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Lemony Lentil Salad

This Lemony Lentil Salad has a bright citrus dressing and is full of crunchy vegetables and fresh herbs! It’s perfect when packed for lunch or a picnic. Vegan and gluten-free!

overhead shot of lemony lentil salad with spoons

I hesitated with the title of this post but recently learned that “lemony” is a real word. Good thing, as it’s fairly evocative of today’s recipe!

So, what is lemony lentil salad?

Lentil salad was a summer staple in my house growing up, for good reason. Lentils are very nutrient dense and all of the flavors in this salad get better as they sit. It holds up well in the fridge and is the perfect picnic lunch. In this recipe, bright lemon pairs beautifully with flavorful herbs, olive oil, cucumbers and tomatoes to create a healthy, packable, and refreshing summer salad that’s totally plant-based. If you skip dairy feta, this salad also will last when sitting outside at a picnic or potluck meal for a summer holiday.

Do you love lentils? Be sure to check out my roundup post of 21 High Protein Vegan Recipes with Lentils or this recipe for Walnut Lentil Taco Meat!

bowl of lemons on a brick table next to a tree

Lentil FAQ

How do I cook brown lentils for salad?

To prepare brown (or green) lentils for use in a salad, add 1 cup lentils to a medium pot with 2.5 cups water and a pinch of salt. Add any aromatics if using, bring the mixture to a boil, and cook uncovered over medium-low heat until all water is absorbed (about 15-25 minutes).

Can green lentils be substituted for brown lentils in recipes?

Yes; some people find that green lentils take longer to cook but in reality it’s right around 20 minutes (just like brown lentils). Do not substitute red lentils for brown or green as these have a much faster cooking time. Brown and green lentils are the most commonly found lentils in most stores.

Can you freeze lentil salad?

No, this is not recommended as many ingredients in lentil salad (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and red pepper) are high in water content and thus will not hold after thawing. To prep this recipe ahead, prepare each individual component or use store-bought ingredients.

overhead shot of lentils, cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs in a red bowl for lemony lentil salad

How to Customize this Recipe (Or Save Time)

There are a few tricks that really take this recipe from good to great.

  • Instead of adding seasonings after cooking, we boil the aromatics (lemon peel, whole garlic, and bay leaves), right alongside the lentils in the pot. Feel free to skip any of these if you do not have them on hand! The dressing itself is still very flavorful.
  • To save time, pre-made lentils would be a useful option (Trader Joe’s sells some).
  • To add variety to your herb selections, feel free to mix in some chopped mint and basil alongside the parsley. Beware that they herbs are very delicate and can bruise easily, so you may not want to add those if you’re making this far in advance. Conversely, an addition of sliced kale would hold up very well.
  • The lemon herb dressing can be made a few days in advance and just stored in the fridge until you are ready.

Lemon Herb Dressing Details

The dressing is what really helps bring these flavors together. The best news is, it comes together in about a minute and can be made ahead! To prepare, add 2 tsp lemon zest, 3 TBS fresh lemon juice, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 grated garlic cloves, 1 tsp dried thyme, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper to a medium sealable jar. Shake to combine, and then pour over salad ingredients once they’re prepared.

garlic lemon dressing being poured onto lemony lentil salad

I hope you enjoy this Lemony Lentil Salad recipe! Please leave a comment and a rating if you give it a try, I always love hearing your thoughts.

More Picnic-Friendly Salad Recipes

Peach and Tomato Caprese Salad

Creamy Pesto Potato Salad

Crisp Sesame Cucumber Salad

Strawberry Quinoa Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

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overhead shot of lemony lentil salad with spoons

Lemony Lentil Salad

  • Author: Emily
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


This Lemony Lentil Salad has a bright citrus dressing and is full of crunchy vegetables and fresh herbs! It’s perfect when packed for lunch or a picnic. Vegan and gluten-free!



For salad base:

  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 2 and 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
  • 2 inches of lemon peel
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large cucumber, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 2 large bunches parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese of choice (dairy-free as needed, see note to make your own vegan feta)

For Lemon Herb Dressing:

  • 2 tsp lemon zest, from one organic lemon (see this tutorial for how to zest)
  • 3 TBS fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 of that first lemon)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated 
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (or oregano, or both)
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper


  1. Rinse lentils in a fine mesh strainer. In a medium pot, bring water and lentils to a boil along with garlic, lemon peel, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Turn heat down to medium low and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until water is absorbed. Be sure to check at the 15 min mark (you don’t want lentils to get mushy). Stir a few times so they do not stick to the pan.
  2. Remove lentils from stove and using a spoon, pick out bay leaves, larger garlic pieces, and lemon peel. Add lentils to a large bowl along with tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, and parsley.
  3. Prepare dressing by adding all ingredients into a sealable jar and shake until incorporated. Drizzle dressing over lentil/veggie mixture and stir to coat. If using feta, crumble on top of the salad. 
  4. Store lentil salad covered, in the fridge, for 4-5 days. 


If you’d like to make almond feta, you will need 1/2 cup blanched almonds, 1 and 1/2 TBS lemon juice, 1 TBS olive oil, 1/2 TBS nutritional yeast, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk. 

To prepare almond feta: Soak the almonds in water overnight, or in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain and blend with lemon juice, olive oil, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, and almond milk. Let blend until no large nut pieces remain. Pour mixture into a cheese cloth or thin towel and squeeze out excess moisture. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a baking sheet. Drop cheese onto sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and firm. Remove from oven and let cool. 

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean


  • Serving Size: One sixth of recipe
  • Calories: 234 grams
  • Sugar: 3.3 grams
  • Sodium: 224.2 milligrams
  • Fat: 12.7 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 1.8 grams
  • Unsaturated Fat: 10.9 grams
  • Trans Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 23.6 grams
  • Fiber: 7.5 grams
  • Protein: 9.4 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams

Keywords: lentil, salad, picnic

Portrait of Emily Meyers, founder of Garlic Head

About the Author

Emily (Frigon) Meyers is the founder of Garlic Head, a plant-based recipe website for all eaters who want to easily, affordably, and sustainably incorporate more vegetables into their diets while saving time and money. She is a lifelong vegetarian and 10+ year vegan. Garlic Head does not focus on labels - it focuses on creating food that everyone can enjoy.

Emily earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University along with degrees in Economics, Spanish, and Global Sustainability from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been featured on numerous podcasts and websites including The Food Institute, VegNews, Buzzfeed, and the Boston Globe.

Meet Emily here.

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