What Is Bean Salad?

A. Leverkuhn

Bean salad is a dish that comes in many different forms and presentations; it is a mix of different kinds of beans and other ingredients, usually served cold, and often flavored with vinegar, or a vinegar and sugar mix. Beans used in bean salad include green beans, kidney beans, white beans, and garbanzos. Food cultures around the world have produced their own versions of this versatile dish.

Red onions are often included in bean salad.
Red onions are often included in bean salad.

In most common recipes, bean salad is not heated or cooked. The beans are generally pre-cooked, and the other ingredients tend to be raw or also pre-cooked. Lettuce, onions, tomatoes and celery are examples of the raw ingredients that would be in many bean salad dishes. Other elements, like rice, quinoa, pasta, or other carbs are also usually pre-cooked.

Kidney beans, which are often included in bean salad.
Kidney beans, which are often included in bean salad.

Bean salads can include a kind of binding sauce. Many of these sauces are extremely light and feature a light vinegar. Some are thicker and add a lot of flavor into the mix. Those who are ordering bean salad at restaurants can order these sauces on the side if they are afraid that they will overwhelm the other tastes in the dish.

Great Northern beans.
Great Northern beans.

The sweet flavor in some bean salad dishes comes from added sugar or sweetener. Considering whether any regional bean salad dish has added sugar is a good way to evaluate the various food habits of a given culture. The sweet taste may not appeal to all tastes.

Assorted beans, any of which could be used in a bean salad.
Assorted beans, any of which could be used in a bean salad.

Instead of using sugar, some cultures add savory ingredients or other subtle tastes to bean salads. For example, a cilantro or basil addition adds an entirely different kind of flavor to cold bean dishes. These herbs can complement the vegetable aspects of the dish, such as crunchy red onions, olives, tomatoes or other flavor components.

Quinoa is usually pre-cooked for use in a bean salad.
Quinoa is usually pre-cooked for use in a bean salad.

Because the bean salad dish, in its many incarnations, hardly ever features meat, and rarely includes a lot of dairy, it can typically keep longer than some other restaurant items. Businesses serving this cold salad still need to keep appropriate food safety standards in mind, however. Bean salads are popular with those who have to carry food with them, and don’t have consistent access to refrigerated storage utilities that are critical for heavier dishes including extremely perishable components.

Many of the binding sauces included in bean salads feature a light vinegar.
Many of the binding sauces included in bean salads feature a light vinegar.
Three bean salad often includes green and wax beans along with kidney beans.
Three bean salad often includes green and wax beans along with kidney beans.

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Discussion Comments

donasmrs

My mom makes a great vegetarian, Mediterranean salad with black eyed peas. She mixes boiled black eyed peas with tomato cubes, parsley, minced garlic, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Topped with bread crumbs and you've got a light, healthy and tasty summer salad. I can't get enough of it!

fBoyle

@SteamLouis-- Try green mung beans. Mung is a small, tasty bean variety from Asia. You can get it at organic markets and Asian groceries. They complement different types of ingredients, so they're a great addition to salads. Use them with greens like lettuce varieties and arugula. You can also make a broccoli salad with mung beans or a tofu salad.

If you leave them in water, you will get sprouts and you can also use the bean sprouts in different salad recipes.

SteamLouis

I usually make bean salad with kidney beans or white butter beans. But I want to try something different this time. I want to try a different type of bean. Any suggestions?

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