This vegetarian lentil salad is packed with fresh & healthy ingredients and comes together in just 30 minutes! Complete with a flavorful honey mustard vinaigrette, it's perfect for meal prep lunches or as a side dish.
- Dietary-features: vegetarian, gluten-free optional, vegan-optional
- Filled with fresh veggies and plant-based protein from chickpeas and brown lentils
- Ready in just 30 minutes
- Tossed in a simple but flavorful honey lemon vinaigrette
- Great for meal prep or as a side dish
It's the season for all things fresh veggies and salads, which is why I'm adding this vegetarian lentil salad to the collection alongside my couscous salad and black bean corn salad. This salad can be made with brown, green, or French puy lentils.
What type of lentils should I use?
This vegetarian lentil salad can be made with brown lentils, green lentils, or French lentils. I always cook lentils from dry, but you can use canned lentils if you're short on time.
The main difference between lentil types is cook time and texture. Green lentils and French lentils have a slightly firmer texture than brown lentils. Brown lentils cook most quickly, whereas green lentils take up to 30 minutes to cook.
When in doubt, check the lentil packaging for cook time. The lentils are ready when soft but not mushy. Always drain the lentils before cooking.
Lentil salad ingredients
- Lentils: I usually use brown lentils, but green lentils and French lentils also work.
- Sweet corn: Shuck corn kernels straight off the cob for a sweet pop of summer flavor and texture. Thawed frozen corn can also be used.
- Kale: I slice curly kale into thin ribbons, but lacinato kale would also work. Try using spinach if you don't like kale.
- Red onion adds crunch and zest. White or yellow onion also works. You can soak the red onions in cold water for 10 minutes to make their flavor more mild.
- Grape tomatoes are my go-to, but cherry tomatoes also work.
- Honey-lemon vinaigrette is made up of honey, lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. It adds a great punch of acid and helps to tenderize the ingredients.
- Feta adds saltiness and creaminess. Goat cheese would also be delicious here.
- Hazelnuts are entirely optional. I have trouble finding them at the store sometimes so they aren't required, but they add a great toastiness and depth to the salad. Toasted sunflower seeds or pecans are a great swap.
Step by step instructions
This recipe is as easy as:
- Make the lentils. Combine 1 cup dry brown lentils and 2 cups water in a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer until lentils are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid.
- Prep the veggies while the lentils are cooking. Add them to a large serving bowl.
- Make the vinaigrette by whisking together all vinaigrette ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
- Toss all ingredients together to make the lentil salad. Enjoy immediately or cover and chill until cooled, about 2-3 hours (see below for tips to chill the salad faster).
- One cup of dry brown lentils makes about 2 and ½ cups cooked lentils.
- Kale slicing tip: If using a bunch instead of pre-sliced kale, ½ bunch of kale will yield ~3 cups of kale ribbons. To cut, carefully use a knife to remove the woody stem. Stack kale leaves on top of each other, then slice into ½" ribbons.
- To make gluten-free lentil salad: Use tamari in place of soy sauce in the honey mustard vinaigrette.
- To make a vegan lentil salad: Omit feta cheese or replace with a vegan feta alternative. I like Follow Your Heart's vegan feta. Use agave in place of honey in the vinaigrette.
- To serve warm: Transfer all salad ingredients, except for the vinaigrette and feta, to a large sauce pot. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until warmed through. Toss with the vinaigrette and feta just before serving.
How to quickly cool lentils
I think that lentil salad is best served chilled, but that requires cold lentils and patience. You can speed up the chilling process by quickly cooling lentils in an ice water bath.
Option one: Place cooked lentils in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse with ice-cold water until cooled. This method may break apart the lentils if they're overcooked, so be careful.
Option two: Fill a large bowl or container with ice cubes. Add the lentils to a smaller metal or glass bowl, then set that bowl in the ice. This should cool the lentils more quickly than if you were to just refrigerate them.
Sweet corn is safe to eat uncooked and is just as flavorful as boiled or roasted corn. Just make sure to rinse the corn well before slicing it off the ear to remove any debris.
For best quality, cover and keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. Make sure to pat chickpeas dry and drain the lentils before adding them to the salad to prevent it from getting soggy and to extend the shelf life.
Because it's packed with plant-based protein, veggies, and healthy fats, this lentil salad works great as a main dish. It's also great at potlucks with fruit salad and watermelon cucumber salad or served with veggie gyros.
No. Lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking. Dry brown lentils will cook in about 15-20 minutes.
Definitely! Make sure to drain off the liquid that it is canned in to prevent the salad from getting soggy.
More easy vegetarian salads
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Vegetarian Lentil Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
- 1 cup dry brown lentils
- 2 cups water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
- ½ bunch kale sliced into ribbons, see note #1
- 1 ear yellow sweet corn
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 small red onion diced
- 8 ounces grape tomatoes sliced in half
- ½ cup feta
- ½ cup hazelnuts optional, see note #2
Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup lemon juice from 1-2 large lemons
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- Use cold water to rinse 1 cup of dry brown lentils in a fine mesh strainer. Add rinsed lentils to a medium pot with 2 cups of water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until lentils are soft and edible but not mushy. Drain off any excess water.
- While the lentils are cooking, prep remaining salad components: Slice kale into ribbons. Cut fresh sweet corn off of one ear of corn. Dice onion and red bell pepper. Slice grape tomatoes in half.
- To a Ball jar or small bowl add ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons each spicy brown mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey, and 2 teaspoons soy sauce. If using a ball jar, put on the lid and shake to combine. If using a bowl, whisk until thoroughly combined.
- In a large serving bowl, toss together cooked lentils, chickpeas, kale, sweet corn, bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, hazelnuts and feta. Toss with honey mustard vinaigrette just before serving. Enjoy warm or transfer to the fridge for 2-3 hours to chill before enjoying.
- Kale: ½ bunch of kale will yield ~3 cups of kale ribbons. To cut, carefully use a knife to remove the woody stem. Stack kale leaves on top of each other, then slice into ½" ribbons. You can also use pre-sliced kale.
- Hazelnuts: If hazelnuts aren't available at the store, try roasted pecans or sunflower seeds.
- To make gluten-free: Use tamari in place of soy sauce in the honey mustard vinaigrette.
- To make vegan: Omit feta cheese or replace with a vegan alternative. Use agave in place of honey in the vinaigrette.
- To cool the lentils quickly: Place cooked lentils in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with ice cold water until cooled. This method may break apart the lentils if they're overcooked, so be careful. Alternately, fill a large bowl or container with ice cubes. Add the lentils to a smaller metal or glass bowl, then set that bowl in the ice. This should cool the lentils more quickly than if you were to just refrigerate them.
- Leftovers: For best quality, cover and keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. Make sure to pat chickpeas dry and drain the lentils before adding the to the salad to help it last longer.
Note: This recipe was originally shared June 2019. It was updated April 2021 with new photos, a video and more tips. The recipe is the same.