Warm Balsamic Mushroom and Lentil Salad

5 from 11 votes
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Warm Lentil Salad with Balsamic Mushrooms and Creamy Garlic Dressing. This nourishing meal is filled with protein and fiber, and vegan-friendly.

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Warm lentil salad served over arugula in a grey bowl.

My love for a lentil salad knows no bounds. 

This affordable pantry staple is a mainstay in my diet, especially during fall and winter months.

Lentils are incredibly versatile and nutrient-rich. I love making these Stewed Lentils with Feta and Mediterranean Lentil Salad when I’m craving them.

In this salad, fiber-rich lentils pair up with balsamic mushrooms, shallots, and greens to create a dynamite lunch. Add a creamy garlic dressing to the mix and it’s a powerhouse of ingredients.

In addition to being flavorful and nourishing, this warm lentil salad also:

  • Makes a great meal prep contender.
  • Is a great incorporate more meatless meals.
  • Budget-friendly and versatile.

How to Make Warm Lentil Salad:

If you use precooked (or canned) lentils, this meal comes together in right around 30 minutes.

You also don’t have to worry about breaking out a food processor or blender for the dressing.

(MAJOR win in my book!)

The Ingredients

Recipe ingredients in separate bowls arranged on a wooden serving platter.
  • Mushrooms: I suggest a mix of mushrooms, such as cremini and shiitake. Cremini are easier to find, however shiitakes lend more meatiness and umami to the salad.
  • Lentils: Lentils are fiber and protein powerhouses. They are an excellent swap for meat in vegetarian and vegan cooking, because they make dishes extra hearty and satisfying. Plus, they’re budget friendly, and keep for a while.
  • Shallots: You need 1 medium shallot, which you can swap for yellow or sweet onion.
  • Balsamic: Use a good quality balsamic vinegar, as it’s one of the main flavor agents of the dish.
  • Cashew Butter: Mild, creamy, and with a mellow sweetness, cashew butter adds rich creaminess to the dressing.
  • Lemon Juice: For brightness and acidity.
  • Garlic: It’s important to use fresh garlic here, as it packs a bigger punch than dried. Either grate the garlic on a microplane, or very finely mince it.
  • Olive Oil: This salad uses a fair amount of extra-virgin olive oil, which is a great source of heart-healthy fats.
  • Parmesan: If making the salad vegan/dairy free, nutritional yeast also works great!
  • Greens: I love serving the mushroom and lentil mixture over a crisp bed of arugula. Alternatively, mixed greens, spinach, or kale also work.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prepare Creamy Garlic Dressing

Creamy garlic dressing being whisked in an orange bowl.

In a medium bowl, combine cashew butter, olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, garlic, and salt; stir to combine. Gradually whisk in water in 1 Tablespoon increments until smooth and creamy.

Step 2: Sauté Mushrooms and Shallots

Shallots and mushrooms being sautéed in a cast iron skillet.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Add shallots and thyme; continue cooking until soft.

Step 3: Add Lentils and Balsamic

Balsamic mushrooms and lentils being mixed in a black skillet.

Add lentils, balsamic vinegar, salt, and black pepper; cook 2 more minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.

Step 4: Assemble Salad

Warm balsamic and lentil mixture being served over arugula and topped with garlic dressing.

Spoon lentil and mushroom mixture over your favorite greens, spoon dressing overtop, and dig in!

Recipe Variations:

  • Add Cheese: I love a nutty, hard cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese. Alternatively, a soft, creamy cheese, such as goat cheese, would also be delicious.
  • Add Olives: Ideally, a buttery green olive, such as Castelvetrano.
  • Use Different Herbs: If you don’t have any fresh thyme on hand, parsley and/or dill will also work well.
  • Add some Heat: For a kick of smoky spice, I love adding some Calabrian chiles to the mix. Chopped up pepperoncini peppers are also a great addition!
  • Use Different Veggies: If you’re not a mushroom lover, eggplant also works well in this recipe.

Serving Suggestions:

This warm lentil salad is hearty enough to enjoy on its own, yet versatile enough to pair with other dishes. Here are some of my favorite pairings: 

Storage Tips:

  • To Store. Once assembled, this salad is best enjoyed fresh. However, the mushroom and lentil mixture can be stored separately for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. You may enjoy leftover lentil salad cold or at room temperature. You may also warm the mushroom and lentil mixture in the microwave before serving it over fresh arugula.
A fork digging into a bowl of warm lentil salad.

More Lentil Recipes to Try:

If you give this recipe a try, be sure to snap a picture and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!

5 from 11 votes

Warm Balsamic Mushroom and Lentil Salad

Warm Lentil Salad with Balsamic Mushrooms and Creamy Garlic Dressing. This nourishing meal is filled with protein and fiber, and vegan-friendly.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • Large skillet
  • Mixing bowl

Ingredients  

  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 oz. mixed mushrooms (I use 8 oz. cremini and 4 oz. shiitake), sliced or torn
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown or green lentils (canned or cooked from dry)
  • 1/2 tsp. each sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast if making vegan)
  • Arugula, spinach, or mixed greens for serving (about 2 cups per salad)

Creamy Garlic Dressing

  • 3 Tbsp. creamy cashew butter
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. grated garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • sea salt to taste
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Instructions 

  • Prepare Creamy Garlic Dressing:
    In a medium bowl, combine cashew butter, olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, garlic, and a pinch of sea salt; stir to combine. Gradually whisk in water in 1 Tablespoon increments until smooth and creamy. Taste and season with additional salt, if needed. Set aside.
  • Prepare Mushroom and Lentil Mixture:
    Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add shallots and thyme, toss to combine, and continue cooking until mushrooms are golden and shallots are soft, about 5 to 7 more minutes.
    Add additional 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, along with balsamic vinegar, lentils, salt, and black pepper; cook 2 more minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
  • Assemble Salads:
    Arrange greens in a serving bowl and spoon lentil and mushroom mixture overtop. Drizzle with dressing and garnish with additional Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast) and cracked black pepper, if desired.

Notes

  • To Store. Once assembled, this salad is best enjoyed the day fresh. However the mushroom and lentil mixture can be stored separately for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Enjoy leftover salad cold or at room temperature. You may also warm the mushroom and lentil mixture in the microwave before serving it over fresh arugula.

Nutrition

Serving: 1salad | Calories: 385kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 1.5g | Sodium: 700mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 6g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

If you love this recipe, please leave a star rating and review below!
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Recipe Rating




12 Comments

  1. sz says:

    5 stars
    I used tahini in the dressing and wholegrain mustard as that’s what I had in cupboard. lovely.
    I added leftover red cabbage and cooked it with the shallot etc instead of salad leaves and missed out the parmesan. tasty.

  2. Kami Williamson says:

    5 stars
    Ok, I have made this salad many times- I love it!
    curious though for someone who doesn’t like mushrooms what would you recommend as a sub here?

  3. Pia says:

    5 stars
    Delicious!!! I had to use tahini and it was great, I will try it with the cashew butter

  4. Nicole says:

    5 stars
    Okay, wow. I expected to like this dish, but ended up LOVING it. I might have overcooked it or stirred everything together too vigorously because it kind of ended up being brown mush, but it is the most delicious brown mush ever. And the creamy garlic dressing is perfection. Excellent flavors and textures and it came together quickly.

  5. Karen Mulligan says:

    5 stars
    Another fabulous vegetarian recipe of yours!! The balance of flavors was perfect, and I very much enjoyed the heartiness of it all.

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi Karen – I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!

  6. Kris says:

    This was fun to make and very delicious! I did not have cashew butter on hand, so I used 2T almond butter and 1T tahini, instead. The substitutions worked well with the creamy garlic dressing recipe.

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi, Kris! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for providing substitutions ideas for the dressing.

  7. Heather says:

    What can you sub for those with nut allergies?

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi Heather – you can use tahini in the dressing instead! However you may want to add a touch of maple syrup to balance out the bitterness. Enjoy!

  8. jacquie says:

    this looks delicious. Do you have a brand of cashew butter that you like and works well in a dressing? the ones i have tried have been fairly thick and i’m not sure they would work. Thanks.

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi Jacquie – I really love the cashew butter that’s sold in the bulk bin section at Sprouts! If you happen to have one of those nearby, it’s the creamiest of all the jarred brands I’ve tried. If not, Artisana Organics also makes a great one.