This easy and delicious Spanish lentil salad comes together in under 30 minutes. While the lentils cook, chop up some veggies and make a quick dressing. Soon enough, you'll have a wholesome meal everyone loves. If you're looking for a quick and healthy lentil salad recipe, this one's for you!
Lentils are a big part of the Spanish diet, and Spanish lentil stew is one of our most common lunchtime meals. But no one wants a bowl of piping hot lentils in the middle of Spanish summer! No worries, lentil salad to the rescue.
Lentil salad has become very popular in recent years in Spain, as healthy eating and salad culture is growing. It used to be the only salad you'd find in most Spanish restaurants was the classic ensalada mixta, but these days that's changing.
You'll find this lentil salad offered on many fixed price lunch menus (called menús del día) around Spain.
What I love about this lentil salad recipe is that it captures a lot of the flavors of Spain in one dish -- paprika, lemon, garlic, cumin, sea salt... and it's also super quick and easy to make. I like to prepare a big bowl and eat it for lunch a couple times a week.
Key Ingredients for Salad: Lentils, onion, cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, parsley, olive, bay leaf.
Key Ingredients for Dressing: Lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, garlic, olive oil.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
- Lentils: You can use the lentil of your choice, but ideally one that holds its shape and doesn't get too mushy. Here in Spain, I love to use the pardina lentil (a delicious small brown lentil), but black beluga lentils and green lentils are also delicious. Here's a great guide to lentils with more info and cook times.
- Vegetables: This lentil salad uses classic Spanish veggies: red pepper, cucumber, onion, and carrot. You can add or subtract veggies as you wish, but I encourage you to try this version first -- it's a great balance of flavor and crunch!
- Paprika: One of the classic Spanish flavors in this salad is paprika, specifically smoked Spanish paprika called pimentón. This is a unique flavor and I recommend you try to find or order this spice when cooking Spanish food. If located in the US you can order from La Tienda.
- Garlic: The raw garlic in the dressing is fairly mild and really gives the salad a kick. But if you prefer you can omit it and add a tablespoon of mustard in its place for texture and creaminess.
Spanish Lentil Salad: Step by Step
Steps 1-2: Start by covering the lentils with a couple of inches of water. Throw in the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover and cook according to package instructions (I recommend starting to taste at the 15 minute mark so that they don't overcook).
Steps 3-4: While the lentils cook, chop all of your vegetables and add to a large serving bowl. When the lentils are cooked, strain and rinse under cold water. Add to the salad. In a separate bowl whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.
Step 5: Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and mix well.
Step 6: Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust if necessary. Enjoy immediately or keep in the fridge for up to four days.
Recipe Tips & FAQs
No. You'll have to cook lentils from scratch for this salad. Canned or jarred lentils will be too mushy.
Each lentil's cook time varies, and you'll want to cook your lentils al dente (firm to the bite) so that they're a nice texture for salad. Check your package for instructions, but taste them starting at the 15 minute mark no matter what -- I find they often cook faster than the package says.
This salad lasts four days in the refrigerator.
A heaping plate of this lentil salad is more than enough for a vegetarian-friendly meal. But if you'd like to add some extra calories and protein, you can top with grilled chicken, salmon, hard-boiled egg, or feta cheese.
I love to eat this salad for lunch, just as it is. If I'm super hungry I might add one of the toppings mentioned above (grilled chicken, salmon, hard-boiled eggs, or feta cheese).
More Spanish Salad Recipes
If you like this lentil salad, don't miss these other salad recipes.
- Marinated Carrot Salad: Simple and delicious, this Andalusian carrot salad is one of my summer favorites.
- Avocado and Tuna Salad: This filling Spanish salad is enough for a full meal.
- Spanish Winter Salad: Red cabbage, orange, and pomegranate combine in this winter salad.
Lentil Salad Recipe
For the Salad
- 1 cup dry lentils brown lentils, green lentils, and black lentils all work well.
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup carrots finely diced. (About two medium carrots).
- ½ cup red bell pepper finely diced. (About half a large bell pepper).
- ½ cup onion finely diced. (About half of a small onion. You can use a sweet white onion or a red onion).
- ½ cup cucumber deseeded and finely diced. (About one medium cucumber).
- ¼ cup parsley minced.
For the Dressing
- 1 clove garlic minced.
- 4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (The juice of about two lemons).
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (You can sub red wine vinegar if necessary).
- 2 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce).
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (more to taste).
- salt (to taste).
- Put the dry lentils and bay leaf into a pot and cover with two inches of water.
- Bring the lentils to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cover. Cook according to package instructions (usually for 15-25 minutes) until al dente (cooked through but still firm to the bite). Start tasting around the 15-minute mark so that you don't overcook.
- While the lentils are cooking, prepare the vegetables by dicing everything into small and even pieces. Put everything into a large serving bowl.
- To prepare the dressing, combine the cumin, paprika, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, lemon zest, and minced garlic in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- When the lentils are tender but not mushy, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Make sure they're well-drained so that the salad isn't watered down.
- Add the lentils to the large salad bowl with the rest of the vegetables. Mix everything together and pour on the dressing. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Enjoy immediately or keep in the fridge for up to four days.
- You can use the lentil of your choice, but it should be one that holds its shape and doesn't get too mushy. Brown, black, and green lentils work well. You cannot use canned lentils, they will be too mushy.
- Make sure to cook the lentils until al dente (tender, but not mushy).
- Feel free to substitute different veggies if needed.
- Try to get smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce) -- it has a great, unique flavor.
- You can prepare this salad in advance (it tastes even better after marinating for a couple of hours) and it will last up to four days in the fridge.
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