This lentil salad combines fiber and protein-dense lentils with fresh, crunchy veggies, and a creamy, zingy tahini-lime dressing. Simple, tasty, nutritious, and filling, perfect for potlucks, picnics, BBQs, and meal prep!
The Best Lentil Salad with Creamy Tahini Lime Dressing
As a vegan, I’ve seen plenty of ‘but where do you get your protein,’ ‘how do you survive on salad?’ questions. Not only is my blog 90% hearty comfort food for all the salad-phobics, though, but I also love packing my salads full of plant-based protein, not just leafy greens. For example, I frequently enjoy this kidney bean salad, hearty quinoa salads, and now it’s the turn of this cold lentil salad!
With plenty of iron, protein, and fiber (while remaining very economical), lentils have always been a favorite protein option in my kitchen. Along with classic lentil soup, I love simple but delicious lentil side dish recipes like lentil patties, Mujadara (Lebanese lentils and rice), and even lentil bread!
This lentil salad recipe combines tender lentils with fresh, crisp veggies like cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, radishes, and a little sweetness with apple. That’s all topped off with a bright, zippy tahini and lime vinaigrette. The result is a simple summery salad packed with flavor, texture, and nutrients thanks to good-for-you ingredients—built to nourish you without weighing you down.
Plus, if you’re running short on time, you could use canned lentils and have this salad prepped in just a handful of minutes. It’s inexpensive, great for meal prep, travels well, and is bound to impress at large gatherings. What’s not to love?!
The Lentil Salad
- Lentils: Use dried brown or green lentils (French lentils will also work, but take longer to cook. Don’t use red lentils, though, as they don’t hold their shape). Canned lentils will also work, and you don’t have to cook them.
- Veggie broth: Use pre-made veg broth, beg bouillon with water, or even plain water.
- Vegetables: This cold lentil salad relies on several fresh veggies, including:
- Persian (or English) cucumber. No need to peel and deseed unless preferred
- Sweet pepper
- Cherry or grape tomatoes
- Red onion
- Small radishes
- Arugula: If you aren’t a fan of arugula, use other leafy greens like baby spinach or kale (massage with a little of the dressing to soften).
- Parsley: Flat leaf parsley will work best.
- Apple: Or pear. If you don’t like sweet and savory salads, omit it.
- Seeds: I used sunflower seeds, but pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or a seed blend would also work. Chopped nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc., would also work.
The Tahini Dressing
- Tahini: This makes the dressing wonderfully creamy.
- Maple syrup: Or agave/ another sweetener of your choice.
- Dijon mustard: Yellow mustard will also work.
- Tomato paste: Will add umami depth to the dressing without tasting super tomatoey.
- Lime juice: Use fresh lime juice (or fresh lemon juice) for the best flavor, rather than bottled.
- Olive oil: Use extra-virgin olive oil with a light flavor.
- Garlic powder: Adjust the amount to taste. Minced garlic would also work.
- Salt & pepper: Season to taste.
You’ll also need a small amount of water (2-4 tablespoons) to thin the dressing to your desired consistency.
- Fresh herbs: This lentil salad recipe works really well with several types of fresh herbs, including fresh mint leaves, basil, cilantro, scallions, dill, etc.
- Spice: You can add some heat with hot sauce, cayenne pepper, or chili flakes to the salad dressing. Add to taste.
- Lime zest: Add a teaspoon of lime (or lemon) zest to the dressing for extra zingy flavor.
- Other veggies: There are several other veggies you could add, including olives (kalamata olives or other), artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes (instead of fresh), shredded carrot, roasted Mediterranean vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, red bell pepper).
- Vegan feta: For a Mediterranean lentil salad, I love to add vegan feta cheese.
- Dried fruit: Raisins and dried cranberries will pair well with the apple in this sweet-savory vegan lentil salad.
- Protein: Boost the protein content further with marinated tofu/tempeh (cubed or shredded), a meat-alternative chicken, etc.
- Bay leaf: Add to the lentils while cooking, for more flavor.
For the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information, read the recipe card below.
How to Make Lentil Salad?
Prepare the Lentil Salad
- First, rinse the lentils and remove any debris. Then add the lentils, veg broth, and optionally 1-2 bay leaves to a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy.
