This is a cold lentil cilantro salad recipe perfect for summer. The fresh lemon ginger dressing, awesome spices like turmeric and herbs like cilantro make the salad extra-delicious.
About the recipe
This is my version of the lentil cilantro salad recipe with an Indian spice twist, that makes it the first of its kind! The secret lies in the recipe for salad dressing that is so easy and takes 2 minutes to make.
Most of the ingredients in the salad dressing like ginger, lemon and turmeric (like turmeric ginger tea) suggest that this recipe for lentil salad is good for detox, but you fun-food-loving people need not get threatened by them. It just HAPPENS to be so HEALTHY and TASTY!
Though you have tons of Indian recipes with dal/ yellow lentils, this salad is one of the best summer lentil recipes because it is
- full of nutrition and so you can easily make a meal out of it. It also tastes great as a nutritious side dish for tandoori chicken, fish cakes or salmon kebabs.
- quick and easy to make. It is perfect for lunch box or as a potluck salad.
- contains all-natural healthy ingredients– lentils, ginger, turmeric, olive oil and any of your favorite salad vegetables or even fruits.
- NEVER becomes soggy since the lentils soak up all the juices.
- throw-in-any-veggie-from-the-fridge kind of salad (that helps you clear the fridge!)
- a summer salad that can be made ahead of time so you can keep eating it throughout the week.
So, first things first, the ingredient that makes a WORLD of difference to this lentil salad is the chaat masala that we add to the dressing as the main spice. Chaat masala is an Indian spice mix made of spices like ground coriander, cumin, dried mango powder, dried ginger and chili powder. It is used predominantly in Indian vegetarian recipes like paneer tikka and Indian street food like chaats and paneer rolls. This is what gives the easy Indian chickpea salad its characteristic flavor.
Though making this salad and ginger lemon dressing is quite straightforward, you’ll need some tips to get it right EVERY SINGLE TIME.
What lentils to use for salad
Yellow lentils (chana dal aka Bengal gram) are perfect for salad since they have a nutty flavor and hold their shape well. That doesn’t mean you can’t use other lentils like green lentils or even red lentils. You just have to take note of the cooking time. You can see examples of these salads in a few minutes.
How to cook lentils for salad
DO NOT cook lentils in the pressure cooker. They almost always turn mushy. I’m saying this because it is common practice to pressure-cook lentils for curries like dal with spinach. For the salad, use a deep pot to cook the lentils. Cook the lentils with turmeric and salt.
You’ll love the bright yellow-colored lentils, but don’t snack on them. Not yet. The best is yet to come.
How long to cook lentils
The cooking time depends on the quantity and type of lentils. For this recipe, I have used 1/2 cup of yellow lentils and it takes about 20 (if you want the lentils firm) to 25 minutes (soft). Green lentils take almost the same time.
If you like softer lentils, go for Mung dal (split, skinned mung beans) or masoor dal (red lentils). For 1/2 cup, the cooking time is about 5 to 6 minutes. Anything more than that, you will end up with mushy lentils that are great for soups and curries, but not for salad.
Vegetables for lentil cilantro salad
Once you cook the lentils right and make the lemon ginger dressing with chaat masala, the rest is flexible. Add whatever salad vegetables or fruits and herbs you have in your fridge – onion, carrot, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, apple, capsicum/ bell pepper, etc.
Here I’ve added onions (don’t like the ‘bite’ in raw onions? Check out the veggie pasta salad on how to get “instant-pickled” onions), cherry tomatoes, bell peppers/ capsicum and cilantro/coriander leaves.
No vegetables in the fridge? Add the dressing to the cooked warm lentils, sprinkle some dried herbs and use as a filling for tacos or wraps. Or go wild and replace the paneer filling with this “lentil filling” in the paneer rolls. But call them lentil rolls 🙂
Btw, green mango and chaat masala is a terrific combination! Can’t find green mango? Green apple can be the closest substitute.
The red lentil salad above, I made the week before, with green mango, cucumber and tomatoes. I cooked it for 6 minutes and it was soft already. But did you know that softer the lentils, the more dressing and flavor they soak up?
So, I’m still unable to decide which one tasted better. Can you? When you make this salad, please let me know which lentils and vegetables you used. I would love to hear how it turned out for you.
Lemon-ginger salad dressing
Chaat masala, grated ginger, chili flakes, olive oil, lemon juice and honey are all you need for this simple salad dressing recipe. Shake up the dressing and drizzle on the lentils while still warm. The vegetables can be added after it cools down.
Tips to make the best lentil cilantro salad
Cook lentils with turmeric and salt to get the best flavor and nutrition.
Add the lemon ginger dressing while the lentils are still warm. This helps the lentils absorb the flavors of the dressing.
What to serve with summer fresh lentil salad
There are tons of options to serve the lentil salad. Here are a few examples:
Use as a filling for rotis or wraps and make a meal out of it.
With Papads or chips to scoop it up as a snack or appetizer.
As a side with lemon rice or any flavored rice.
Make ahead option
This lentil salad keeps well in the fridge for 2 days, but vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber or lettuce should be added only before serving, since they will make the salad soggy.
As for freezing, cooked lentils can be frozen with the salad dressing, but it is better to store vegetables separately.
Check out my other salad recipes:
Looking for more salads?
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