This Crispy Lentil Salad with Arugula and Garlic Yogurt Sauce is a plant-based, flavor-packed, texture-filled meal that will satisfy any vegetarian or meat eater! It’s layered with texture and flavor from the garlicky yogurt, to the pan-fried lentils, to the vibrant, crunchy salad filled with shaved fennel, red onion, fresh herbs, and creamy avocado. It’s best served with a pile of warmed naan!
If you’re in any kind of salad rut, THIS is what you need in your life. This lentil salad is lights out amazing, and delicious in every way possible. It’s vegetarian, but so very satisfying. From the layer of garlic yogurt, to the crispy lentils, there’s so much staying power in this salad and all of the textures and freshness make it SO addictingly good. It’s part of Healthyish January because we’re still working with dairy (oh hello creamy Greek yogurt), and we’re serving it up with warm naan. Which is a necessity here! Always gotta have some carbs with my salad, ya know?
How on earth do I even explain how good this salad is to you guys. IT IS SIMPLY SO GOOD. It’s so different from your average salad, yet still something approachable and that I can see myself making a few times a month. Honestly, I’d eat this every single day without question. It’s that good. I also just really love a good lentil salad, regardless of what’s in it.
It’s also special enough to serve for guests, because it’s unique, different, and just fun! We don’t often think to serve salad when we entertain during the winter, but this is totally one of those salads. There is some raw shaved fennel in the salad, so we are using some winter veggies in here too!
From the garlic yogurt to the crispy lentils to the crunchy salad, I have no idea what I love most about this meal.
Let’s start with the garlic yogurt.
I could eat it with a spoon, with chips, with naan, with my finger, and any which way you want to serve it. It’s simply Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt, and pepper. That’s it! I like to use 2% or full-fat yogurt here to yield the most ultimate creaminess, richness, and flavor. The longer it sits, the more garlicky it gets, which isn’t a bad thing to me, but it’s garlicky for sure. You need to love garlic to love this sauce!
The layer of garlic yogurt on the bottom of this salad kind of acts as a vessel/binding agent to hold the rest of the salad together. Plus, it makes it scoopable for all the naan your heart desires. Very, very important things going on here.
Next up, are the crispy lentils! I shared them in another recipe not too long ago with this curried cauliflower soup and they’re such a fun addition to pretty much any soup or salad!
They might sound fancy, but all we’re really doing is cooking some lentils, and then frying them up in a skillet with some olive oil! They get super crispy, caramelized, and just all-around delicious. Don’t skip the “frying” step here!
To cook my lentils, I just boil them like you would pasta, and I always add a bay leaf into the pot for some extra flavor. If you want to use pre-cooked lentils, you can absolutely do that to save some time, but I’d highly recommend cooking them yourself if you’re up to it!
Last but certainly not least, the salad! This is what makes the lentil salad in its entirety so good.
- thinly shaved fennel
- thinly sliced red onion
- lots of fresh mint and dill
- a simple lemon vinaigrette
It’s SO fresh, so lemony, and the herbs really take it to the next level. I don’t know about you, but fresh mint in a salad is one of my favorite things in the world. Same with dill. The combination is so refreshing! Another one of my favorite things in a salad, especially during the winter, is super thinly sliced fennel. So underrated. It adds a little extra crunch, and same with the thinly sliced red onion! I like to shave it super thin as well, so that you don’t get too much of that punchy, red-oniony bite! Shaving it super thin prevents it from getting too overpowering.
If you’re like, this seems like a lot of steps/components, it kind of is, but they’re all so simple, and so worth it!
This is how you make it:
- Start by cooking your lentils so that they have time to cool and dry off. We don’t want to be frying up soggy lentils!
- Make your garlic yogurt. Everything gets whirled up in the food processor, so it’s super quick! Literally takes minutes.
- Do all of your chopping, toss together the salad, and make the vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is super simple, literally takes 30 seconds to make! It super versatile too. It’s the kind of salad dressing you will want to have on hand at all times because it goes with everything.
- Fry up your lentils in a skillet. This takes no time and no effort. Such a crucial step though!
- Slice your avocado so it stays super green and beautiful.
- Layer everything up! Starting with a generous puddle of garlic yogurt, then a few scoops of crispy lentils, a handful of salad, some avocado slices, a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette, and a handful of extra fresh herbs.
- And last but not least, warmed naan to scoop everything up! I like to make it from scratch, but if I’m using store-bought naan to save time, I like to lightly fry/toast it in a tiny bit of olive oil in a skillet until it warms through and gets a little golden brown. I then hit it with some flaky salt while it’s hot, and voilà! Almost as good as homemade. If not just as good!
So yeah, a relatively more labor-intensive salad, but you will not be sorry. The flavor is truly an entire experience!
Don’t forget to share a photo on Instagram and tag me @spicesinmydna if you make this recipe! Nothing makes me happier than seeing what you create in the kitchen. Be sure to hashtag #healthyishjanuary too so I can see all the Healthyish January recipes you make this month!
Crispy Lentil Salad with Arugula and Garlic Yogurt Sauce
This Crispy Lentil Salad with Arugula and Garlic Yogurt Sauce is a plant-based, flavor-packed, texture-filled meal that will satisfy any vegetarian or meat eater! It's layered with texture and flavor from the garlicky yogurt, to the pan-fried lentils, to the vibrant, crunchy salad filled with shaved fennel, red onion, fresh herbs, and creamy avocado. It's best served with a pile of warmed naan!
For the lentils
- 3/4 cup mixed lentils or black lentils*
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
For the garlic yogurt sauce
- 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (2% or full-fat)*
- 2 cloves garlic
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the salad
- 2-3 cups baby arugula
- 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced
- 1/4 of a medium red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 avocado, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus extra for serving
- a handful of fresh mint, coarsley chopped or torn, plus extra for serving
- warmed naan, for serving
For the lemon vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Begin by cooking the lentils. Rinse the lentils and discard any small stones. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the lentils and bay leaf. Cook according to package directions, or until lentils are tender. (It usually takes about 20 minutes.) Drain lentils, and discard bay leaf. Let lentils drain thouroughly while you make the garlic yogurt sauce. (You want them to be as dry as possible before pan-frying them!)
For the garlic yogurt sauce, add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Blend until all ingredients are completely combined and creamy. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired. Set aside.
To a large mixing bowl, add the arugula, fennel, red onion, avocado, dill, and mint. Toss gently to combine. Set aside. Make the vinaigrette. In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallot, lemon zest, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper until combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired. Set aside.
Finish making the crispy lentils. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, add the lentils and press down with the back of a rubber spatula or wooden spoon into a flat, even layer. Cook for 4-5 minutes (don't stir!), then stir, press the lentils down again, and let the other side crisp up for another 3-4 minutes. At this point, they should be crispy, but you can repeat this process until they are crispy enough for your liking! Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, add 2-3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to the salad along with a few pinches of salt and freshly cracked black pepper and toss to combine.
To assemble, spoon a few spoonfuls of the garlic yogurt onto a plate and smooth it out with the back of your spoon into a circle. Top with a couple scoops of crispy lentils, a generous handful of salad, and then another scoop of crispy lentils. Finish with extra torn mint and dill, as well as a drizzle of the vinaigrette. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste. Serve and scoop everything up with warm naan!
*For a time-saving hack, sometimes I like to buy the pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe's! If you're making your own, any type of lentils will work here. I've used a lentil medley as well as black lentils and both were great!
*Be sure to use 2% or full-fat Greek yogurt here. If you use 0%, the sauce won't be nearly as rich in flavor/consistency.