Warm Lentil Salad with Balsamic Mushrooms and Creamy Garlic Dressing. This nourishing meal is filled with protein and fiber, and vegan-friendly.
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.
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!)
- 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 1: Prepare Creamy Garlic Dressing
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
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
Add lentils, balsamic vinegar, salt, and black pepper; cook 2 more minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
Step 4: Assemble Salad
Spoon lentil and mushroom mixture over your favorite greens, spoon dressing overtop, and dig in!
- 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.
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:
- Soup: This Creamy Tomato Soup makes a fantastic lunch pairing.
- Roasted Veggies: Keep with the Mediterranean theme and prepare these incredible Harissa Roasted Carrots with Tahini Sauce.
- Grilled Eggplant: Lentils and eggplant were just made for one another. Try this epic Grilled Eggplant dish for a standout side dish.
- 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.
More Lentil Recipes to Try:
Warm Balsamic Mushroom and Lentil Salad
- Large skillet
- Mixing bowl
- 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
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ cups cooked brown or green lentils (canned or cooked from dry)
- ½ 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
- 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.
- 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.