Warm Lentil Salad with Spinach & Goat Cheese ♥

Warm Lentil Salad with Spinach & Goat Cheese, another easy, delicious meal prep salad ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 Oh people, what a salad! Better news still, it's made with common pantry ingredients, you may well have all of them in your fridge right this very second. It's just familiar lentils, the meaty ones that have such a great chew, paired with still-crunchy sautéed vegetables and barely cooked spinach and laced with pockets of melting goat cheese. Warm Lentil Salad is way more than the sum of its parts! Year-Round Kitchen Staple. Great for Meal Prep. Low Fat. High Protein. Naturally Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly & Freestyle Friendly. Vegetarian. All this and dee-lish! graphic button small size size 10

Way way wayyyyyyyy back in 2007, I shared an earlier version of this wonderful Warm Lentil Salad. It was A Veggie Venture's second anniversary – and April Fool's Day, hence the "apparent" recipe, Ooey Gooey Caramel Chocolate Marshmallow Triple Cream Ricotta & Marcarpone Cheesecake in a Brioche Puff Pastry Baklava Crust with a Double Layer of Lemon Curd and Topped with Candied Raspberries and Toffee-Tossed Pecans and a Venetian Honey Hazelnut Butter Sauce. But is anyone surprised that my healthy lentil salad took second seat to all that sugar and butter? Ha! No surprise at all.

So here's the recipe again, because a salad this basic, this healthy, this good, deserves first billing. It's another classic-Alanna recipe, one that's easily adaptable based on what's on hand and what's in season and what you like. The essentials are simply the lentils, (preferably "meaty" lentils such as French green lentils aka lentilles du Puy, a standby in my kitchen) and the vinegar-brightened vegetables. Even the goat cheese – as lovely as it is – is optional if you're counting calories or don't have any on hand.

I usually make a double batch. The first night it makes a lovely bed for roast chicken –– or let's be real, shall we? –– a still-warm rotisserie chicken. After the first night, it's a welcome salad of substance for the supper salad bowls that happen so easily thanks to daily attention to meal prep versus cooking dinner.

One thing I wrote in 2007 and bears repeating, now and often, is this:

To all those who read and inspire what's found in these pixels and who encourage and befriend me, I thank you, I thank you truly. Do I mean you? Yes, YOU, I thank YOU. Who would believe that after thirteen years, I can still be completely obsessed by vegetables? In so many ways, it feels like I'm just getting started!

graphic button small size size 10 "...it was DELICIOUS!" ~ RandiBeth
graphic button small size size 10 "I've made this lentil salad recipe several times and loved it." ~ Cindy


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 1 hour
Makes 3-1/2 cups

I rarely suggest mise en place (pronounced MEES EN PLOSS, that's French for getting everything together before beginning to cook) but after the lentil water is on the stove, it really helps with the vegetables, allowing them to sauté evenly all at once.

3 cups water
2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup (150g) meaty lentils such as green lentils, French lentils or black lentils, rinsed well under running water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion or large shallot, minced small
1 carrot, diced small
1 rib celery, diced small
1/2 large red pepper, diced small
2 tablespoons good vinegar (white balsamic, malt, sherry, etc.)
3 ounces (85g) fresh spinach, tough stems removed, cut into narrow strips
2 ounces (60g) goat cheese, broken into pieces
Salt & pepper to taste

COOK THE LENTILS Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the lentils, cover and return to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and let cook until done, about 30 minutes. (It always takes longer than expected to cook lentils, just keep tasting to know when they're done.) Drain off any excess water.

SAUTÉ THE VEGETABLES While the lentils cook, chop and cook the vegetables. First, chop the onion, carrot, celery and red pepper before beginning to cook. Then heat the olive oil until shimmery in a non-stick skillet on MEDIUM, stir in all the vegetables at once, stirring to coat with fat. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender. Don't let the vegetables get too soft, you want some crunch. Stir in the vinegar and let cook for a minute or two, until the vinegar cooks off, then turn off the stove and let the vegetables rest off heat until the lentils are ready.

