If you’re looking for the kind of recipe that makes you want to devour healthy food, this is it!
At first glance, it looks almost too simple, but there are two secret ingredients in the lentils that will keep you coming back for more.
I came across this idea this past summer when my aunt made a substitution in a famous recipe from the NYC restaurant, Charlie Bird. She used Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad recipe that is featured on the NYT’s cooking site, but since we have a few gluten-intolerant family members, she made it with green lentils instead. Genius!
I’ve been playing with different versions of this for the past few months and what you’ll find here is my absolute favorite. I’ve changed it considerably from where we got the inspiration but am really happy we came across the idea. Cooking the lentils in diluted apple cider with a bay leaf takes this dish from pretty good to OMG-I-can’t-get-enough-of-this.
This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and high-fiber to boot.
Apple Cider Lentil Salad Ingredients
Lentils with Apple Cider
Once you make lentils this way, you may never go back. I cook the green lentils in a combo of apple cider (not apple cider vinegar), filtered water and bay leaf. Apple cider is a form of natural added sugar, but it’s still added sugar. It’s a small amount in the overall dish and adds a tremendous amount of flavor. The bay leaf adds that extra layer of gourmet flavor, don’t skip it. I prefer green lentils here as they are a little sturdier than red lentils, which will turn to mush and fall apart. Lentils are packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are also inexpensive and easy to make.
The spicy arugula with the sweet lentils makes you want to devour this salad. I use an entire container of arugula with the lentils here, and it never gets old. Arugula is full of chlorophyll to reduce inflammation and build healthy red blood cells, vitamins, minerals, hydration, and fiber.
Fresh Basil & Fresh Mint
Just like other greens basil and mint are both packed vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. From a culinary perspective, the two together make a magical flavor combo in almost any recipe. I have both growing in my herb garden which made it easy to add to this salad, but if you only have one on hand (or they’re pricy at the store that day), then just use one or the other if that works better for you.
Just like other nuts, pistachios are full of good fats. Pistachios add delicious flavor and texture to this dish. Look for unsalted shelled pistachios without any additives or preservatives. Since pistachios tend to be a little expensive, I like to buy the exact amount I need for this recipe in the bulk section of my grocery store. If pistachios aren’t available, you can substitute them with unsalted almonds or walnuts, or leave them out altogether to make this dish nut-free if desired.
There is a hot debate in the nutrition community right now as to whether or not nightshades (e.g., tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) are healthy or not. Tomatoes are full of vitamins, hydration, and fiber. Some people don’t tolerate nightshades, but I find most people do. Here’s the thing: when it comes to nutrition, I can find something wrong with just about every single food. You just have to try foods to see how you tolerate them. I’ve never had an issue with tomatoes, and they add a pleasant sweetness—and nutrition—to salads like this.
Fresh lemon juice and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There’s so much flavor packed into the ingredients of this salad, that good old fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt make the absolute perfect dressing. Fresh lemon juice is full of vitamin C and enzymes to keep your body healthy, and extra virgin olive oil adds a dose of healthy fat to help you absorb all of the vitamins and nutrients in this salad.
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (I use the Real Salt brand), plus more to finish if needed
Step 1: Cook the lentils; this can be done up to 24 hours in advance if desired. Over medium-high heat, bring the apple cider, water, lentils, and bay leaves to a boil, cover, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 35 minutes until the lentils are cooked through. Discard any remaining liquid and the bay leaf. One cup of green lentils needs about 3 cups total liquid and 30-40 minutes to cook. Keep a close eye on them at the end and remove from the heat once they are cooked and the liquid is mostly evaporated.
Step 2: While the lentils cook, whisk the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt in the bottom of a large mixing bowl.
Step 3: Prepare the salad ingredients. Roughly chop the pistachios, tear the herbs, and halve the cherry tomatoes.
Step 4: Allow the lentils to cool, then drain them in a colander to remove any excess liquid before adding to the salad. Toss the lentils, arugula and rest of the salad ingredients in the dressing. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator. This salad is best served within the first 24 hours, but will keep in the fridge for up to three days.
When choosing your apple cider, look for 100% apple cider or apple juice, not from concentrate and no preservatives or additives
This is more of a lentil salad with greens instead of a green salad with lentils. For a greens-based salad, halve the amount of lentils.
If you make it, let us know how you like it in the comments below.