Trade in your traditional greens based salad for this hearty vegetarian roasted cauliflower, feta, and lentil salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette. This salad is hearty enough for a packable lunch for work or a flavorful side dish.
Colder days are here and it is time to switch up your salad game. Trust me, I love a good lettuce-based salad but these days I am craving something heartier. This roasted cauliflower, feta, and lentil salad is just the thing!
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Simple ingredients – cauliflower, lentils, feta, fresh herbs, and a few pantry spices make this a salad worth making again and again.
- Great for meal prep. Unlike lettuce based salads, this roasted cauliflower salad holds up well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. In fact, it often tastes even better the next day!
- Perfect for lunch – either in the office or at home. During the fall and winter, this is one of my favorite salads for packing.
- This recipe is great for anyone with allergies or restrictions since it is: vegetarian, gluten-free, and egg-free. Skip the feta or use a non-dairy crumbled cheese to easily make this recipe vegan and dairy-free!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Cauliflower: Cauliflower makes the perfect base for this delicious salad since it has a mild flavor that pairs well with the mediterranean spices in this recipe. For fun, use a colorful cauliflower like green, yellow, or purple to add more color to the dish. (I used a yellow one in the photos for this post.)
- Lentils: Include a protein like lentils in your salad to make them more filling. If you don’t like lentils, you could also use canned chickpeas or white beans for this salad.
- Broth: Adds more flavor to the cooked lentils, but you can use just water.
- Parsley & Mint: Love the freshness that herbs like parsley and mint add to salads like this one.
- Spices (Cumin/Garlic/Onion/Smoked Paprika): Add these spices to the cauliflower before roasting to infuse this salad with tons of flavor. The cumin pairs especially well with the other elements of this salad like lemon, mint, and feta.
- Lemon: Use fresh lemon juice and zest to infuse the simple dressing for this salad with tons of flavor.
- Almonds: I like adding some nuts for crunch and almonds were a great option for this salad. You could also use walnuts, pistachios, or pumpkin seeds.
- Feta Cheese: Adds some creaminess and pairs well with the cumin and mint. The salad is just as delicious if you leave it out. You could also substitute the feta for a vegan option like this vegan feta.
How to Make this Roasted Cauliflower Salad
STEP 1: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and assemble all of your ingredients.
STEP 2: Add your chopped cauliflower to a large mixing bowl and add the spices (cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper). Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat the cauliflower. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread into single layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
STEP 3: While the cauliflower roasts, add the lentils and broth to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cover with lid. Simmer for 13-15 minutes or until lentils are tender and broth has been absorbed.
STEP 4: Add the salad dressing ingredients to a mason jar and shake to combine.
STEP 5: Combine the roasted cauliflower, cooked lentils, feta cheese (if using), pomegranate, and chopped herbs (parsley and mint) in a large bowl. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm or chilled.
Although it may look fancy, this salad isn’t really that complicated to make! Here are a few of my tips for making sure your salad tastes great.
- Don’t overcook your lentils. Once your lentils are simmering, don’t just set a timer for 15 minutes and forget about them! I start tasting a couple lentils at the 12 and 15 minute mark to see if they are getting soft. Since you want your lentils to hold together in the salad, it is best to err on the side of a little less cooked/chewy.
- Also, don’t just cook your lentils until the liquid is cooked off! Sometimes they can get too soft at that point. If your lentils are done, simply drain off any extra broth before using them in this salad.
- Roasting tip – don’t like your baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat. I know, it makes clean up easier but you get a much nicer char/crisp on the cauliflower when it has direct contact with the pan while roasting.
Why is This Salad Good For You?
- Cauliflower: Even though cauliflower isn’t as colorful as other fruits and vegetables doesn’t mean it isn’t as nutrient dense! Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, and vitamin B6. Also, like other cruciferous vegetables it is high glucosinolates which are sulfur containing compounds that provide health benefits. For example, higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables have been linked to lower risk of many cancers and researchers suspect it may be partly due to the antioxidant properties of the glucosinolates.
- Lentils: Lentils are a great source of plant-based protein. In fact, one cup of cooked lentils provides 14 grams of protein. Legumes are also a great source of fiber with about 16 grams per 1 cup serving. In addition to fiber and protein, lentils are also a great source of iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium. Many Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet which is important to note since magnesium deficiency has been associated with cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, hypertension, and diabetes. Regularly incorporating foods that are high in magnesium in your diet like lentils will help you meet the recommended intake for magnesium.
- Pomegranate: Pomegranate is high in anthocyanins, the type of antioxidants found in red fruits and vegetables. Eating a diet high in antioxidant rich foods may help protect brain cells from damage as you age. A 1/2 cup serving of pomegranate arils has 72 calories, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.
- Almonds: Almonds are a good source of fiber, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Even though almonds are calorie-dense, research has not associated increased almond/nut intake with weight gain. Regular consumption of almonds is also associated with decreased risk of heart disease thanks in part to the plant sterols found in almonds.
Is Cauliflower Low Carb?
Yep! A 1 cup serving of cauliflower has only 5 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber. For those looking to lower their carbohydrate intake, using cauliflower in place of higher carb foods like rice or pasta is a great strategy. Will and I make cauliflower “rice” often and incorporate that in recipes for regular rice. These are some of my favorites –> cauliflower fried rice with tofu and spicy tempeh stuffed peppers.
What are shallots?
The dressing for this salad calls for shallots. It wasn’t until recently that I started using them and I love them for salads!Shallots belong in the same plant family as onions but have a milder flavor than regular white or red onions with a hint of garlic flavor.
I like using shallot vs raw garlic/onion in salad dressings because it adds great flavor but isn’t as overpowering. Shallots grow in clusters like garlic, but are the size of a small red onion. You can usually find them in the produce aisle at most grocery stores. In a pinch, just substitute the same amount of finely chopped red onion for the dressing in this salad.
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Roasted Cauliflower, Feta, and Lentil Salad
- 1 small saucepan
- 1 mixing bowl
For the Cauliflower:
- 1 head cauliflower
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 dash sea salt and black pepper
For the Lentils:
- 1/2 cup dried brown lentils
- 1 cup vegetable broth
For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Salad:
- 1/2 cup chopped roasted, unsalted almonds
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
Make the Cauliflower
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chop cauliflower into bite sized florets. Toss with olive oil and spices in a large bowl and arrange in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cauliflower is tender and browned. Set aside.
Make the Lentils
- While the cauliflower bakes, add lentils and broth to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower heat so that lentils come down to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are tender (~15 min). Drain off any broth if you have any left in the pan. Set aside.
Make the Dressing
- Make the dressing by adding all the dressing ingredients (oil to black pepper) to a jar. Screw the lid on the jar tightly and shake to mix up the dressing.
- To assemble your salad, add the cauliflower, cooked lentils, almonds, mint, parsley, pomegranate, and feta to a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing. Toss well to mix everything together.
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Tastes great packed as a salad to take to work for lunch!
- Add more color to the salad by using a colorful cauliflower instead of a white one.
- For optimal browning, do not line your sheet pan with parchment or a silpat mat.
- To make this dairy-free, use a vegan feta cheese or serve without the cheese.
- To make this nut-free, leave out the almonds.
- Don’t like almonds? Use chopped walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or pistachios instead.
- Don’t have shallot? Use finely chopped red onion instead.
- Salad will store well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days in an airtight container.