This colorful gluten-free salad recipe salad recipe bursts with flavor and health. Lentils and quinoa provide protein, vegetables for crunch, feta for tang, pomegranate seeds for color and a sweet-tart punch, and herbs for a fresh garden lift. It's super satisfying and cold salads work great for a hot summer day. Enjoy it for a healthy lunch or side dish.
This recipe for lentil salad grew out of needing lunch after a workout. I pulled everything out of the fridge that looked possible to work with and this is what I created. I've been enjoying it for lunch the past few weeks and decided it was time to share it with you.
I used to think lentils tasted like dirt. I wanted to love them, because they are packed with fiber, plant-based protein and are naturally gluten free. One day I tried a bowl of lentil soup at a favorite restaurant that changed my mind. Now I eat them regularly. Hot or cold, they are versatile, inexpensive, and handy to have in your pantry (or refrigerator). Just 1 ounce has 9 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.
- Cooked and cooled quinoa (white quinoa or tri-color)
- Cooked and cooled lentils (see tips below)
- Persian, mini, or English cucumber
- Pomegranate seeds
- Pine nuts
- Feta cheese (or goat)
- Mint leaves
- Thyme leaves
For the vinaigrette, you need olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. If you like a little heat in your dressing, add a pinch of red pepper. Prefer Balsamic vinegar? That's a good swap.
- Choose green, Puy, French green or brown lentils. I use French green lentils for this salad. You need ⅔-1 cup of dry lentils (they double or triple in size)
- Try black lentils, called beluga lentils because they look like caviar and hold up well in salad.
- For the cucumbers, slice them into quarters lengthwise, then slice out the seedy centers. It reduces extra juice and seeds.
- Red lentils don't work in this salad as they fall apart. Better for soups.
Rinse quinoa well and cook according to package directions, 15-18 minutes. Cook the lentils according to package directions. After cooking, lay them out on rimmed baking sheets to cool quickly, then refrigerate.
Next, chop the celery, carrots and cucumber, cube or crumble the cheese, chop shallot and herbs.
For the vinaigrette, add ingredients to a jar and shake well or whisk in a small bowl.
To assemble, add all ingredients to a medium salad bowl and mix gently, then toss with vinaigrette. Serve chilled or room temperature.
Short Cuts and Tips
- For speed, use already cooked lentils from Trader Joes or Melissa's Produce. Find them in the refrigerated produce section.
- Buy pre-crumbled cheese
- Cook the lentils and quinoa a day ahead and chill
- To use this for meal prep, package into an airtight container alone or add cooked shrimp or chicken. You might want a little extra vinaigrette.
- Use goat cheese crumbles for feta (or skip for dairy free)
- Use English cucumber for Persians or minis
- Swap chopped walnuts for pine nuts (skip for nut allergies)
- Use finely chopped red onion instead of shallot
- No mint leaves? You can skip but the flavor is really nice, add more thyme
- For another terrific quinoa salad, try this one with grilled corn and herbs.
- For a great picnic packable recipe try this Greek pasta salad or my three bean salad.
- Never cooked quinoa? Here's help and 10 recipe ideas.
Lentil Quinoa Salad with Feta and Lemon Vinaigrette
- 2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa tri-color or white
- 2 cups cooked, cooled green lentils homemade or purchased
- 2 ribs celery chopped fine
- 2 carrots chopped fine
- 2 Persian or mini cucumbers chopped fine
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2-4 ounces feta cheese crumbled or chopped into small cubes
- 1 medium shallot chopped fine
- 8 large mint leaves chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Classic Vinaigrette Dressing
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 2 pinches sea salt
- 2 pinches ground black pepper
- Once you're vegetables are chopped and prepped, this salad goes together in a snap. Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl and mix gently. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl and toss with the salad. Add any additional salt, pepper or fresh lemon juice for your taste preference.