Legumes, legumes, and more legumes! This tenderly, delicious Summer Chickpea and Lentil Salad is the perfect dish to help incorporate a variety of legumes into your diet with a little bit of fresh produce crunch. Both lentils and chickpeas are so versatile and make for great sources of plant-based protein and fiber. It may not sound like a mouth watering dish from the title, but trust me. This lentil salad will fill you up any time of year!
Love Your Lentils
Lentils often get pushed to the back of the pantry, even for those who eat primarily plant-based. But, they are such an easy ingredient to incorporate into a variety of meals. Plus, they are super simple to cook. Even simpler than dry beans or rice.
Lentils come in red, brown, black, and green. They are part of the legume family just like garbanzo beans, black beans, and peas. Lentils are a source of plant-based protein with about 12 grams per half cup serving. They are also a great source of fiber contributing to healthy gut microbes, lower cholesterol, and stabile blood glucose levels for sustainable energy. Lentils also provide a punch of potassium, folate, iron, and manganese.
And just like canned beans, you can use lentils in so many different types of weeknight dinners. Aside from this Summer Chickpea and Lentil Salad, you can toss lentils in Indian dishes such as curry, puree into a hummus or spicy dip, make into a hearty soup, blend into a flour for baked goods, or mash onto avocado toast.
A Land of Lentils
You are probably wondering if you can swap red lentils for brown or black lentils for green. It depends! This lentil salad uses green for time purposes, but could easily use French lentils. Let’s take a quick look at our lentils:
- Brown and green: [split lentils] You probably see these guys most often in recipes because they are great for soups and stews. These are the biggest of all the lentils but still cook in 30 minutes or less. They have a mild earthy flavor which is why they work well in warm, comforting recipes. They will split during cooking allowing them to get very tender, often on the mushier side. For your lentil salad, be sure to check in on your green lentils before they get too mushy.
- Red: [split lentils] Red lentils are more than just red, but also yellow and orange. Indian dishes such as curries and daals primarily use red lentil varieties. Just like their brown and green friends, red lentils will split during cooking and get extremely tender. Their tenderness makes them perfect for the thick, mushy texture of curry and daal dishes. I also love blending red lentils into hummus like in my Red Pepper and Red Lentil Hummus recipe.
- French: [whole lentils] If we had to call these a color, they would be in the spectrum of blues, grays, and maybe some greens. French lentils are nice and hearty maintaining their whole shape when cooked. Because of their tough skin, they take about 30 to 40 minutes to cook depending on the quantity. When cooked, their texture is great for sprinkling on entree salads or making them into their own side dish.
- Black: [split/whole lentils] These smaller lentils are loaded with the most flavor. Rather than a flat disc-shape, they are more spherical in appearance. Black lentils are the best of both worlds – great in soups and stews or on top of salads. Cooking time varies based on the recipe where they end up. If adding them to a salad or side dish, keep the cooking time short for about 20 to 30 minutes. If using in a liquid-based recipe like soup, extend the cooking time to about 30 to 40 minutes.
How to Cook Lentils for Lentil Salad
Cooking lentils is as easy as 1, 2, 3. First, you will want to filter through the lentils to remove any little pebbles that might have snuck into the batch. You can do this by spreading the lentils into a single layer on a baking sheet. Then, place the lentils into a mesh strainer and rinse under cold water to remove any dust or debris. Continue rinsing until the draining water runs clear.
Place the clean lentils in a saucepan with water. Whole lentils cook with a 1 to 3 ratio of lentils to water. If cooking 1 cup dry lentils, you will need 3 cups of water. Split lentils cook with a 1 to 2 ratio of lentils to water. So, you will only need 2 cups of water to cook 1 cup dry split lentils.
Bring the water to a rapid simmer (low boil), then cover the saucepan and reduce heat to a low simmer. Continue to cook lentils until tender, but do not over cook them as they can get mushy. Whole lentils can cook anywhere from 15 to 50 minutes, while split lentils only cook for 5 to 20 minutes. Some lentils may end up with excess water after cooked. Simply discard it through the mesh strainer or save it to use in a recipe such as soup or curry.
Add Flavor to Lentil Salads
Adding seasonings to your lentils while cooking is a great way to boost the flavor and sneak in extra nutrients. Try adding a bay leaf or sprig of rosemary during cooking. A sprinkle of dried herbs such as basil, oregano, or thyme adds a gentle touch of flavor. You can also swap in low-sodium vegetable broth instead of water. DO NOT add salt to the cooking liquid, though. Salt can delay cooking and cause the lentils to be too tough rather than get tender. If you prefer, you can add a pinch of salt to lentils after fully cooked, but this lentil salad is naturally low in sodium.
- Green lentils: The star of this lentil salad. Although green lentils fall under the split lentil category, I chose to use green versus French because of the shorter cooking time. Instead of cooking them for the full 20 minutes, I checked on them about every 5 minutes and removed them from the heat while they were still “al dente” with a little bit of a bite to them.
- Canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans): Again, I chose canned over dry because they are convenient. Always drain the can liquid and rinse canned beans in a mesh strainer to eliminate added sodium or can residue. Remove the foamy bubbles that form over the beans after rinsing them to help reduce any gassiness. Chickpeas provide this salad with plant-protein, fiber, and key minerals.
- Sun dried tomatoes: This ingredient is highly underrated. Sun dried tomatoes are not only very high in iron, but highly concentrated with vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene. The combination or plant-based iron (known as non-heme iron) and vitamin C is exactly what we need to help absorb iron in the gut. You can purchase these packed dry or packed in olive oil. If purchasing in olive oil, simply place the tomatoes being used in a small mesh strainer to drain the excess oil. A little bit of oil is okay as it will provide flavor and moisture to the recipe.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin oils are best used for recipes that don’t use heat, which is why it is added to the simple lemon dressing. The unsaturated fats and polyphenolic compounds are known to improve heart health and lower LDL cholesterol levels.
- Dijon mustard: With just a slightly tangy flavor, mustard is used as the emulsifier in the lemon dressing. This particular emulsifier is used to keep the olive oil and lemon juice working together so they do not separate.
- Seasonings: A taste of salt, freshly-cracked black pepper and some dried oregano is added to the salad dressing for more flavor. Feel free to change up the dried herb or use a combination of herbs.
- Arugula: This leafy green has a slightly bitter and peppery flavor to it. Also called “rocket”, it is used frequently in Mediterranean cuisine making a good fit for this Mediterranean salad. Arugula is high in vitamins A, C and K, iron, and fiber.
- Red onion: For a little extra bite in this legume salad, red onion provides a kick of flavor along with powerful antioxidants. The sulfuric compounds are known to help lower cholesterol and ward off cancerous cell growth.
- Cucumber: Crunch! A refreshingly crunchy and hydrating summer vegetable to provide texture amongst the mush of legumes. The skin is rich in vitamin K and fiber. If the seeds cause any gastrointestinal discomfort, try deseeding the cucumber prior to dicing. Check out my Instagram post on how to deseed cucumbers.
- Lemon: Boasting in vitamin C, this citrus juice acts as our vinegar-like component in the lemon dressing. I love highlighting citrus fruits in the summer and using them as a base to simple vinaigrettes for a lighter feel.
- Garlic: Because everything needs garlic! (Unless you are on a low FODMAP diet, in which you can eliminate garlic in any recipe and use garlic-infused olive oil for a similar flavor).
In the Kitchen
My cooking philosophy revolves around simplicity. If cooking is too complicated, we are less likely to make meals at home or enjoy the process. One way to keep things simple is to use cooking equipment and appliances we are most comfortable with. For this Summer Chickpea and Lentil Salad, you will need a mesh strainer (or wire sieve) for both the lentils and canned chickpeas. Mesh works best for lentils so that they do not fall through the holes of a larger colander. You will also need a small or medium saucepan (pot) with lid for cooking the lentils.
Break out the cutting board and sharpen up your chef’s knife. Chop up the arugula, red onion, cucumbers, sun dried tomatoes, and garlic. When it comes time for mixing it all up, have a small and large mixing bowl ready. The small bowl is for whisking the lemon dressing and the large bowl is for mixing the entire salad. Alternatively, you can use a small mason jar with lid for shaking up the dressing.
Make This Lentil Salad Your Own
- Change up the color legumes. Don’t have green lentils on hand? Replace green with brown or red. The brown will blend right in with the chickpeas, but add lentils will had some nice color. These are all split lentils which will keep the texture and cooking time similar. Even the chickpeas can be swapped for white beans.
- Swap in different greens. It takes a certain person to enjoy arugula. Feel free to use baby spinach, baby kale or even slightly wilted mustard or beet greens. It is always a good idea to incorporate a variety of different leafy greens into your weekly meal plan.
- Use a variety of seasonal produce. Lightly roasted summer squash or freshly diced bell peppers would be the perfect switcheroo in this summer-inspired salad. When the season changes, change the vegetables, too. Try diced roasted beets or sweet potatoes.
- Try a different dressing. Have a favorite dressing you enjoy? Want to try this with orange juice instead of lemon juice? Maybe you prefer a basic balsamic vinaigrette. Go for it!
This lentil salad is just the beginning of your love relationship with legumes. Tell me how you enjoy adding lentils into your meals in the comments below!
Summer Chickpea & Lentil Salad
- Small saucepan with lid
- Knife and cutting board
- Small spoon
- Mesh strainer
- Large mixing bowl
- Small mixing bowl
- Small whisk or small fork
- ⅔ cup uncooked lentils (green, French green, or brown) (we used green lentils)
- 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 1 small cucumber, seeded & diced
- ½ medium red onion, diced
- ½ cup jarred sun dried tomatoes, drained & diced
- 2 cups packed arugula, roughly chopped
- ½ cup crumbled goat or feta cheese (optional or dairy-free, as needed)
Simple Lemon Dressing
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried basil or oregano
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap & warm water.
- Place dry lentils in a mesh strainer. Filter through lentils and discard any non-lentil particles such as stones or grains. Rinse lentils under cold water until the draining water turns clear.
- Place clean lentils and 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and cook about 10-15 minutes or until lentils are soft but not mushy. Drain excess water through a mesh strainer. Set aside to cool.
- While the lentils are cooking and cooling, prep the remaining ingredients – rinse chickpeas, chop cucumber, sun dried tomatoes, onion, arugula, mince garlic, juice lemon, etc.
- In a small mixing bowl, add all the dressing ingredients. Whisk vigorously until well combined. Alternatively, place all ingredients in a small jar and seal tight. Shake vigorously to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all salad ingredients. Drizzle the dressing over salad and mx until well coated. Serve immediately or refrigerate for more intense flavor.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.