This healthy change-of-season dish makes a great main or side
As the weather makes its leisurely turn from chilly to warm across much of the US, our appetites are beginning to change too. We may still crave some hearty dishes, but we’re looking to lighten things up a bit.
This Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad is perfect for the seasonal transition. Lentils and rice give comfort during the cool days that still linger on, while peas add color and a touch of spring.
This dish delivers as a meatless main course, but it also makes a tasty side. It’s vegan and gluten-free, too, so you can serve it wherever. Best of all, it’s equally good warm or chilled.
So what are you waiting for? No matter what the weather is like in your part of the world, you can make a dish that promises sunny days ahead.
Recipe: Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad
This dish is simplicity itself to make. Just combine cooked lentils, rice, and peas with some chopped onions and parsley. Toss with a lemony vinaigrette, and serve.
You can also change things up to suit your own tastes. Prefer brown rice to white? No problem. Want to substitute pasta or quinoa? Feel free. Want fewer lentils, more peas? Easy (as in easy peasy). Want to change the spices? Knock yourself out.
This recipe takes 30 to 40 minutes to prepare, part of that unattended. It yields 3 to 4 main-course servings, or twice that many side dish-servings. You can easily double the quantity (it’s great for picnics).
Leftovers keep for a day or two if refrigerated in an airtight container.
For the salad:
- ¾ cup lentils
- ½ cup white rice (may substitute brown rice, or another grain)
- 1 small or ½ medium red onion (yellow onion works too; see Notes)
- ~1 cup peas (fresh-shelled if they’ve available, otherwise frozen green peas work fine, particularly the baby ones)
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ¾ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or other spice of your choice; optional; see Notes)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground ancho pepper (to taste; may substitute cayenne pepper, but use only about half the amount)
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (or red wine vinegar; or a mix of lemon juice and vinegar)
- ~¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (may want a bit more; see Step 8)
- ~½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
- ~¼ teaspoon pepper (to taste)
- lemon slices or twists (optional)
- The lentils take the longest to cook (usually about half an hour), so start with them. Pick through the lentils and remove any tiny stones or lumps of dirt that might be in the package. Rinse the lentils, then pour them into a 2-quart sauce pan, and add enough water to cover the lentils by an inch. Bring the lentils to a boil on top of the stove, then turn the heat down so the water is just simmering. Set a timer for 20 minutes—the lentils won’t be done then, but you may need to add a bit more water at that point. Cook the lentils until they are just soft, but still hold their shape—usually 25 to 30 minutes. When the lentils are cooked, drain them and set aside.
- While the lentils are simmering, cook the rice according to package instructions. When the rice is cooked, remove it from the heat and set aside.
- Meanwhile, peel the red onion and cut into dice of ½ inch or less. Set aside.
- Shell the peas (if using fresh) or measure out the frozen peas and cook them. I prefer cooking peas in a covered microwave-safe dish with a tablespoon of water—they take 3 or 4 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave. When the peas are cooked, drain them and set aside.
- Wash and mince the parsley, then set aside.
- Prepare the vinaigrette: Peel the garlic and mince finely.
- Measure the cumin seeds (if using) into a small microwave-safe bowl (I use a ramekin) and nuke them for 3 or 4 minutes until they begin to turn color (you’ll be able to smell them). Let the cumin seeds cool, then grind them in a spice grinder.
- Place the minced garlic, ground cumin seeds, and ancho pepper in a small plastic jar with a lid. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, then shake well to combine. Add the salt and pepper, shake again, and adjust seasoning if necessary. (If the mix is too acidic for you, add a bit more olive oil.)
- Assemble the salad: Add the lentils, rice, red onion, peas, and minced parsley to a bowl large enough for tossing all the ingredients. Toss quickly to combine, then add the vinaigrette. Toss again until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve, adding lemon slices or twists for garnish if desired.
- The cooking time for lentils increases as they age (they dry out more). I use regular brown lentils for this dish, but French Le Puy green lentils would be quite nice (and they hold their shape better when cooked).
- I think red onion adds both nice color and flavor to this dish, but you could substitute white or yellow onion if you prefer. Or scallions.
- Adding diced red bell pepper to the dish (in addition to the onion) is a nice touch.
- I like the flavor of cumin in this dish, but you could substitute another spice or herb (or leave it out altogether; the dish will have a more subtle flavor). The taste of freshly roasted cumin is magic, IMO, but regular ground cumin is nice too. Fresh rosemary or thyme are also great flavor choices for this dish.
- Lemon juice adds wonderful flavor to this salad. But substituting wine vinegar works. In fact, I usually add just a bit of wine vinegar to vinaigrette dressing—I like its bite.
