A classic Midwestern salad gets a vegan Middle Eastern makeover. Enjoy this healthy plant-based twist to the old fashioned 7 layer salad recipe. Layers of arugula, grilled peppers, zucchini, corn, lentils, jalapeno and parsley are topped with the best tangy Za’atar dressing. Mouthwatering, satisfying and oh-so-easy to pull off.

glass bowl with layers of grilled vegetables and leafy greens with a dressing bottle in the background

And so when grilling season arrived, I couldn’t help but think of ways to enjoy all the beautiful produce. It occurred to me how much you all loved my mason jar layered salads (they’re a hit with Miss R, too!). I really wanted to create something that was satisfying on its own and would also work like a charm as a side dish. I’m a sucker for plant-powered ethnic recipes and couldn’t wait to experiment in the kitchen.

Full disclosure: This 7 layer salad recipe is not the classic Midwestern layer salad. It’s my plant-based Mediterranean interpretation of a traditional salad. You can serve this bright and beautiful salad alongside my Tandoori Chicken or Vegan Kebabs. Plus, it works beautifully on its own as a nourishing lunch salad.

What is a 7 Layer Salad?

If you’ve ever had a traditional 7 layer salad (aka layered salad), you know it consists of a layering of peas, lettuce, cheese, bacon and sometimes boiled eggs – finished with a creamy mayonnaise dressing – with sugar. 

Heavy going, right?!

I’d say my version is starkly different. It’s 100% vegan, uses grilled vegetables and has a Mediterranean Middle Eastern flavour profile – with a citrusy (and heavenly!!) Za’atar dressing. And if you’re on the hunt for grilled vegetable ideas – then this is the perfect pick. You’d be right in thinking that it’s a lighter version of a classic recipe and is the perfect choice if you’re looking for heart healthy recipes.

How to Create this Grilled Vegetable Salad Recipe – in 10 steps

step by step preparation images of how to make a 7 layered salad recipe

Preparing the Vegetables and Lentils

1. Start by prepping your vegetables for grilling. Wash all the vegetables and leafy greens. Then chop the peppers, jalapeno and slice the zucchini. Drizzle with olive oil and send to grill (Image 1).

2. While the vegetables are grilling, rinse the dry lentils and prepare to cook. I use my Instant Pot to pressure cook them (Image 2). Heads up: If you’re using dry lentils, according to Lentils.org, you don’t need to soak them. You can absolutely use cooked, canned lentils for this recipe; however, make sure you rinse and drain them thoroughly – to prevent a soggy salad.

3. I used the outdoor grill to grill my vegetables (Image 3), but you could use your oven or a grilling pan on your stovetop.

The Best Za’atar Dressing Recipe

4. The 7 Layer Salad Dressing Recipe is pretty simple to make. Begin by toasting the sesame seeds on a pan (Image 4). Once done, crush them roughly using a pestle and mortar to release their flavour and mix in the salt, oregano, thyme and sumac (Image 5). Then, in a mason jar, add all the dressing ingredients, shake to combine well and that’s it (Image 6).

Layering the Salad

5. Once the vegetables are grilled, and the lentils are cooked, it’s time to prepare the layered salad. Choose a large glass bowl for this; that way, you can appreciate the beautiful colourful vegetable layers. Begin with the arugula salad greens as the first layer. This ensures your greens stay fresh – away from the dressing that will be poured over the top.

6. The second layer is corn, which you will need to remove from the grilled cob. You should do this on a clean, dry chopping board. Hold the cob and cut down the side of the cob to remove the corn kernels. A sharp knife will help. Keep rotating the cob until all the corn is removed (Image 7). Now add the corn on top of the arugula.

7. Follow with the third layer – the cooked lentils.

8. Next, it’s all about the grilled vegetables, which make layers four and five. Chop the zucchini and peppers into mouth friendly pieces (Image 8). Don’t forget to let your vegetables cool before handling them to prevent burning your skin. 

9. Finish with chopped jalapenos and fresh parsley as layers six and seven (Image 9).

10. Pour over the Za’atar dressing (Image 10) and enjoy the mixture of floral, tangy, nutty and toasty flavours. It’s a dream!

Someone pouring a bottle of dressing on top of a bowl of salad of greens.

Top Tips for Making This Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Salad

  • This 7 layer salad recipe is best served the day it is made.
  • Be careful not to overcook the lentils and drain them well.
  • Avoid over-cooking your grilled vegetables. You want to enjoy the crunch and not end up with a mushy salad
  • When grilling the vegetables, cut the zucchini and peppers in thick slices, so they hold their shape and are a bit crunchy – once cooked.
  • Make sure your grill is nice and hot before placing the vegetables on the grill plates.
  • Use fresh parsley for oodles of flavour – it makes a difference.
  • Toast the sesame seeds on low-medium heat to release their nutty flavour. Be careful not to burn them.
  • You can make the dressing ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Pour the Za’atar dressing just before serving.

What Else Can I Put in my Salad?

Summer produce offers an abundance of produce options to enjoy in a recipe such as this. Switch things up and add your family’s favourites to create the best 7 layer salad recipe. Here are some raw vegetable options that I think work really well:

  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Heart of palm
  • Avocado
  • Nuts 
  • Seeds
  • Olives
  • Edamame
  • Beets + beet greens
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli 
  • Mange tout
  • Peaches or nectarines
  • Berries
  • Mango
  • Figs
  • Dried fruits: cranberries, apricots, raisins, goji berries
glass bowl with layers of grilled vegetables and leafy greens with a dressing bottle in the background

Nutritional Highlights

*Nutrient claims based on a 2000-calorie diet.

