June 23, 2017  -  Vol. IX No. 13
Five Steps to a Tasty Bean Salad

Cooks around the world have turned to beans for a satisfying, tasty, and affordable food choice for thousands of years. Dried or canned, they last through the seasons and are ready and available to be used as the foundation for meals and dishes. 

Beans are great for our health too. According to a study published in Circulation, replacing red meat with beans as a protein source was associated with a 32% lower risk of coronary heart disease. Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that substituting plant-based proteins for animal proteins was associated with a 23% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Compared to animal and many other plant-based sources of protein, beans and other pulses (dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils) are also more sustainable protein sources; they require half the energy inputs of other crops. 

A great way to enjoy beans and other pulses, especially during the summer months, is to toss them together with a simple vinaigrette to make a bean-based salad. Bean salads can be enjoyed warm, cold straight out of the refrigerator, or at room temperature, making them great options for picnics, sweltering days when you can’t stand to cook, and lunch at the office. They come together quickly, and with the right added flavors, they’ll be the dishes you crave all summer long.

Here are our five steps to making a delicious bean salad: 

  1. Choose your beans. Go for beans and other pulses that will hold up in a salad like green lentils, black lentils, chickpeas, black beans, white beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and fava beans. There’s no need to stick with one type – bean mixes are delicious too! Avoid brown and red lentils that tend to be on the softer side. Dried beans require at least a few hours to prepare, so use canned beans and canned or dried lentils if you’re short on time. 
  2. Build a Mediterranean flavor foundation. Try adding classic Mediterranean ingredients like thinly sliced onions, minced garlic, chopped tomatoes, sliced fennel, and fresh lemon juice. 
  3. Add herbs and spices. Fresh minced parsley, mint, cilantro, dill, and sage add refreshing and flavorful notes. From the pantry, try dried oregano, cumin, paprika, marjoram, sumac, or coriander. These herbs and spices go well with the earthy, hearty flavors of pulses.
  4. Take it to the next level. (Optional) Spruce up your salad with extra-special ingredients like capers, olives, anchovies, canned tuna, roasted red peppers, avocados, cheese, nuts, or seeds. 
  5. Toss with a simple vinaigrette. Bean salads taste better the day after they are prepared, once all of the flavors have a chance to come together, so refrigerate your salad for best results.

In addition to the beans or pulses, aim for at most 5-6 additional ingredients, otherwise your taste buds will be overwhelmed. 

Once it’s in the refrigerator, your bean salad will last for about five days. Make a big batch and use it throughout the week in green salads, whole grain salads, spooned on top of toast, stuffed inside pita bread, or on top of roasted vegetables. 

For more great bean salad ideas, check out the recipes below.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipes.


Chopped Salad with Smoked Peanuts 

Smoked peanuts add delicious flavor and a nice crunch to this bean salad. It’s perfect for summer picnics and potlucks - it serves a crowd!

Recipe and photo courtesy of The Peanut Institute

Foul Mudammas

The broad bean, or fava bean, has been widely-consumed in the Mediterranean since ancient times. Today, this fava bean dish is served throughout the Middle East as an appetizer or mezze, and it’s often eaten for breakfast with pita bread. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar

Cold Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Black-eyed peas are "Old World" pulses - they were first cultivated in western Africa and the Mediterranean, then brought across the Atlantic in the 18th century. Traditionally, they were cooked very simply, and this recipe follows suit. 

Oldways recipe and photo.

Tuna with White Beans, Celery, and Peppers

This is a perfect meal for a weekday dinner when you need to rely on what's in the pantry. All of the ingredients are sautéed together in one pan, so cleanup is easy.

Oldways photo. Recipe from the Oldways 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan book. 

58 plant-based recipes for vegetarians, vegans, those following a Mediterranean diet, and anyone who wants to add a few meatless recipes to their repertoire. Beans play a leading role in recipes like:

  • Southwestern Beans and Rice 
  • Camelback Chili
  • Lentils with Sriracha Sauce
  • And many more!

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.