Lentil and Cucumber Salad – Perfect for Potlucks – Recipe

Lentil and Cucumber Salad
Lentil and Cucumber Salad

This salad is great to have in your back pocket for summer potlucks and picnics  (*). It is easy to make, light and healthy and packed with flavor that adults will love, but manageable for kids too.

In this kind of salad, cucumbers tend to leak a lot of juice, dilute the dessing, and make a watery mess. Salting and draining the cucumbers for half an hour or so solves this problem, and gives them a nice flavor and texture as well. If you make it a day in advance, you’ll still want to re-toss it and check to see if you need to drain off a bit of liquid. I would wait until the day you are serving it to add the herbs as well.

If you are wondering about the beautiful pale color of these lentils, it is because I used the zero-tannin Shasta Lentils from PNW Co-Op. If they are available in your area, I highly recommend them. You can also order them from ChefShop.com. If not, a regular lentil will do. In either case, pay close attention to the last few minutes of their cooking. Stop too soon and your lentils have an unpleasant snap, but go too long and you’ll have made lentil soup!  I like to cook them right up to the perfect texture and then immediately rinse with lots of cold water to stop the cooking.

You might like to try adding some Dijon mustard to the dressing as well; it is friendly with dill and lemon juice so I think it would be a nice addition.

(*) I wouldn’t actually keep it in your back pocket because it will stain your pants.

Lentil and Cucumber Salad
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and kosher
Makes a big potluck-sized bowl; cut in half for regular “family” use

  • 2 English cucumbers
  • 1 pound lentils
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Big handful of fresh dill (reserve a bit for garnish and  mince the rest)
  • Big handful of fresh mint  (reserve a bit for garnish and  mince the rest)
  1. Peel the cucumbers and cut them in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Cut into half-moons about 1/3″ thick. Toss with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and place in a colander over a bowl to drain for about 30 minutes. If you are motivated, find some way to weight them for even better results. When they are nice and translucent and lots of water has collected, rinse the slices and then pat them dry.
  2. Meanwhile, sort through the lentils and discard any non-lenticular matter. Rinse in several changes of water. Put in a medium pot and cover with a couple inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender but not mushy. Immediately drain and rinse in several changes of cold water to stop the cooking.
  3. Combine the cooled lentils, cucumbers, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of salt, dill and mint in a large bowl and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning. It may need more salt or lemon juice. Look for that moment when the flavors start to “sing” a little, not just sit there meekly on your palate. If you are serving more than an hour or so later, refrigerate and hold off on the herbs and final flavor adjustment until close to serving time. Garnish with the remaining herbs.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Sunday, June 16th, 2013 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Main Courses, Recipes, Salads, Vegan or Modifiable.

9 Responses to “Lentil and Cucumber Salad – Perfect for Potlucks – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    June 16, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    This looks wonderful and I am especially excited about the “secret” you shared for preventing the cucumbers from wetting the salad. I’ve struggled with that issue for years so I’m really looking forward to the cure!

    Thank you, Michael!


  2. Reply
    June 16, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Simply beautiful!!!

  3. Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Yum! That looks fantastic. I LOVE lentils.

  4. Reply
    June 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    made it. delicious. a keeper.

    as always, thanks ….

  5. Reply
    June 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    These Shasta lentils are new to me–thanks for sharing. Can you define non-tannin as it relates to lentils. I had never heard that either….

    • Reply
      June 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      Tannins in lentils are that same family of chemicals found in tea, oaked wines, etc that make your tongue feel dry. Lentils don’t have a ton, so it isn’t a huge issue or anything, but these zero-tannin lentils do come across as a bit sweeter and even more delicious. I guess there is some nutritional difference too: link to sanofibiogeneiuschallenge.ca

  6. Reply
    July 2, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Thanks Michael,
    I will be looking for some Shasta lentils. Though I do love the earthy flavor and texture of black and dark green lentils….

  7. Reply
    July 12, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    This looks delicious! It is always challenging to think of a dish to bring to a potluck besides the basic salad, and this seems like the perfect solution. Do you think the red onion could be substituted with a regular onion?

    • Reply
      July 13, 2013 at 2:43 am #

      For sure you could use a white onion or a sweet onion. If you were going to use a yellow onion, I’d reduce the amount or soak the cut pieces in a salt brine for 30 minutes to reduce the pungency a bit.

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