Grilled Asparagus & French Lentil Niçoise-Inspired Salad

Created by Laura Wright
5 from 6 votes

French lentil niçoise-inspired salad with grilled asparagus and caper dressing is a wholesome, deliciously vegan take on the classic salad. Simple to prepare and ready in under one hour.

An overhead shot of a vegan lentil niçoise-inspired salad with potatoes, green beans, and asparagus. The white platter of salad is on a dark grey background.

This french lentil niçoise-inspired salad with grilled asparagus, green beans, potatoes, crunchy radishes, olives, and a punchy caper shallot dressing is a beautiful hearty salad for Spring entertaining. Instructions for roasting the asparagus in this vegan main course salad are also available!

An overhead shot of a vegan lentil niçoise-inspired salad on a white platter with potatoes, green beans, and asparagus.
A head-on image of a kitchen scene with salad ingredients on the counter.
An up close shot of French green lentils
A 3/4 angle shot of asparagus cooking on an outdoor grill


When I was working on my cookbook last year, I had this loose concept of a vegan niçoise-inspired salad that I wanted to lock down. In the mix of all the other recipes and some seriously failed attempts, I never really settled on an execution that I was happy with. When I tried to explain it to Mark for some feedback (he loves the traditional version), he was baffled, saying “…But no fish or eggs?? Then it’s just a green salad.”

He’s right! What about that fish and those eggs? I didn’t know how to approach either of the typical protein components in a plant-based version of the salad. Any re-imagining of the eggs was out, no question. At first, I thought about making some sort of chickpea patty flavoured with nori seaweed, lemon, and capers. I knew that this option would be tasty, but honestly? It felt a little on-the-nose for me!

I was eating some asparagus with dinner one night recently and thought “Why can’t I just do that niçoise with a ton of vegetables and some French lentils for protein? They’re French!” Clearly the past failures of this salad were haunting me. So there we have it: lentil niçoise (inspired!) with lots of fresh veg.

This salad is in the loving spirit of niçoise. Mark and I shared the majority of this for dinner the other night after an unseasonably warm weekend. The colour-blocked sections on the platter made me smile, and I could definitely smother almost anything with the caper shallot dressing. The lentils lend a good bit of chewy satiation to this salad. Raising my glass to even more of those warmer days ahead :)

An up close shot of asparagus cooking on an outdoor grill.
An overhead shot of prepped components in bowls for a composed salad. Included here: cooked green beans, asparagus, olives, cooked potatoes, lentils, and a bowl of vinaigrette.
A 3/4 angle, up close shot of a vegan lentil niçoise-inspired salad with potatoes, green beans, and asparagus. The white platter of salad is on a dark grey background.

Grilled Asparagus & French Lentil Niçoise-Inspired Salad

French lentil niçoise-inspired salad with grilled asparagus and caper dressing is a wholesome, deliciously vegan take on the classic salad.
5 from 6 votes
grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Mess
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings 3 -4

Ingredients

Caper Shallot Dressing

  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (roughly 2 tablespoons of minced shallot)
  • 1 tablespoon capers, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad

  • ½ cup French lentils, rinsed
  • ½ lb mini potatoes
  • pound green beans, stems removed
  • lbs asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup pitted black olives, cut in half
  • 4-5 radishes, cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives

Equipment

  • Grill

Notes

  • Roasting the asparagus is definitely an option if you don’t have access to a grill.
  • There are 3 boiled components in this salad (lentils, potatoes, and green beans). I cooked each one separately, drained it, and then started on the next one. Of course if you’re on the ball and have 3 decently sized pots, you could have them all going at the same time.
  • Also, I like to make a triple batch of the caper shallot dressing to have around for other random salads and bowls throughout the week. Just a little hot tip!

Instructions

  • Make the caper shallot dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the minced shallot, caper, dijon mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Keep whisking the mixture while you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Once the mixture is thoroughly combined, check it for seasoning and set aside.
  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the lentils to the water and a fat pinch of salt. Simmer the lentils until just tender, but still quite chewy, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils and transfer them to a medium bowl. Toss the lentils with 2 tablespoons of the caper shallot dressing. Set aside.
  • Place the mini potatoes in the saucepan and cover them with an inch or two of cold water. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer the potatoes, uncovered, until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the potatoes. As soon as you can handle them, cut the potatoes into quarters. Transfer cut potatoes to a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the caper shallot dressing. Set aside.
  • Fill the saucepan with water one more time and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans to the water with a pinch of salt. Simmer the green beans, uncovered, until they’re crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes. Drain the green beans and rinse with very cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
  • Heat your grill to high. Toss the asparagus in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the asparagus on the grill. Cook until asparagus is crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Remember to flip asparagus over at the halfway point.
  • Transfer grilled asparagus to a serving platter. In sections, top the asparagus with the lentils, potatoes, green beans, olives, and radishes. Drizzle the remaining caper shallot dressing over the salad, and garnish with the chives. Serve immediately.
An overhead shot of a vegan lentil niçoise-inspired salad with potatoes, green beans, and asparagus. The white platter of salad is on a dark grey background.

