I’m always looking for a delicious go-to weeknight salad that can be served either as a main dish or a whole meal. And this French Lentil Salad is definitely one of those! Featuring my favorite crispy pan seared salmon, spinach, a simple toasted cumin vinaigrette, and dried cranberries for some chewy sweetness, this salmon spinach lentil salad is hearty, full of flavor and healthy.
Lentils are a staple in my kitchen, and for more reasons than one. A plant-based superfood, lentils are loaded with protein, fiber and iron, making them a great staple for all kitchens, but especially a vegetarian one. They’re quick cooking, inexpensive, and totally versatile.
What Kind of Lentils to Use
I love cooking with du Puy lentils (also called beluga because the tiny black lentils look like beluga eggs) because they retain a nice toothsome bite after cooking. If you can’t find black lentils for this salad go ahead and use brown or green lentils, just avoid using red lentils as they don’t retain their shape.
When cooking with lentils, it’s important to pick through and discard any stones or debris before cooking. Seems arduous, but it’s worth the time to avoid a cracked tooth!
Salmon, Spinach and Lentils: a Perfect Pairing
Salmon pairs really well with both lentils and spinach, and it’s a great way to add some heart-healthy protein to this entrée lentil salad. I opted to use my tried-and-true method for pan searing which creates a wonderful crisp crust without any additional fat needed.
If you’re looking to save time, feel free to use some smoked salmon from your local fishmonger.
Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette
This French lentil salad features one of my absolute favorite vinaigrettes—toasted cumin vinaigrette. Let’s point out the obvious, cumin is not a spice you think of when you think French cuisine, but it pairs so beautifully with the black lentils, goat cheese and salmon I just had to use it. To keep the flavors very French go ahead and use fennel seeds instead of cumin seeds.
The process of making the vinaigrette is simple. It starts by infusing olive oil with cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Once the cumin seeds are toasted and the oil is infused, remove the skillet from heat and stir in some minced garlic. The hot oil will take the edge off of the raw garlic and further infuse the oil with flavor. To bring it all together, combine the infused oil, cumin seeds and garlic with red wine vinegar, Dijon, and a dash of honey.
Add Some Sweetness
Dried cranberries are a great way to add texture and sweetness to salads and savory dishes. Cranberries pair particularly well with spinach and kale, making them right at home in this French lentil salad.
Use this recipe as a guide, mix and match different toppings and spices to keep all of your salmon spinach salads interesting and delicious.
- Use crumbled feta cheese instead of goat cheese.
- Use fennel seeds instead of cumin seeds for an added dose of French flavor!
- Add thinly sliced red onion instead of shallot
- Add a dried bay leaf and thyme sprigs to the lentils while they cook.
What to Serve with this Lentil Salad
With the addition of salmon, this cold lentil salad easily achieves main-dish status. All it needs is a simple side dish, here are a few that would pair well:
- Crispy Roast Fingerling Potatoes
- Japanese Milk Bread Rolls
- Homemade Naan Bread
- Skillet Cornbread
- Red Wine Sangria
Salmon Spinach French Lentil Salad with Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette
- ½ cup dry du Puy lentils, picked over
- 1 pound skin-on salmon fillet
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 8 cups spinach (one 8-ounce bag)
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup thinly sliced shallot
- ½ cup crumbled goat cheese
- Rinse lentils in a fine-mesh strainer, then cook according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, combine 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Sprinkle half of salt and pepper mixture in bottom of a large nonstick skillet. Arrange salmon, skin side down, in skillet; heat to medium high and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper over top.
- Cook salmon until fat begins to render and skin starts to brown, 6–7 minutes. Flip, cook until flesh side starts to brown, 6–8 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Remove skin and flake into 1-inch pieces.
- Meanwhile, combine oil and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until fragrant and toasty, 4–5 minutes. Off heat, add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Let oil cool in pan (garlic will crisp up). Transfer oil to a bowl and whisk in vinegar, Dijon, and honey; season with salt and pepper.
- Drain lentils. Combine spinach, parsley, dried cranberries, and shallots; divide among four serving bowls. Top each salad with lentils, salmon, and goat cheese; drizzle with vinaigrette.
This recipe was originally posted on October 14th, 2019. It was last updated February 23, 2021.