I’m happiest at the bottom of a salad bowl.
You know how when you get to the end, you’ve run out of lettuce, but there’s a bunch of little things that fell through sitting on the bottom of the bowl? The red onion, feta cheese, sunflower seeds, and lately, sprouted lentils. Mixed up with the leftover dressing that seeps down there…I’m in Heaven.
Who needs lettuce? I often think. This is the stuff that makes a good salad!
Why not create a salad out of salad toppings?
This sprouted lentil salad is a bit like a pasta salad in the way it comes together, but it may not win any awards for “food you can take to parties with normal people,” unfortunately.
Katie Makes Weird Food
When my dearest friend in the world visited recently, her roommate told her to text anytime I made her eat something weird.
I actually got nervous thinking that we’d get through the entire 4-day visit and she wouldn’t encounter anything out of the ordinary! The pressure was intense. My friend and roommate eat very much a whole foods diet, basically no sugar or grain, plenty of Farmer’s Market goodies…I couldn’t imagine that I would be serving anything she didn’t already see at home.
I told my husband, “Honey, tell me if you see her texting at the table; then we’ll know I’ve served something weird.”
We got pretty far into day one without incident, and then I passed the sprouted lentils to top her salad at dinner.
Out came the phone.
Sprouted Lentils: The Ultimate in Nourishing Frugality
I told her about the beautiful salad I’d served at my son’s birthday party the week before and lamented that not many people seemed to have had the guts to try it.
“Well, no wonder!” she quipped. “It looks like it’s got little worms coming out of it, like it’s alive!”
A sprouted lentil salad may not be alive and wiggling like my friend was insinuating, but one of its claims to fame is that it is living food, filled with beneficial enzymes and vitamins.
Sprouted lentils are not only great health food, but perhaps the ultimate way to Eat Well and Spend Less:
- Lentils are extremely inexpensive to begin with.
- Sprouting them is so simple, and it doubles the quantity of your food and increases the nourishment without costing you a dime.
- Compared to lettuce at about $1.29-over $3 per pound, depending on where and when I’m shopping, lentils for less than $1/pound are a great deal – plus once they’re soaked, cooked, and sprouted, a pound of lentils becomes a much larger salad than a pound of greens.
- Lentils have protein, fiber, iron, and vitamins that you won’t find in greens.
- Sprouted lentils are living food, with enzymes, Vitamin C, and even chlorophyll – all things you’d have to grow in a garden or buy fresh at the store to obtain. Did you know sailors crossing the oceans centuries ago would sprout lentils or seeds to get Vitamin C and prevent scurvy?
- Dry legumes are easy to store, so you can buy in bulk and never have to run to the store for fresh greens. This would enable you to shop every other week and still have fresh salads, if that system would save your budget.
How to Sprout Lentils
Sprouting is super easy. You can see full directions HERE, but basically:
- Rinse and soak lentils in water overnight.
- Drain and leave lentils in the colander.
- Rinse with cold water twice a day and toss around to let all the lentils get air.
- After about 3-5 days, you’ll have sprouts measuring about 1-2 cm. The lentils are soft and edible, even cold.
- Sprout until you see green if your colander is in the sunlight – this adds chlorophyll to your diet, without having to buy fresh greens.
- Store in the refrigerator for 1-3 weeks in an airtight container.
Sprouted lentils can be cooked up just like regular lentils for any recipe (like this one) or to supplement meat in tacos or sloppy joes (more info in The Everything Beans Book), they make fun, crunchy toppings for salads, and they really are great dinner conversation starters with guests. You can also use them as the base for a salad instead of greens or pasta.
Recipe: Sprouted Lentil Salad
3 carrots, sliced
one medium red onion, diced
1 colored pepper or mixed colors to equal one whole pepper, diced
3-4 c. sprouted lentils, measured after sprouting*
2-3 oz. feta cheese
cubed cheese, optional
handful of pea pods, but in half OR 1/2 c. frozen peas
1/4 c. crispy sunflower seeds (how to make crispy nuts)
1/4 c. crispy walnuts, crushed with fingers
dressing of your choice (see below for an oil-based and a creamy option)
Additional ideas: halved cherry tomatoes, sliced or diced avocado, green or black olives, sliced fresh mushrooms…the world is yours on this one!
