Updated on November 7, 2023
A quick and delicious Italian lentil salad that’s easy to put together and has plenty of options for substitutes!
This lentil salad (insalata di lenticche here in Italy) is one of the first recipes I turn to when I’m looking for something quick, easy, and nutritious to serve as a snack, as part of a meal, or as part of an aperitivo spread. I even eat it as a meal sometimes – the protein in the lentils helps satisfy my hunger and the colors in the salad make the table spread more cheerful.
Everyone in our family seems to love this salad too, which means it’s become a part of our regular rotation.
You can throw it together in 10 minutes and the simple instructions don’t require your full attention – so you can multi-task while you make it.
It’s also easy to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand or if you have a picky eater in your household. Don’t have any olives? Leave them out or throw in some capers! Not a fan of feta? Swap it for some provolone! It’s easy to make this Italian Lentil Salad work for you and your family.
You also don’t need to be exact with the ingredients – this Italian Lentil Salad will still taste amazing even if you don’t have quite enough cucumber or you accidentally add in extra lentils.
Note: I use feta cheese, which isn’t an Italian cheese, but I think it works best. My Italian friends use cubes of fresh pecorino cheese instead.
Ingredients For Italian Lentil Salad
The ingredients in this Italian Lentil Salad are easy to find. Here in Italy, we buy the salad ingredients at the grocery store or the fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable stand) in town.
Ingredients You’ll Need:
- Lentils (canned)
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Black Olives
- Feta Cheese
- Red Onion
- Fresh Parsley
- For the dressing:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Vinegar (red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- Dijon mustard (with or without seeds)
- Dried Oregano
- Sea salt
Substitutes For Italian Lentil Salad
- Lentils (canned) – Feel free to soak and cook dried lentils (about 8 oz. or 225 grams). I use canned because it makes the recipe quicker to pull together. Make sure you use firm lentils and cool them after cooking because mushy or warm lentils don’t work well in this salad. Even though the lentils are the base of this salad, you can also use quinoa, farro, or rice if you’re all out of lentils.
- Cherry Tomatoes – Any tomatoes that are in season and taste great. Be sure to drain them if the pulp has a lot of liquid.
- Black Olives – Kalamata olives are delicious in this salad, but it’s not easy to find them here in Italy. That’s the only reason I use regular black olives. Or throw in a few capers (not too many because they are very salty).
- Feta Cheese – Goat cheese is an excellent substitute but it’s best to add it as you serve it and not let it sit in the fridge already mixed in. We also use pecorino or provolone, which make the salad more authentically Italian!
- Cucumber – Bell peppers are a good crunchy substitute. Roasted zucchini also work well in the winter.
- Red Onion – White onion, green onions, or shallots will work.
- Fresh Parsley – Fresh basil or dill.
- For the dressing:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – No substitute for good ol’ EVOO!
- Vinegar (red wine or apple cider) – You could also use white vinegar or lemon juice. I don’t think balsamic vinegar works well with this recipe, but my husband likes to drizzle it on top.
- Dijon mustard (with or without seeds) – I haven’t found a good substitute for Dijon in this dressing. Let me know if you have one!
- Dried Oregano – If you don’t have any, you can leave it out. Or, you can use fresh oregano.
- Sea salt – We also like using flake salt (like Maldon).
You can also add greens (we like Valeriana/Mache). Just make sure to add them when you serve the salad and not before.
When To Eat Italian Lentil Salad
Best Meals To Serve Italian Lentil Salad At
It’s perfect for a snack, a light lunch, or for aperitivo hour! We even eat it for dinner sometimes with bread and other salads or picnic-style foods.
It’s also a quick and well-received dish for potlucks, parties, or picnics.
Best Season To Make Italian Lentil Salad
Most of the ingredients can be found year-round, but the cucumber and tomatoes are at their best in the summer here in Italy.
If I’m making this Italian Lentil Salad outside of the summer, I usually leave out the cucumber. You can also leave out the tomatoes if they aren’t in season (but I don’t because we can get good tomatoes year-round from Sicilian greenhouses).
Can I Make Italian Lentil Salad Ahead Of Time?
Yes! It tastes even better the next day. It’s delicious if you can let the salad marinate in the dressing for a while.
If I know I’ll be eating it the next day, I sometimes wait to put the cucumber in because it can get a little soft.
How To Store Italian Lentil Salad
Store the Italian Lentil Salad in a closed container in the fridge for 1-2 days. I actually prefer this salad after it’s marinated in the fridge for a day, but after day 2 it can start to get soggy and sad-looking.
How To Make Italian Lentil Salad Vegan
This salad can easily become vegan by omitting the feta cheese and swapping out the honey for another sweet syrup like agave or maple syrup.
For the salad:
- 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 2 cans of lentils, drained and rinsed
- handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup of black olives, chopped
- ¾ cup of feta cheese, crumbled or chopped
- ¼ cup of red onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh parsley, chopped (set aside a few whole leaves for garnish if you’d like)
For the dressing:
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup vinegar (red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- 2 tsp honey
- 3 tsp dijon mustard (with or without seeds)
- heaping teaspoon of dried oregano
- sea salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- Add the cucumber, olives, tomatoes, parsley, red onion, feta, and lentils to a large bowl.
- Add the dressing ingredients to a separate small bowl and whisk until smooth.
- Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients in the large bowl.
- Refrigerate the salad until you need to serve it. Garnish it with the reserved parsley.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g