I adore lentils. They’re highly nutritious, incredibly versatile and super economical. Not to mention, those flying saucer-shaped orbs are awfully cute. As proof of my fondness for these edible pulses, there are over 30 lentil recipes on Urban Cottage Life and the number keeps going up. The latest addition to the roster is this Lentil & Feta Summer Salad, which I first created and wrote about in 2017.
Lentil & Feta Summer Salad
I got the inspiration for this salad from the blog Simple Bites, where Aimee showed a photo of a lentil and feta salad that someone brought to one of her parties. I don’t know what else was in it, but seeing the picture not only reminded me that it was too long since I’d made lentil salad, but got me thinking about combining cheese with lentils. It so happens I had a ridiculously large container of feta in the fridge (oh, Costco), so it seemed like a good idea to use it in this salad. And even though lentils are high in protein, a little more never hurts, right?
The rest of the salad is a celebration of summer’s bounty: yellow zucchini, multi-coloured mini tomatoes, red bell pepper, and purplish red onion. I also used parsley here, not as a garnish, but as a main ingredient. Such a medley of colour! There was so much flavour in the salad that only the simplest of dressings was needed: a generous amount of lemon juice with olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper.
I made this salad with brown lentils, but you can use any kind here except for red. Red lentils are split and don’t have a seed coat, so they break down (by which I mean get mushy) quickly. They’re great in soups and stews, but in a salad? Not so much.
Did you know lentils are very easy to cook and they don’t need to be soaked first like other dry legumes? You can make a batch in 15 to 20 minutes and keep it in the fridge for up to a week. I even store them in the freezer sometimes. If you don’t have any on hand (like me when I made this salad) just pick over and rinse dry lentils, put them in a pot and add enough water to cover them by a good inch or so (that’s about three cups of water for each cup of lentils). You can leave them plain, or infuse them with flavour by adding onion, garlic and/or herbs. Bring them to a boil, then simmer covered until tender. I start checking mine after about 12 minutes, looking for a bite that’s tender through the centre, not too firm and not mushy — it’s a bit like cooking spaghetti.
One cup of dry lentils yields two to three times its volume when cooked; the brown lentils I used here gave me three cups once ready. To be on the safe side, count on a new batch of dry lentils doubling in volume and store any extra.
Once the lentils are done, I drain them in a fine mesh colander. I wanted these to cool fast, so I spread them out on a large baking sheet on a rack so they could release their heat while I got on with prepping the rest of the ingredients. Popping them in the fridge once they’re no longer hot cools them even faster (now there’s an obvious statement).
Tip: You can freeze the lentil cooking liquid to use later as a nutritious base for soups.
Think Lentils, Think Canada!
Did you know that Canada is the world’s largest export producer of lentils? Our largest lentil growing area is the province of Saskatchewan, just in case you thought the prairies only produce wheat. For everything you’ve ever wanted to know about lentils, and more, visit Canadian Lentils. (By the way, this is not a sponsored post.)
Back to this Lentil & Feta Summer Salad
Lentil & Feta Summer Salad is colourful and fresh with a pleasing range of textures from chewy to crunchy, vegetal freshness and vibrant flavour. It’s big, so it would be a great offering for a potluck once we can safely gather with friends around the table again. And it makes an easy, nutritious and satisfying one-dish dinner. Yes, I went back for seconds!
This vibrant and nourishing salad is a meal on its own, perfect in hot summer weather. I wouldn't keep it in the fridge more than a day, for maximum flavour and freshness. The 20-minute prep time reflects using pre-cooked or canned lentils, but you can also cook and cool them while you're prepping the other ingredients.
- 3 cups cooked or canned brown, green or black lentils, cold or cooled (yield from 1 to 1.5 cups dry lentils)
- 1 yellow zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
- 2 handfuls miniature tomaoes, halved or quartered if larger
- 1 generous cup chopped parsley
- about 170 g feta cheese, cubed
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 to 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss well, then taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
Looking for More Summer Salad Ideas?
Here are some more salads that take advantage of produce at the peak of summer freshness: Southwest Shaved Cauliflower Salad, Green and Yellow Bean Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, and Watermelon Feta Salad with Lime Honey Dressing.
First published 2017 July
Republished 2019 07 13
Republished 2020 08 26