Ok, don’t tell anyone, but while working as a chef in Germany, I secretly “borrowed” this amazing red lentil salad recipe from the Mediterranean restaurant that shared our kitchen space.
One taste and I fell in love with it, I just had to put my spin on it. So I loaded it up with vivid veggies, crunchy nuts, and seeds…. psst I didn’t change much!
Now every time I make this protein-packed bowl for friends, they beg for the recipe.
So I’m bringing this versatile recipe straight from my kitchen to yours!
Trust me, it’s about to be your new weekday staple. Grab your bowl and let’s get cooking.
Lentil Salad Ingredients and Their Benefits
This salad truly packs a nutritional punch. Let me break down each of these amazing whole food ingredients and why they deserve a spot in your kitchen:
These tiny legumes are a protein superstar, keeping you satiated along with providing essential vitamins and minerals. Their earthy, hearty flavor serves as the base that binds everything together.
Adds a tangy crunch and lively flavor contrast that cuts through the creaminess of the lentils. Its sharpness mellows nicely when dressed.
Vibrant red pepper ups the freshness quotient with that signature sweetness and slight smokiness. Also fills you up thanks to the fiber.
Cooling cucumber chunks lend moisture, refreshing crispiness, and hydration to balance the textures and spices.
These petite green leaves give a fragrant herbal quality and brightness perfect for cutting richness.
Sweet chewy apricots inject a bright pop of fruity flavor and pack an antioxidant vitamin punch.
Tart little bites of cranberry provide the perfect slightly sour contrast to the salad.
Sticky-sweet golden sultanas offer a boosted hit of fruit along with fiber.
Crunchy, creamy cashews add protein and healthy fats to keep you satisfied. Their nuttiness plays perfectly with the spices.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The tangy vinegar dresses the salad, lending moisture as well as antimicrobial properties.
Pungent garlic seasoning gives a quintessential aromatic savoriness.
Fiery chili flakes turn up the heat and spice factor which beautifully complements the medley of flavors and textures.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
High-quality olive oil pulls everything together, lending a rich fruity creaminess and healthy dose of monounsaturated fats.
How to Make Red Lentil Salad Step-By-Step:
Rinse the lentils
First, rinse the red lentils under cold water until it runs clear. This removes any grit and allows the lentils to cook evenly.
Next, combine the rinsed lentils and water in a saucepan. Bring them to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender with a slight bite.
Simmering Trick: Starting with cold salted water and then gradually heating helps lentils retain shape thanks to a gentle temperature increase. The bit of salt boosts flavor infusion too. We don’t want mushy lentils!
Texture & Doneness: Perfectly cooked lentils should have a gentle give between the teeth, no hard centers. Taste a sample after 12 minutes simmer then each minute after to identify ideal doneness before mushiness sets in.
Skim the Scum
As the lentils simmer, the foam will accumulate on the surface sometimes called scum – harmless but visually unappealing. Make sure to skim this away using a spoon or mesh skimmer. Removing the foam makes for clear, appetizing lentils. Skim a few times throughout simmering to prevent a cloudy or grey mush.
Drain liquid and cool
Draining using a mesh strainer prevents losing those tiny lentils down the sink. Although not essential, shocking in an ice bath stops the cooking process for maximum texture preservation.
Dice the vegetables
Chop the vegetable mix-ins like cucumbers, red onion, and bell peppers into small, evenly-sized diced pieces about 1/4 inch in size. This allows them to mix through the lentils nicely for evenly distributed bites.
For a maximum flavor boost, I chopped red chilies, and garlic, into fine brunoise. You can use any fresh herb you mostly like for me it is coriander/cilantro.
Make the dressing
Just pour vinegar into the olive oil, I know not much of a dressing. Using the freshest, highest quality extra virgin olive oil makes all the difference in flavor and health value from the polyphenol antioxidants it contains. Don’t use refined oils they are not the healthiest option. You don’t have to use apple cider vinegar use your favorite one or even lemon juice.
Add all your ingredients to a mixing bowl
Add all your chopped vegetables into a mixing bowl
Finally, Add your dressing and spices if you are using any
Toss it together
The ideal utensil for gentle tossing is a soft rubber spatula that evenly coats ingredients without damaging more delicate veggies and fruits. This ensures everything gets dressed properly.
Add your lentils
Now is the time you add cooled lentils to the mix and give it a gentle toss one more time
Eat now or…
It is ready to munch on as is but wait…
Marinating Science: Allowing the flavors to develop overnight (or atleast half an hour) in the fridge improves taste exponentially. The chilling allows phytonutrients to be extracted from the plant foods into the oils and liquids to boost nutrition and flavour.
Dont forget the toppings
Now comes the best part you can top it with whatever you like here are few suggestions that will work very well with this recipe.
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts)
- Seeds (flax, sunflower, poppy, pumpkin)
- Coconut shavings
- Dried berries
- Poached egg (perfect for when i need to boost my protein intake on training days)
Tweak to your taste
The best part of this high-protein salad is that it can be easily adapted to your liking without sacrificing any flavor. Get creative by swapping in various nuts like walnuts or pecans for extra healthy fats or opting for herbs like mint, parsley or arugula for a fresh twist.
Bring on the crunch and texture by adding different finely chopped veggies like broccoli, brussels sprouts or butternut squash depending on availability and season.
Play with different spices like smoked paprika, curry powder or even cayenne for a little heat if you want a taste change. I also like to sprinkle in cumin, cinnamon, and coriander to take the flavors to another dimension. The possibilities are endless for customization any time you make it, keeping this satisfying salad exciting!
And there you have the all-star cast for this flavor-packed salad! I told you this recipe was amazing.
If you enjoyed reading this recipe please check out my other breakfast recipes.