*This amount of sprouted lentils is probably only about 1 cup dry lentils – I always sprout a lot and cook and freeze the extras, saving a pint jar in the fridge for a few weeks to top salads. Note of clarification: the lentils in the salad are RAW, not cooked. They’re just a little crunchy and quite yummy when sprouted and not cooked. Cooked sprouted lentils taste pretty much like cooked regular lentils, maybe a bit sweeter because your sprouts have eaten some of the starch.
Toss together and serve. Add additional dressing if necessary after the salad spends time in the refrigerator. Store in the fridge; the salad is better after 6-12 hours, but then the quality worsens each day, so it’s definitely best served fresh. Don’t try to keep longer than 2-3 days once the dressing has been added.
Favorite Salad Dressings
I always make my own salad dressings so I don’t have to deal with the yucky soybean oil so prevalent in commercial options. I use extra virgin olive oil most of the time, and they’re delicious. You can check out some of our family’s favorite homemade dressings, and here are two new ones I’ve discovered recently; these two below are pictured with the lentil salad on this page.
Imitation Olive Garden Dressing
one chunk asiago or Parmesan cheese, about ¼ c.
1 clove of garlic
1/2 c. homemade mayo
1/3 c. white wine vinegar
1 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1 Tbs. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
EVOO to thin if necessary; my mayo is very thick, so I use less than 1/2 c. mayo and add oil to complete the half cup
Whiz chunk of cheese and garlic in mini food processor or blender. Add all the other ingredients and blend to combine. Without machines, just press the garlic, grate the cheese, and stir everything together. Best to allow an hour for the flavors to blend before serving. Bonus: if you make lacto-fermented mayo, this is already a probiotic condiment.
Thanks to Cheeky Bums blog for the original recipe, which I adapted.
Greek House Dressing (Italian?)
I have a homemade Greek dressing on my site already, which is wonderful. About this one, my husband said, “This is the best Italian you’ve ever made!”
“It’s not Italian; it’s Greek,” I told him.
“Still way better than your old Italian. Keep this one.”
And really, he’s right. There’s nothing in the recipe that makes it “Greek,” so let’s call it Italian and just enjoy it.
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar (can use white for part or all)
2 tsp. garlic powder (or 3-6 cloves fresh garlic, crushed)
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. (a hearty squirt) Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Mix and enjoy! Stores at room temperature well for at least a month. The vinegar preserves even fresh garlic, but don’t leave EVOO in a clear container in direct sunlight or in any clear container on the counter more than a few weeks.
Here is the original recipe before I got my claws into it…
Would you take this baby to a potluck? To travel in eco-friendly style, Mighty Nest has some bamboo travel utensils and stainless steel plates so you don’t have to pack plastic or worry about breaking your real dishes. Serve the salad in this huge bamboo salad bowl, and maybe people won’t notice the little worm-like thingys because they’ll think your bowl is so cute.
Other Cold Salad Ideas
If you don’t want wormy looking things at your summertime gathering, here are some other ideas for cold salads to pass:
- Pasta salad for a crowd
- Homemade potato salad (add yogurt to make it probiotic!)
- Cold grain salad (still very “real foodie” but less scary looking than sprouted lentils)
- Reader ideas HERE
- Kimi of The Nourishing Gourmet, who is herself a frugalista extraordinaire, has a beautiful eBook called Fresh: Nourishing Salads for all Seasons. Her beautiful Tomato and Feta Lentil salad is pictured above.
- Kate of Modern Alternative Mama just published a new summer foods eBook this week, called Simply Summer. Here’s what I want to try from it:
What’s your favorite frugal, summer salad?
Do check out the other Eat Well, Spend Less ladies for summertime eating inspiration!
- Amy at Kingdom First Mom
- Carrie at Denver Bargains
- Jessica at Life as MOM
- Aimee at Simple Bites
- Tammy at Tammy’s Recipes
- Shaina at Food for my Family
- Katie at Good Life Eats
Disclosure: Mighty Nest is a June sponsor receiving their complementary mention in a post. I am an affiliate for Kimi and Kate, so I earn commission if you purchase their ebooks starting here. See my full disclosure statement here.