As the Weather Turns
“Will spring never get here?” asked Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, munching her salad. “We’ve been seeing robins for weeks, and we’ve had a few tantalizingly warm days. But the cold weather just keeps hanging on.”
“It’s definitely a late spring this year,” I agreed. “But there’s one sure sign that warm weather is arriving.”
“And that would be?” asked Mrs K R.
“Our lawn,” I replied. “The grass has suddenly greened up and started growing again—it’s about the only thing that has. I need to start mowing it.”
“Well, no need to worry about that task right now,” said Mrs K R. “Why not dish us up another helping of this great Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad? You can cut the grass tomorrow.”
Yup, tomorrow. Always our favorite day for chores.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Lentil, Quinoa, and Zucchini Salad
Summer White Bean and Quinoa Salad
Dal with Swiss Chard
Easy Lentil Soup
Edamame and Bean Salad
White Bean and Tuna Salad
Summer Pasta Salad
Or check out the index for more recipes
What a great looking salad! I like lentils but only think to use them in soups. Thanks for the recipe and love that slice of lemon on top. Pinned
This is such a gorgeous springtime salad, John! I could definitely see myself enjoying this on the side of some grilled meats. Love that lemon vinaigrette, too!
This is a great example of warm weather cooking. I just love the simplicity of a few ingredients, tossed in a light dressing and voila! A great light side dish. Thanks for this recipe. I would love this with a little grilled shrimp.
Hi Lea Ann, isn't this nice? I love lentils in salads! Thanks for the comment (and pin!).
Hi Georgia, this would be so good as a side to grilled meat! Great idea. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, grilled shrimp + this = magic! Good idea. Thanks for the comment.
This sounds so refreshing for the spring weather that hopefully is coming our way and it's healthy. I like how simple it is and light. Nice recipe!
You know, I noticed our lawn the other too, it is plush and green with all that snow fall we've had! I hope it stays short though, our lawn mower is on the blink. Love this spring salad, John! It really is perfect for the transition and I love the combo of rice, peas and lentils. Just beautiful!
Very unique. I've had lentils and rice together plenty of times--even with a vinaigrette. What makes this different, to me, is the toasted cumin for warmth with the peas and fresh parsley for freshness. Sounds scrumptious. --Rocquie
At least the snow is gone and I can see the grass.....makes me happy. I too spied robins the other day, but they are more elusive this year than they have been before. The salad looks perfect!
Finally spring seems to be showing some signs here, tulips and other bulbs started sprouting and apart from the rain, temps are getting better. Loved everything about the salad, its simple yet nutritious and easy to prepare.
Hi VIcki, I think spring is finally here. Think. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nazneen, I always say I'm going to get my lawn mower serviced in November or December so it'll be ready for spring, but never do it. :-( But even though I didn't do it, this year mine is in perfect working order, darn it! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rocquie, the cumin really is a nice touch, IMO. And I always love added minced parsley to a salad! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Minnie, it's been a tough winter -- really long and much colder than normal. So salads are on our minds. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Shibi, our tulips are threatening to bloom, too. Isn't this a nice salad? Loads of flavor, and really easy to make. Thanks for the comment.
Three healthy ingredients united resulting in a great dish! Love this!
Lovely Spring salad! The peas are a great addition! We just had a lawn company stop by. Checking to see what they can do to help repair all the winter damage. Said it wasn't too bad considering all of the rabbit fertilizer! Yes-mower season is just about here!
Hi John , what a tasty salad and I like the idea you can mix / match the ingredients . Yeah spring is here . My herbs and peppers was glad to get outside again . Planted peppers like Mrs. K R says I will start planting my garden next week . Thanks so much for sharing :)
Here in Mile High land we have days of springlike warmth followed by blizzard like snows so we can do a mixture. I made the most fantastic soup with short ribs the other day that were perfect but with a bit of sun out today; this sounds fantastic. I've never made ANYTHING but lentil soup...obviously time for a change!
This salad looks so delicious! So bright, healthy and filling :) I love it!
Hi Denise, isn't this nice? Loads of flavor, and healthy to boot -- what could be better? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, peas always always add nice flavor and color, don't they? We have such a small lawn we don't need a lawn service. Well, except for me, of course. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nee, I really do need to get cracking on our garden! Later this week. After I cut the grass. :-( Thanks for the comment.
Hi Barb, short ribs in soup? Sounds terrific! Although I'm big on lentils in soup (and make tons of lentil soup), they really are very versatile -- worth trying in all sorts of things. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dana, isn't this nice? Loads of flavor! And just filling enough. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
What a refreshing combination, John! Pinned!
