I call this my “So Good Salad” because, well, it’s just SO GOOD. This Spicy Curried Cauliflower and Lentil Salad (moreover, the Spicy Mustard Curry dressing on this salad) has got it all, I am not kidding. It’s bright and acidic, and sweet, and savory, and both spicy and heavily spiced, and it’s crunchy and creamy and fresh and herbaceous. Did I also mention that it’s delicious?! It both promises and delivers. Your taste buds won’t know what hit ‘em, but they’ll keep coming back for more.
Where it all began…
This Spicy Curried Cauliflower and Lentil Salad is the product of a few ideas coming together. A friend shared a recipe with me from a meal kit delivery service, and he said I needed to try it ASAP. He swore that the mustard and curry powder combination was something special that I needed to experience for myself. That original non-vegan recipe contained mayo and yellow mustard in addition to the generic “curry powder” seasoning. Trusting my friend’s sensibilities, I gave the recipe a try, but because I am who I am, I subbing in tahini for the mayo, and using a brown mustard in place of the requested yellow mustard.
My friend was absolutely right. It was absolutely something special.
After making that dressing a few times in one week, putting it on anything that would sit still long enough, I kind of forgot about it. Then, a few months later, I saw a recipe on Jane Esselstyne’s YouTube channel for a similarly mustard-based dressing, but this one was made with maple syrup and sriracha.
I made Jane’s recipe a few times, and fell in love with it, also putting it on anything that would sit still long enough. One dish that I particularly enjoyed the dressing on was a salad that I had just thrown together as a way to use up some lentils that were hiding in the back my fridge, and half-head of a cauliflower that was waiting to rot at the bottom of my vegetable drawer.
On a whim, I decided to try a combination of the two recipes, keeping the tahini and curry powder from one, and adding it to the sriracha and maple syrup of the other. The resulting dressing is greater than the sum of it’s parts, and way tastier than either of the two dressings were on their own.
This dressing is a MUST MAKE, and I don’t care what you serve it on, you need to have this dressing in your life!
- Lentils – For this recipe, you want to make sure that you’re using whole lentils, and not split. I love the small, black, beluga lentils for this dish, but you could easily use green or whatever kind of lentils you can find. Beans will also work great if that’s what you’ve got.
- Cauliflower – The cauliflower does so much in this salad; it’s texture, it’s flavor, it’s bulk and substance. Because it’s the star of the show, you don’t want to use frozen. Use a nice, medium-sized head and cut it up yourself. Check out THIS VIDEO to see how I like to cut my cauliflower.
- Spicy brown mustard – With mustard, this dressing, this dish, would be nothing. So pick a good one. I love spicy brown mustard, but a Dijon would work well, too. If you’ve only got yellow mustard on hand, it’ll work, but it won’t have the flair that brown mustard brings to the party.
- Sriracha – I pretty much add some type of heat to everything I make. Sriracha does a few things in this dressing, from adding flavor, to adding a bit of spice, but if you’re opposed to it, or can’t handle the heat, then cut the amount in half, or just leave it out completely. If you want something zippier, then go for a nice sambal, or a more piquant chili sauce.
- Tahini – The mustard does a lot of the heavy lifting with the texture of this dressing, but a bit of tahini really tightens things up. In a good way. If you want to reduce the calories or fat content of the dressing, then reduce or omit the tahini. The dressing will still taste great, but it won’t have the same thickness. Also, in a pinch, peanut butter could also be used. It’ll thicken things up, and add a great peanutty flavor.
- Maple syrup – Curry powder benefits greatly from a bit of sweetness. I used maple syrup because that’s what I had on hand, but a bit of coconut sugar or even agave would work to help balance the other flavors out, and still keep this dish refined sugar free.
- Apple cider vinegar – Spicy mustard brings a bit of tang to the party, but there’s definitely a need for a bit more zip. ACV is a great all-purpose vinegar that adds a mild acidity to the dish. Rice vinegar would also work, or even lemon juice or a bit of fresh-squeezed orange juice.
- Bragg’s Liquid Aminos – My favorite gluten-free soy sauce alternative, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, adds saltiness and a ton of umami to this dish. Low sodium soy sauce would also work, or just a bit of salt to taste.
- Curry powder – Whenever I post a recipe that contains “curry powder” I get comments from all over the world wondering what exactly “curry powder” is. Here in the States, it’s normally just labeled as such, but it’s a mixture of turmeric, chili powder, coriander, cumin, ginger and pepper. If you’re not a fan of these flavors, you can always just leave out the curry powder. The dressing and salad will still be excellent.
- Black pepper – Black lentils have a bit of pepperiness already, so I like to bump up that flavor with a bit of black pepper.
- Shallot – With a mild flavor somewhere between onion and garlic flavor, shallots are a perfect aromatic for dressings and cold sauces. They are a lot more tame than raw garlic or onions, and if you can’t find them, I strongly recommend them. Green onion would also be a great way to add onion flavor without the strong flavor of raw onion. But, if yellow or red onion is all you’ve got, then finely mince it and let it mellow in the dressing a bit before serving.
- Cilantro – I love what cilantro brings to the party, but I understand that some folks just can’t with cilantro. Fresh parsley will work in its place, or even celery leaves. If you don’t have either, the dish will still be great without it.
Quick and Easy Curried Cauliflower and Lentil Salad
This easy to make, WFPB salad has it all! It’s bright and acidic, and sweet, and savory, and both spicy and heavily spiced, and it’s crunchy and creamy and fresh and herbaceous… And most of all, it's delicious!
- 1 cup cooked whole black or green lentils
- ½ medium head cauliflower
- 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 1 tablespoon tahini (optional)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup raisins
- Chopped lettuce or salad greens
Preheat the oven or air-fryer to 400 F.
- Cut cauliflower into smaller than bite-sized pieces. Air-fry or bake cauliflower until it is just tender with bits or golden brown or char, about 15 minutes.
- While the cauliflower cooks, combine the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl, saving the shallot and cilantro for last.
- Add the drained lentils, cooked cauliflower, and raisins to the dressing. Toss. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. Serve as-is, or on a bed of lettuce or salad greens, topped with a bit more fresh cilantro.