Lentil salad is one of the most nutritious and versatile salads that there is. Depending on your taste and personal preference, lentil salad can be sophisticated or simple. Today, I’m going to show you a lentil salad recipe for which you don’t need any fancy ingredients, nor spend hours in the kitchen. This Mediterranean lentil salad is easy and quick to make, yet very delicious and nutritious.
What is Lentil Salad?
Lentils are a hugely popular ingredient in soups, stews and salads. Whether in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican or American cuisine – lentils are one of the most popular legumes in large parts of the world. And there are many good reasons for that. Lentils are rich in nutrients, delicious, easy to cook, easy to store and affordable.
Lentils make a wonderful ingredient in salads, be it as a main course or as a side. The best part about lentil salad is that there are countless ways to prepare it! There are literally thousands of lentil salad recipes out there, for every taste and occasion.
In this recipe, I’m going to introduce you to one of my personal favorites. A crunchy Mediterranean lentil salad made with green lentils, fresh vegetables and a zesty dressing. This salad is full of flavors and vibrant colors, yet easy and quick to make.
To make Mediterranean lentil salad, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Green lentils: Green lentils are very commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. They are rich in protein and fibers which makes them particularly filling and healthy. The cooking time for dried green lentils is about 30 minutes. Unlike some other legumes, dried green lentils don’t need to be soaked in water beforehand. If you don’t have green lentils available, you can use brown lentils instead. While dried lentils yield the best results, you can use canned lentils instead to speed up the process.
- Tomatoes: Fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes work out well for this recipe. They have a great texture, low moisture content and a sweet flavor. You can also use cherry tomatoes.
- Cucumbers: Persian cucumbers (also known as baby cucumbers) are a great choice for salads. They have a tender and edible skin, a crunchy texture and a juicy and refreshing flavor. English cucumbers are a good choice as well (you can scoop out the seeds, if desired).
- Red onions: Red onions are slightly milder when compared to yellow onions which makes them a popular choice for salads. For lentil salad, you can slice them into thin rings or finely chop into small pieces.
- Scallions: Also known as green onions or spring onions. If you like onions, you can use them in addition to red onions. If you find raw onions too strong, leave out the red onion and use only scallions
- Bell peppers: Bell peppers (capsicum) make your salad crunchy, colorful and refreshing. Each color has a distinct taste. Using several colors adds to the flavor and the appearance of your salad. I generally use a combination of red and yellow bell peppers for this salad. If you’d only like to prepare a small amount, you can also stick to one color (preferably yellow).
- Pomegranate: Pomegranate is a hugely popular fruit in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Pomegranate seeds pair extremely well with lentils and make a wonderful addition to your salad. If you can’t find fresh pomegranate, you can use frozen pomegranate seeds instead (thaw before use).
- Flat-leaf parsley: A few stems of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (Italian parsley) to complete the salad.
- Dressing: For the dressing you’ll need lemon juice (freshly squeezed or bottled), olive oil, pomegranate syrup, sumac, salt and pepper. Sumac and pomegranate syrup are two staple ingredients in Middle Eastern cuisine that you can find in any Middle Eastern supermarket as well as online. They are both hugely popular in salads.
Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.
How to Make Lentil Salad (Step-by-Step)
Ready to make Mediterranean lentil salad? Yallah, let’s get started!
Step 1: Wash the lentils
The first step consists of washing the lentils. This is to ensure that lentils are properly cleaned from any debris or impurities. Place the lentils into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water until the lentils are fully submerged. Swirl the lentils around gently with your hands. Drain the lentils in a colander in the sink.
Step 2: Cook the lentils
Transfer the washed lentils to a saucepan. Add approximately 1.5 liters (6 US cups) of water. Be sure to add hot water to bring the lentils to a boil faster. Once the water is boiling, reduce the stove to medium heat and cook the lentils on medium heat for 30 minutes until tender. The cooking time starts once the water boils.
Step 3: Chop the vegetables
While the lentils are cooking, you have enough time to prepare the vegetables for your lentil salad. Be sure to wash all vegetables under running water to remove any dirt or residue! Once washed and dried, place them on a cutting board.
Chop the tomato into small pieces (removing the core). Chop the cucumber into small pieces. If using Persian cucumbers, you can keep the seeds. If using English cucumbers, you might want to remove the seeds with a teaspoon to ensure your salad won’t be too watery. You can use unpeeled cucumbers for a crunchy texture or peel them (it’s a matter of personal preference).
Moving onto the red onions, slice off the ends and remove the outer papery skin. Depending on your liking, you can either slice the onion into thin rings or finely chop it into smaller pieces.
Next, cut off the stem of the bell peppers. Remove the stem by cutting around it. Then slice the bell peppers in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Finally, chop the bell peppers into small pieces.
