When you think about lentils and recipes that call for them, soups most likely come to mind. But lentil salad recipes are just as abundant and equally delicious.
And while soups tend to be a fall and winter staple, salads can be made year-round. This means you can enjoy lentils every season.
Types of Lentils
Lentils are an ancient food group. According to Fix, they are the oldest of the legumes cultivated by humans for consumption.
They are also a convenient source of protein and cook in just an hour, a fraction of the time it takes to cook beans. You don’t have to soak them first either, which means even before you start cooking, less work is involved.
You can find lentils bagged or canned. They are hearty and work well as a filler or a replacement for meat if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
They come in four primary varieties: green, brown, yellow, and red, but also some specialized types. Brown lentils work best in salads and have an earthy flavor. Green lentils come in a greater variety of sizes and have a more peppery taste. They also work well in salads and side dishes.
Red and yellow lentils have a sweeter, nuttier flavor and tend to split when cooked, making them more suited to soups. Specialty types include Black Beluga Lentils, which look a bit like caviar, and Puy Lentils, which come from central France. The latter are dark blue-green and taste peppery.
Lentil Nutrition Information
These little legumes pack plenty of nutrition for a small number of calories. Healthline explains that while there are only 230 calories in a cup of lentils, they contain Vitamin B, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
They also include 39.9 grams of carbohydrates, 17.9 grams of protein, and 15.6 grams of fiber, all of which make for a filling meal.
That same cup of lentils has only .8 grams of fat. But it contains significant amounts of your recommended daily value of thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
And they come with a host of other health benefits, too.
Health Benefits of Lentils
- They pack as much protein as meat but are healthier for your heart
- They provide 32% of your daily recommended intake of fiber, which keeps you feeling full and can help prevent constipation
- They can lower cholesterol
- The potassium in lentils can help counter the adverse effects of salt and lower blood pressure
- Folate in lentils helps with fetal development in pregnant women, helps form red blood cells, and protects the heart
- The iron in lentils can help prevent fatigue
What Mixes Well with Lentils?
Lentils on their own don’t have a lot of flavor. However, you can season them any way you choose. Ginger, garlic, turmeric, garam masala, and salt are great seasoning options. But those aren’t the only choices when deciding what to mix with your lentils.
There are many ways to spice up your lentils.
- Broth – Cooking in vegetable or animal broth will add flavor to your lentils
- Fresh Herbs – Parsley will give your lentils color, but if you want more taste, consider lemongrass, garlic, ginger, or cilantro
- More vegetables – Vegetables pair beautifully with other vegetables. A few to consider adding are spinach or kale, carrots, or peppers
20 Lentil Salad Recipes
1. Lentil Salad with Mango
This sweet and spicy lentil salad with mango will become your new favorite for summer barbecues and picnics. You can cook your own lentils or use canned ones. And you can add chicken, tuna, salmon, or tofu. Serve immediately, or let it sit for 30 minutes for a more robust flavor.
2. Mediterranean Lentil Salad
It’s the lemon-dijon dressing that makes this Dishing Out Health recipe sing. Fresh dill and feta contribute to the zest. And it’s full of healthful vegetables to boot. Besides lentils, this has asparagus, peppers, and onions.
3. Adobo Lentil Salad
This salad is a meal all on its own. In fact, this recipe from Loisa resembles a protein bowl more than a traditional salad. It combines cooked lentils with adobo seasoning, garlic, onion, cilantro, and oregano. Toss, squeeze a lemon over the top, and enjoy.
4. Herbed Fennel French Lentil Salad
Love garlic? Then this recipe from Nugget Markets is for you. It is a bit of work since the garlic and vegetables have to be cooked and then chilled, but it has a flavor that will keep you coming back time and time again. And since it makes four to six servings, you’ll have low-maintenance leftovers for days.
5. Roasted Vegetable Lentil Salad
If you’re looking for a lentil salad recipe that is perfect for fall, try this dish from Running on Real Food.It’s served warm and uses a maple balsamic dressing. And with onion, carrot, sweet potato, and zucchini, it’s an ideal meal for vegetarians or vegans.
6. Black Lentil Salad with Maple Dijon
A cold salad uses maple syrup and apple cider vinegar to take advantage of Fall flavors. And the sweet potatoes in the recipe from Kitchen Skip are also full of fiber, allowing this salad to keep you feeling full for hours.
7. Thai Lentil Salad with Miso Salmon
Looking for dinner with a salad on the side? How about underneath, instead? This salad from Lively Table is the base for a zesty miso salmon and a perfect spring or summer recipe.
Mix regular shredded carrots or pickled ones with shredded cabbage, green onion, basil, bell pepper, and lentils. Serve your salmon right on top.
8. Just-Keeps-Getting-Better Lentil Salad
This salad from Bon Appetit eats like a meal but is a little labor-intensive. It starts with chiffonaded Tuscan Kale and black Beluga Lentils. Your salad is coated with oil spiced with garlic, almonds, and scallions, then topped with cumin seeds and crushed red pepper. Finish with feta and serve.
9. Lentil Salad
The author at Gimme Some Oven says this is her favorite version of lentil salad recipes, and variations on this theme abound. What’s in her recipe that isn’t in others? Sundried tomatoes, for one. Also mint. Tossed with lemon dressing, zucchini, and onion, this is sure to impress at your next picnic or backyard barbeque.
10. Plumcot, Orange and Lentil Salad
This fruit-based salad from Nutrition in the Kitch will have you longing for the summer months. Or at least reminiscing about them. It combines plumcots, oranges, spring mix, and lentils with goat cheese and pecans. It’s dressed with red wine vinegar, oil, and raw honey.
11. Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Lentils and Lemon
This salad is prepared like a sheet pan dinner. Healthful Ideas walks you through the steps to season and roast your cauliflower, then toss it with lentils, parsley, and sundried tomatoes. Pick your favorite salad ingredients and layer this on top with a lemon vinaigrette.
12. Balsamic Lentil Salad
This recipe from Bites of Beri brings the flavors of warm spinach salad to a Greek salad, with lentils added for extra vitamins and satiating protein. Spinach is combined with feta, sundried tomatoes in oil, basil, walnuts, cucumber, onion, and lentils. Top with a homemade Dijon and maple syrup vinaigrette.
13. Spicy Carrot Salad with Lentils and Tahini
If you’re looking for a salad that doubles as a meal, this recipe from Occasionally Eggs is for you. During the Fall and Winter months, you could easily swap out the carrots for pumpkin or butternut squash, making this one of the lentil salad recipes that is a satisfying, healthy meal year-round.
14. Lemony Lentil Salad with Feta
This lentil salad recipe from Eating Well could easily replace the pasta salad at your next cookout. Coat green or brown lentils with a tangy dressing of lemon, dill, and Dijon. Then toss with feta, peppers, cucumbers, and onion.
15. Roasted Lentils and Potato Salad
This warm lentil salad would pair perfectly with naan bread. It does call for French (Puy) lentils, which may be harder to come by. But they are worth seeking out for this meal-type salad from Cooking for Peanuts partnered with a maple Dijon balsamic vinaigrette. It will have you hankering for Fall long into the Spring and Summer months.
16. Butternut Squash and Lentil Spinach Salad
This fall salad from Lively Table can be made ahead to save you valuable time on work nights and served hot or cold. If you prepare it ahead of time and want it hot, you simply need to reheat the roasted squash and onions, then add them to the spinach. If you prefer cold, add the spinach at the end to prevent it from getting soggy.
17. Green Lentil Salad
If you like Greek salad, you’ll enjoy this twist on the favorite from The Recipe Critic. It combines spinach with lentils, a homemade lemony vinaigrette, and feta cheese. It’s hearty enough to eat as a meal, perhaps with a hunk of crusty bread. But you can also use it as a side dish.
18. Lentil Salad with Tahini Dressing
This recipe from ElaVegan is a perfect choice for your next summer get-together. It pairs fresh veggies with lentils and tosses them all in a zesty tahini lime dressing that will keep you coming back for more.
19. Lentil Beet Salad
If you’re looking for a salad that won’t leave you feeling hungry again in an hour, this recipe from Clean Program could be just the thing. You can steam the beets while cooking your lentils. Then toss the lentils with the lemon vinaigrette, top with beets and cucumbers, pine nuts, and mint, and finish with more dressing.
20. Lentil Salad with Garden Vegetables
This recipe from Nugget Markets relies on bottled balsamic vinaigrette for flavor, but if you have a favorite recipe for a homemade version, feel free to use it. Prep is as simple as cooking your lentils with onion, carrot, and celery with bay leaf and garlic. Combine with cucumber, cherry tomato, and parsley, then toss with vinaigrette.
Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Lentils for Salad Recipes
Choosing the Wrong Lentils
Lentils are not a one size fits all endeavor. Different varieties have different flavors and even textures. Brown and green varieties typically work best in salads.
Not Soaking Your Lentils
Soaking lentils isn’t required, but it can make a difference in how easy they are to digest. Letting them soak overnight in cold water makes them easier on your stomach.
Neglecting Aromatics and Spices During Cooking
When cooking lentils, garlic, onions, and fresh herbs are the best aromatics. Also, consider parsley and basil or rosemary and cilantro.
Not Sifting Your Lentils Before Serving
There could be pebbles and debris in your bag of lentils, so you must sift through them before serving. Rinse them under water and remove any debris you find.
Not Using Enough Water
Lentils take a lot of water to cook. The perfect amount is three times as much water as lentils in your pot.
Not Rinsing Canned Lentils
Canned lentils can be a serious timesaver. But not rinsing off the thick solution high in starch and salt they come packed in could harm the flavor profile of your dish.
Not Cooking All the Way Through
Lentils should be cooked until they are tender. Failing to do so could result in digestive issues.
Tips for Making Lentil Salad Recipes Better
You can do a few things to make the lentils used in your salads taste better. One is to cook them in vegetable or animal broth to add to their flavor. Another is adding fresh herbs and other aromatics. Sea salt will also help bring out the natural flavors of the lentils.
How to Store Lentil Salad Recipes
Once you’ve made your lentil salad, it is best stored in the fridge. Some heartier options containing root vegetables may hold up well in the freezer. In addition, you can prep your lentils and freeze them for up to three months to cut back on the time it takes to put your salad together.
Do you have to cook canned lentils for salad recipes?
You do not need to cook canned lentils since they are already cooked. You only need to rinse them before using them in recipes.
Why do you need to rinse lentils?
If you’re using dried lentils, rinsing the lentils is imperative. Small pebbles could be mixed in with your lentils. If you’re using the canned variety, you still want to remove the thick solution the lentils are packed in by rinsing as well.
Are beans or lentils more nutritious?
Beans and lentils have similar health benefits. But it is suggested thatlentils are healthier because they contain fewer phytates than beans. Phytates prevent the body from absorbing its needed micronutrients.
How long are lentils good for?
Stored in a cool, dry place, dried lentils will keep for 2-3 years.Cooked lentils, on the other hand, should be kept for no more than 4-5 days in the refrigerator or frozen for up to three months.
Lentils are a popular option for vegetarians and vegans. They most often show up in soups. But you can also make lentil salad recipes that will increase the fiber and protein content, making them healthier and more filling. They come in options containing fruits and vegetables and can be served warm or cold.