Lentil Salad (Perfect for Make-Ahead Meals!)

This Lentil Salad is one of my favorite make-ahead meals. It makes enough to feed you for several meals in a row, and it’s loaded with nutrient-rich veggies and protein-packed lentils. I could eat this every week!

lentil salad in a bowl

This vegan salad is incredibly easy to throw together, ultra-filling, and can be customized to use what you have in your fridge. Plus, it’s a nutritional powerhouse!

Benefits of Lentils

Lentils contain high levels of soluble fiber, which may help to lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease, and they are a great source of magnesium and folate, which happen to be especially important during pregnancy.

dry lentils and cooked lentils

Many people also find that lentils are easier to digest than beans, which can be a perk for anyone with sensitive digestion, and they are an affordable source of vegetarian protein, providing 18 grams of protein per cooked cup.

This lentil salad makes a perfect make-ahead lunch or dinner for the week, and I think it’s also going to become my go-to dish to bring to potlucks and parties. This recipe makes enough to feed an army, and it’s sturdy enough to sit out for a while without getting soggy. The flavor and variety of textures makes it a total crowd pleaser!

Which Type of Lentils Work Best for a Salad?

You can use brown, black, or green lentils in this salad, all with great results. Red and yellow lentils tend to be too soft and mushy in my experience, so I’d recommend saving those for something like my Instant Pot Red Lentil Curry or Lentil, Kale & Quinoa Stew.

lentil salad over a bowl of arugula

Do You Need to Soak Lentils Before Cooking Them?

Unlike beans, you don’t have to soak lentils before cooking them. Soaking them ahead of time can shorten their cooking time, but it’s not necessary and I personally never do it. Green lentils cook in about 20 to 30 minutes, and you can make the process totally hands-off by using your Instant Pot if you have one. (See the notes below the recipe for cooking tips!)

How Can You Tell When Lentils Are Cooked?

When you’re cooking lentils for salad, you want them to be on the firm side, rather than too soft and mushy. I recommend taste-testing them around the 20-minute mark to see if they are easy enough to chew. I like mine to have a little bit of a bite to them still, so I think 20 to 25 minutes of simmering is usually perfect.

Keep in mind that the age of dry lentils can affect their cooking time, so that’s why it can always vary. Older lentils take longer to cook than fresher lentils, and it’s nearly impossible to know how old the lentils are that you buy at the store.

Can you Freeze Lentil Salad?

If you want to make this recipe far in advance, you can cook the lentils and freeze them for up to 3 months ahead of time. You can thaw what you need for this salad overnight in the fridge, or run the frozen lentils under water until they are tender again.

lentil salad over greens in a bowl overhead

I don’t recommend freezing raw vegetables for salad, as they can get mushy when they thaw, but having the lentils ready-to-go makes this salad a breeze to throw together.

How to Make the Best Lentil Salad

Once your lentils are cooked, making this salad is as easy as chopping a few vegetables and stirring together a quick dressing. When you stir together the dressing ingredients in the bottom of a large bowl, you can add the vegetables on top of that, and then the cooked lentils– so you’ll only have one dish to clean later!

chopped vegetables in a bowl with dressing

This salad can be enjoyed right away, but I think it gets even better as it marinates in the fridge! It should keep well for up to a week in the fridge, so it’s perfect for packed lunches.

How to make the Best Lentil Salad ( 1- Minute Video):

4.91 from 21 votes
lentil salad in a bowl
Lentil Salad (Perfect for Make-Ahead Meals!)
Prep Time
20 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

This Lentil Salad makes an easy packed lunch! It's packed with protein and loaded with veggies, for a flavor-packed make-ahead meal.

Course: Salad
Cuisine: gluten-free, vegan
Keyword: lentil salad
Servings: 8
Calories: 214 kcal
Author: Megan Gilmore
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups dry green or brown lentils (or 4 1/2 cups pre-cooked lentils)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 2 small cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • Black pepper , to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups diced cucumber (1 English cucumber)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced red onion (1 large red onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced red bell pepper (1 large bell pepper)
  • 3 celery stalks , diced
  • 1 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds (optional)
  • Arugula , for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. To cook the lentils, combine 1 1/2 cups of dry lentils with 4 1/2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil in a sauce pan that is large enough for the lentils to triple in size as they cook. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender, but still firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.