Hi Lizzy, isn't this a good thing? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
This lentil salad looks so perfect, especially for spring. Beautiful photos too!
Looks delicious John, and somehow refreshing, without a doubt I would have a bowl of this salad as my main dish.
Thanks for the inspiration...hope you are enjoying your week :D
Oh this is fabulous, it sounds so healthy, and full of flavor! I found English peas at Trader Joes that I just love, they need to be included in this salad for sure! Perfect salad choice for Summer or all year! Yum, Take care, Terra
Great combination of flavors and textures going on in this salad, John. I wouldn't think to add cumin but now that you mention it, perfect!
Thank you so much for sharing...have fun with that lawn:) Mine is not quite ready yet, thank goodness, I think, lol...
This is such a gorgeous bowl of salad and I'm sure it goes well with grilled meat. The dressing is very simple and lite and that's just how I like it. This is a nice post John. Thank you. :)
Always looking for healthy and tasty meatless main dishes and this one looks terrific! Love the whole beans and rice combination but have never paired lentils and rice. Sounds good but I think the key to this salad is that awesome garlicky cumin dressing. Great salad John!
I definitely can use some lighter meals with the changing weather and this looks perfect.
You're so right! We've just started getting more sun (apart from some snow tomorrow) and have looked at making more salads. I love your idea, especially the addition of lentils.. because I have some that I don't have any recipe for:D Thanks!!
Hi Dan, isn't this nice? And so great for the weather we're having. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, this was dinner for us. ;-) Plus a lunch a day later --- doesn't get any better than that! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Terra, this really is a great salad to eat almost any time. Just change out the veggies for what's in season. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louse, I'm getting around to the lawn tomorrow -- for real! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ray, isn't this nice? It's great with grilled meat, or all by itself. Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, lentils and rice are a classic Indian combo (lentils usually in the form of dal). This is just a bit different. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ashley, we're moving into lighter meals big time! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Barbara, always happy to help with lentil recipes! One of my favorite legumes. Thanks for the comment.
Ooo, this sounds very Spanish and my way of eating. Throw in some chicken and shrimp and it would be like a Paella salad.
It's kind of funny that one part of the world seems to have a late spring and the other part seems to have a really early spring (like us). Not sure which one will turn out to be best in the long run but whatever the weather this salad will be good!
This looks delicious. I love baby peas with rice, adding lentils just sounds fabulous!
I can imagine how tasty they are
it is sweltering hot here too...and this lovely dish looks like just the perfect thing to savor for lunch....it has carbs,proteins and vitamins...is light on the stomach and tastes delicious,thanks for sharing this colorful salad...Have A Great Day!!! :-)
It's summery enough still that this would work as a main dish on a meatless night. It has a dressing that I'm so in love with. :)
A delicious combination and dish! The kind of healthy and light food I love to eat.
Wow, you volunteered to cut the grass without being 'nagged.' I'll go for that, plus the salad looks good too!
Lentils and peas make such a delicious combination - love this simple salad!
As for the weather - I have to agree with Mrs. KR, we had 2 days of 80 degree weather here in Atlanta and then this week, we are back in the 60s - I am hoping summer is a scorcher! :)
Isn't the sun great? Oh man, let the thawing begin here on the cape.
They say mid 70's by friday! I am ready!
And yes, I need to do more with lentils!
Hi Mireya, this is kinda sorta like a Paella salad, isn't it? Cooking technique is totally different, of course, but the end result is not that far off. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Simone, one of the fun things about reading from blogs all over the world is checking up on everyone's weather! I've been envious of your early spring. We'll get there, though.;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dahn, this really is a nice, tasty dish. Healthy, too! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Candy, it's really good stuff -- well worth trying. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kumar, this really is a meal in a bowl -- one of my favorite kinds of dishes! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Maureen, the dressing is really good, at least I think so. And this is such a great meatless dish -- very satisfying. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, isn't this a fun dish? Easy to put together, and so, so healthy. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, cutting the grass really isn't my favorite thing in the world, but it has to be done. And I'll be doing it later today! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Shashi, the weather has been weird, hasn't it? Fortunately this dish is anything but weird! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dawn, we're supposed to get into the high 70s today! I don't believe it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I was just mentioning today on my blog how much I love cumin in my recipes, glad to see you do too! This dish looks just heavenly.
Hi Mary Frances, cumin is one of my favorite spices! Of course it's the rare spice that I don't like. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Looks fabulous, John - I love salads like this, and you can easily make a meal from one of them. I wish green lentils weren't so much pricier because I do prefer them. The bag I have in the pantry may just find its way into this!