Remove any wilted or discolored leaves of the scallions (green onions). Cut off the root ends. Finely chop the scallions.
Add all chopped vegetables into a large salad bowl.
Step 4: Prepare the dressing
The dressing should be prepared in a separate container. The salad dressing should always be added to the salad right before serving, to maximize its freshness. Preparing the dressing separately allows you to store your salad and serve it over multiple days, if you like.
You can use a small bowl, a glass or a tall pitcher for this. Squeeze a lemon and add the lemon juice into the container. Add olive oil, pomegranate syrup (if using), sumac, salt and pepper. Whisk all the ingredients together to ensure they are well combined. Set the dressing aside.
Step 5: Drain the lentils
Once the lentils reach the desired tenderness, drain the cooking water and let them rest in a colander for 5-10 minutes. This allows the lentils to cool down and ensures that any excess cooking water is removed before you add them into the salad.
Step 6: Combine all ingredients
Once the lentils have been thoroughly drained and cooled, it’s time to bring all the salad components together. Transfer the lentils to the salad bowl with the previously prepared chopped vegetables. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients.
Right before serving, add the salad dressing to the salad. Mix together to ensure all the ingredients are evenly coated with the dressing.
Step 7: Garnish and serve
For a final touch, finely chop a few stems of flat-leaf parsley and add it to the salad. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. The garnish will add to the appearance of the salad but also to its taste. Pomegranate and green lentils are a wonderful combination! Serve at room temperature.
What to Serve with Lentil Salad?
Mediterranean lentil salad can be served as a light meal (for lunch or dinner). It goes well with bread, be it pita bread, Lebanese flat bread, French baguette or any other type of (white) bread. While the salad has a dressing, you can enhance the flavors even more by serving some plain yogurt or a cucumber-yogurt sauce as a side (especially when serving with bread). Olives and pickles make great side dishes too.
Instead of serving lentil salad as a main course, you can also choose to serve the salad as a side dish to accompany a main course. Grilled meat and rice dishes pair wonderfully with green lentil salad.
Looking for similar salad recipes? Check out my recipes for:
- Mediterranean bulgur salad
- Tabbouleh (Arabic parsley salad)
- Fattoush (green salad with roasted bread)
Storage & Make Ahead
Like most other salads, lentil salad can be prepared ahead of time. I often cook a large batch of green lentils in advance, and chop the vegetables the day I want to serve my salad. That’s the best way to maximize freshness. If you’d like to go one step further, you can chop all the vegetables in advance and store them in small containers, separate from the cooked lentils.
The dressing can also be prepared in advance and stored separately. Store in airtight containers and consume within 2-3 days. Always add the dressing right before serving, not in advance.
Have leftover salad with dressing? Store it in a container and consume it the next day.
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
Mediterranean Green Lentil Salad
- 200 g (1 cup) dried green lentils
- 1 tomato
- 1 cucumber Persian or baby cucumber
- 1 red onion small
- 3 stems scallions green onions
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper
- flat-leaf parsley for garnish
- 4 Tbsp pomegranate seeds for garnish
- 1 lemon
- 3 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp pomegranate syrup optional
- 1 tsp sumac
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Put the lentils into a large bowl and wash them thoroughly to ensure that any debris is removed.
- Transfer the lentils to a saucepan and add approximately 1.5 liters (6 US cups) of hot water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the lentils on medium heat for 30 minutes until tender.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables for the salad. Chop the tomato and cucumber (peeled or unpeeled) into small pieces. Slice or finely chop the red onion. Remove the stems and seeds from the bell peppers and chop the bell peppers. Also, finely chop the scallions (green onions). Add all the chopped vegetables to a large salad bowl.
- In a separate container (bowl or tall pitcher), prepare the dressing. Squeeze a lemon and add its juice, along with olive oil, pomegranate syrup, sumac, salt and pepper, to the container. Whisk the ingredients together until they are well combined. Set the dressing aside.
- Once the lentils are cooked, drain the water and let them sit in a colander for 5-10 minutes to cool and remove any excess water before adding them to the salad.
- Once the lentils are well drained and cooled, combine them with the salad ingredients. Mix everything together well to ensure all the ingredients are evenly combined.
- Add the dressing to the salad just before serving and mix it in thoroughly. Garnish the salad with some finely chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds.
- Allow the lentils to drain and cool for about 10 minutes before you combine them with the vegetables.
- Sumac (spice powder) and pomegranate syrup (also known as pomegranate molasses) are staple ingredients in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. Sumac is a dark-red powder made from ground dried berries. Its taste is comparable to citrus fruitiness. Pomegranate syrup is a thick syrup with a sweet-sour taste which enhances the flavor of your salad. Both items can be found in any Middle Eastern grocery store or online. Don’t have pomegranate syrup available? You can omit it, or replace it with vinegar.
Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.