Bursting with flavor and health, this salad is crisp, crunchy and cool. Pack it for a picnic at the beach, park, lake or for lunch at work or school. It transports easily. Lentils and quinoa add protein, vegetables, crunch, feta for a nice tang, and herbs for a fresh garden lift. We will be eating this Mediterranean lentil quinoa salad a lot in the coming months.
Mediterranean Lentil Quinoa Salad
I love to create recipes out of need, when you are hungry and there is nothing obvious to eat. You pull everything out of the fridge that looks possible to work with and see what comes. That’s how this salad came to be. It was after a tough weights workout at the gym. I came home and needed lunch and created this new recipe to refuel. I’ve been enjoying it for lunch the past few weeks and decided it was time to share it with you.
I was not a lentil lover until just a few years ago. I thought they tasted like dirt. Being health-focused, I wanted to love them, because they are packed with fiber and plant-based protein. One day I tried a bowl of lentil soup at a favorite restaurant and fell in love with lentils. Now I eat them regularly. Hot or cold, they are versatile, inexpensive, and handy to have in your pantry (or refrigerator).
Make it Fast
To keep this recipe fast and easy I used ready-to-eat lentils from Trader Joes. Melissa’s Produce also offers them. You will find them in the refrigerated produce section. You can also cook your own French green lentils ahead of time. They are earthy and hearty tasting with a good texture that holds up in dishes like this. Follow the directions on the package or read this post for more help. If you buy them in bulk they are a budget-friendly source of protein and fiber.
Round Out the Recipe
To round out the recipe, cook quinoa and cool. I prefer the tri-color blend, but use whatever color you have. If you are not familiar with cooking quinoa, read this post. For color and crunch, add finely chopped carrot, celery, and cucumber. I like the little crisp Persian cucumbers but you can use an English cucumber.
The feta is optional; skip for vegan or no-dairy eaters. My favorite feta is Redwood Hill Farm Goat Feta. Goat-milk-based cheese is more easily digestible for most people. If you can’t find this brand, use your favorite feta.
Pomegranate seeds are the little jewels of the salad adding a sweet-tart flavor and gorgeous color. They used to be only available in fall and winter, but now you can find them year round. While I try to eat seasonally, they are hard to resist. If you can’t find them, no problem. Traders Joe’s seems to always have them. Add to the salad pine nuts for more crunch and finish with a little healthy fat, plus fresh herbs for fresh flavor and you have a wonderful Mediterranean lentil quinoa salad.
Grow Your Own Herbs
In spring and summer, fresh herbs are easy to grow in pots in your kitchen, yard or balcony. I have lemon thyme, basil and mint growing right now and will add to my collection shortly. The lemon thyme in this salad is especially nice, but you have to grow it. Regular thyme works fine too.
Mediterranean Lentil Quinoa Salad
- 2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa tri-color or white
- 2 cups cooked, cooled green lentils
- 2 ribs celery chopped fine
- 2 carrots chopped fine
- 2 Persian or mini cucumbers chopped fine
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/4 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
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 3/4 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.