Food

Why One Reader Has Made This Dinner for 6 Years

Trader Joe's Warm Lentil Salad

Next up in our Trader Joe’s month is a recipe for warm lentil salad from reader Karen. “My husband and I started making this six years ago and we still do,” she says. “It’s a perfect Sunday night dinner, and reheats beautifully as leftovers during the week. I’ve recommended this recipe to many family and friends, and they continue to make it, too.” Sold! Here’s how Karen does it…

You’ll need:

1 medium head of cauliflower
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
4 oz. TJ cubed pancetta
1 package TJ mirepoix (diced onions, carrots and celery)
1 package TJ Ready to Eat lentils
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut cauliflower into 1-2 inch florets and spread evenly over a baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes.

Over medium heat, sauté pancetta cubes in 1 tbsp oil. Add in TJ mirepoix and cook for about 3 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Add TJ lentils, and top with chicken stock, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and a bay leaf. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. After removing lentil mix from the heat, add sherry vinegar (“this is key for flavor,” says Karen). Top with roasted cauliflower and serve.

Trader Joe's Warm Lentil Salad

Thank you so much for sharing, Karen!

P.S. More recipes, including a veggie tart and cheesy cauliflower soup.

(Photos by Posie Brien for Cup of Jo. Thanks to Franny Eremin for helping with this series.)

  1. Allie says...

    I eat these lentils straight up or mixed with rice and a dollop of hummus all the time. I throw in a diced up hardboiled egg if I am feeling fancy. So good! They are also toddler approved.

  2. Christine says...

    I made this for dinner tonight and am now questioning how I even made it through the last 6 years without it. Such a winner!

  3. Lily says...

    I made a delicious TJ’s lunch yesterday and wanted to share it with you! I used their microwave white rice, then chopped up some lettuce and cucumber on the side and sprinkled on cilantro. Tore up some leftover rotisserie chicken and topped with their green goddess dressing, which is new to me and so so good. It was so yummy!

  4. Kimberly Baker says...

    Okay, where can I get these bowls? Please tell me! Thanks!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’ll ask Posie!

    • Franny Eremin says...

      Hi Kimberly! They’re by Edith Bourgault. You can find her entire line here. :)

    • Kimberly Baker says...

      Thank you so much! They are beautiful!

  5. Maria says...

    oMg I eating lentils for a long time, i need to try this! thanks!

  6. Emily says...

    I’m a lover of TJ lentils too. I make a Ragu with these lentils and it tastes just like ground beef spaghetti sauce. Do a quick search for Lentil Mushroom Ragu on internet to get recipe (s).

  7. Alice says...

    Tinned lentils are great and only marginally more expensive if you are a serial lentil-musher like me.

    What do experienced veggies use instead of pancetta / chorizo on recipes please?

    • Annabelle says...

      A little smoked paprika works for me, though TJs also has a Soyrizo that I use for chili.

    • Mina says...

      I find that little cubes of halloumi cheese, sautéed until they are quite crispy, make a really nice substitute for bacon and pancetta and similar in vegetarian dishes.

  8. Michelle Jacques says...

    Following on with the lentil theme, I would like to recommend this lentil, chickpea and butternut squash Moroccan stew from the ambitious kitchen blog. I made it yesterday and my husband and I had two dinners from it. It was delicious and super easy to make. The only ingredient I left out was the cinnamon (as only Cinnabon should be allowed to use this IMO)
    The weblink is https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/butternut-squash-chickpea-lentil-moroccan-stew/

  9. Patrice says...

    The lentils are for real. That is all.

  10. Angela says...

    I really want to love lentils, but apparently, I cannot make them correctly. I don’t know what the final consistency is supposed to be, but mine always end up incredibly mushy. Is there something different about these “ready to eat” lentils from TJ’s? Or does anyone want to pop in to help a sister out with some tips?

    • Amena says...

      the more you stir lentils the mushier they get. the trick is to stir as little as possible or even better is to stir once at the beginning after adding seasoning and once in the end after adjusting seasoning.

    • Abesha1 says...

      Try duPuy, or French, lentils. They stay more firm after cooking. Black lentils are also more firm. Red lentils and brown are excellent, though, if you want a soft dish.

    • Lindsay says...

      With dried lentils, don’t add salt until they’re done cooking; this makes them less mushy. The TJs ready-made lentils are helpful because they only need to be warmed, so you don’t cook them long enough for them to get mushy. They’re pre-seasoned, so the adding-salt-at-the-end thing doesn’t apply here.

    • Angela says...

      THANK YOU!!!!

  11. Mckenzie Cunningham says...

    Just ran into Trader Joes and they had the most brilliant Trader Joes hack available for sampling – the Kettle Cooked Chicken Soup + Gnocchi + Heavy Whipping cream. It tastes like the filling of a chicken pot pie / chicken chowder. So good!

    • Mary Beth says...