I love fresh peas in the shell. Love them! I have been looking for them, but they aren't out quite yet this season.
This looks wonderful, John, really perfect for this weather!
We are sitting on the patio tonight and noticing how green things are getting. Love the salad. Thanks for sharing it with us. Surely, spring is here to stay, right?
Not only nutritious but beautiful to look at. Hooray for spring on our plates!
Hi Donalyn, I'm with you on the green lentils -- love them, don't love their price. So they're a treat for us. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, I'm just starting to see fresh peas in the shell now, although I'm not sure how local they are (probably aren't). They're such a treat, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Gintare, this really is so nice. Spring can't come soon enough! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Debra, well, I have garden hoses out etc etc so I think spring is here. Been fooled before, though. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, this really is a good looking dish, isn't it? And it tastes even better! Thanks for the comment.
What a delicious and healthy dish for our upcoming Autumn. This looks really good! I can't wait to give it a go :)
Hi Julie, this really is one of those salads that we can eat throughout the year. Good thing, because it's, well, a good thing! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
This sounds great, would love it for lunch
This is such a lovely dish, I can eat that as a main course in meatless days. It is so versatile and colorful. I can make it with black rice, peas, black eyed beans, pomegranate any combination will work for me and hubby.
P.S: Still waiting for the toast recipe :)
Hi Caroline, this is so nice! Perfect for either lunch or dinner. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, may be a bit before we post the recipe for the bread that makes great toast. ;-) And you're right it's so easy to substitute other things in the recipe. The pomegranate idea is brilliant! Thanks for the comment.
This sounds awesome and easy to make!
Hi Katie, awesome? Check! Easy to make? Check! ;-) Really is a great dish, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
It still floors me every time I see just how much breadth of knowledge you put into these posts. That's a wonderful explanation of how to go about making this awesome dish! And I'm especially into lentils and brown rice at the moment, so this would be perfect. Thanks!
I was just saying the other day that I need to cook with lentils more often! And, seeing as I just picked some up at the store, I think this will be the perfect way to use some of them. Thanks for the healthy & yummy recipe, John!
I like rice salad and yours looks good with the combination of the lentils. I don't know why people to think of using rice in salads more often…they are a nice change of pace from potato or pasta salad.
Perfect spring time salad...colourful and fresh...this is right up my alley! The plating is done wonderfully!!
Peas for a touch of spring! I like it. I live the Pacific NW and we have had early and wonderful spring. I took a moment to think about flowering trees and tulips and daffodils
and and and. I took would choose cumin for the spice. I love that spice. I keep waiting to be tired of it, but I think it might be like salt. Laughing-----
Hi Ala, since you're into lentil and brown rice at the moment, this dish is for you! You'll enjoy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristy, lentils aren't just for soup. ;-) This is so worth making -- hope you try (and enjoy!) it. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, although I certainly like pasta salads, I think rice ones generally are better. In any case, always nice to have a change, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Purabi, isn't this a great combo of flavors and textures for spring? Such good and tasty stuff! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carol, I tend to use cumin a lot -- some might say too much! Not quite enough is what I say. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Se ve absolutamente rico y bella su ensalada perfecta combinación,abrazos
Hi Rosita, doesn't this look so great? And the flavor? Better! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Love that little twist of lemon! What a flavorful dish :)
Oh, this is my kind of salad. The flavors, textures, and the tastes. Delish. Thank you for sharing.
This looks delicious and I love how colorful it is too! Perfect for the season.
Hi Kristi, garnish is always important. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lail, I particularly like the texture of this (flavors too, obviously). It's a fun dish both to look at and to eat! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Peachy, isn't this pretty? Looks great, and tastes wonderful! Thanks for the comment.
Spring has Sprung! What a great salad - lots of texture, and I bet the ancho chile in the dressing really adds a nice zing. Well done, you inventive devil!
Hi Adri,spring has indeed sprung -- it'll be 80 here later today! Of course next week it's supposed to be in the 30s. :-( The chile really does add a nice bit of interest to this. Thanks for the comment.
You've nailed the secret to success with so many salads (whatever the season), "toss with a lemony vinaigrette". GREG
Hi Greg, it's pretty hard to wrong with a lemony vinaigrette when we're talking salad, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
We never were ones to put lentils in salads, though I have enjoyed them when Ive been offered them. For my tastes, it's the fresh peas that makes this dish. I love using them in any way possible each year and this year I think I'll try the in a lentil-rice salad I just learned about. We're still weeks away from lawn mowing season and I've yet to figure out what I'm going to do in the back yard. The contractors really tore it up last Fall. It's always something, isn't it?
