Beluga Lentil, Butter Lettuce, and Radish Salad with Creamy Lemon Cashew Dressing
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This beluga lentil, butter lettuce, and radish salad is light, fresh, creamy, and lemony. It features a homemade, dairy-free, creamy lemon cashew dressing in addition to its wholesome vegan ingredients. Beluga lentils add protein to the recipe.

An overhead image of two round salad bowls, which are filled with a light, butter lettuce and radish salad. The salad is topped with black lentils.

This fresh, creamy, lemony butter lettuce and radish salad is one of my favorites for springtime.

It’s a simple, no frills salad, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I make so many meal-sized salads that are complex and bursting with different components. Sometimes it’s nice to create a side salad that’s more pared down.

Even so, like most of my salads, this one has plant protein. And that protein is in the form of cooked beluga, or black, lentils, which I love for their firm texture and round, tiny shape.

Let me say more about why I enjoy these little legumes so much, and why this salad is one of my favorite ways to serve them!

All about beluga lentils

Black belgua lentils, which can be sold either as “black lentils” or “beluga lentils,” are named after beluga caviar.

It’s not hard to see why. These lentils are tiny, round, firm, and shiny, much like the caviar of the same name.

I cook a lot of recipes with brown and green lentils. Both are inexpensive and very easy to locate in stores. They have a flat, round shape and become quite tender when cooked.

Personally, though, I have a soft spot for lentils, like beluga lentils, that are a little more firm and round.

Beluga lentils vs French lentils

In terms of shape, beluga lentils are similar to French lentils.

French lentils, technically called Le Puy green lentils, are also round and are smaller than regular green lentils.

Beluga lentils are even smaller than French lentils, however, and I think that they hold their shape the most easily of any lentil variety.

In addition to this lentil, butter lettuce, and radish salad, I like to use black lentils in one of my favorite holiday stuffed squash recipes and my beloved braised lentils on toast.

Butter lettuce love

The green component of the radish salad is large, tender butter lettuce leaves.

Butter lettuce is sometimes called “butterhead” lettuce, too. It’s a category of lettuce that includes Boston lettuce, bibb lettuce, and and buttercrunch lettuce.

Butter lettuce is known for its mild flavor and tender leaves. It happens to be one of my favorite lettuces for green salads.

An overhead image of a white bowl, which is filled with bright green butter lettuce leaves.
Butter or butterhead lettuce includes both Boston and bibb lettuce. It’s known for its tender, buttery texture and soft, round leaves.

For this salad in particular, the big, round butter lettuce leaves serve as nice big pillows for the lentils that go on top of the salad.

If you don’t have butter lettuce, that’s OK. Here are some good substitute salad greens:

  • Romaine
  • Little gem
  • Baby spinach
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Tropicana lettuce

A creamy, lemony vegan dressing

As with most of my salad recipes, what makes this salad special has nothing to do with the greens or the vegetables. It’s all about the dressing.

Imagine a dressing that’s creamy, but not overly heavy, as so many cream or mayonnaise-based dressings can be.

That’s what the creamy lemon cashew dressing for this salad is! Use of cashews is to thank for that simultaneously rich and light consistency.

In general, cashews are to thank for sauces and vegan “cream” that is remarkably authentic. I’ve used them in many a vegan dressing, but this lemony version is one of my favorites.

A close-up, overhead image of a creamy dressing, which is being blended in a handheld blender.
A lemony, cashew-based dressing makes this radish salad simultaneously creamy and light.

To turn cashews into dressing, you’ll need to soak them in water for a couple hours, then drain them. Be sure to use raw, or unroasted and unsalted, cashews for this job.

Then, use a powerful blender or a food processor to blend them into creamy perfection.

Cashews are perfect salad dressing base. They blend up easily and create creamy texture without any need for added fats or emulsifiers.

They’re also mild in flavor, which makes them a good alternative to nut butter or tahini dressings.

I’m guilty of relying on tahini a little too much when it comes to my dressings. When I use cashews, I’m reminded that it’s nice to have a neutral-tasting base ingredient.

From there, you can allow herbs, spices, or other seasonings to shine.

In the case of this particular dressing, what shines through is bright notes of lemon, a touch of sweetness, and shallots.

I love shallots in dressings. They taste so much more mild and neutral than garlic, yet they imparts a savory quality that’s unmistakable.

How to make beluga lentil, butter lettuce, and radish salad

To prepare this salad, I toss the greens and radishes in the dressing first, spoon cooked lentils on top, and then drizzle additional dressing over them. You could dress it all together, if you like.

An overhead image of two round salad bowls, which are filled with a light, butter lettuce and radish salad. The salad is topped with black lentils.
Gently spoon a portion of the cooked beluga, or black lentils, over the other ingredients to complete the salad. Lentils will add protein and fiber to this dish.

Here’s the recipe.

An overhead image of two round salad bowls, which are filled with a light, butter lettuce and radish salad. The salad is topped with black lentils.
An overhead image of two round salad bowls, which are filled with a light, butter lettuce and radish salad. The salad is topped with black lentils.
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Beluga Lentil, Butter Lettuce, and Radish Salad with Creamy Lemon Cashew Dressing

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

Creamy lemon cashew dressing:

  • 1/2 cup unroasted and unsalted cashews (70g)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)

Beluga lentil, butter lettuce, and radish salad:

  • 3/4 cup Beluga (black) lentils (substitute French lentils)
  • 5 ounces butter lettuce leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces (150g)
  • 4 large radishes, very thinly sliced crosswise

Instructions

  • Soak the cashews in room temperature water for two hours, then drain and rinse them. If you prefer, you can soak the cashews in the fridge overnight.
  • Add all dressing ingredients to a powerful blender or food processor and blend till creamy and smooth. The dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
  • To prepare the lentils, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils. Boil the lentils in the water like pasta for 25-35 minutes, or until all of the lentils are tender, but not mushy. Taste a few lentils at the 25-minute mark to check for doneness. Drain the lentils well.
  • To prepare the salad, toss the butter lettuce and radishes together with the dressing. Lay the vegetables onto serving plates and top each with a quarter of the lentils. Spoon additional dressing onto the lentils and serve.

I hope you’ll try this simple, springtime dish soon.

xo

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Categories: Salads, Side Dishes
Method: Stovetop
Ingredients: Lentils
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, No Oil, Soy Free, Vegan

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    15 Comments
  1. Those lentils in the photo are definitely not resembling beluga lentils, they appear to be Le Puy lentils. Not small and black and round enough for belugas.

  2. Radishes and I have a love – hate relationship. I was subjected to a terrible version of them as a child and always thought I hated them. Now that I’m an adult, I’m *trying* to eat things that I don’t like in an effort to add new exciting foods to my diet (sometimes it doesn’t work – I’m looking at you, mushrooms). I’m starting to actually like radishes, and I think lentils are the perfect partner to balance them out!

    Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  3. I’ve been loving lentils lately in all kinds of bowls and salady things. And this appetizer salad – yes! I too have fallen prey to the meal sized salad paradigm, and when I made an appetizer salad on the weekend it felt a bit strange, but was so lovely. Thanks for another winner, Gena!

  4. I have to admit that the thought to use lentils in a salad has never crossed my mind. Thank you for sharing your creativity! I obviously needed to see this!

    • I couldn’t agree more. I should write a cookbook that is exclusively dressings. It’s possible that only you or I would want to read it, but…

  5. There is not much that tops greens and lentils in a savory dressing! The perfect plate, in my opinion. I’ll definitely give this dressing a try soon!