  2. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the dressing. In a large bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, garlic, salt, and several grinds of black pepper, then whisk well to combine.

  3. When the lentils are tender, drain any excess liquid and rinse the cooked lentils under cold water to stop the cooking process and help them cool down faster.

  4. While the lentils cool, you can dice the cucumber, onion, bell pepper, and celery if you haven't already. The smaller you dice them, the more flavor you'll get in each bite. Add the chopped vegetables to the large bowl of dressing and toss to combine. Add in the cooled lentils, and stir again.

  5. Add in the raisins and sliced almonds, if desired, then serve right away or transfer the salad to an airtight container to chill in the fridge. Serve chilled, over a bed of arugula, if desired.

Lentil Salad Nutrition (per serving; without almonds & raisins): Calories: 214, Fat: 7g, Carbohydrates: 28g, Fiber: 12g, Protein: 10g

Recipe Notes:

  • You can use honey instead of maple syrup if you don’t need this recipe to be vegan.
  • If you follow food combining, leave off the almonds and dried fruit to make this a properly combined starch meal.

If you try this lentil salad recipe, please leave a comment below and let me know how you like it! And if you make a substitution, let me know how that works out for you, too. We all can benefit from your experience!

Reader Feedback: What’s your go-to dish to bring to a potluck? 

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Comments

Neta

Made it today- it’s delicious!
Thank you for this recipe!

renay

this is great – we made it tonight and added precooked quinoa and served it over kale – delish! thank you for yet another great recipe! 🙂

Laura ~ Raise Your Garden

All our Texas relatives are coming up to visit us all in NY (not the city although I just got back from a weeks trip there and it was AMAZING) I want to make this for their visit! Wanted to make something healthy because I know most of the food is going to be um, bad for us.

    Karen

    Hi! You post comments here all the time. I was wondering…How do you get the comments you post to have a display picture beside them? I want one too!!

Cindy

Made this over the weekend and love it! The dressing is perfect for it.

Anna

Did you use the stone ground mustard spice or stone ground mustard condiment??

    Megan Gilmore

    I used the prepared mustard condiment.

Karen

You always dice your vegetables so much smaller than I do. I do rough chops. But you take a lot more care when cutting your veggies than me I’ve noticed. I either mandolin my veggies or shred them. But I never dice like you always seem to. your food prepping always looks magical in your pictures you post.

    Megan Gilmore

    This knife changed my dicing game: http://amzn.to/2b5ztjI My husband and I both like our veggies diced really small so that we don’t have to chew huge pieces, but I don’t think I could do it quickly without a really good knife!

Lisa Buchanan

Megan – does it need to be brown lentils or would another work as well? I think some are mushier than others (totally technical term there!).
Lisa

    Megan Gilmore

    Brown or green lentils are the most firm in texture, so those are what I would recommend to avoid a mushy result. 🙂

Kate

Love this recipe. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve been having it for lunch all week.

Carolyn

This looks awesome! Any chance you know of a good substitute for garlic? My son can’t have it. Thanks!!

Christina

am always looking for plant based recipes and this one hits the spot. didn’t have mustard so I added ginger root and turmeric to the dressing and left out the celery. Put this on a bed of kale and am scarfing down a plate right now. Thank you!

Sandi

Just made this and the reality is even better than I imagined! I needed some easy, cold, hearty, but not-too-filling meals for this weekend, and this salad is perfect. Thank you!!

Linda

I would like to make this salad on Friday to be served Sunday. Will it keep well?

Dyan

I’m really looking forward to trying this recipe. I have a quick question. Under the heading ingredients the recipe calls for 2 pounds of lentils. When giving instructions for cooking lentils it mentions adding 2 cups of lentils to 5 cups water. Does this recipe calls for 2 cups or 2 pounds of lentils? Please clarify. Thanks.

    Megan Gilmore

    This recipe calls for 2 pounds of COOKED lentils (about 6 cups cooked), but it also provides directions for cooking those lentils from scratch if you don’t want to buy them precooked. The 2 cups dry lentils (about 1 pound of dry lentils) is what you need to end up with 2 pounds of COOKED lentils. (After they are cooked with water, their weight doubles.) Hope that makes sense!

