Roasted Carrot, Lentil, & Sunflower Salad

April 26th, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I was talking with a friend the other day and she mentioned that she thinks lentils are an under-utilized ingredient. I couldn’t agree more.

Inexpensive and quick cooking, lentils offer an excellent source of plant-based protein in addition to fiber, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. Unlike other beans, lentils do not require soaking in advance. Green lentils cook in about 25 minutes and are as simple to make as boiling a pot of water. You really can’t go wrong with these nutrient-packed gems.

My mom first introduced me to lentils years ago when she would make a delicious red lentil and vegetable soup during the winter for our family. It’s still one of my favorite cold-weather meals. But with the days growing longer and the temperatures creeping a little higher each week, my mind has turned to salads.

This very versatile salad can be served warm, at room temperature, or refrigerated. Picnic in the park, anyone?

If you don’t have sunflower seeds on hand, swap in any other nut or seed you like. (Just don’t do what I did and spill your seeds all over the kitchen floor in the process. Classy, huh?)

The roasted carrots add earthy sweetness to the dish, but roasted sweet potatoes would also work. I have a few butternut squashes in the pantry given to me by friends who harvested them from their garden last fall. Roasted with a little balsamic vinegar and dried herbs, they would be a great addition to this salad, too.

You might also like my recipe for Lentil Salad with Currants & Mint. The mint adds mouthwatering fresh spring flavor.

A few other recipes for lentil-lovers:

Roasted Carrot, Lentil & Sunflower Salad
Serves 3-4 as a side dish

3/4 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained*
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the lentils in a medium pot and cover by several inches with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are tender to bite but not falling apart. Drain well and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

While the lentils cook, roast the carrots: toss the chopped carrots with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil on the lined-baking sheet. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes until tender and shriveled.

Add the carrots to the cooked lentils. Gently stir in the onion, parsley, sunflower seeds, vinegar, garlic powder, paprika, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Ingredient note: Pick over your lentils before rinsing to remove any small stones or other grains that may have found their way into the mix.

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  1. Ooh, these flavors sound just right Hallie! I love this idea for a salad. Quick question, do you know if people sprout lentils and if this reduces, um, side effects? My husband won’t go near lentils because of the digestive rumbling, and he does eat a fair amount of fiber in his diet, so I’m not sure of the issue there.

    • Alisa: Yes, others have told me that when they sprout lentils or soak them for a period of time before cooking it can help ease digestive troubles. I often cook mine with a strip of kombu seaweed, too, since this helps break down some of the fibers in legumes. Soaking them in advance (say, 6-8 hours) with some lemon juice and kombu might be a good thing to try, too. :)

  2. Ooh. Me, me! I am totally up for that picnic in the park! This salad would be perfect! And I am even thinking that pumpkin seeds or pine nuts would be great in this salad too! I love this one, Hallie! Oh, and to answer Alisa. The soaking process totally will help in that “rumbling” department! :)

  3. Oh yes, just from reading the recipe I can tell I love this salad!!

  4. I just made this salad (with roasted sweet potatoes instead of carrots) and loved it! Can’t wait to have it again for dinner after it has a chance to chill in the fridge for a while.

  5. Loved this salad! I didn’t have parsley so I used Coriander instead, I toasted the sunflower seeds in the spices. I also added some feta, my husband and I loved it! We had it at room temperature. Thanks for a great and simple recipe using ingredients I always have on hand!

  6. Fabulous! I love lentils and this salad sounds amazing!

  7. Love this salad and make it often. I use smoked paprika which adds a wonderfully rich flavour.

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