This was another great post, John, just in time for the season. Thanks!
What a lovely dish. I've heard your Spring is a long time coming. It certainly seems you have had the longest winter in history! This dish is suitable for everyone. I love the colour and texture combinations and what a wonderful dressing xx
Hi John, I like beans salads (white beans in particular), and lentils are just a variation on that theme. More flavor, though, which is a plus in my book. Definitely worth trying something like this IMO -- tasty and fun. Good luck with that back yard! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, you're probably sick of us moaning and groaning about our winter! Not as bad as your very hot summer, but it seemed like it to us! Anyway, this salad is so nice for this time of the year, isn't it? Either for our spring, or your fall. Thanks for the comment.
I really enjoy this kind of dishes, really. I always take a break from meat or fish dishes 2 to 3 times a week and this is a perfect addition to my list. Besides, I haven't had lentils for quite a while: thank you for reminding me they do exist for our own pleasure. :P Have a great week!
Hi Alex, I love meatless dishes like this! Although I love meat, something like this has flavor that in some ways is better -- more complex and interesting. Thanks for the comment.
This sounds like a lovely springtime salad. I really like the combination of ingredients. Plus I am a big fan of peas, rice and lentil but I don't think I have eaten all together in the same dish.
Hi, John, that is a nice looking salad and an innovative way to incorporate healthy lentils and peas. Beautiful day here in Washington State today, temp at 70+ but rain is on the way. :(
Hi Dawn, lentil salads are so versatile -- you can use so many ingredients, and they always seem to work. Fun to experiment with! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, we actually may get snow tomorrow night! Won't last, but such weird weather we're having. Thanks for the comment.
i love a health dish every now and then so i feel less guilty about my reckless eating!
Hi Amy, the dishes that are bad for us are loads of fun, but really this sort of healthy dish is what most of us need most of the time. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
John, I adore every element of this salad! I just wish I could get the peas past my family. Then again, I can always fold them into my portion, or make it as written and not share. ;)
Hi Brooks, I'd make it as written and not share. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
What a flavorful vegetarian dish!!! I love lentils and need to use up the stash in my pantry :) Thanks for the help!!!
This would be so nice with grilled chicken or pork, yum!
Hi Liz, one of the things I really like about lentils is they are so versatile! They're great in so many different kinds of dishes. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Chris, this really is a great side dish! Or a main. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
There's nothing quite like a light meal like this when the weather is warm. I love lentils and rice and think they taste great together. Great recipe, John!
Hi Nancy, isn't this a great combo of flavor? And I agree lentils and rice are a terrific combo! Thanks for the comment.
The weather here is quite hot and this salad sounds wonderful. Have never tried a rice salad and I love everything about this salad. Time to give it a try...thanks for sharing :-)
Hi Taruna, this is such a lovely salad! I think you'll enjoy. Thanks for the comment.
What a gorgeously colourful Spring salad! I love it! I can imagine serving this alongside some delicious grilled chicken or fish, healthy and wonderful! We're heading into colder weather here. I'm still enjoying salads though. Luckily Australia gets a good portion of of sunshine all year round.
Hi Laura, Australia has such a great climate! Never gets too cold, although it certainly gets hot in the summer. Although I like this salad in spring (or fall) weather, it actually works throughout the year. Thanks for the comment.
I was looking at the seasonal/fresh ingredients for the season the other day, and green peas came up. This is a very nice dish to feature seasonal dish (but it's okay with frozen too!). Looks light, refreshing, and delicious!
Hi Nami, fresh green peas are wonderful, aren't they? Although frozen work pretty well -- they always freeze nicely. Thanks for the comment.
Easy Peasy! I think you were having way too much fun writing this post. Love your play on words. I crave substantial salads and this one checks all the boxes for me. A little crunch, a little sparkle and protein. Have a super week. Take Care, BAM
Hi Bam, :-) It's always fun writing posts, isn't it? This really is a great salad -- tons of flavor, and pretty decent nutrition. Thanks for the comment.
I love quick healthy recipes like this for lunch. Thanks for another great idea :)
Hi Christine, this makes a nice, quick, complete meal. Plus its flavor is outstanding! Thanks for the comment.
That's so funny, tomorrow is always my favourite day to do everything. Except eat. ha.
I love this recipe. It's fresh, light and gorgeous. Perfect fuel for cutting the grass.
Hi Kim, yeah, isn't tomorrow always a good day to do stuff? ;-) Grass cutting, alas, has now become a weekly activity. When will it snow again? :D Thanks for the comment.
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