Lentil pomegranate salad with crispy veggies, fresh herbs, crunchy pita crisps, and velvety pomegranate-tahini dressing is a vegan flavor festival. This delightful plant-based, hearty salad is quick to assemble for a stand-out meatless main dish that’s sure to please.
why you need this salad
Are you always on the hunt for new vegan hearty salad ideas, the kinds of salad that don’t also include thinking up an accompanying main dish? Me too! If I can serve up one big salad bowl and set it in the middle or table or assemble individual simple-ingredient bowls, I’m right there.
And when the weather gets warmer, salads are so satisfying – if you are strategically creative. I’d contend that it relies on 3 things: protein, a variety of veggies, and a flavorful dressing.
Lentils – Here's the protein source. Green or brown lentils work best for salads because they retain their shape after being cooked. You could also use French lentils. Try to avoid red lentils (especially split) as they will get mushy.
Tahini – 2 tablespoons of tahini is enough for a thick dressing that isn't too heavy. Tahini, sesame seed paste, is widely used as an ingredient in hummus, and for vegans, it’s often used in baking. I used it sausage crumbles – a small step from hummus, I suppose.
If you are a quality control freak or you just like the best tahini, make your own. It’s super easy and, in my experience, tastier and creamier than some of the brands you can buy. My only caution regarding commercial tahini is to watch the labels for added salt and oil. Oil is sometimes used in the processing, and we try to avoid added oil whenever possible.
Pomegranate molasses – Somewhere between balsamic vinegar and cranberry juice is pomegranate molasses. Thick, sour, and slightly sweet, it makes a tasty, oil-free vinaigrette. Mix it with tahini? It’s a heavenly match!
Lime juice – Tahini dressings really benefit from being mixed with citrus. You’ll notice that citrus immediately thins tahini and also lightens it. Lime is used for this dressing because it is sweeter than lemon.
Garlic – If you want an intense garlic flavor, add 2 cloves. Be sure to test this by mixing in the first clove, then add a second if desired.
Pomegranate – The seeds and arils, the juicy part, of pomegranates add tart-sweet salad crunch. It’s the most time-consuming. I’ve tried a lot of different methods for dealing with cumbersome pomegranates. It works best for me to simply cut them in half, break the halves again, turning them inside out, and letting the seeds fall. You may have to do some convincing of those stubborn seeds, but it’s worth it.
One practical note. Do your pomegranate conquering over the sink. Place a deep bowl and then a smaller colander over the top to help catch the seeds. The sink helps cut back on the mess.
Salad veggies – These include cucumber, radishes, red onions, cherry tomatoes, and lettuce. Sturdy types of lettuce such as iceberg or Romain work best.
Fresh herbs – Fresh mint leaves and parsley are the headliner herbs to add. Both add refreshing and complex flavors.
Pita bread – Nothing fancy here. Cut pita bread into bite-sized pieces and bake them in the oven. They give the salad a little crouton crunch without any effort. Try to use whole wheat pita bread and if you want total quality control, make your own. This is a great starter recipe for reluctant bakers.
Lentils are the only thing that requires cooking, and they are simple to make. Grab a saucepan, toss in rinsed lentils, along with thyme, a bay leaf, and 3 cups of vegetable broth.
Seasoning the lentils really brings out their naturally peppery flavor. Try to use vegetable broth if you have it. If you use broth with added salt, you may want to omit the added ½ teaspoon.
tips for cooking lentils
- Make it a practice to rinse lentils before cooking them. Like dry beans, lentils can accumulate dust as they sit. This is also an opportunity to pick out any broken or discolored legumes.
- To prevent mushy lentils, cook them uncovered or partially covered. Uncovered lentils will take a few extra minutes to cook, but it helps remind you to check the amount of liquid.
- Cooking time and the amount of liquid you need can vary depending on the age, type, and quality of the lentils you use. Add more broth if you need and if there is some left in the pan after cooking them, drain that off before adding it to salads.
- The best way to test if lentils are done is to taste them. They should be tender when you bite them or, if you prefer, press them between your fingers.
tahini pomegranate salad dressing
Ask me about a 4-ingredient dressing, and I’ll grab my bowl and whisk immediately. Even though you are using a few tablespoons of tahini, this dressing will get thick. Be sure to stir it right before serving it. Add another tablespoon of lime juice or water if it needs to be thinned out.
Although the salad will stay crispy for a few hours after adding the dressing, you may want to consider serving it, plus the pita croutons on the side. That way, if you have leftover salad, it will remain fresh.
You can also assemble individual portions of salads in bowls or on plates. That helps to control the rations of pita chips. You know the ones you’ve been munching on while assembling the salad.
As a general rule, lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking, although it can help reduce the cooking time. Because lentils are small and not as dehydrated as dried beans, they only require 30 minutes or less for soaking if you choose to do so.
Pomegranate molasses has a distinctive flavor. For a substitute, consider 3 tablespoons of cranberry juice with a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar. This will make a tart-sweet substitute.
If you need a substitute for tahini (sesame seed paste), consider using nut butter such as cashew butter or almond butter. Another idea is to create sunflower seed butter using soaked sunflower seeds processed in a spice grinder.
hearty salads we love
lentil pomegranate salad
Lentil pomegranate salad with crispy veggies, fresh herbs, crunchy pita crisps, and a velvety pomegranate-tahini dressing is a vegan flavor festival.
- Prep Time: 20 min
- Cook Time: 20 min
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 6
- Category: hearty salads
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 cup green or brown lentils
- 2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon of salt (adjust if the broth is salted)
- 3 cups of vegetable broth (or water)
- 2 tablespoons of tahini
- 4 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
- 4 tablespoons of lime juice
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon of salt (optional)
- 1 small cucumber, cut lengthwise, then sliced
- 1 small red onion, cut in half, then sliced thin
- 1 cup radishes, sliced
- 2 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- 3 cups of iceberg or Romain lettuce, chopped or shredded
- 1 pomegranate, seeds, and arils
- ½ cup mint leaves roughly chopped or torn
- ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 – 3 pita bread, cut into bite-sized squares
- Rinse the lentils and add them to a medium saucepan with 2 teaspoons of thyme, 1 bay leaf, ½ a teaspoon of salt (optional), and 3 cups of vegetable broth. Bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmering. Cover the saucepan, leaving the lid cocked so that a bit of steam can release. Cook the lentils until they are tender and the liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes).
- While the lentils cook, pre-heat the oven to 4250 F. (2000 C.). Cut the pita bread into bite-sized squares or strips and add them to a baking tray. Bake the pita squares for 10 - 15 minutes or until they are crispy. Be sure to toss the pita squares so that they toast on both sides.
- Make the dressing by combining the tahini, pomegranate molasses, lime juice, garlic, and salt (if using) in a small bowl. If it is too thick, add more lime juice or water until you have a pourable dressing.
- Assemble the salad by combining the cucumber, radishes, red onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pomegranate, mint leaves, and chopped parsley. Mix in the cooked lentils, then garnish the salad with toasted pita squares.
- Add the dressing right before serving or place it in a small bowl as a side dish. Add the remaining pita squares in a small bowl for individual diners.
- The best substitute for pomegranate molasses for this recipe is 3 tablespoons of cranberry juice, 1 tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar, plus 1 teaspoon of date paste, sugar, or another liquid sweetener such as maple syrup.
- Once dressed, the salad will stay crisp for several hours. If you don’t think you will eat it all, consider serving the dressing and pita crisps on the side. You can also make up individual salad plates for each person.
Keywords: lentil pomegranate salad