Chilled Mexican Pea or Lentil Salad with Shrimp

Chilled Mexican Pea or Lentil Salad with Shrimp

The idea for this gluten free Chilled Mexican Pea or Lentil Salad recipe was first hatched during my two weeks of pea and lentil recipes. It was a little out of the ordinary for me, since I typically focus my gluten free recipe shares on baked goods, but a girl can’t live on yummy gluten free bread and desserts alone, now can she?

Just like you, I make dinner and am always on the hunt for great pot luck dishes. Sometimes I get a bit more fancy and whip up  homemade gluten free ravioli, pierogi, quiches, calzones … that kind of thing, but other times I’m looking for something quicker. And in the summer, something chilled! (click on any of those if you’d like the gluten free recipe or just search the “Mains and Sides” Tab of my Recipe site)

chilled Mexican Pea or lentil salad

So when The USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council asked me to make some healthy recipes for them and to share with you, I was excited to get creative with a cold lentil salad. Spend a few minutes reading up on the health benefits of lentils, peas and chickpeas, and you’ll get excited, too!

I already knew they were healthy and tasty, but since they’re already gluten-free, I hadn’t focused on them much. Ok, I did make a yummy homemade Pumpkin Hummus recipe, but other than that. Oh, and I do make Hoppin’ John every New Years Day … and lentil soup is one of our favorites … so I guess I do already share some recipes with dried peas, lentils and chickpeas.

One side note on lentils, in particular, always always always rinse and pick through your lentils before cooking, as they have been found to sometimes contain errant grains of wheat or barley, and other debris. I can’t stress enough that it’s important to clean them well before cooking.

While lentils of any color would be wonderful here, I chose split peas for the recipe pictured because I wanted to test the limits of these tiny emerald gems.

Peas appear so unassuming, but they are in fact packed with protein, complex carbs, iron, magnesium and zinc. In this recipe, they took on the flavors of the seasonings and spices — chili powder, cumin and oregano — to blend beautifully for a flavorful taste explosion in every mouthful!

And for those pea skeptics out there, trust me: with your eyes closed, you would never know that peas were even in this recipe, much less an integral ingredient.

gfJules gluten free cornbreadYou know I always have substitution options in my recipes, and this one is no different. Like I said, I used split peas, but you could use gold, orange or brown lentils … you can also use any veggies you want here, and feel free to sub out the shrimp for another protein you like (I’d suggest extra firm tofu or chicken) or just leave it a yummy vegan recipe.

Furthermore, if you’re not into the cold salad thing, serve this yummy recipe to any crowd hot off the stove – it’s amazing both ways!

I paired this yummy meal with my super yummy gluten free cornbread, but it would also be a great low-carb meal on its own.

Chilled Mexican Pea or Lentil Salad

Chilled Mexican Pea or Lentil Salad

Yield: serves 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

This gluten free chilled Mexican Pea or Lentil Salad is the perfect cold main dish or side for any summer picnic or BBQ. Vegan or add your favorite protein, it's delish either way!


  • 1 cup dry split peas or lentils, rinsed (I used split peas)
  • 2 cups water or stock
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 red, orange or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 5-8 stalks asparagus, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 Tbs. chopped green chilies
  • 2 Tbs. lime juice
  • 1/2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated lime peel or dried lemon rind
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh shrimp (raw, deveined and peeled), or alternative protein (jackfruit, extra firm tofu or chicken, cubed)
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. cumin
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • corn tortilla chips, gluten-free
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges for garnish


    Rinse lentils and place in medium saucepan, covered with water.  Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are still somewhat firm but not hard (or according to package directions).  Drain and set aside.

    Meanwhile, chop vegetables. Heat oil in a large skillet to medium-high heat; sauté the onion until translucent, then add the peppers and asparagus. Continue stirring and cooking while adding mushrooms, salsa, chilies, lime juice and peel, and spices. Just before removing from heat, stir in the tomatoes and the cooked, drained lentils. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

    Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add oil. When hot, add shrimp (or other protein) and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon cumin. Flip when the shrimp is pink on the bottom; sprinkle other side with 1 teaspoon cumin. Remove from heat when fully cooked (with shrimp, it is important not to overcook – depending on the size, they only need a few minutes to fully cook).

    Add cooked shrimp to lentil mixture, cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill. (Serve immediately if you prefer to serve warm).

    When ready to serve, spread each plate with a bed of fresh spinach leaves. Top with lentil-shrimp salad and sprinkle with additional lime juice or garnish with lime. Place chips on the side of the plate as an accompaniment, if you like.


Serve without protein for a vegan dish or add your favorite protein: shrimp; chicken; jackfruit; tofu ... you get the idea! Also feel free to change, or eliminate some of the veggies listed. It's YOUR salad -- make it your way!

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!

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This Chilled Mexican Pea or Lentil Salad is a picnic favorite! So fresh and light, served with or without shrimp, it's as pretty as it is tasty!

Chilled Mexican Lentil Salad

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57 thoughts on “Chilled Mexican Pea or Lentil Salad with Shrimp

  1. This looks great! I just bought some shrimp too so I will be trying to this for dinner tonight, thank you for the great and healthy recipe!!