20/04/2016 (Last Updated 11/08/2023)
Posted in: earthy, gluten free, grill, lentils, main course, nut free, refined sugar-free, roasted, salad, salty, side dish, smoky, sour, spring, summer, vegan

44 comments

Recipe Rating




  • Dyna

    5 stars
    I look forward to this every asparagus season!

  • Ali

    5 stars
    Stunning recipe. I only wish I had made more potatoes. Those go quick in my household! I will be returning to this again and again. Thank you.

  • Sharon S

    I found this recipe last night as I wondered what to do with the green beans I impulse bought at the grocery store. I just happened to have everything I needed for this recipe except asparagus, so I substituted broccoli. So. Darn. Good. And I’m super excited for lunch tomorrow because I doubled the recipe so we can have No Hassle Lunch tomorrow. Thank you for the tasty, filling, nutritious recipe.

  • Kim H

    Delicious! And the dressing! So good. Thank you for the grilling guide. This is the first recipe I chose. Thanks again!

  • Smadar

    I’ve been meaning to make this for a while and finally got around to it tonight. SO GOOD. That vinaigrette (as is the case in most of your salad recipes) just elevates each of the ingredients. I blitzed it up in my blender because I was feeling lazy, and the flavours came together so well. Can’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

  • Darcey

    I made this for friends tonight. We all loved it! And they are meatatarians!
    Such a lovely, delightful, flavourful dish. I made extras, and am looking forwards to leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Thank you!

  • Emily

    I made a version of this for dinner last night and my husband and I really enjoyed it! Simple, fresh flavors, quick and easy to put together. <3 I made the following changes and am putting them here in case another reader finds themselves in a similar situation: The asparagus at my grocery store didn't look great (I also realize you wrote this in Spring and I'm posting in Fall) so I increased the amount of green beans. I don't have a grill so I roasted the green beans in the oven on 400F (same time I put the potatoes in the pot to boil) with some smoked salt and black pepper, then sprinkled in some fresh lemon juice after they were done. Also I was unknowingly out of white wine vinegar so in the dressing recipe I substituted half apple cider vinegar and half sherry vinegar (1 tbsp each). It was good but I think would have been best with the white wine vinegar as you'd written it. Served sans radishes and with Calvestrano olives. Thanks for the great recipe and inspiration!

  • Mary

    Unsubscribe me

    • Laura

      Mary,
      I searched your email address in my subscriber list and nothing came up. If you subscribe by email, you should be able to find an unsubscribe button at the bottom of any post you receive in your inbox. If you subscribe via RSS feed, there should be an unsubscribe feature with whatever reader you use.
      -L

  • Derek @ HealthierDay

    That looks great and very healthy! We will give this one a try.

  • Kim

    Made this last night and it was delicious, thank you! I added some extra lentils and potatoes since it was our main (ok, only) dinner dish. The beans add to the Nicoise feeling, but I feel they could easily be left out to simplify.

  • Heather

    Thanks for this!! Made it last night–it’s so great and totally works. Also just a beautiful plate and spring veg inspiration.

  • Jennifer

    I made this today and it was delicious! I did put boiled eggs in it (sorry) but the best parts were actually the lentils and the grilled asparagus! Both me and my husband had second helpings, so thank you!. :)

  • danielle // rooting the sun

    if the inspiration is there, and the spirit is there, then the embodiment is there and for all intents and purposes this is a damn fine niçoise laura! i love the combination of lentil, asparagus, and olive. you have a beautiful brain, happy spring weather. xo

  • Jessica

    I can’t wait to try this– I love grilled asparagus.
    My niece is a new and very fussy vegetarian. Protein sources are problematic but she like lentils so, I think this will become a staple in her diet! Thanks!!

    • Laura

      I was once a new and fussy vegetarian that actually hated lentils hehe. Hope you get a chance to try this recipe, Jessica :)
      -L

  • Alison @ Alison's Allspice

    I love that you suggest making extra dressing to use throughout the week, a great tip to keep things simple. Grilled asparagus is a favorite of mine, I can’t wait to try this. Pinned!

    • Laura

      I’m all about keeping things easy and streamlined throughout the week. trying to incorporate more recipes and strategies like this on the blog, so totally appreciate your feedback, Alison!
      -L

  • Jessie Snyder | Faring Well

    I am SO glad you stuck with this salad version and brought it to us here Laura! I wan too face plant into this dish right now. And this dressing? THIS DRESSING. Happy warm sunny days girl, and lots of grilling in our futures <3

    • Laura

      Hehe I’m glad I didn’t give up on this salad either. Grilling season is upon us yesssssss!
      xoxo

  • Allyson

    This is what I look for in vegetarian/vegan adaptions of classic dishes, that it stays true to the spirit of the dish. I don’t keep meat at home, and don’t generally eat it, but I will always order a salade niçoise if there’s one to be found. I can’t wait to try this version.