      McKenzie—Where in the store is the soup? Is it a boxed soup or in the refrigerator section? And how much whipping cream? Also, where in the store is the gnocchi? In the freezer? Thanks. I’d love to try this.

    • Emily says...

      The exact recipe for this is on TJ website (under recipes). For the record, you will be purchasing the gnocchi on their shelves–next to dry pastas.

    • Erin says...

      I came to say exactly this! Dried brown lentils would cook up in about 15 minutes anyway.

  12. Anna says...

    This looks great! And seems like it would adapt really well to be vegan and made in an Instant Pot! Score.

  13. Claire says...

    Sounds easy and delicious! My go to recipe for a quick, healthy, and comforting dinner is Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil Soup with Lemon from the NY Times. So easy to make. I also always forget the lemon and prefer it that way, lol.

  14. A says...

    Would have shopped at trader joes if not for the plastic waste.

  15. Kristen says...

    Adding this to our grocery list &menu for next week. I SO love these comments too…I’m going to come back tonight just to read all of the great contributions that are still coming!

  16. Simone says...

    The Trader Joe’s lentils, the tjs bruschetta mix in a tub and a tub of their feta cheese. I had it as a sample a long time ago in the store. It is now a party go to or sometimes I’ll make it as eat it as a quick lunch throughout the week! Triscuts are my vehicle of choice, but you can use anything really.

    • Danielle says...

      I love this hack too. Sometimes I have it on toasted bread or mix it with quinoa for lunch.

    • Emily says...

      This is even better if you rinse lentils in water w colander–then add lentils to a pan and let them get a little crispy. Add a tsp of honey as well!
      Yum! I like it with their pita chips/crackers.

    • Sarah says...

      Yessss I came to the comments to mention this exact ‘recipe!’ When I was home with a newborn I ate it for lunch for approximately one month straight. SO GOOD. I now like to put it out as a ‘dip’ with some pita chips at parties and people always comment on it!

  17. Al says...

    My husband and I eat at least a head of cauliflower a week -we just love it! In the winter I make mashed cauliflower as a side for dinner at least once a week (just steamed head of cauliflower whisked with a tbsp of butter, 2 tbsp neufchatel cheese & s/p and garlic powder, yummmm).

    • Liz says...

      The recipe for roasted cauliflower and chickpeas from Gwyneth Paltrow’s “it’s all good” is probably my most favorite food on the planet, and so I recommend it to you if you love cauliflower too. I suspect this cookbook can be found in most public libraries. Also, I never add the parsley. Not something we reliably have in the house.

    • Louisa says...

      I love cauliflower too – and there are cauliflower recipes on cupofjo AND smittenkitchen today! It’s my lucky day :)

  18. Emily says...

    I love these lentils! I’ve been mixing the TJ’s lentils with the Healthy 8 Veggie Mix and the Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto. Sometimes I throw in some cherry tomatoes too and it’s so good on crackers, tortilla chips, over mixed greens as a salad, etc! It’s become my favorite work lunch.

    • Ann-Marie says...

      Thank you!! Signed!

      If everyone of us signs we can help the issue a little!

    • Michelle says...

      YES YES YES!!!!!! Thank you for sharing this link.
      How about a Trader Joe’s Bulk store!? Let’s make THAT happen!

      There are a few things that I will buy from TJ in packaging but I can’t justify buying a packaged mirepoix. The constant guilt of small conveniences to make life “easier” vs. slowly destroying our earth is so real.

  19. Jen says...

    We have a similar thing a lot, but with boiled eggs and sweet gem lettuce – shred the stalk end in to the lentils towards the end of cooking so they soften then toss the head of the lettuce in once it’s off the heat. Lentils are so versatile!

  20. Sasha L says...

    Shout out for lentils!! Woot woot.

    My senator is a lentil farmer (only farmer in the Senate, senator Jon Tester of Montana). Lentils are nitrogen fixers. That means they put nitrogen back in the soil, which is a really good thing and almost no other crops do it (peas do it too). So eating lentils actually helps the planet. Plus they are loaded with minerals, high protein and so cheap (if you buy them dry and cook, which is as easy as cooking pasta). You can eat them warm, cold, in soups and stews, in curries. Tiny orange or red lentils literally disappear in sauces (can add to marinara, curry, anything Thai). Green or brown lentils make an awesome substitute for ground beef in sloppy joes or taco filling or lasagne, but cheaper, healthier and better for the planet. I’m a lentil evangelist 😉

    • Nathalie says...

      Ok, I’ll jump on board the lentil train! When you substitute green or brown lentils for ground beef do you have to cook them first or can they just cook in the sauce? (Thinking of lasagne)

    • Caitlin says...

      So interesting, thanks for sharing! Was already a big fan of lentils but this might make me become an evangelist, too! :)

    • Sasha L says...

      Nathalie, all of my recipes have you cook the lentils first, and all call for brown or green for tacos, joes and lasagne. I just cover with water, put a lid on, bring to a boil and summer until done. The finished fillings all freeze super well.