- Drain the lentils in a colander and rinse with cold water.
- Meanwhile, as the lentils cook, dice the cucumber, sweet pepper, onion, radish, and apple. Also, chop the cherry tomatoes in half and chop the parsley and arugula.
Prepare the dressing
- In a bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk well. Add the water gradually until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Taste it and adjust any of the ingredients (i.e., more lime juice for zing, the seasonings, etc.)
Assemble the salad
- Add all the salad ingredients to a large serving bowl or plate, drizzle over the dressing, and toss to combine. Then, enjoy!
You can enjoy this lentil salad immediately, but I highly recommend allowing it to sit and marinate for 30 minutes first. This will allow all the flavors to meld and develop.
Make ahead: You can cook the lentils several days in advance and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You could also prepare the dressing a few days in advance, storing it in a jar in the fridge. In fact, it tastes even better after a night of ‘marinating.’
The dressing will solidify slightly in the fridge because of the olive oil. Simply remove it from the fridge 20 minutes before using it to bring it back to room temperature.
Store: Once assembled, you can store any leftover lentil salad in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
I don’t recommend freezing the salad. However, feel free to make a double batch of the cooked lentils and store any leftovers in the freezer for up to 6 months!
To say that there are plenty of dishes that pair with this lentil salad would be putting it mildly. Here are just a few recommendations.
- Tofu vegetable kabobs
- Vegan gyros
- Vegan omelette, frittata, or quiche
- A Mediterranean bowl with hummus or garlic white bean dip and pita bread – optionally falafel, too
- Fritters – like zucchini potato fritters, veggie fritters, and cauliflower patties
- Alongside a baked potato or baked sweet potato
- Vegan stuffed portobello mushrooms
You could also use the cold lentil salad within lettuce wraps, pita bread, or tortilla wraps.
Do I have to soak the lentils?
I always soak lentils (even if it’s just 30 minutes), so they cook faster. But even without soaking, they should be tender after 20 minutes.
Can I substitute the lentils?
You could use several legumes instead, like cooked chickpeas or white beans. This salad would also work with several types of grains like farro, bulgur, or couscous. Quinoa would also work very well.
Recipe Notes & Tips
- Adjust the texture: Change how finely you chop the veggies according to preference. Finely chopped means a bit of everything in every bite. Chunkier means more texture.
- Don’t overcook the lentils: Otherwise, they’ll become mushy.
- If you have leftover salad dressing: It works well over grains and roasted/cooked veggies, too.
Other Vegan Lentil Recipes
- Red lentil dahl
- Lentil shepherd’s pie
- Vega moussaka with lentils
- Lentil stew
- Lentil enchiladas
- Vegan lentil bolognese
- Lentil stuffed eggplant
If you try this healthy lentil salad recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan—I love seeing them.
Best Lentil Salad Recipe
- 1 cup (200 g) dried brown lentils (see notes)
- 3 cups (720 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth or water
- 2 (220 g) Persian cucumbers
- 1 (100 g) sweet pepper (color of choice)
- ½ cup (100 g) cherry tomatoes
- 1 small (60 g) red onion
- ⅓ cup (8 g) fresh parsley
- 2 oz (60 g) arugula
- 2 small radishes
- ¼ (50 g) apple
- ⅛ cup (20 g) sunflower seeds or chopped nuts of choice
- You can watch the short video for visual instructions.Add the dried lentils, vegetable broth, and optionally 1-2 bay leaves to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft, but not mushy! Drain the lentils using a colander and rinse them with cold water.
- While the lentils cook, dice the cucumbers, sweet pepper, onion, radishes, and apple. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half, and also chop the parsley and arugula.
- Add all dressing ingredients to a bowl and stir with a whisk, adding water gradually, depending on how thick/thin you want the dressing to be.
- Taste it and add more lime juice or seasonings, if needed.
- Add all salad ingredients to a large plate or bowl, then pour over the dressing.
- Toss to combine, then enjoy!
- Lentils: I used brown lentils. Green lentils are also fine.
- Feel free to add a little hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper to the dressing.
- Check the blog post for all step-by-step photos, storing instructions, tips & FAQs.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically