Best-Ever Lentil Salad ♥

Best-Ever Lentil Salad with an unusual cooking technique ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 By all rights, I should call this recipe One Turnip + One Onion & Six Cloves = The Best-Ever Lentil Salad. But that's kinda long so let's just go with Best-Ever Lentil Salad, the one I've been obsessing over for a couple of months now. Served either warm or cold, it's Vegan and Gluten Free and Weight Watchers Friendly and High Protein and (naturally!) OhSoGood. graphic button small size size 10

So let's talk new-to-us cooking techniques. Who else keeps their eyes peeled for new cooking methods while perusing new cookbooks or diving into promising-looking recipes? You have to stay focused but upon discovery, at least with me, it's either:

graphic button small size size 10 Why didn't I think of that?! (followed by by a head thump) or
graphic button small size size 10 How'd someone ever come up with THAT? (with a sense of incredulity)

Definitely #2, the idea to add a turnip and a clove-studded onion to cook a big pot of lentils. Ina Garten credits a friend, me I credit sheer genius. Story goes, Ina was never keen on lentil salads until a friend mentioned cooking the lentils with a turnip. There's probably some chemistry explanation for what a turnip does to lentils but I'm going with NO.IDEA. Onion and clove are a different story, their addition is subtle, but that savory touch of allium, that teensy-weensy bit of clove is spot-on perfect. (Yes, observant readers, I'm still on an "Cooking for Jeffrey" kick, a la Roasted Applesauce with Raspberries and Celebration Salad.)

Best-Ever Lentil Salad with an unusual cooking technique ♥ A Veggie Venture
Best-Ever Lentil Salad has been a staple since Christmas. I mix another batch every time the jar scrapes empty, just like every few days I make bread (recipe coming soon!) and a big pot of creamy oatmeal.

Just-made and still warm, the salad is sensual and seductive, there's no getting enough, no keeping my spoon out of the bowl. Chilled, it goes great alongside morning eggs (I keep meaning to put a runny egg on top, ohhhhh my) or dropped into a cheese tortilla for lunch. It's easy to keep on hand, endlessly easy to use up.

I already have a few lentil salad recipes that are really good, you might too. If so, try the turnip and clove-studded onion technique on your own recipe. Otherwise? Make this your recipe, it's from me, thanks to Ina and her turnip-genius friend.


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 7 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white and light-green parts, cut in half moons (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
16 ounces (450g, about 2 1/4 cups) French lentils, rinsed and drained
1 small turnip, ends trimmed
1 small onion, ends trimmed, onion peeled, studded with 6 whole cloves
6 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon minced garlic (use a microplane)
3 tablespoons good mustard (Dijon, spicy brown works too)
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or a mix of red and white)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons - 8 tablespoons olive oil

Cooked Lentils
Lentil Cooking Liquid, if needed
6 green onions, white and green parts, halved or quartered lengthwise if thick, then cut cross-wise
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

COOK THE LENTILS In a large, heavy pot such as Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat until shimmery. Stir in leeks to coat with fat, let gently cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until leeks are softened but not turning brown. Stir in carrots and cook for another minute. Stir in the lentils, turnip, onion, water and salt. Bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove turnip and onion. Drain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid.

MIX THE VINAIGRETTE While the lentils cook, mix the garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl. With a whisk, slowly whisk in olive oil.

FINISH ASSEMBLING THE SALAD Return the drained still-hot Cooked Lentils to the still-warm cooking pot. Stir in the Vinaigrette. If the lentils seem a little dry, stir in some Lentil Cooking Liquid. Stir in the green onions and parsley.

TO SERVE Serve warm immediately or transfer to the fridge and serve cold later.

MAKE-AHEAD While this salad is oh-so-good warm, it's also totally suitable for making ahead by a day or two or even three. It'd be a great dish to carry to friends for a weekend visit, say.

MORE SALT & LESS OIL Ina's original recipe omits the salt in the lentil cooking water, to my taste, legumes really need salt. She also uses a full 8 tablespoons olive oil in the vinaigrette. Don't get me wrong, it's good with that much oil. But at least to my taste a lot of oil just isn't necessary, something experienced with other lentil salads as well. Ina serves the lentils with grilled sausages on top! Not my thing but maybe yours?

WHAT ARE FRENCH LENTILS? Besides my favorite lentils, you mean? French Lentils keep their shape, they don't turn to mush during cooking. That makes them slightly "meatier" too, I just love their texture. I find these pretty lentils at Whole Foods and in bulk bins at other grocery stores (here in St. Louis, both at Lucky's and Fresh Thyme). They're also for sale (albeit expensive, when shipping is added) on Look for lentils called "Green Lentils" or some times "Lentilles du Puy".
SHORT ON LENTILS? No problem, I was once too, just 2 cups was plenty, the yield will be less, of course, but no other real adjustments are necessary.
THAT RESERVED COOKING LIQUID Ina says to reserve the cooking liquid in case the lentils turn out a little dry. My three batches so far haven't been dry but that liquid tastes really good! If it's not needed in the salad, save it to throw into a pot of soup, even a Green Smoothies. And I keep meaning to use it for the liquid in bread. This is my reminder!

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Alanna, this looks fantastic - thanks! I am fortunate to have a shop that stocks ~several~ varieties of lentils at "bulk bin" prices, so I'll definitely give this a try with the French green variety, or maybe some black Beluga lentils - depending on which I've got more of. I do tend to stock up on legumes and grains. . .

  2. Maxine ~ Glad to tempt you, my friend!

    Kris ~ Beluga lentils would be perfect, I just never see them anymore!

  3. Christy on FacebookFebruary 22, 2017

    Just finished a double batch of the Best-Ever Lentil Salad, and it lives up to its name. Delicious, and I had some for a second breakfast it is THAT good. The rest is for today's Webster Groves Herb Society meeting.

  4. Just made this and it is delicious! Just one thing - the vinaigrette didn't have an amount of olive oil listed. I winged it based on a typical ratio and that worked fine. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

  5. cloves are listed in the ingredients but not mentioned in the recipe.....hmmmmmm??

    1. VegieMe ~ The cloves are indeed in the ingredient list, that’s because they’re studded right into the turnip. Enjoy! Such a great salad, it’s a meal prep mainstay in my kitchen!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna