Lentil salad with roasted eggplant and fresh veggies gets a punchy pomegranate dressing in this vegetarian dinner recipe. It's everything you love about summer in each bite!
Lentil salad with roasted eggplant and fresh vegetables is a delicious and nutritious recipe I’m certain you’ll make again and again.
Together, eggplants and lentils make for great teammates, but the dressing in this lentil salad recipe is what really puts it over the edge. The combination of sweet, tart, and earthy pomegranate molasses and tangy sumac creates a perfect balance of flavors that will have your taste buds singing.
This vegetarian dinner recipe bursts with lively flavors and textures. It's hearty enough to be a main dish but versatile enough to be a side. Leave off the feta and serve as a vegan dinner, perhaps alongside homemade pita bread. Or pair it with a protein like Grilled Harissa Chicken or Baked Cod. You’re going to love it any way you serve it.
Table of Contents
- Ingredients for Lentil Salad with Eggplant
- What Type of Lentils Are Best?
- What Are the Best Eggplants for Salads?
- How to Make Eggplant and Lentil Salad
- What to Serve with Lentil and Eggplant Salad
- Easy Eggplant Recipes
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- Lentil Salad with Roasted Eggplant and Pomegranate Dressing Recipe
Ingredients for Lentil Salad with Eggplant
My lentil salad recipe uses easy-to-source produce and Mediterranean pantry staples to make a nutritious and comforting home-cooked meal. I drew inspiration for this recipe from a stew I grew up eating, translated to habet ruman, habet rummaneh or rumanieh. The name comes from the Arabic word ruman which means pomegranates.
Habet ruman is stewed lentils and eggplants cooked in a sauce of fresh pomegranate juice or pomegranate molasses. I often enjoy it in late fall and winter when pomegranates are in season.
With the summer months upon us and childhood flavors of rumanieh on my mind, I set out to create an lentil salad that combined stewed lentils with tender roasted eggplant, fresh vegetables, and a slightly sweet and sour pomegranate and sumac dressing.
- Lentils: For this salad recipe you need brown or green lentils as they hold their shape when cooked.
- Pomegranate molasses: An important ingredient in Middle Eastern and Arab cooking, pomegranate molasses is tart and slightly sweet. I like it in salad dressings, marinades and even in desserts. Make it yourself, pick up a bottle in the international aisle, at your local Middle Eastern market, or grab our favorite from our shop and have it shipped to your door.
- Sumac: Adds a bright red color and a tartness similar to lemon zest. Look for it in the spice aisle, at your local Middle Eastern market, or grab our favorite from our shop.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Makes a fantastic base for salad dressings because it's flavorful, versatile, and neutral enough to let the the salad's other ingredients shine. Use a smooth olive oil, like our Nocellara.
- Salt and pepper: Simple pantry staple ingredients that add lots of flavor with hardly any effort.
- Cumin: The earthy, and slightly citrusy flavor profile of cumin complements the cooked lentils well.
- Eggplant: I prefer the globe eggplant for this recipe because of its meaty texture and large surface area.
- Tomatoes: The natural sweetness of tomatoes complements the earthy lentils well. Use your favorite variety such as cherry tomatoes, Roma, or vine-ripened tomatoes will work great in this recipe.
- Arugula: This peppery leafy green vegetable adds a vibrant color and a hint of spice to the salad.
- Red onion: Red onions have a slightly spicey to mild flavor that complements the earthy lentils well.
- Mint: Adds nice bright notes to the salad. Feel free to substitute with other herbs such as parsley or basil.
- Feta cheese: Feta is a tangy brined cheese from Greece that's made from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. You can use goat cheese, mild mozzarella, or omit the cheese for a vegan meal.
- Lemon: Lentils love acidity, and the citrusy, fresh notes brighten the flavor of roasted eggplant.
- Pomegranate seeds (optional): Add color and a pleasant crunch and complement the pomegranate dressing.
What Type of Lentils Are Best?
Lentils are an essential part of the pantry both where I grew up and all over the Middle East. Their versatility and long shelf life makes them a great budget-friendly ingredient to have on hand.
Members of the legume family, lentils are a nutrition powerhouse. They provide a range of important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In fact, the USDA specifies that 100 grams of lentils has more than 10 grams of fiber and 24 grams of protein. That’s equivalent to the amount of protein in 3 ounces of chicken breast and 3 grams more fiber than prunes! Plus, they’re high in thiamine, folate, B6, vitamin C, and more.
Adding lentils to a salad can increase the nutritional value of the dish and provide a satisfying and healthy meal. They are a great plant-based protein option and a fantastic pantry staple to keep on hand.
Types of Lentils
My family added lentils to salads, rice pilafs and soups to enrich them with nutritional value, texture, and slightly nutty flavor. In this recipe, I recommend using either brown, French (Puy) or green lentils because they tend to hold their shape better.
- Black: Also known as beluga lentils due to their resemblance to caviar, black lentils are small and dark with a slightly nutty flavor. They hold their shape well when cooked, making them a good choice for salads and side dishes like Mediterranean Lentil Salad.
- Green: Green lentils are the most commonly found lentils in grocery stores. They have a slightly peppery flavor. Their firm texture is ideal for soups and stews, like our Mediterranean Spicy Lentil Soup With Spinach.
- French (Puy): Small and greenish-grey in color with a nutty flavor. They hold their shape well when cooked. This makes them a popular choice for side dishes like our Jeweled Couscous with Pomegranate and Lentils.
- Brown: The most budget-friendly lentil. Brown lentils are medium-sized with a mild, earthy flavor and a soft texture. Use them in this recipe, or Egyptian Koshari.
- Red: Small and orange in color and have a sweet, nutty flavor. They cook quickly and become very soft, making them a popular choice for soups like Turkish Kırmızı Mercimek Çorbası. Red lentils are a good source of protein, fiber, iron, and other essential nutrients, and contain more antioxidants than other types of lentils. They aren't a great choice for salads because they fall apart.
What Are the Best Eggplants for Salads?
Eggplants are also a beloved ingredient in the Arab world. They’re especially abundant in the summer when they’re at their peak of sweetness. Their creamy and meaty texture is the star in the very popular baba ganoush. But eggplants aren’t only for dips! They are delicious stuffed, roasted, braised, and grilled.
In the summer months, the farmers markets overflow with all kinds of eggplant varieties. I like globe eggplants for this recipe, also called American eggplants, because of their meaty texture and large surface area. They have a short, squatty shape and a deep purple color.
Globe eggplants are easy to find and a great all-purpose eggplant, but feel free to try other varieties such as graffiti eggplants, Italian eggplants, Japanese eggplants, or smaller varieties like Indian eggplants or fairytales.
Just pay attention to the cooking times. Smaller eggplants will require shorter cooking time and can be great for a side dish as individual servings. Whichever variety you choose, pick the eggplants that look shiny and have smooth skin, are slightly firm with green stems.
How to Make Eggplant and Lentil Salad
Eggplant and lentil salad is a simple recipe that only requires forward thinking: Give yourself enough time to allow the eggplant to cool to room temperature.
- Make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ olive oil, 2 teaspoons sumac, ½ teaspoon sea salt, and 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Get ready: Preheat your oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cook the eggplants: Cut 2 eggplants in half lengthways and score the flesh with diagonal lines, making sure you don’t pierce the skin. Place cut side up on a baking tray and brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until tender browned at the edges, about 20 minutes.
- Cook the lentils: In a medium pot, bring 1 cup of lentils, 3 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of cumin to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're tender (but before mushy), about 20 minutes. Strain and set aside to cool.
- Finish the eggplant: Brush the cooked eggplants with a thin layer of dressing and return to the oven until it's absorbed, 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Prep the veggies: Halve 8 ounces of cherry tomatoes. Chop enough mint leaves to yield ½ cup of chopped leaves. Thinly slice 1 small red onion. Optionally, ready yourself ½ cup of pomegranate seeds.
- Combine: Add the lentils to a large mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, arugula, mint, and dressing and toss to combine. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve: Arrange the eggplants on a large platter and top with the lentil salad. Crumble on 2 ounces of feta cheese and finish with the pomegranate seeds. Serve at room temperature.
What to Serve with Lentil and Eggplant Salad
Lentil salad with eggplant can be served as a main dish or as a side dish, depending on your preference. The addition of hearty and nutritious lentils and a serving of vegetables makes this a nutritious meal served on its own.
The various textures and fresh flavors make this salad a great side dish. Serve with grilled meats or fish: such as grilled chicken, swordfish, salmon, or shrimp would pair very well with the flavors of the salad.
- Serve eggplant and lentil salad with warm pita bread, quinoa, or rice on the side. It’s a great way to mop up the juices.
- Turn this salad into a wrap or sandwich for a delicious lunch on the go. Simply chop the eggplant and add everything to a pita, perhaps with a drizzle of Tahini Sauce.
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Lentil Salad with Roasted Eggplant and Pomegranate Dressing
For the dressing
For the salad
- 2 medium globe eggplants (1 ½ pounds)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoons black pepper
- 1 cup dried green or brown lentils, rinsed
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups baby arugula
- ½ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (or 3-4 sprigs thinly sliced spring onion)
- 2 ounces feta cheese (optional), crumbled (optional)
- 1 pomegranate (optional), seeded about a ½ cup
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, sumac, salt, and pomegranate molasses. Taste, adjust the seasoning to your liking, and set aside.
- Cook the eggplant: Preheat an oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways and score the flesh with diagonal lines. Make sure you don’t cut all the way through to the skin. Place the eggplants, cut side up onto a baking tray. rush the eggplants with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast until the eggplant is tender and the top is browned and crispy, about 20 minutes.
- Cook the lentils: While the eggplant roasts, place the lentils, 3 cups of water, and cumin in a medium size saucepan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender, but still hold their shape. We want the lentils to still have a slight bite and not be mushy. Check your lentils for doneness, then drain and set aside to cool slightly.
- Finish the eggplant: Once the eggplant is cooked, brush with a little of the pomegranate molasses dressing. Return to the oven until the eggplant is glossy, 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- To make the salad: In a large mixing bowl, combine the lentils, tomatoes, arugula, mint, and sliced red onion. Add the dressing and gently toss together. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- To serve: Arrange the eggplants on a large platter and top with the lentil mixture. Sprinkle the feta and pomegranate seeds on top if using. Serve at room temperature.
- Mint bruises and turns bitter easily. Use a very sharp knife or kitchen scissors to chop it without bruising. While this salad can be served hot, the flavor and texture is better at room temperature. Allow enough time to allow the eggplant to cool.
- When cooking lentils, make sure you taste-test for doneness. The variety, brand, and maturity of the legume will affect cooking times. If your lentils are still crunchy after 20 minutes of cooking, keep checking every five minutes until they’re tender.
- You can make Homemade Pomegranate Molasses from pomegranate juice or you can buy pomegranate molasses from our shop and have it shipped to your door.
- Visit Our Shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients, including extra virgin olive oil, spices and more!