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Thanksgiving Lentil Salad

This Thanksgiving Lentil Salad is hearty enough to be the vegetarian star of your holiday or the perfect side dish. Roasted squash, green lentils, honey-roasted pecans, and tart cranberries are dressed in an out-of-this-world garlic-sherry vinaigrette. Healthy, vegetarian, and 100% delicious.

A bowl of Thanksgiving lentil salad in front of the rest of the platter

One of My Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes

In our house, we’ve tried to make Thanksgiving less about an all-you-can-eat binge fest and more about celebrating life while enjoying good food. I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that our green beans aren’t covered in Funions, and if we serve sweet potatoes, they won’t be slathered in marshmallows. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a bit of decadence now and then, but I’d rather enjoy a meal made with real ingredients any day of the week.

This Thanksgiving Lentil Salad is a dish you can proudly serve to your friends and family this year. It’s hearty enough to be the star of a vegetarian holiday but light enough to be one of your healthy Thanksgiving sides. This dish is filled to the brim with fall flavors. Roasted butternut squash, earthy green lentils, honey-roasted pecans, and tart cranberries are all dressed with a roasted garlic sherry vinaigrette. It’s oh, so good…

Served warm or at room temperature, this is a dish that adds color and fantastic flavor to your holiday table. Plus, it gives anyone who isn’t eating turkey this year something exciting – and nutritious – to look forward to.

Thanksgiving lentil salad on a white serving platter

Is Lentil Salad Fancy Enough for Thanksgiving?

I sure think so! This dish is visually stunning, and the flavors are to die for.

One of the subtle – but essential – flavors is the roasted garlic. In this recipe, we roast a few cloves of garlic with the other veggies to caramelize and soften them enough to become the base for our sherry vinaigrette. Roasted garlic adds a depth of flavor and subtle sweetness to the dressing that’s hard to place. Your guests will only know that they love it.

We then add that flavorful dressing to the lentils while they’re still warm, allowing them to soak up all that richness. Fresh herbs added at the end bring brightness and additional color to the dish.

Close up of Thanksgiving Lentil salad on a white plate

What You’ll Need

This healthy Thanksgiving salad packs an incredible amount of flavor and nutrition into just a few fresh ingredients. Scroll down to the recipe card for actual amounts.

For the Salad

  • Butternut Squash – Look for either one large squash or two medium-sized. You want to have between 2 1/2 to 3 pounds in total. You’ll peel, remove the seeds, and cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Red Onion
  • Garlic – Look for elephant garlic or use the largest garlic cloves you can find; they’ll hold up better to roasting.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • French Green Lentils – I recommend green lentils for this salad since they hold their texture and shape while cooking. Make sure you give them a good rinse and pick out any debris or stones prior to cooking.
  • Bay Leaves – For flavor.

For the Dressing

  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I like using a good, fruity EVOO for dressings.
  • Dijon Mustard

For the Toppings

  • Pecans – If you don’t like (or have) pecans, walnuts would work great here too.
  • Honey
  • Cranberries – Look for natural dried cranberries and stay away from the Craisins!
  • Parsley – Chopped parsley adds incredible freshness to this dish.

How to Make Thanksgiving Lentil Salad

This hearty lentil salad can stand on its own as a vegetarian main dish or pairs beautifully with Turkey as one of your healthy Thanksgiving side dishes. Either way, your guests will love the combination of flavor and texture.

To Make the Salad

  • Prepare for Baking. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat it to 425°F.
Cut up butternut squash, onion, and garlic on a sheet pan
  • Roast the Vegetables. Place the squash, red onion, and garlic in a large mixing bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer the seasoned veggies to a rimmed baking sheet and spread them in an even layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and caramelized.
Green lentils and bay leaves in a pot of water
  • Cook the Lentils. While the squash and onions are roasting, place the rinsed lentils and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch, and then bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer the lentils for 15-20 minutes or until they are just tender. You don’t want your lentils to get mushy so take care to not overcook them. Drain the lentils – discarding the bay leaves – and return them to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Set Aside the Garlic. Once the vegetables are roasted, remove the garlic cloves and set them aside to cool. We’ll be using them in our dressing.

To Make the Toppings 

  • Lower the Oven Temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. If you’re in a rush, you may need to keep the oven door open for a minute or two to help the temperature lower more quickly.
Chopped pecans and honey in a pan
  • Toast the Pecans. Drizzle the honey over the pecans in a small bowl and stir until they’re evenly coated. Place the honeyed pecans on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook for 15 minutes. Set them aside to cool on the pan.

To Make the Dressing

Once the roasted garlic is cool enough to handle, it’s time to make the sherry vinaigrette.

sherry dressing in a glass bowl
  • Combine the Ingredients. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their paper into a medium-sized bowl and mash them with a fork. Add 6 tablespoons of olive oil, vinegar, mustard, a pinch of salt, and a bit of pepper to the bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk long enough that the dressing fully emulsifies.
  • Plate the Dish. While the lentils are still warm, pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat evenly. Next, add the roasted veggies, honey-roasted pecans, and cranberries and toss gently to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Before serving, transfer the salad to a large platter and add the fresh parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Thanksgiving lentil salad on a white plate

How to Store and Reheat

This Thanksgiving Lentil Salad will store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you expect to have leftovers, add the honey-roasted pecans to individual servings rather than tossing them with the entire salad. This will allow you to store the nuts separately, preventing them from getting soft.

To reheat your lentil salad, place individual portions in a bowl and heat in the microwave for 45-60 seconds. Top with pecans, and enjoy! You can also eat this salad cold.

Try These Other Salads for Thanksgiving

A bowl of Thanksgiving lentil salad in front of the rest of the platter

Thanksgiving Lentil Salad

This Thanksgiving Lentil Salad is hearty enough to be the vegetarian star of your holiday or the perfect side dish. Roasted squash, green lentils, honey-roasted pecans, and tart cranberries are dressed in an out-of-this-world garlic-sherry vinaigrette. Healthy, vegetarian, and 100% delicious.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Servings: 8

Equipment

  • Oven

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • 1 medium butternut squash 2 1/2 – 3 pounds
  • 1 red onion cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic unpeeled
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups French green lentils 16 ounces
  • 2 bay leaves

For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

For the Toppings

  • 1 cup toasted pecans coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley coarsley chopped

Instructions

To Make the Salad

  • Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F.
  • Place the squash, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the oil, a big pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer. 
  • Roast until the vegetables are tender and very caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place the lentils and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the lentils and discard the bay leaves. Return the lentils to the pan and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Taste and season with more salt as needed.
  • Once the vegetables are roasted, remove the garlic cloves and set aside until they are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. 

To Make the Topping

  • Lower oven temperature 325°F. 
  • Add pecans and honey together and place on a small baking sheet and place in the oven for 15 min.

To Make the Dressing

  • Squeeze the roasted cloves out of their paper into the medium bowl and mash them with a fork. Add 6 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, mustard, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper to the bowl and whisk to combine.
  • While the lentils are still warm, pour over dressing and toss to coat. Add the roasted vegetables, honey roasted pecans, and cranberries and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Just before serving, toss in the parsley. Transfer the salad to a large platter and serve warm or at room temperature.
Course: Dinner, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American

Categories:

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