  • An excellent source of fibre
  • An excellent source of vitamin C
  • An excellent source of iron
  • A very high source of vitamin A
  • Source of calcium
  • Low in saturated fat
  • Zero added sugar

More Salad Recipes You May Like

  1. 15-minute Raw Salad
  2. Quinoa Mung Bean Salad
  3. Chaat Salad With Corn
  4. Mediterranean Vegan Mason Jar Salad

What’s your favourite Summer dish? Have you tried my 7 layer salad recipe before? Leave me a comment below!

If you try this recipe, would love to hear from you! Leave a comment, rate it, or share a photo and hashtag with #desiliciousrd on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Can’t wait to see your photos.

Desi~liciously Yours, Shahzadi

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glass bowl with layers of grilled vegetables and leafy greens with a dressing bottle in the background
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Get the Recipe:

Wholesome 7-Layer Salad Recipe (Vegan!)

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Yield: 8 people
A classic Midwestern salad gets a vegan Middle Eastern makeover. Enjoy this healthy plant-based twist to the old fashioned 7 layer salad recipe. Layers of arugula, grilled peppers, zucchini, corn, lentils, jalapeno and parsley are topped with the best tangy Za'atar dressing.

Ingredients
 

Lentils

  • 2 cups brown lentils, dry, raw, rinsed and drained. You could use cooked canned lentils.
  • 2 cups water

Vegetables + Salad

  • 6 cups arugula, washed
  • 5 corn on the cob, remove husks and silks.
  • 3 zucchini, washed, sliced lengthwise – medium/thick slices.
  • 4 peppers, red and orange, washed, deseeded and cut into quarters.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 4 jalapenos, washed, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 cups parsley, curly or flat-leaf, washed, finely chopped, full packed cups

Za'atar 7 Layer Salad Dressing

  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted
  • cup olive oil, extra virgin
  • 2 lemons, fresh, juice only
  • 3 garlic, cloves, medium
  • tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • tsp salt, sea salt
  • 4 tsp sumac

Equipment

  • Instant Pot
  • Grill

Instructions
 

Lentils

  • Add lentils and water to your Instant Pot. Send to cook on manual setting for 8 minutes. Release the pressure, drain and liquid and set aside to cool.

Vegetables + Salad

  • Place corn, zucchini, and peppers in a large bowl and drizzle with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Place on a hot grill over medium-high heat. Rotate until the vegetables are charred. The zucchini and peppers will cook faster than the corn.
  • Once all the vegetables are grilled, and the lentils are cooked, it's time to prepare the 7 layered salad. Prepare the first layer by adding the arugula to a large glass bowl.
  • For the second layer, you will need to remove the corn from the cob. On a clean, dry chopping board, hold the cob and cut down the side to remove the corn kernels. A sharp knife will help. Keep rotating the cob until all the corn is removed. Now add the corn on top of the arugula.
  • Next, pour the lentils over the corn to create the third layer. Now it's time to arrange the remaining grilled vegetables to create layers four and five. Chop the grilled zucchini and peppers into mouth friendly pieces. Don't forget to let your vegetables cool before handling them to prevent burning your skin.
  • Finish with layers six and seven with chopped jalapenos and fresh parsley.

Za'atar 7 Layer Salad Dressing

  • Toast the sesame seeds on a pan on low-medium heat to prevent burning. Once done, crush them roughly using a pestle and mortar to release their flavour. Mix in the salt, oregano, thyme and sumac.
  • In a medium mason jar, add all the dressing ingredients and shake to combine well. At time of serving, pour the Za'atar dressing over the salad and enjoy!

Notes

  • This 7 layer salad recipe is best served the day it is made.
  • Be careful not to overcook the lentils and drain them well.
  • Avoid over-cooking your grilled vegetables. You want to enjoy the crunch and not end up with a mushy salad
  • Cut the zucchini and peppers in thick slices, so they hold their shape and are a bit crunchy. 
  • Make sure your grill is nice and hot before placing the vegetables on the grill plates.
  • Use fresh parsley for oodles of flavour – it makes a difference.
  • Toast the sesame seeds on low-medium heat to release their nutty flavour without burning them.
  • You can make the dressing ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Pour the Za’atar dressing just before serving.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 385kcal (19%)Carbohydrates: 50g (17%)Protein: 17g (34%)Fat: 15g (23%)Saturated Fat: 2g (10%)Sodium: 472mg (20%)Potassium: 1113mg (32%)Fiber: 19g (76%)Sugar: 9g (10%)Vitamin A: 2186IU (44%)Vitamin C: 112mg (136%)Calcium: 120mg (12%)Iron: 6mg (33%)

Keep in mind that the nutritional values provided are approximations and suggestions. This nutrition facts table cannot account for your individual needs. Your body — including your hunger and satiety cues — change daily. It’s perfectly fine to eat more or less on different days. Instead of letting food guilt take over, consider mindful eating.

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Cuisine: ethnic, Fusion, middle eastern
Course: Appetizer, Side
Did you make this recipe?Mention @desiliciousrd on Instagram or tag #desiliciousrd.