Food & Drink

Readers share their variations on bean salad

Black bean and corn salad goes well as a side dish with grilled chicken, pork or fish, or you can serve it like salsa with tortilla chips.
Black bean and corn salad goes well as a side dish with grilled chicken, pork or fish, or you can serve it like salsa with tortilla chips.

Move over, creamy potato salad. There's a more nutritious salad at the picnic table.

For decades, potato salad has reigned as king of the potluck, church supper and cookout. But as we become more aware of how important fiber is in our diets, the humble bean salad is moving up the culinary ladder.

"During my career as a registered dietitian, I have yet to find a food with more nutritional benefits than dry beans," Lexington registered dietitian Patti Geil said. "They have the perfect blend of nutrients to assist in weight loss, diabetes control, lowering of high cholesterol, cancer prevention and improved functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. This is due to the fact that beans are low in fat and cholesterol, yet rich in healthy carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins and minerals."

Geil, author of Magic Beans (John Wiley & Sons, $16.95) said beans tend to absorb the flavors in the recipes in which they're used.

"It's easy to create a buffet of bean salads, from traditional three-bean to the more exotic Mediterranean, Tex-Mex and Greek versions, Geil said. "Also, cooked or canned beans can be used as toppers as you create a salad from the salad bar, offering an extra bonus of good nutrition and taste."

When Cook's Illustrated updated its recipe for bean salad, the test-kitchen staff recommended using canola oil for mildness and red wine vinegar for tang. Heating the oil and vinegar with sugar, garlic, salt and pepper intensified the flavor and sweetness of the bean salad.

Three-bean salad is a popular version of bean salad, and when we requested recipes from our readers, that one showed up more often than any other.


Several years ago, black bean and corn salad was a popular recipe on the exchange circuit. This recipe, from our files, has made the rounds at many summer potlucks and family reunions.

Black bean and corn salad

2 ears corn, or 1 cup canned corn

2 cups cooked black beans, or 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped

1 red pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon jalapeño pepper, chopped, fresh or canned

1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

Dash hot sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook fresh corn on the grill. It adds a light smoky taste to the salad. Remove kernels from cobs and combine with remaining ingredients. Let mixture stand an hour or so in refrigerator for flavors to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Makes 3 cups. Serve with grilled chicken, pork or fish.

Lori Shelburne of Lexington submitted a similar recipe that she created. "It is easy and refreshing," she said. "As a side dish, it will feed six. It pairs well with barbecued anything, steaks or burgers. This recipe can easily be doubled to feed a large gathering, although the vinegar and oil should only be increased by half again."

Balsamic black bean salad

1 can (14.5 ounces) black beans

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 can (15 ounces) whole kernel corn

¼ cup diced yellow or white onion

3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and pinched from the stems

1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil (olive oil not recommended)

1 tablespoon sugar

Pour beans, tomatoes and corn into a colander and toss to drain excess liquid (do not rinse with water). In a large salad bowl, combine drained vegetables with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve cold.

This recipe is from Lexington registered dietitian Patti Geil. She recommends using pre-cut vegetables.

Veggie-bean potluck salad

½ cup white vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon oregano

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups small cauliflower florets

2 cups small broccoli florets

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 can (16 ounces) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl, whisk vinegar, olive oil, oregano, garlic and salt. Add vegetables and beans; mix thoroughly. Add cheese; toss lightly. Cover and chill at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

"The following recipe for marinated beans (green) was given to me by my husband's Aunt Lottie (Abbott) when we were living in Georgia. She was a wonderful cook and mentor to me as a new bride 46 years ago." — Sandie Sutton, Williamsburg

Marinated beans

1 can (14.5 ounces) French cut green beans

1 can (15 ounces) English peas

1 can (14.5 ounces) shoestring beets

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped onion (or to taste)

1 cup sugar

1 cup vinegar

½ cup oil

Drain beans, peas and beets, and place in large bowl with celery and onion. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar in vinegar. Add oil and pour over vegetable mixture. Refrigerate overnight, drain, and serve cold.

This is a recipe my mother-in-law created and has been made for many years. — Carolyn Hartman, Lexington

Three-bean salad

1 can (14.5 ounces) cut wax beans, drained

1 can (14.5 ounces) cut green beans, drained

1 can (15 ounces) red beans, drained

¼ cup chopped green onion

½ cup salad oil

½ cup vinegar

¾ cup sugar

Salt and pepper

Rinse and drain beans and place in a large bowl. Add green onion. In a small bowl, combine salad oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour over beans and refrigerate overnight.

Worcestershire sauce adds flavor to this dish. — Philip Blades, Lexington.

