Marinated Lentil Salad

$6.56 recipe / $1.09 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.93 from 70 votes
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I’m trying to stock my fridge with some healthy options for the week ahead because I didn’t do so well last week. So, this morning I threw together some of my favorite flavors (garlic, lemon, feta) into an easy Marinated Lentil Salad. This salad makes a great side dish on its own, or you can bulk it up a number of ways to turn it into its own meal.

Overhead view of a large bowl of Marinated Lentil Salad with a fork stuck in the side

What Kind of Lentils Work Best for Lentil Salad?

I suggest a firm variety, like brown or green. I used brown lentils, which only take about 20 minutes to cook in boiling water. Green lentils take much longer, about 45 minutes. If you’re unsure of what type you have, check the cooking instructions on the package. I do not suggest using red, yellow, or orange lentils for this recipe, as they do not hold their shape when cooked.

Make Lentil Salad a Meal

If you want to bulk this up, you could add any of the following:

  • chopped rotisserie chicken
  • chickpeas
  • chopped cucumber
  • chopped bell pepper
  • or even cooked and cooled rice

Serve as a salad or stuff it into a pita! I especially like to mix a dollop of hummus with the Marinated lentil salad, which gives even more garlicky flavor and a wonderful texture contrast to the lentils.

Tomato Options

The most expensive ingredient in this salad for me was the pint of grape tomatoes. They can be quite pricey, so if you want to cut costs even further just replace the grape tomatoes with about 3 diced Roma tomatoes, or whatever variety of tomato is least expensive at your grocery store. I tend to like Roma the best as a second choice here because the flesh is firm and they hold up well to the salad.

Meal Prep It!

This lentil salad tastes great right after mixing it all up, but it gets even better with time in the fridge (leftovers FTW!), which makes it perfect for meal prep! Just remember to give it a quick stir before eating to redistribute that wonderful dressing.

Close up of Marinated Lentil Salad in a bowl, from the side.

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Marinated Lentil Salad

4.93 from 70 votes
Marinated Lentil Salad is bright, flavorful, and infused with bold flavors like garlic and lemon. 
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Servings 6 1 cup each
Prep 10 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 30 mins

Ingredients

LEMON GARLIC DRESSING

  • 1 lemon ($0.59)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil ($0.44)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano ($0.15)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper

SALAD

  • 1 cup dry brown lentils ($0.40)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley ($0.40)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes ($2.99)
  • 1/4 small red onion ($0.24)
  • 2 oz feta, crumbled ($1.12)

Instructions 

  • Cook the lentils according to the package directions. For most brown lentils, bring 3 cups of water to boil in a pot, add the lentils, then continue to boil for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water until they are cooled.
  • While the lentils are cooking, prepare the lemon garlic dressing. Use a microplane, zester, or small-holed cheese grater to remove about 1 Tbsp of the lemon's zest (the thin, yellow, outer layer of the peel). Set the zest aside. Juice the lemon and measure 1/4 cup of the juice to use for the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. Set the dressing aside.
  • Rinse the parsley well, shake off as much water as possible, then pull the leaves from the stems. Roughly chop the parsley leaves. Cut the grape tomatoes in half. Finely dice the red onion.
  • When the lentils are cooked, cooled, and well drained, transfer them to a large bowl. Add the chopped parsley, tomatoes, red onion, crumbled feta, lemon zest, and the prepared dressing. Stir to combine the ingredients and coat everything in dressing.
  • Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to eat. Always stir the salad just before serving to redistribute the dressing and flavors.

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Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 238.67kcalCarbohydrates: 25.93gProtein: 10.03gFat: 11.78gSodium: 352.02mgFiber: 5.27g
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Close up of a forkful of Marinated Lentil Salad, with the full bowl in the background.

How to Make Lentil Salad – Step by Step Photos

Cooked Lentils and drained lentils in a colander

Begin by cooking one cup of dry lentils. Lentils are incredibly easy to cook. It’s just like pasta. Bring a large pot of water to boil (for one cup lentils, make it at least 3 cups water), add the lentils, then cook until tender (20 minutes for brown lentils). Drain the lentils in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water to cool them off. 

Lemon Juice and Zest

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the Lemon Garlic Dressing. Remove about 1 Tbsp zest from the lemon using a microplane, zester, or small-holed cheese grater. Set the zest aside for later. Juice the lemon and use about 1/4 cup for the dressing. 

Lemon Garlic Dressing

To the 1/4 cup lemon juice, add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. Whisk the ingredients together. Set the dressing aside so it has a few minutes to blend.

Chopped Parsley, Halved Tomatoes, Diced Onion on a cutting board

Prepare the vegetables for the salad. Rinse 1/2 bunch of parsley and shake off as much water as possible. Pull the leaves from the stems, then give them a rough chop (about 1 cup once chopped). Slice the grape tomatoes in half. Finely dice the red onion. I really don’t like including small amounts like “1/4 red onion” in recipes, but red onion is one of those ingredients that is very potent and you really only need a small amount. To avoid wasting the rest of the onion, consider adding it to salads, pizzas, frittatas, or pickling the onions for longer storage.

