Cold Lentil Salad with Smoked Sausage – Great for Picnic or Side Dish

5 from 4 votes
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Cold Lentil Salad with Smoked Sausage is perfect for summer picnics or side dish to bring for a cookout or summer BBQ. It’s served cold and full of incredible fresh flavors.

And speaking of picnics, we’ve also got some great tips for you to enjoy an elegant yet stress free picnic this summer!

Cold Lentil Salad with Smoked Sausage in a red bowl

Lentils are a staple in our house. They’re great in this soup, but are also fantastic served cold, like this Smoked Sausage Lentil Salad (that can be served cold or hot).

What we’ve got here is a jar full of delicious and flavorful lentils, savory sausage, crunchy vegetables, and a sweet and citrusy sauce drizzled throughout. And I say jar because I like to serve it in jars when we take it to a picnic, like below. But you can serve it in a bowl if that’s your thing.

A picnic spread with cold lentil salad in mason jars and pork tenderloin sandwiches

What I love about this dish is that you can prepare it in advance, either the night before, or morning of your picnic or event, and the flavors will just get better and better as they sit and merry together. It’s great on the go as there’s nothing that will spoil (y’all already know about my aversion to mayo, so this one is 100% mayo free).

How to Make Lentil Salad

  • Step 1: Cook lentils. In a large stock pot bring the lentils, chicken stock, bay leaves, and thyme, to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Drain the liquid and place the lentils in a large bowl.  
  • Step 1: Assemble the salad. Add the vegetables and seasonings, then toss together. Mix in the dressing. Taste and adjust salt to your preferences. Serve now (warm), or let cool and serve later. 
  • Step 3: Serve. We like to serve in mason jars and take to a picnic. But you can also serve it in a bowl.

Can you make this without a Smoker?

Yes! It certainly won’t have that delicious smoky flavor, but you can cook your sausage on a frying pan or in the oven if you don’t have a smoker. The salad will still be delicious!

Pork or Chicken Sausage?

You can use either! When we make it for events we use pork. But one of our kids has a pork allergy (whyyyyyyy!?) so we use chicken sausage when making it for the family at home.

Can you make this a Warm Lentil Salad?

Heck yeah you can, my friends! You gotta cook those lentils in the first place, so just cook the sausage and lentils at the same time, then mix in the other ingredients and serve warm.

But if you want to add something different as a 4th of July side dish, or to bring to a picnic, this works awesome cold. And on a hot summer day, do you really want to eat a warm salad? Not so much! Make it cold in the summah-time and warm in the winter. So versatile.

Cold Sausage Lentil Salad

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Cold Lentil Salad with Smoked Sausage in a Bowl
5 from 4 votes

Cold Sausage Lentil Salad

A delicious and refreshing cold lentil salad with smoked sausage that can be served cold or hot. 
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 10 cups


For the Smoked Sausage

  • 1 lb Italian style bulk sausage not in casings, broken up into quarter sized pieces (pork or chicken sausage)

For the Lentil Salad

  • 2 cups lentils
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 thyme stems
  • cups carrots, diced
  • cups diced celery or onions , (one or the other, see notes)
  • cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced, (optional)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste


To Smoke the Sausage

  • Preheat smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Place sausage spread out on a large foil-lined cookie sheet in small clumps.
  • Smoke for 60-90 minutes. Look for a darker color on the exterior while still moist. Check the larger chunks for temperature, and pull when they reach 165 degrees F. Remove, and break up into smaller pieces if necessary. Set aside. 

For the Salad

  • In a large stock pot bring the lentils, chicken stock, bay leaves, and thyme, to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook approximately 30 minutes, or until the lentils are slightly al dente. (Some styles of lentils may cook to different times, so check the recommended length from your package)
    Drain the liquid and place the lentils in a large bowl.  
  • Add the carrots, celery or onions, bell pepper,  the smoked sausage, and salt. Toss together. 
    Mix in the dressing. Taste and adjust salt to your preferences. Serve now (warm), or let cool and serve later. 


  • Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. 


Depending on your preference you can add onions or celery to the salad. They both provide crunch and acidity. I find it’s a bit too much adding both of them, so I like to stick to one. Some also may not prefer the flavor of raw onions, so in those cases it may be best to stick to the celery. 


Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 632mg | Potassium: 681mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1969IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, barbecue side dish
Servings: 10 cups
Calories: 369
Keyword: cold lentil salad, smoked sausage lentil salad
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

Ok, now let’s talk picnic!

Tips for an Easy and Elegant Picnic

Elegant Picnic Spread
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE! Don’t over think serving dishes or platters. Look for what you have in the house. Use a coffee tray or cutting board to serve your food on. We have one similar to this.
  • Use a basket to load up your supplies for easy transfer. This dubs as a small table once you arrive to your location (just turn it upside down and use the bottom to place food on). This is similar to the one we have.
  • Don’t have a sleek picnic blanket? Use a tablecloth.
  • Wrap sandwiches at home using kitchen twine, and you won’t need a plate for serving.
  • Serve sides (like the lentil salad) and drinks in mason jars. You won’t need to transfer dishes like salads into another serving container when you show up to your picnic. Just twist off the top, eat your food, and then put the top back on when transferring food back home. This saves on dishes when you return, and also minimizes spillage or disaster. For the salad in the pictures I used an 8 oz mason jar, which holds about 1 cup of salad and is the perfect portion as a side dish.
  • Bring sturdy cutting boards in lieu of plates, these are also useful to put your drinks down on.
Picnic with Beaujolais Wine, Smoked Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches, and Lentil Salad
  • Serve wine in tumbler glasses or stemless wine glasses (or mason jars!!!). No need to be all fancy and bring your expensive breakable wine stems. This is a picnic and you’re likely to be eating on uneven ground. Stemless glasses are just fine for this purpose. Use that cutting board or coffee tray to place your glass on vs the grass to help stabilize it.
  • For the kids. Prepare lemonade (or drink of choice) at home in a carafe with a cork lid, and serve on site (in, you guessed it, a mason jar). I believe I got my carafe at Target, but they’re similar to these. The cork lid is key for preventing spilling, and also to keep any flying friends from entering the lemonade when you’re at the picnic site.
  • Don’t forget the corkscrew. Or better yet, choose wines with a screwcap! That way if you don’t drink it all you can screw it back on tight and prevent any spilling if a cork were to accidentally pop out.
  • Want a cheese and charcuterie plate? Prep and cut everything at home so you don’t have to be doing any slicing while on site (or use that cutting board). Keep it simple and do 1 or 2 meats and 2-3 different cheeses, and add some fruit (dried or fresh) or honey for drizzle. You don’t need a lot going on for a satisfying and beautiful cheese and charcuterie plate. You can serve on a cutting board, or use this sleek slate board (ps, this is one of our favorite serving boards! You may recognize it, as we use it in TONS of photos here on the blog).
Slate Board with a Cheese and Charcuterie spread

That’s it.
You guys, I’m not a good planner or prepper, and even I can throw an easy and elegant picnic for the whole family! You can too!
And everyone wins. The parents are happy, and so are the kids.

Kids having fun at a picnic

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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. 5 stars
    Lentil salad is such a fresh dish to bring to a summer BBQ. I rarely see it served cold, so I’d be totally up for trying it that way!

  2. 5 stars
    I absolutely LOVE lentils and I REALLY love that you smoked them for this salad – It sounds delicious!

  3. Love that this can be prepped easily before hand and can be served hot or cold!! I’m always looking for a new picnic or potluck side that isn’t the usual potato or pasta salad or just regular salad

  4. Picnics are my favorite this time of year and jars definitely make things so much easier (and cuter) 🙂 This salad looks delicious! Pinning for later!

  5. 5 stars
    I love how versatile lentil salad is. We usually serve it as a dip with chips, but I love this presentation! The addition of smoked sausage sounds delicious. Love your picnic tips too, Mary!