Lentil Salad (Perfect for Make-Ahead Meals!)

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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):

lentil salad in a bowl
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Lentil Salad (Perfect for Make-Ahead Meals!)

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
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 214kcal

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 214kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 620mg | Potassium: 509mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 975IU | Vitamin C: 40.7mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 2.9mg
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

Vicki Y

Very good! It is fine without almonds and raisins, but those add-one make the salad more flavorful and enhance the texture. I used 3/4 cup of dark raisins and 3/4 cup toasted almonds.

Jess

LOVE THIS!!! SO FRESH! I’m slowly getting into lentils and this helped with that! Thank you!

Nancy

Great tasting lentil salad. I used the already cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s so the salad was so fast and easy! The dressing is very tasty and I used water instead of oil in it!

Clarissa

love it so much!! i started eating more plant based, and these delicious recipes keep me going. it’s such a good feeling when i find both healthy and tasty recipes. definitely recommend.

Rita

How can I substitute oil in this recipe?

Jessica Liner

This is one of my absolute favorite recipes ever! Always a hit with everyone, a great addition to any holiday table as well as a delicious make ahead lunch to enjoy all week. Love the crunch and diversity of taste in every bite, I usually add in cranberries instead of the raisins.

Megan Fisher

My family loved this salad. I used red lentils and even added some fresh zucchini to it. Delicious!

Genevieve

I can’t get enough of this salad! So good! Love that this is the kind of food I can feel good eating. 🙂 Thank you for the recipe. FYI, I used regular yellow (ballpark) mustard, only half a red onion, and regular raisins – not golden. Cooked my lentils in the Instant Pot too. Thanks again!

Jane Kim

I made a batch of this salad for dinner at my friend’s house. I served it over a bed of baby kale and arugula. It was a big hit and tasted better each subsequent day!

Stacey

What is the serving size for the nutrition info?

Camille Roach

Do you think cranberries would work instead of the golden raisins?
Or sliced grapes? Too weird? ha ha

Shirley h.

How many lunches will this make if I meal prep for the week?

Alana

I made this last night and it was amazing! That was my second time making it. The first time I used maple syrup and the second time I replaced it with honey. Both were amazing but my family decided we prefer the maple syrup. Thank you!

Sherry

This was amazing! One of the best salads I have had. I made it as written but I added romaine to the arugula. This is the type of salad you can eat often.
I have never left a review in my life but this was so good I had to.
Thank you for the recipe.

Betsy cohen

EXCELLENT dish!! I brought this to a weekend at the beach and we ate it for lunch, dinner AND breakfast. Everyone loved it!!

    Megan Gilmore

    I’m so glad it was a hit!! Thanks for letting me know, Betsy. I appreciate your feedback!

Jumpypup

This is now my go to potluck dish. Love the raisins and I toasted almond slivers. Sliced the onion on a mandolin so it can be removed easily if someone doesn’t like raw onion.

Rich

Super easy to make. Delicious and very filling!

Jeffrey Sanchez

Delicious recipe! Question, is 1 cup considered 1 serving? Thanks again!

Amanda Kroetsch

Delicious – the portions are just perfect – i used green onion cause it was the only type I had and added the slivered almonds – its actually much lighter than i expected. I am so over all these salads that have lemon, this was a nice change – will add to my fav’s list.

GlorIa

Very yummy, and stays fresh for many days, so truly an excellent make-ahead lunch. I made with raisins and almonds and didn’t serve over greens, but will try that next time. Thank you!

Alisa Harris

This salad is delicious! I substituted Dijon mustard since I didn’t have stone ground and used only 1tsp of salt. This recipe is one that I will definitely be making again!

Amy Rose

This is a fantastic recipe, so flavorful and satisfying. In order to make it processed oil-free, I substituted tahini for the olive oil. Magnifico!

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