The advantages of bean salads are many—they’re nutritious, economical, and easy to prepare, and they’ll keep well in the refrigerator for days. The primary downside is that they’re usually boring. Even the phrase “bean salad” doesn’t feel particularly inspirational; you don’t generally expect it to be followed up with “Yay!” or “Can’t wait for that bean salad!”
But to make a bean salad that’s both practical and crave-able is easier than you might think. Cook your beans well, prioritize setting up contrasts in texture and flavor, and, whatever you do, don’t skimp on the vinaigrette! Beans readily soak up liquid, so they often require more (and more intensely flavored) dressing.
Ready to get cooking? Keep scrolling for 17 bean salads that you’ll truly look forward to eating, including a smoky chickpea salad with bacon and Cotija, a simple pairing of plump cranberry beans and tender poached salmon, and a few seasonally suitable salads using crunchy fresh green beans.
Healthy, hearty, and earthy in flavor, chickpeas are always a solid choice for salads. This recipe pairs their sturdy texture with soft, sweet grated carrot and a dill vinaigrette. Pumpkin seeds, quickly toasted in the microwave, are an easy way to add crunch. This salad isn’t just good the next day—it actually gets better if you let the flavors meld overnight.
This refreshing chickpea salad is made with crunchy celery and bright parsley tossed in a vinaigrette flavored with shallots and cumin. Make it with canned chickpeas if you’re really pressed for time, but we’d recommend using dried ones—they provide better flavor and texture, and they’re also cheaper.
Though beans are often associated with vegetarian diets, and “health food” overall, there’s no reason not to mix them with meat if you eat both. Here, we add crisped bacon to chickpeas, which do a great job of soaking up meaty flavor, and use rendered bacon fat as a base for the savory, rich vinaigrette. Charred Poblano chilies offer a nice smokiness to complement the bacon, while briny Cotija cheese and tart lime juice perk up this intense dish.
Using canned chickpeas in your salads saves significant time, but at the cost of full flavor. We settle on a good compromise in this nutrient-packed recipe by roasting canned chickpeas, which concentrates their nuttiness and crisps them up a bit. Massaging the raw kale leaves with olive oil softens and tenderizes them (and adds flavor to boot), and a lemony sun-dried tomato vinaigrette provides a tart finish to an otherwise simple dish.
Blanched fresh green beans add a bright crunch to this salad, made with nutty, slightly chewy charred corn, subtly sweet and crisp jicama, and spicy radishes. A simple dressing of lime juice and olive oil, with a touch of honey to echo the sweetness of the jicama and corn, is all you need.
Thai cuisine is full of salads made with pomelo, a meaty, mildly bitter citrus fruit similar to a grapefruit. In our version of a pomelo salad, we pair the fruit with blanched green beans and raw zucchini, then dress it with a Southeast Asian–style blend of garlic, dried chilies, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce. Can’t find pomelos? Grapefruit will work fine, too; just steer clear of sweet varieties, like pink or ruby red.
Grilling is a fairly labor-intensive, attention-consuming activity, which might leave you without much thought to put into your side dishes. This salad solves the problem by allowing you to prep most of the ingredients in advance. Before your cookout, toss sliced radishes, scallions, and red peppers in a bowl with a vinaigrette and set it aside. Once your mains come off the grill, throw on some olive oil–coated green beans until they’re blistered and smoky (just a minute or so). Combine them with the other ingredients and you’re ready to go.
Blanched green beans and red kidney beans give substance to this salad, while pickled red peppers and roasted jalapeños contribute plenty of flavor and heat. The intensely acidic white wine vinaigrette, while too tart to be palatable on its own, is just right with the hearty beans.
This recipe highlights one of our main rules of thumb for making a good bean salad: Cram it full of contrasting flavors and textures. We bring in a medley of ingredients to do it, including bitter radicchio and grassy parsley, sharp radishes and pungent scallions, tangy quick-pickled red onion and crunchy Marcona almonds. As for the beans themselves, use whatever you’ve got in your pantry—black-eyed peas are pictured here, but you can try black beans or navy beans, or even a mix of all three if you’d like.
Beans salads aren’t incompatible with green salads, as this recipe, combining plump cranberry beans and peppery arugula, demonstrates. Salmon fillet, poached with a few aromatics, turns the dish into a meal. For salmon that’s especially juicy and tender, we’ve found that cold-start poaching works best: Place the fish in a pot of cold water and gently bring the water up to around 170°F.
Since black beans are commonly found in Southwestern cooking, it’s a natural move to combine them with other regional flavors, like cilantro, jalapeños, and corn, in this salad. A vinaigrette seasoned with lime and ancho chili powder lends smoky and tart flavors, and a topping of crushed tortilla chips adds necessary texture.
Inspired by gigantes plaki, or Greek-style baked beans, this room-temperature salad starts with a base of creamy butter beans. A vinegary tomato dressing, flavored with dill, parsley, cinnamon, and oregano, does a good job of complementing the mildness of the beans. While we almost always prefer fresh herbs to dried ones, this recipe calls for the specific flavor of dried Greek oregano.
Both green beans and wax beans come together in this simple room-temperature salad. After tossing with vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, the beans get a quick roast in the oven. Finish the salad with hazelnuts and blue cheese, and serve with roasted meats to best compliment their flavor.
Bright green fava beans and tender carrots are at their best when their true flavors can shine. After blanching the fava beans, we toss them in a simple dressing consisting of olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Once we add the carrots and shallots, we finish it off with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper. Serve this salad with ricotta cheese and toasted bread for a simple yet hearty snack.
Tender, creamy giant lima beans get a Spanish-style makeover in this warm salad. You’ll want to reach for quality olive oil and sherry vinegar to compliment the canned beans well. Cook these ingredients in a skillet on the stove, along with tomato paste, garlic, shallots, celery, and paprika. Five minutes later, you’ll be left with a flavor-packed bean salad that’s begging to be paired with a warm and crusty slice of bread.
The creamy texture of white cannellini beans pairs perfectly with the crunch of a lettuce cup. Here, the beans absorb a vinaigrette made up of garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and honey. After the beans and shallots are coated in the vinaigrette, they’re tossed with briny olives, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta cheese. With lettuce cups doubling as a vehicle for serving, this dish was made for picnics and potlucks.
This pantry-friendly salad is a hearty but light dish that’s perfect for warmer days. We start off by giving sliced red onions an ice bath to tame their pungent bite, then marinate them with vinegar and salt. Then, we mix the onion slices with the creamy, cooked white beans and rich, oil-packed tuna belly. To make the dressing, we whisk together some of the leftover vinegar-onion juice with a bit of bean cooking liquid and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Finish it off with some olive oil and fresh parsley, then enjoy along with a healthy dose of sunshine.
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