    • Mc says...

      Yes! Fellow Montanan, Tester fan and lentil enthusiast here!

    • Love this!!! I use lentils a lot for convenience and nutrition – happy to know about their goodness in the soil.
      Just made a Senegalese stew last night and used half beef it called for and half cooked lentils :)

  21. Connie says...

    I’m SO trying this this weekend! My husband and I try to do one evening a week where we wait to eat our dinner till late, after the kids go to bed, so we can eat something particularly Grown Up and watch something particularly Grown Up, and this dish feels like just the pretty ticket for that. And I’m also in the midwest, where winter seems to never end now. And this dish feels like it’s a lovely solace to the winter chill blues…I agree with the above thoughts: I LOVE this TJ series. It’s fun to know that other folks are enjoying the same dishes together during dinner. It holds us together in community! :)

    • Kristen Ruzicka says...

      I’m going to steal your late-dinner-after-kiddo-bedtime idea! Thanks for sharing!

    • Such a good idea! I’ll personally vouch for how “grown up” this recipe tastes (I think it’s the sherry vinegar) — I wasn’t expecting that much of a sophisticated flavor when I was making it (figured it would be more in the nourishing, wholesome category ha!) but it seriously is stupendous. After we had dinner, and we were getting ready for bed, my husband turned to me and in a very serious quiet voice says: “I really, really just want more of those lentils.” Hah!

  22. E says...

    Do you think broccoli could be substituted for cauliflower? I just can’t handle cauliflower. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, for sure! or chicken, cheese, grilled veggies, etc!

    • Hilary van Uden says...

      yes, but if you have only eaten it boiled, roasted cauliflower is another thing entirely – give it a try!!

  23. Alli Horst says...

    Can we make it a Trader Joe’s year? Loving this series

    • Emily says...

      Please say yes!!!!

    • Emily says...

      I would love this too—but Joanna please continue to post about how TJ is addressing all their plastic waste. Lots of good resources were listed on this in comment section of last TJ post, but I’m seeing it come up again. here. I would do your research (you guys are so good at this) and preface the series with what you have learned. You will most likely need to repeat it several times!! Ha Ha!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes for sure, Emily! We will on the next TJs post, thank you so much, and great idea.

  24. Sarah says...

    This looks delicious! I love lentils. Smitten Kitchen’s sausage lentil soup is a winter mainstay in my house, or red lentil curry over rice with spinach and a squeeze of lime (101 cookbooks). Also in the ugly food contest, cooked lentils are up there with split pea soup. Kudos to Posie for photographing them so beautifully!

  25. Ellen says...

    Would love it if theses posts also included a photo of all the waste all this pre-cut and single serve packaging produces. I get we all want quick and easy dinners but an onion already comes packaged…in an onion skin. I’m not immune to quick fixes and ordering in and all that. But it’s worth acknowledging that some of these simple meals produce a not so simple problem of how we’re going to breakdown the endless amounts of plastic on the planet.

    • Cat says...

      Totally agree. This recipe could easily be made without all the plastic waste.

    • Liz says...

      THIS.

    • Eva says...

      YES!

    • I buy all my produce from the farmer’s market in the center of my city – I can put it directly in my cloth bags NO PLASTIC BAGS and bring it home. Stuff that needs to be stored airtight in the fridge I put in re-washed, re-used plastic bags or glass containers.

      Happy to see others working at cutting down single-use plastic and packaging!!!

  26. Whitney says...

    This looks great! How are you sourcing readers’ recipes? I’m a busy mom of three who loves to cook, but am limited on time. I make a great veggie chili using pantry essentials, taco pie adapted from a Swedish chef’s recipe, a go to veggie that pleases all ages, and a killer banana bread recipe my kids request every week.

  27. Justine says...

    MMMmmm. Swap the chicken for vegetable broth and the pancetta for olives. Yummers. If you don’t have sherry vinegar and/or you can’t find it, you can use lemon juice for a hit of acid or – my personal fave – balsamic reduction, easily purchased as a bottle of balsamic glaze. Sweet/acidic balsamic reduction/glaze is magic on earthy/nutty roasted veggies. We don’t have a TJs where I live but we do have a fancier store that sells pre-washed, shredded Brussel sprouts. They are so easy and like cauliflower, they taste amazing roasted on a high heat with just olive oil, salt and pepper. Thanks for the inspiration – I love the comments section on these posts!

    • Sasha L says...

      Thanks for vegetarian ideas for this! All sound delicious.

  28. Amanda says...

    Yum! Just an FYI the recipe shows that you need “1 medium head of cauliflower” and “Roasted Cauliflower”. It’s either a double entry or a spacing issue :)

    Can’t wait to try this.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      fixed, thank you!

  29. Eloise says...

    I like TJ’s lentils so much I eat them plain, but I may have to up my game and try this, sans pancetta.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we’ve heard so many amazing things about the lentils!