Lori

made this many times, love it, my family loves it too! Fills you up for lunch.

Do you have the nutritional info, I am on a plan and just wondered if you had it?

Laura Lee

I really liked this salad! I’m always looking for a good hardy, healthy & easy bean or lentil dish to go with the occasional pasta dish since their not really filling nor really healthy. I read that having legumes (fiber) with pasta slows down the absorption of simple carbs. Left out the celery, not a fan of it. My husband has a sensitive stomach so I used chopped green onions because they are milder than red onions. I couldn’t help but notice when you use a red pepper and green onions the colours are perfect for a dish to serve around Christmas time. I might rename this to The BEST Christmas Lentil Potluck Salad.

jt

my lentils turned to mush and ruined the texture of the beautiful veggies

Jana

Without doubt, this is the best lentil salad I have ever had! The dressing is just a pure heaven. Thank you for so many great and creative recipes. I love your blog <3!

Killian

I made this dish for all of my friends last night and it definitely took the gold medal. Everyone was asking for the recipe! Thank you for this!!

I would however maybe use a little less onion next time I make it. Just something to think about for everyone else 🙂

Gwen

I can’t wait to make this! My gym is having a cookout and this looks like the perfect healthy side! Do you have the nutrition facts? Everyone is super concerned with macros so they might actually eat this if I provide the nutrition information!

Rachel

I don’t have any lentils on hand, but would love to make this since I’ve got everything else at home. Is there anything else I can substitute for the lentils?

Rachel

I don’t have any lentils on hand but have everything else at home. Is there any substitute I could use for the lentils? Thanks!

Ameena

Wow…this recipe fantastic. I must admit I was little.skeptical at first…cold.lentils…but it’s delicious. I added fine chopped cilantro and quartered cherry tomatoes. Yum.yum

Nevine

Can it be frozen?

    Megan Gilmore

    I think the lentils would freeze just fine, but raw veggies sometimes turn out mushy when they are frozen and then thawed later. If you want to make this in advance, you might want to add the fresh chopped veggies after the lentils have thawed again?

Hofterzielbeek

Oh my goodness! This Lentil Salad is so good that, I am eager to try them. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

Helen Hughes

I would reduce salt for my taste!

Teresa white

So easy to make and is delicious!!!

Amanda Iams

I just made this today and added a couple of carrots just because I needed to use them up. YUMADOODLE, as my grandmother would say.

I ate immediately after putting it together and it was so fresh and bright and filling. I cannot wait to try it in a couple of hours after the dressing and veggies meld a bit.

Great recipe! Will be fantastic for lunches this week.

Linda

Delicious just as it is. The flavors are perfect. I’m excited for my lunch this week!

AnthoNY

This was wonderful! I made it with quinoa because I didn’t have any lentils, and it tastes amazing! Topped it with some avocado and goat cheese. Thanks for such a simple but perfect summer meal!

V

This recipe is a game-changer! So delicious and so easy to make – and really does hold up in the fridge for a good 5+ days. Will be in constant rotation for weekday lunches!

Brooke

We made a double batch last week and loved this as our lunches! We felt full and satisfied without feeling heavy from too big of a lunch! Love the protein from lentils and the veggies packed in this one. Another easy, healthy one we will continue to make in the future! Thanks so much!

Kathy

Please can you tell me what size cup you use. I use scales in the uk so gms animals.
Thank you.

Erika

Delicious! The only changes I made were cooking time was 30 min and I added dried cranberries that are only sweetened with apple juice and no added sugar. I could not find the info on how to cook the lentils in my instant pot. For future reference can you tell me how to make the lentils in my instant pot. It took me 30 min on stove top method. Thanks!

Betsy

Just wondering where the instructions are for cooking the lentils in the Instant-Pot.

Lea

I made this tonight for my boyfriend and I and we both loved it! Such a quick and healthy meal. Thanks!

Kim clark

I’ve made this salad MANY times, and it is always a hit. It’s perfect to throw together when I want a hearty meal but should really eat a salad. It works for make-ahead lunches and to take to parties. It’s definitely one of my favorite salads of all times.

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