PULL IT ALL TOGETHER Turn the drained lentils and spinach into the skillet with the vegetables, stir them in, letting the spinach "cook" from no more than the heat of the lentils. Sprinkle the goat cheese across the top of the skillet, then gently stir some of it into the lentils, the more you stir, the more it will disappear into the lentils, I like to let little pockets of creamy coat cheese stay intact. Season to taste and serve at once.

TO PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME So easy! I'd definitely serve this for company so heck yeah, make it ahead of time! Cook the lentils and sauté the vegetables (including the vinegar) a day, even two days, beforehand. Then, just before serving, rewarm the lentil/vegetable mixture in a skillet or even in a tableside serving dish, then stir in the spinach and goat cheese. How easy is that?!

TO SERVE I often serve Warm Lentil Salad as a warm salad with either Fast Roast Chicken (or let's be real ... a rotisserie chicken!) or more often for a vegetarian salad supper, topped with carrots roasted with maple syrup, as in Celebration Salad (Maple-Roasted Carrots with Arugula, Dill, Cranberry Vinaigrette, Pomegranate and Glazed Pecans).

DOUBLE THE RECIPE? I do, lentil salads are wonderful to have on hand for instantaneous salad bowl-building.
OR TRIPLE IT? My favorite lentil salad (so many! but still) is this one, Best-Ever Lentil Salad. It starts with triple the amount of lentils and has a simple but unusual way of seasoning the lentils as they cook. To combine the two recipes, cook the lentils as in the Best-Ever Lentil Salad, but sauté the vegetables/vinegar like Warm Lentil Salad, then at the end, stir in the spinach ribbons and goat cheese. What makes Warm Lentil Salad stand out is how the vegetables get just barely pickle-y, plus, of course, the spinach and goat cheese.
FROZEN SPINACH Frozen spinach works great, just be sure to thaw it first and then allow extra time for the spinach to actually cook along with the vegetables –– it'll take longer than fresh spinach. Do know, Warm Lentil Salad with frozen spinach isn't half as pretty but such is the price of convenience, yes? The upside is that you can use a lot more spinach, once I used an entire 8-ounce package.
FRESH SPINACH Lots of us keep bags of baby spinach on hand for quick salads. Those tender leaves will cook really quickly once they hit the hot lentils and there's some risk they'll just melt into mush; that means while baby spinach works, it's not my preference for this dish or others that are hot. Then there's the sturdy curly spinach leaves you'll find in the produce sections, it will take longer to "cook" from just the hot lentils and may end up tasting a little raw to some tastes. For a few years now, I've been using one-pound bags of fresh spinach that falls somewhere in between the two, tender enough for salads, sturdy enough for cooking. We go through a bag or two a month, usually $4 at St. Louis' local supermarket Schnucks and $3 at Walmart.
DO KNOW Don't feel disappointed when the goat cheese melts into the warm lentils because it still tastes great, adds an unexpected richness. The inspiring recipe came from a magazine and the magazine photo showed nice big chunks of goat cheese. &^%$ food stylists, some times!
LOW CARB, REALLY? I know we don't really think of lentils as low in carbs but I calculate net carbs as Carbs - Fiber. And Warm Lentil Salad has a lot of fiber, so the Net Carbs are just 8 grams per half cup. Cool, yes?
SERVING SIZE That said, I've done the nutrition calculations based on a half-cup serving, this allows apples-to-apples comparisons with my other lentil salad recipes (and many other salads as well). To my mind, a half cup of Warm Lentil Salad is great for a side salad. For a main dish salad, I'd go with a whole cup (topped with something else) and so then, the NetCarbs would be 16 and no, wouldn't qualify as "low carb".

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~ Best-Ever Lentil Salad ~
~ Julia Child's Lentil Salad ~
~ Lentil Salad with Tomatoes, Dill & Basil ~
~ Summer Lentils ~
~ more bean, lentil & other legume recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Simple Lentil Salad with Seasonal Vegetables ~
~ Homemade Lentil Soup ~
~ Two-Way Lentil Skillet ~
~ more lentil recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column


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

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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.