This black lentil salad recipe is easy to put together and a great combination of textures and flavours. It’s hearty enough for a main, but also makes a nice side or potluck contribution.
Black lentils recipe
This black lentils recipe is a colorful and healthy fall harvest salad featuring leafy greens, sweet potato, pomegranate and black lentils.
If you’ve got some black lentils are aren’t sure what to do with them, this lentil salad is easy and quick to prepare.
Protein-packed black lentils make this salad hearty enough to be served as a vegan or vegetarian main dish, but it also makes a great side dish or a potluck contribution.
Black lentils have a rich, earthy flavor that somewhat resembles black beans and are often described as the most delicious of all lentil varieties.
Their great flavor and versatility make them great for in all sorts of black lentils recipes from salads, to curry to soups, stews and even fillings for burritos or enchiladas.
Best lentils for salad
For salad, it’s best to use a firm, thick-skinned variety of lentil that holds it’s shape after cooking.
Black or green lentils are ideal for salad because they do not begin to break down and go mushy the way that red lentils do.
If you’re cooking your lentils from dry, black lentils are a bit faster to cook than green lentils - needing about 25 minutes compared to 45 for green lentils.
If using canned lentils, black lentils still maintain their firm texture throughout the canning process and are ready to open, rinse and toss directly into your salad.
If you’re not sure what to do with all the different types of lentils, check out my vegan lentil recipes post for a rundown of their uses and more than 60 recipes.
Are lentils good for you?
Yes! Lentils are nutritional powerhouses and something that everyone should be eating on a regular basis.
They are one of the best sources of plant-based protein while also being low in fat.
One cup of lentils will give you one third of you daily intake of iron and 20% of your fibre.
They’re also a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and folate.
Just as important as what they do have, is what they don’t have: cholesterol and saturated fat.
A recent study concluded that the most important dietary changes necessary to increase life expectancy by up to 10 years is eating more legumes like lentils, whole grains and nuts.
How to cook lentils
Lentils are easy to cook and unlike beans do not need to be soaked for several hours beforehand.
Start by rinsing off the dried lentils until running water and inspecting them for any tiny stones or debris.
Add them to a pot along with 3 times as much water.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender all the way through.
Don’t add salt to the cooking water because it can increase the cooking time.
Once tender, drain the lentils and they’re ready for your black lentil salad.
What is lentil salad made of?
Here are the ingredients for this lentil salad recipe. This recipe uses ingredients that are in season in the fall and winter.
Black lentils: For convenience I use canned lentils in this black lentil recipe. You can also cook them from dry if you have time. Black lentils also go by the name caviar lentils.
Sweet potato: Starches like potatoes and sweet potato are very filling and, along with the lentils, help to make this salad hearty enough for a main dish.
Pomegranate: Pomegranates and sweet potato are an excellent combination. A ripe, juicy pomegranate will have smooth leathery skin and will feel heavy for its size.
Leafy greens: Choose your favourite leafy greens. I like the combination of the bitterness of rocket (arugula) with the sweet potato and pomegranate in this recipe, but you can choose spinach, lettuce, kale or whatever you like.
Bell pepper: I used a red pepper but you can use any colour that you prefer. I roasted it along with the sweet potato.
Red onion: If you find your onion to be a bit strong, you can soak the diced onion in cold water while the sweet potato is roasting. That will take away some of its sharpness.
Olive oil: Because this salad is so simple, I prefer to dress it the Mediterranean way of just a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top. You’ll also need a bit of oil for roasting the veggies.
Balsamic vinegar: I don’t use prepared salad dressings so spending a bit more money to get a good quality balsamic vinegar is worth it.
Salt and pepper: To season everything.
How to make black lentil salad
Roast the veggies: Start by peeling and dicing the sweet potato. Half the bell pepper and remove the stem and seeds.
Place the pepper cut side down along with the sweet potato on a baking pan and drizzle over a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
Toss to coat in oil.
Roast for about 30 minutes, tossing the sweet potatoes once, or until the sweet potato is tender and beginning to brown. The pepper should be beginning to char.
Remove from the oven and let the pepper cool a bit until you can peel off the skin and dice it.
Prep the lentils: Meanwhile, drain and rinse the lentils.
If you are cooking the lentils from dry, bring a pot of water to the boil and simmer ¾ cup of dry lentils for about 25 minutes, or until tender, then drain.
Prep remaining ingredients and combine: Pomegranates are a little bit tedious and there are lots of “tricks” that are supposed to make them easier.
I just slice the skin into four sections and peel the pomegranate apart into quarters. Then remove the seeds while picking out the white membrane.
Also, dice the onion.
In a large bowl, make a base of leafy green and top with the lentils, roasted sweet potato, bell pepper, red onion and pomegranate.
Toss to combine.
Dress the lentil salad: Dressing the salad couldn’t be simpler.
Just drizzle over a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle over a bit of salt and pepper and give it one final toss.
Substitutions and variations
Lentils: I highly recommend using black lentils for their superior texture and flavour, but you can substitute French (Puy) lentils or brown lentils if you want.
Herbs: You can add your favourite fresh herb like chopped parsley or basil.
Leafy greens: I used a bagged mix of rocket (arugula) and lamb’s lettuce (corn salad). You can use your favourite leafy green like baby spinach, lettuce or kale.
Bell pepper: Since I roasted the sweet potato, I just roasted a fresh pepper too. You can easily swap this for jarred roasted red pepper. Also, you can use any colour of bell pepper you prefer.
Veggies: Really, you can toss in whatever veggies you like. Roasted carrots, fresh cucumber or tomatoes are good.
Yes, canned lentils are already cooked and ready to eat. They do not need to be boiled before eating. Just rinse them off under cool water and add them to your salad.
Yes, canned lentils are high in protein and fibre, and are a good source of iron, calcium and folate. They are low in calories and fat.
Canned lentils can have added salt. Be sure to drain and rinse them well to remove the excess sodium.
You can serve this black lentil salad immediately after the sweet potatoes come out of the oven while they’re still warm, or you can allow them to cool to room temperature. This salad is also delicious served chilled out of the fridge.
Make ahead and storage tips
This salad is great for a vegan meal prep because it doesn’t have vegetables with a high-water content such as tomatoes.
That means that the salad stores well without wilting or changing texture.
To keep it fresh longer, I recommend storing the salad undressed.
Store this lentil salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Salad is not good for freezing.
What to serve with black lentil salad
This hearty salad can serve as a main dish or as a potluck contribution. You can also serve it as a side to:
Any vegan soup or sandwich
Vegan stuffed portobello mushrooms
Roasted cauliflower steaks
Alongside your favourite dip like hummus or baba ganoush
Black Lentil Salad
- 2 large sweet potatoes mine weighed 575 grams / 1.25 lbs
- 1 large bell pepper any colour, I used red
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon salt divided
- A few grinds of black pepper
- 1 can (15-oz / 425 ml) black lentils, drained and rinsed
- ¼ red onion finely diced
- ½ pomegranate
- 3 packed cups (280 grams) leafy greens I used a mix of arugula (rocket) and lamb’s lettuce
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or to taste
- Peel and dice the sweet potato into about 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes. Slice the bell pepper in half from top to bottom and remove the seeds and stem.
- Place the pepper cut side down on a baking sheet along with the sweet potato cubes. Drizzle over about a tablespoon of oil, and sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss to coat in oil.
- Place in the oven and turn it on to 425 F (220 C). (Note: I don’t bother preheating the oven when roasting). Roast the veggies, tossing the sweet potatoes once, until tender and beginning to turn golden - about 30 minutes.
- Remove the pan and allow the pepper to cool enough to touch, then peel the skin off and dice.
- Meanwhile, drain and rinse the lentils, chop the onion and remove the seeds from half the pomegranate.
- Place the leafy greens in a large bowl and top with the lentils, sweet potato, bell pepper, onion and pomegranate.
- Drizzle over olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine then serve.