French lentil salad with beets, baby spinach and feta cheese is a nourishing healthy winter salad recipe, naturally gluten-free and easy to make. This plant-based recipe is perfect for Meatless Monday!
Lentils and beets count among my favorite foods on Earth (well ok, after chocolate). But really I do love lentils and I love beets equally. So when the two of them come along together in one single recipe, it’s just a dream come true for me. This beet lentil salad recipe makes an easy vegetarian lunch recipe for busy days: it is colorful, full of earthy flavors and super healthy.
It’s a French-inspired recipe in the sense that I use Le Puy green lentils for this recipe. Le Puy green lentil is a small, mottled, slate-gray/green lentil. They typically come from the Auvergne region in France and are praised for their unique peppery flavor and the ability to retain their shape after cooking.
How to cook lentils perfectly?
When you make a lentil salad recipe, the texture of lentils is key. You want them firm enough so they can hold their shape, fork tender but not mushy. To make sure you cook lentils perfectly every single time, you have just a few steps to keep in mind:
- Rinse lentils with cold water and drain in a colander.
- Place in a medium saucepan and cover with COLD water, with a 1 for 3 ratio (for 1 cup lentils, use 3 cups cold water).
- Don’t salt the cooking water or lentils risk to harden while cooking.
- Cook for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.
Note that some people have difficulties to digest legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, etc. If you are one of them, you can immerse lentils in boiling water, then drain the lentils and cook according to the instructions above.
Alternative ingredients for this lentil salad
This lentil salad recipe is just delicious on its own, with just the right amount of everything. That being said, and as for many salad recipes, you can easily add a few tricks and adapt it your own way, depending on the ingredients you have at hands.
Here are a few ideas to replace some of the ingredients or improve your salad with a few add-ons:
- French lentils – I use Le Puy lentils or green lentils for this recipe, but you could also go for brown lentils (beluga lentils). Just avoid red lentils, that are not great for salad recipes as they tend to become mushy.
- Baby spinach – Basically, any baby leave salad would do: baby kale, mixed greens, arugula salad, mâche… Just go for your favorite ones.
- Feta cheese – Note that you can find cow or sheep milk feta cheese. I also like to replace it with fresh goat cheese, sprinkled on top of the salad. Go crazy and improve your salad with some delicious burrata cheese if you’d like it too.
- Shallots – Some people do not like the taste of shallots ; if it’s your case just don’t use any in the recipe and maybe add a little bit of minced garlic to the vinaigrette instead. If however you like shallots but have a hard time finding them, go for 1/4 minced red onion instead.
A few add-ons ideas – I like to complete this lentil salad with sliced avocado, which makes it more wholesome or nourishing in my opinion. Feel free to add some pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, pistachios or walnuts instead!
Make it vegan! To make this lentil salad vegan, just skip the feta cheese. Instead, you can use black olives or capers, that are salty like feta.
What to serve with lentil salad?
This lentil salad recipe can be served a starter to a 3-course meal, as a side, and also makes a great and wholesome vegetarian lunch. Packed with plant-based protein and naturally gluten-free, you can serve it on its own.
If you are not gluten-free or vegetarian, complete with a slice of bread, like French do, and add a few slices of smoked salmon on top. You can also serve along with pita bread and hummus if you would like a more nourishing dish.
More healthy vegetarian salad recipe ideas:
- Nourishing Buddha Bowl with Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas
- Lentil Salad with Pears and Blue Cheese
- Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Raspberry and Feta
- Burrata Salad with Strawberries and Mint Pesto
- Quinoa Mason Jar Salad with Dried Apricots and Feta Cheese
- Balsamic Strawberry and Feta Quinoa Salad
French lentil salad with beets, baby spinach and feta cheese is a nourishing healthy winter salad recipe, naturally gluten-free and easy to make!
For the French lentil salad:
- 1 cup (150g) French or green lentils, dried (about 2 cups cooked)
- 2 small beets, steamed or roasted, peeled, and quartered
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces (about 100g) baby spinach
- 5.3 ounces (150g) feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 avocado, peeled, stoned and sliced
- 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
For the honey apple cider vinaigrette:
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon herbes de provence (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Rinse lentils, then pour into a saucepan. Cover with triple the volume of cold water and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until tender but not mush. Drain under cold water and set aside.
- Steam or cook beets in boiling water until tender, or alternatively wrap them in foil and roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes at 400°F (200°C), until cooked through. Once they’re cool enough to handle, peel off skin and cut into quarters.
- Whisk all the ingredients of the vinaigrette in a small bowl.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix lentils with baby spinach, beets, shallots, and crumbled feta cheese. Toss with the vinaigrette. Transfer to a large serving plate, and add sliced avocado just before serving, sprinkle with sesame seeds if using, and enjoy!
Keywords: French lentil salad