentil Salad is my latest obsession! With tender lentils, fresh veggies, and the ultimate tangy lemon vinaigrette, you are going to be hooked on this recipe!

Lentil Salad

This zippy, fresh Lentil Salad is my latest obsession! With tender lentils, fresh veggies, and the ultimate tangy lemon vinaigrette, you are going to be hooked on this recipe!

Ingredients

Lentils:

  • 1 cup (200g) dried green or brown lentils
  • 1 cup (225g) vegetable broth or chicken stock or broth
  • 1-1/2 cups (342g) water
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Fine sea salt and pepper

Salad:

  • 1/2 cup (85g) coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil Note 1
  • 1-1/2 cups (205g) chopped Persian or English cucumber Note 2
  • 3/4 cup (75g) diced red onion Note 3
  • 1/2 cup (23g) finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley Note 4
  • 1/3 cup (47g) crumbled feta cheese

Lemon Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons (29g) red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons (9g) Dijon mustard do not use regular mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup (46g) olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (32g) freshly squeezed lemon juice + 2 teaspoons lemon zest

Instructions

  • LENTILS: Rinse the lentils in a fine-mesh sieve. Pick out any debris or shriveled lentils. Combine the rinsed lentils, vegetable/chicken broth, water, and Italian seasoning in a small pot. Season to taste. (I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt.) Stir and cook over medium-high heat until the liquid comes to a simmer; reduce to medium-low heat and cover with a lid. Keep the lentils simmering until tender, about 20-25 minutes (check at 20 minutes). Remove from heat and strain. Rinse in cold water for 30 seconds to a minute or until fully cooled. Fully drain off any liquid and add lentils to a large bowl. Place in the fridge to continue cooling while preparing the rest of the salad.

  • DRESSING: Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.) Cover and shake vigorously to combine. Refrigerate while preparing the rest of the salad.

  • SALAD: To the bowl of cooked and cooled lentils, add in the coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, diced cucumber, diced red onion, finely chopped parsley, and feta cheese.

  • DRESS: Add dressing to desired preference. (We add all the dressing, but you may not want it all. You may be surprised at how the lentils soak up the dressing — it makes them extra tasty and may want to add more as it settles or stores.) Toss and add more dressing, salt, and pepper to taste.

  • SERVE: Serve immediately or chill for up to 2-3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Toss well before serving — a lot of the dressing settles to the bottom.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Sun-dried tomatoes: These are my current favorite sun-dried tomatoes. They’re sliced (julienne cut) and packed with herbs and olive oil, and pack such a punch of flavor in this salad. I don’t recommend the sun-dried tomatoes in a packet; they’re too dry for this salad.
Note 2: Cucumbers: I don’t recommend regular cucumbers because they lack flavor and texture. They also break down more quickly which isn’t ideal for this salad. Stick to English or Persian (sometimes labeled as mini) cucumbers. This recipe will use about 2-3 Persian/mini cucumbers or 1 large English cucumber.
Note 3: Onion: This recipe uses about 1/2 of a large red onion. We love the bite red onion adds, but note that it does intensify as this dish is stored. If you are sensitive to red onion, feel free to reduce or leave out this ingredient. Alternatively, it can be replaced with green onions or shallots, which are both a bit milder.
Note 4: Parsley: Look for flat-leaf Italian parsley and curly parsley in the produce section of the store. Avoid curly parsley, it’s usually used as a garnish and won’t contribute much flavor to this salad. If you don’t like parsley, you can use fresh basil or cilantro instead. You’ll need about 3/4 of 1 large bunch for this recipe.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 339kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 392mg | Potassium: 891mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2103IU | Vitamin C: 51mg | Calcium: 147mg | Iron: 5mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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