White Bean Salad
on Apr 07, 2022, Updated Jul 08, 2022
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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.
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Soup isn’t the only reason why I keep my pantry stocked with cans of beans. They are perfect for salads too. 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 easy white bean salad uses 2 cans of beans with 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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 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 green onions.
- 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 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.
- 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
- Make the salad dressing. To get it smooth, combine the basil, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Then puree it until the basil and garlic are fully chopped and incorporated.
- Combine the salad ingredients including white beans, onions and Pecorino in a large bowl.
- Drizzle the dressing into the salad, stirring around everything.
If you do make the salad in advance, let it sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes before you are planning to serve it. This will allow the dressing to turn into liquid again if it’s become solid in the chill of the refrigerator.
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 or sliced chicken breasts along with a hunk of crusty bread.
Store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days. To repurpose leftovers, add them to cooked grains or pasta.
More Bean Recipes
White Bean Salad
- 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.