Summer lentil cilantro salad with turmeric

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.

closeup view of summer turmeric lentil salad on a white plate.

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 🙂

yellow lentil salad on a white plate with a spoon in it.

I made this lentil salad last week with carrots, green mango (one of my favorites), cucumber and cilantro. I’m not done with green mango yet. Mango chutney, paneer rolls and now, this lentil salad!

Btw, green mango and chaat masala is a terrific combination! Can’t find green mango? Green apple can be the closest substitute.

red lentil salad in a glass bowl.

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.

Serve with salmon kabobs or oven-baked chicken drumsticks.

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:

veggie pasta salad with balsamic dressing

pomegranate salad with mango and coconut

pasta salad with mint yogurt dressing

Looking for more salads?

vibrant turmeric lentil salad on a white plate

Summer lentil salad recipe with cilantro and turmeric

This is a cold lentil salad recipe perfect for summer. The fresh lemon ginger dressing with awesome spices like turmeric and herbs like cilantro make the salad extra-delicious.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 212 kcal

Ingredients
  

Lentils

  • 1/2 cup dried yellow lentils or green lentils see note 1 for other lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Salad dressing

  • 1 tablespoon ginger grated
  • 1 tablespoon chaat masala
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups salad vegetables, shredded/ sliced (note 2)
  • cilantro/ corinder leaves a handful

Instructions
 

  • Place the lentils in a deep pot with water, turmeric and salt. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes (for firm) or 25 minutes (for soft lentils).
  • Mix all ingredients for the lemon ginger dressing in a jar and shake well.
  • Slice/ chop/ shred the vegetables while the lentils are cooking.
  • Once the lentils are cooked, drain in a colander and place in the salad bowl. Drizzle ginger lemon dressing on the lentils while they are still warm. Mix well.
  • Add the vegetables and serve. Or chill and serve cold.
    If making ahead, do not add lettuce, cucumber or tomato. Add these vegetables just before serving to avoid the salad becoming soggy.

Video

Notes

Lentil salad ideas

  1. Mung lentils (split, deskinned mung) or red lentils may also be used but adjust the cook time and keep a close watch. Both these lentils cook within 6 minutes of simmering. (after boiling)
  2. 1 1/2 cups of any salad vegetables or fruits can be used for this lentil salad- onions, carrots, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, capsicum/ bell peppers, apples, cucumber, green mango, etc.
  3. Ensure that you add the dressing while the lentils are still warm, so they absorb the flavors better.
  4. SERVE THIS SALAD WARM: These lentils with ginger lemon dressing can be served warm (without the vegetables) as snack/ appetizer using papads or rotis to scoop up. In this case, adjust the quantity of dressing accordingly.
  5. SERVE IT AS FILLING for tacos and wraps.
 
Summer lentil cilantro salad with turmeric
Keyword Indian lentil salad, lentil cilantro salad, lentil salad ideas, red lentil salad, summer lentil salad, vegan lentil salad, yellow lentil salad

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Thank you and happy cooking!

– Sheeba.

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