Why We Love Warm Lentil Salad
You’ve seen lentil salad on the menu at French restaurants, but couldn’t wrap your head around why it was so popular. One bite of this warm lentil salad, and we promise you’ll get it.
- Creamy, tender lentils (not mushy!) cook in a rice cooker — so easy!
- Warm lentils get tossed with a sweet and tangy homemade dressing made from dijon and balsamic.
- The whole salad is tossed with bacon, capers, and fresh herbs.
A little salty, a little briny. Creamy, yet with a bite. Herbaceous and light, yet totally filling. Have we convinced you how ridiculously delicious warm lentils can be?!
This lentil salad recipe is quick, easy, and packed with nutrients. Talk about a healthy, feel good dinner!
What Are Lentils?
Lentils are a protein-packed legume that are as humble as it gets. Inexpensive, yet nutrient-dense, these little super foods are often overlooked.
Green lentils, in particular — also referred to as lentilles du Puy — are smaller and firmer than other lentils. Their skin is thicker too, meaning they’re less likely to turn to mush! They are the perfect lentil to use in this recipe.
Can’t find green lentils? For this recipe, use black beluga lentils in their place, not red or brown.
Ingredients for Lentil Salad
- French green lentils
- Chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, chives, or dill
You can use any combination of fresh herbs (finely chopped) from above or omit them entirely.
If you cannot find green lentils, substitute with black lentils, not red or yellow, which will become mush.
Mix The Marinade
The simple homemade vinaigrette is what gives our warm lentil salad it’s signature flavor! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Dijon mustard
- Aged balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt + black pepper (always)
Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl (we use a 2-cup measuring cup), then pour over warm lentils. Toss to thoroughly coat.
Add the vinaigrette as soon as lentils finish cooking. Warm lentils will absorb the marinade better than cold lentils.
How to Cook Lentils
Ready for the easiest trick ever? Cook green lentils in a rice cooker.
First, yes – a rice cooker is an investment. There are less expensive options, but linked above is the one we have used and love for years. One of our most used kitchen appliances!
To cook lentils in a rice cooker:
- Add green lentils and chicken stock to the bowl of a rice cooker, using a 1:2 ratio of lentils to chicken stock.
- Close lid, then select the quick cook setting. In about 40 minutes, you’ll have perfectly cooked lentils! If there is excess stock that didn’t absorb, simply drain before using — the lentils should be creamy and tender, but not mushy.
That’s literally the whole process. When finished cooking, the lentils should be creamy with a slight bite.
Immediately toss with lentil salad dressing (above).
To Assemble Lentil Salad
In a large bowl, combine cooked lentils, vinaigrette, crispy bacon, capers, scallions, and any fresh herbs.
Toss to combine and thoroughly coat, then serve warm or at room temperature.
Lentil salad will keep in an airtight container in a refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To reheat: either allow lentils to sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours before serving and eat at room temperature, or heat in a microwave safe dish for 2-3 minutes until warm throughout.
But yes, before you ask, you can totally eat lentil salad cold. We prefer it heated up, but you do you!
What To Serve With Lentil Salad
Our absolute favorite way to round out this meal is with seared sea scallops. You trust us, right? This is a winning combo and will make you look like a kitchen god/dess.
Other great proteins to bulk up lentil salad (though we promise it doesn’t need it!):
- roasted chicken
- steak au poivre
- pork tenderloin
All seriously good options that play off the creamy texture of the lentils, the saltiness of the bacon, and the acidity of the balsamic.
Lentils are naturally gluten free. And if you omit the bacon and serve as is, this lentil salad recipe is vegan and vegetarian.
If we haven’t yet sold you on how delicious this recipe is, consider this: warm lentil salad makes one hell of a date night dinner! Simple to prep, easy to execute, and sure to land you an extra smooch or two.
As part of my Date Night In series, I’m offering up a few wine suggestions to serve alongside. Lentils are delicate, so the key here is think about the other main ingredients: salty bacon, briny capers, pungent dijon, and sweet, acidic balsamic. A number of wines will work, so pick one flavor profile to pair against and go with it.
Red wine: Petite Sirah or Pinot Noir for something medium-bodied, or a Barbaresco for something a little bolder. We prefer a medium body wine, so as not to overpower the delicate lentils.
Rosé: Our go-to’s are typically dry rosé from Provence. Look for a wine with a pale color that is light and dry. Miraval is one of our favorites!
White wine: A lightly oaked Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc would both pair nicely, playing off the dijon and balsamic in the vinaigrette. I generally prefer Sancerre to Sauv Blanc, but either would work well.
If you make this Warm Lentil Salad, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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For more seasonal favorites, check out the following weeknight dishes:
- Perfect pan seared scallops
- Crispy chicken with white beans and kale
- Roast rack of lamb
- Creamy polenta with roasted mushrooms
- Easy chorizo cassoulet
Warm Lentil Salad
- Rice cooker
For the lentils
- 1 ½ cups French green lentils
- 3 cups chicken stock low sodium
- 3 slices bacon cut into lardons
- 2 large scallions thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp capers drained
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs such as tarragon, dill, chives, or parsley
- high quality extra virgin olive oil for serving
- flaky sea salt for serving
For the marinade
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ Tbsp dijon mustard
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
To cook lentils
- Place lentils and chicken stock (or vegetable stock) in the bowl of a rice cooker. Close lid, then select quick cook setting and press start. This will take approximately 40 minutes. If there is excess stock at the end of the cook time, simply drain the lentils (they should be creamy and tender, not mushy). Meanwhile, make the marinade.
To make marinade
- Combine extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper in a small bowl, then whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add thinly sliced bacon lardons, then cook until crisp, stirring often, about 4-5 minutes. Drain bacon on a paper towel lined plate.
- When lentils finish cooking, transfer to a large bowl. Immediately toss with marinade until even coated.
- Add cooked bacon, scallions, capers, and any herbs you're using, then toss to combine. Drizzle the warm salad with 1-2 tablespoons of a high quality extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with a generous pinch or two of flaky sea salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Lentil salad will keep in an airtight container in a refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To reheat: either allow lentils to sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours before serving and eat at room temperature, or heat in a microwave safe dish for 2-3 minutes until warm throughout.
- You can absolutely eat lentil salad cold. We prefer it heated up, but you do you!