This hearty yet simple lentil and tomato salad can be enjoyed in its basic form, or embellished with any of the optional add-ins listed in the recipe.
High-protein lentils are as good in hot dishes (especially soups, of course) as they are in salads served as room temperature, like this one.
Lentils are compatible with tomatoes, as amply demonstrated in this recipe, as well as all members of the onion family, peppers, and fresh herbs. A strong vinaigrette enhances their unique flavor, and as always, I give the option of using a bottled vinaigrette or making our easy Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing.
Serving suggestion: For an easy meal, serve with fresh pita bread, hummus (store-bought or homemade), plus olives and rice-stuffed grape leaves from the supermarket olive bar.
Lentil variation: This recipe is great with the more common brown or green-brown lentils, but if you can get hold of black (aka beluga) lentils, it works great with those, too, and looks even better. The only variety you wouldn’t want to use for this recipe are red lentils, which cook to a mushy texture more fitting for soups and stews.
How to cook lentils
If you’re not using canned lentils (which I’m definitely not opposed to!), here are a few cooking tips. In terms of ratio, 1 cup raw lentils equals about 2 1/2 cups cooked.
Unlike many other legumes (including most beans), lentils don’t need to be soaked in advance. Cover lentils with at least 2 inches of fresh water in a large pot, bring to a slow boil, then simmer gently but steadily over medium-low heat. You don’t need an exact amount of water, but make sure they have plenty of room in which to simmer.
Brown or green-brown lentils, such as those used in this salad, take about 30 to 35 minutes to cook. Keep a close eye on the pot and test periodically for doneness. It’s very easy to overcook lentils, so err on the side of caution if you want them to keep their shape, especially to use in pilafs or salads.
Drain thoroughly, and for cold dishes like this salad, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
See lots more about this versatile legume in this site’s Guide to Lentils.
- 1 cup raw lentils, rinsed (or two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
- 2 cups diced firm ripe tomato, or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup diced red onion, or 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 green or yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup vinaigrette, bottled or homemade (see link in Notes)
- Juice of 1 large lemon, or more, to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional add-ins (use any or all)
- 2 to 3 ounces mixed baby greens
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill, more or less to taste
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley, more or less to taste
- Cured black olives, such as Kalamata, whole or sliced
- Vegan feta (about 4 ounces), diced
- If cooking the lentils from scratch, rinse them and combine in a roomy saucepan with plenty of water, at least 2 inches to cover. Bring to a slow boil, then lower the heat and simmer steadily and gently for 30 to 35 minutes, or until done but still holding their shape. Test frequently for doneness toward the end of cooking time. Drain and rinse under cool running water in a colander to stop the cooking process. See more details on cooking lentils above the recipe box.
- Combine the cooked or canned lentils with the remaining ingredients. Toss gently and thoroughly.
- Allow to stand for about 15 minutes, then serve at room temperature.
See our recipe for Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing if making your own.
Variation: For added color, use a combination of red and yellow tomatoes.
If you like this lentil salad, you may also enjoy …
Here are lots more plant-forward salads & sides.