White Bean Salad with Basil & Lemon Vinaigrette

5 from 1 vote

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Bean salads don’t always have to involve three beans. You can just stick to one type like I do for this easy white bean salad. It has red onions and grated pecorino cheese and is tossed in lemon vinaigrette with basil. Ready in 10 minutes or less, you can serve it as a side dish or a salad.

If you want variety with your beans, then make this Mediterranean Bean salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese and fresh herbs.

White bean salad in a bowl with a spoon.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Beans are the perfect non-lettuce salad ingredient. Soup isn’t the only reason why I keep my pantry stocked with cans of beans. Even though one is served hot and the other is dished out cold, beans are a filling and healthy with protein, fiber and antioxidants.

This salad delivers on texture and taste with creamy beans, lemon, herbs and garlic. Tossed in a basil lemon vinaigrette, it has 2 cans of beans, chopped red onions and shredded Pecorino cheese. It’s all tossed in lemon vinaigrette with basil. You won’t miss leafy greens with this salad. And it’s a great side dish too.

There’s no risk of wilting with a salad that doesn’t have greens. Beans are fantastic for potluck and picnic salads when you know they are going to sit out longer. They will still keep their flavor and freshness.

Why Bean Salads Are The Best

  • Beans are cheap. These pantry staples are inexpensive and have a long shelf life. They are ingredients that are good to have around. Then in a moment when you think you have nothing to eat, you can figure something out with them.
  • Embrace a make-ahead salad. Unlike lettuce that can wilt, you can quickly whip up this salad in advance and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to eat it. That actually gives the flavors time to develop and really infuse with the beans. It’s a wonderful opportunity to squeeze in a little meal prep.
  • They can be served with practically anything. Garlic, lemon and basil make it kind of a Mediterranean white bean salad. It tastes nice and herby and plays well with another salad, side or main course.

Types of White Beans

These are the most common varieties:

  1. Navy beans are the smallest of the three. Also known as pea beans, they are soft and oval-shaped. You often see them in Boston baked bean recipes.
  2. Great northern beans are medium sized with a firmer texture than navy beans, so you can use them in pretty much any dish. They have a nutty flavor.
  3. Cannellini beans are the largest of the group. These creamy white beans have a kidney shape. You find them a lot in Italian cooking.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ingredients including white beans, red onions, pecorino cheese, basil, olive oil and lemon.

This is what you need:

  • White beans: You can use any type of white beans for this salad. It is really a matter of personal preference. In the photos in this post, you will see that I chose navy beans, but I have made it with great northern, cannellini (also known as white kidney beans) and even garbanzo beans.
  • Red onion: Chopped onions give this bean recipe a kick and some crunch.  Red are always my preference for salads when you are going to eat them raw, but you also could try white or a few sliced scallions for more of that green onion flavor.
  • Pecorino is a hard Italian sheep’s milk cheese. I like it when I want something similar to Parmesan, but with stronger flavor. You can swap one for the other.
  • Basil is a main ingredient in the dressing. You can incorporate a mix of both fresh basil and fresh parsley leaves.
  • Garlic: The recipe calls for 1 clove.
  • Mustard: Whole grain mustard helps to emulsify the dressing and keeps it from separating.
  • Fresh lemon juice goes well with the combination of basil, garlic and olive oil in the dressing. If you want the salt very citrusy, you can add lemon zest too.
  • Olive oil: For all salads, make sure to reach for a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Salt & pepper: On their own beans are very plain. They need a good amount of seasoning. I mix it into the dressing because it ends up coating the beans.

Optional Salad Additions

Try adapting this simple salad in different ways. Don’t hesitate to include a healthy addition or two if you want:

  • Red peppers: Try either chopping jarred roasted red peppers or a raw red bell pepper.
  • Cucumbers: With little to no seeds, slice an English cucumber.
  • Tomatoes: In season, slice a pint of grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes in half and stir them right in.
  • Lettuce: Wait to add peppery arugula or another leafy green until right before you are about to serve.
  • Olives: Roughly chop briny olives like Kalamata or a green variety and add them to the beans. Use pitted olives.

How To Make A White Bean Salad

1. Combine the salad dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender. That includes the basil, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Puree the dressing until it is smooth and fully combined.

Vinaigrette ingredients in the bowl of a food processor before and after you puree them.

3. Combine the salad ingredients including white beans, onions and Pecorino in a large bowl.

4. Drizzle the dressing into the salad and toss everything around.

Combine the beans, onions and cheese in a bowl and stir them together.


This white bean salad recipe is a good choice for a last minute dish for family picnics or potlucks. Also, think of it as an option for work lunches that you can add a protein to like baked tofu, chicken or shrimp along with a hunk of crusty bread.

Leftovers & Storage

You can keep the salad in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Let it sit out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. This gives the salad time to warm up a bit. And the vinaigrette will easily stir into the salad again if it the oil has become solid in the cold temperature of the refrigerator.

White bean salad on a plate.

Recipe Tips

You can make the salad 2 hours ahead of time. Why not take advantage of a lettuce-free salad recipe? Go ahead and assemble the salad and stir in the dressing. This will give the flavors more time to marinate.

To stretch leftovers, stir the beans with with cooked grains. Try quinoa, barley or farro. Also, this makes the salad become even more of a side dish.

Even though this salad recipe is written with just white beans, use what you have in your pantry. This herby vinaigrette goes with the kind of beans you would find in Mediterranean dishes.

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White Bean Salad with Basil & Lemon Vinaigrette

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 6
With red onions and Pecorino cheese, this easy white bean salad is tossed in basil lemon vinaigrette. It’s ready in 10 minutes or less, and you can make it in advance.


For dressing

  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For salad

  • 2-15 ounce cans white beans, navy, great northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese


  • To make the dressing, combine the basil, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Puree the ingredients until they are smooth and combined.
  • For the salad, stir together the beans, onions and Pecorino. Then mix in the dressing.


If you want a mix of herbs, you can use parsley and basil.
Sliced scallions are a good substitute for red onions.
You can make the salad up to 2 hours in advance.
You can keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Before serving the salad, let it sit out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, so it isn’t as cold.


Calories: 262kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 454mg | Potassium: 668mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 124IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 155mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salad
Cuisine: Italian
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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