Sunday, September 20, 2009

My favorite salad ever: Austrian Lentil Salad

I first tasted a version of this salad in 1990, when my boss's wife, who is from Vienna, Austria, brought a large container of her version to my wedding reception, because she said it's a traditional salad to serve at weddings and promises fertility.

She was pouting when no one ate the salad. I thought "What did she expect, she brought Lentils to my wedding reception!"
Fast forward nearly 20 years, and I had a chance to eat her salad again, and my tastes have matured to the point where I thought it was incredibly tasty. I became an instant convert. I updated and significantly improved upon her recipe (she only used 4 ingredients -- lentils boiled with bay leaf, a simple herbal mustard vinaigrette, and minced onion), and now, I am never without a container of this salad in my fridge. I make it every Sunday, and it lasts all week, holds up extremely well in lunches, and fortunately, did not make me fertile, which is a very good thing, because her recipe lasted longer than the marriage.

I don't know what makes a lentil dish "Austrian" but she claims it was a childhood dish she had many times in Vienna. My version is not likely Austrian, but is certainly inspired by hers.  I use Trader Joe's ingredients primarily, which included steamed and cooked lentils, but you can easily cook your own lentils and proceed with those after you've done so.


Base Salad

1 package of Trader Joe's Steamed Lentils (from the refrigerated section)
1 package of Trader Joe's Beluga Lentils (from the pasta section)
1/2 very finely diced red or white onion -or- 1 shaved shallot (shown in this version)
1-2 very finely chopped carrots
Snipped Italian Parsley
The zest of one lemon (use all the juice, below)
Zest an entire lemon into a large bowl. Add both packages of lentils, the diced carrots and onions, and the parsley. Toss all ingredients thoroughly and set aside.


The basic dressing is a lemon vinaigrette, but you should feel free to use your favorite oil & vinegar dressing, being certain to add the mucho lemon zest and lemon juice to it, to create the unique flavor. Here is my tried and true method:

1/2 cup of Trader Joe's Olive Oil
1/4 cup of Trader Joe's Seasoned Rice Vinegar (sometimes I use a bit of rice vinegar, and a bit of cider vinegar, when I want it tarter)
1 dollop of TJ's Dijon Mustard
The juice of 1 whole lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all in a blender cup to emulsify, and pour over the lentil salad. Toss thoroughly, adjust seasonings to taste, and serve chilled. This salad requires no cooking (unless you've cooked your own lentils) keeps in the fridge all week, and makes a wonderful, healthy, high protein, high fiber very satisfying lunch.

In fact, I'd never once thought I'd say this about a salad, especially one with lentils, but I'll stand in front of my open fridge door at night and eat this salad right from the container, with a spoon. If I worked at a TJ's, I would make this easy dish and demonstrate it, to convert people to the wonder of lemony lentils as a salad.

Personal note to my sister, Weezie: Aren't you proud of me?! I finally figured out a use for my obsessive acquisition of vinegar and oil even though I've always hated oil & vinegar dressing!


  1. This sounds really interesting. Next time I'm at Trader Joe's I'll pick up the lentils.

  2. sounds interesting but though I am Austrian (not from Vienna, though) I've never ever seen such a salad *lol*.
    How does it taste? ;)

  3. can you use dry lentils and cook them at home, or is there something special about the packaged ones?

  4. Oh you can absolutely cook your own. I just like having them on hand, pre-steamed, but there is nothing unique that would prevent you from steaming or boiling your own. The recipe was originally served to me with just Puy green lentils, but I like the mixture of the Beluga lentils (the teeny black ones) and the Puy Green lentils, which is why I combine them from Trader Joe's.

  5. Mig -- I've asked her how something like lentils became traditional in Austria and she had no answer other than she grew up with them in her childhood (1940s) and they had it extensively during the lean times, as an inexpensive protein dish. It tastes very bright and crisp, like a lemony three-bean salad, only much better.

  6. this i have to try, look and sounds very yum!:)