Lentil Salad Ingredients in a Glass Bowl

Once the lentils are cooked, cooled, and drained, add them to a large bowl along with the lemon zest, chopped parsley, tomatoes, diced onion, and 2oz. crumbled feta.

Pour on Lemon Garlic Dressing onto salad ingredients

Pour on the prepared Lemon Garlic Dressing…

Mixed Marinated Lentil Salad in a glass bowl with a wooden spoon

Then just stir everything up until evenly combined and coated in dressing. The salad is pretty irresistible as is, but it gets even better as it sits in the fridge and those lentils absorb all that awesome flavor!

Finished Marinated Lentil Salad in a white bowl, on a grey napkin, with a fork stuck in the side

This is not going to last me long… I can’t stop scooping forkfuls into my mouth! In reality, though, this Marinated Lentil Salad makes about 6 cups, so depending on how you serve it, it’s about six servings. Ideas for bulking it out further can be found in the intro! Enjoy!

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  1. I rarely leave comments but this recipe is so good. The flavour is very lemony and it tastes like summer. I’ve made it over a dozen times now and never make any changes except I add 1.5oz more cheese. Also small tip: add the onions and garlic to the the dressing and let it sit for a bit! Thanks!!!

  2. Very tasty, but next time I’ll scale back on the garlic. It’s even better with a little Dijon mustard. 

  3. I didn’t love this one. It tasted fine, and it was a great way to use up some garden bounty, but something was missing. Did I need more lemon? Maybe a jalapeno? Did I cook the lentils too long? I’m not sure. In many of your recipes, I do find some ingredient amounts confusing. How big is half a bunch? How much is the whole bunch? In my grocery store, a bunch can be anywhere from about 1/2 cup to 6 cups, and I have parsley growing in the garden. Weight in ounces or grams, or measuring cup amounts would be very helpful for something like that.

  4. Rarely leave comments but I have to give this recipe a boost. I have several marinated lentil recipes that I use but this one tastes as good as any of them and its ingredients are easier to come by. I just made it and am already thinking of making it again.

    I recommend using black (beluga) lentils if you can get them, and I used the marinated red onion that I often have on hand (an easy Moosewood Cookbook recipe). Delicious!

  5. I used to make this all the time but struggled with 2 things: failing to get through all the servings before it turned and not being particularly predisposed to enjoying the lentil part. I’ve thought about adding chickpeas or something to dilute the lentil-ness but then we come back to a single batch being too large to finish (since it’s just the two of us). Any suggestions for the lentil-averse?

    1. How about reducing the lentils by half and adding in some chopped cucumber or bell pepper? Or perhaps just try making a smaller batch. If you go to the recipe card near the top where it has the number of servings listed in the little box, you can reduce it and the ingredients will adjust for you. :)

  6. I’ve made this dish four or five times now, and love it. I add Israili couscous or orzo to balance the protein in the lentils, especially if theres a vegan visitor, in which case the feta is optional. It also makes more, so more leftovers. It works well for a picnic, and is easy to take on camping trips, pre-prepped.

    1. Please explain how two ingredients made of white flour “balance” the protein of the lentils. I have never heard of this phenomenon. Love this salad! I make it very often and never tire of it, it’s so refreshing on hot summer days.

      1. Lentils + a grain (rice, pasta, couscous, etc.) supply a “complete” protein. All 9 amino acids you need, without having to add in other protein sources. Dairy, eggs, and meat naturally contain all 9, but most vegetable sources, no matter how high the protein content, don’t. By pairing beans and legumes with a grain, you create a dish with complete protein.

  7. Absolutely loved this salad. So easy and so good. My go to now. Even the dressing is perfect.👍😍

  8. I was unsure about eating lentils cold but this salad was awesome and very filling! This is definitely going to be a staple for summer cookouts. 

  9. I modified this recipe quite a bit. I omitted the parsley because I don’t like it, and used balsamic vinegar instead of lemon, as I’m trying to use up what I have in my pantry before I move.
    The salad was lackluster at first, but OMG, did it get delicious overnight! I added sunflower seeds for extra crunch. I think olives go great in this, even as a replacement for the feta if you’re vegan! (Though you might want to add some vegan mayo to the dressing, I think having something creamy is key to cutting through the super starchy lentils).
    I’m excited to try it with chickpeas next! I also usually trust Beth on the amount of onion and garlic, and while the onion was spot-on for me, I think needed an extra clove of garlic.
    Now I need to go back for seconds!

  10. I can never tell the difference between green and brown lentils…. but it came out just as good! Love this recipe!