    • Laura

      Thanks Allyson! I hope you get a chance to try and enjoy this one :)
      -L

  • Megan @ Meg is Well

    I’ve actually never heard of nicoise salad so I looked it up and I think your version looks better anyways. I guess that puts me on the side of innovation and “rules are made to be broken” side of things. I love everything about this salad!

    • Laura

      Thanks so much, Megan. I’m totally into breaking the rules (when it’s a salad at stake hehe)
      -L

  • Sophie | The Green Life

    I’ve never been a fan of Niçoise salad, but your adaptation sounds glorious! Well done. Beautiful recipe and photos, as always. <3

    • Laura

      Thank you so much, Sophie! <3
      -L

  • lindsey

    while i eat eggs (and fish sparingly) i never like the nicoise. but this rendition sounds totally perfect. we’ve been grilling up our fair share of asparagus the past few days too, and this warm weather is for sure bringing out MAJ salad vibes over here. thanks for your endless inspiration, and making salads so much more compelling ;) xo!

    • Laura

      Hope you’re enjoying so much outdoor grilling and eating with that beautiful backyard garden setup of yours, girl :)
      xo L

  • Sarah | Well and Full

    I am all for calling this a niçoise salad, and am so glad someone finally made a beautiful vegan version!! ;) But I hear you on the historical accuracy vs. food context question… I made a vegan pho the other day that wasn’t traditionally pho-like at all and was stressing about what to call it on the blog. But it definitely was in the SPIRIT of pho, just as this salad is in the spirit of niçoise.

    • Laura

      It’s such a weird, unspoken thing with food blogs and food media in general. I’m always weary of calling something by a traditional name when I’ve slightly re-interpreted it, but calling this “Vegan spring vegetable salad in the spirit of a niçoise” would have been the most annoying blog post title ever :P
      xo L

  • renee (will frolic for food)

    i man i SO get that whole thing about having recipes hit you, working on them, putting them on the back burner and then eventually looping around when you finally GET IT. it happens a lot in my kitchen / brain. for me right now it’s a mushroom-based crab cake recipe. anyway, loving this rainbow of nicoise-ish salad gloriousness! you’ve got some dope dressing skillz, girl.

    • Laura

      That moment when it hits you is the best, and it almost always happens when I’m the furthest away from any note-taking equipment haha. Crossing my fingers that you’ll nail that crab cake soon :D :D
      xoxo L

  • Maya | Spice + Sprout

    THIS! I am totally on the same page as you about the authenticity vs deliciousness argument. I am all on the side of experiments and adaptations! I love the picture of your bbq, so stoked for summer eats and outdoor meals <3

    • Laura

      Thanks Maya :) Outdoor meals are my favourite thing about summer I think. After making this salad, I just want to grill everything!
      xo L

  • Ashlae

    Girl. You are speaking my language with this salad. Also, totally digging the fact that I can make this despite the fact that I don’t have a proper kitchen. Cheers to warmer days! And salad, OF COURSE. <3

    • Laura

      I’m feeling for you with that kitchen situation right now. Wish I could have you guys over for epic salad and a drink or two while the construction rolls on :)
      xo L

  • Abby @ Heart of a Baker

    Oh girl, I’ve been craving a veggie heavy version of a nicoise salad for ages! Lentils aren’t usually my thing, but in this salad they look perfect. I can’t wait to see your cookbook, it’s going to be killer!

    • Laura

      I’m glad I’m not the only one that gets strong, kind of weird and random cravings haha. My man doesn’t really enjoy the lentils either, but totally vibed to them in this salad, so maybe there’s hope :)
      xoxo L

  • Amy | The Whole Food Rainbow

    Looks so delicious, and just says SUMMER IS COMING! to me in the most wonderful way! Bring it on! I’ve never used capers (I know, what have I been doing in my kitchen?) and have been thinking about them recently so thanks for the inspiration :)

    • Laura

      We got a beautiful, summery preview these last few days weather-wise. My excitement is off the charts, too :) Capers are one of my favourite ingredients, so I hope you get to try them soon!
      -L

  • LISA

    Looove niçoise salad – whether it is with tuna and eggs or without. Your vegan option is looking superb, pretty vibrant. Spring vegetables are so pretty damn beautiful and aesthetic, aren’t they?
    Lots of love, Lisa

    • Laura

      Thanks Lisa. And it’s true, spring veg almost have an electric hue to them I find. Such an inspiring time to cook!
      xo L

  • Katrina

    This is the best kind of outdoor eating food! So delicious!

    • Laura

      Thanks Katrina! Outdoor eats are my favourite kind of eats :)
      -L