Marinated bean and pea salad

1 cup sugar

1 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup canola oil

Worcestershire sauce to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can (14.5 ounces) French cut green beans, drained

1 can (14.5 ounces) small peas, drained

1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup minced celery

1/2 cup minced bell pepper

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 jar (4 ounces) red pimiento, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and set aside. In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over beans and vegetables, and mix well. Refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally. Drain and serve marinated vegetables over lettuce leaves.

Blanca Mikell Ward of Lexington serves this black bean salad over white rice, what she calls "Puerto Rican style."

Black bean salad

2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans

6 scallions, sliced (greens included)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped

2 jalapeños, seeded and minced

2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon jalapeño sauce (green Tabasco sauce)

Salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon cumin seed

Pour beans into large colander and rinse well. Put beans in a large glass or metal bowl. Add remaining ingredients, and mix well with two large spoons. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve at room temperature over white rice or with tortilla chips.

"I got this almost 50 years ago when my husband was in law school and there was no money for entertaining, so we took turns fixing meals at each other's homes. This has been used now for all those years with great success. — Charlyne Gastelum, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Bean salad

1 can (14.5 ounces) French cut green beans, drained

4 cloves garlic, crushed

11/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup minced green onions, include part of tops

1 jar (7 ounces) diced green chilies

1 jar (4 ounces) pimentos, drained

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup cider vinegar

Place green beans in a medium bowl, then add garlic, salt, green onions, chilies and pimentos. Mix oil and vinegar together, and pour over bean mixture. Toss gently and refrigerate. Keeps several days.

This is a great accompaniment to any grilled meat. — Maggie Dudley, Lexington

Bean salad

1 can (14.5 ounces) cut wax beans, drained

1 can (14.5 ounces) cut green beans, drained

1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained

1 can (15 ounces) chick peas, drained

1 package (16 ounces) frozen baby lima beans, cooked and cooled

3 stalks celery, diced

1 green pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped


1½ cups vinegar

½ cup water

½ tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons pepper

2 cups sugar

¼ cup salad oil

Place canned beans and chick peas in a colander to drain. In a large bowl, combine beans with cooked limas, celery, pepper and onion. Combine vinegar, water, salt, pepper and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool. Add salad oil, and combine with bean mixture. Refrigerate.

This recipe calls for mushrooms. — Faye Warmoth, Lexington

Bean salad

1 can (14.5 ounces) green beans

1 can (14.5 ounces) wax beans

1 can (14.5 ounces) red beans

1 can (14.5 ounces) lima beans

1 can (3 ounces) mushrooms

1 can (3 ounces) chopped pimentos

½ cup chopped celery

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1½ cups sugar

¾ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup oil

Salt to taste

Drain canned vegetables in a colander and combine with celery and onion in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, vinegar, oil and salt. Pour over vegetables and refrigerate until marinated. Will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

"Here is my 'bodacious?? bean salad recipe. I've had this recipe for almost 45 years. Quite different and very good." It was given to Sowders in 1967 by Mrs. Lawrence Robinson. — Tillie Sowders, Danville

Pea and bean salad

½ head cauliflower, broken into small pieces

2 bags (16 ounces each) frozen baby lima beans, cooked and cooled

1 can (14.5 ounces) peas, drained

½ cup oil

½ cup vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

¾ cup sugar

½ cup salad dressing

2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

Sliced black olives

Put cauliflower, lima beans and peas in a large bowl. Combine oil, vinegar, water, salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl, then pour over lima bean mixture and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, drain. Add salad dressing, hard-boiled eggs and olives. Chill and serve.

"I worked in a deli for over 20 years, and we made our own salads. One was green bean salad. The store is out of business, and I am retired. Sometimes, at home, I drain a can of chick peas and add them." — Joyce Cook, Nicholasville

Bean salad

2¼ cups sugar

2 cups vinegar

1½ cups Wesson oil

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

3 cans (14.5 ounces each) wax beans, drained

3 cans (14.5 ounces each) green beans, drained

3 cans (15 ounces each) kidney beans, drained

3 onions, sliced

1 green pepper, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine beans, onion, pepper and celery. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

"This is my very own concoction, and most of my family members love it." — Joberta Wells, Liberty

My beany Caesar salad

1 cup dried black beans

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, pressed

Juice of 2 lemons

1 bunch Romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces

1 small red onion, sliced very thinly

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 package croutons

Place beans, water and salt in a large kettle. Cook beans until tender but not soft. Add hot water as needed while cooking. Drain and wash with cold water. Drain again. Place drained beans in a small container with lid (or zipper-style sandwich bag) and add olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Let beans marinate in refrigerator overnight. Do not discard marinade.

When ready to serve, mix lettuce and onions, then add beans and marinade, and toss well. Add Parmesan cheese and croutons, and toss again.

This is an excellent recipe for cookouts or family reunions, served as a side dish or with nacho chips as a salsa. — Martha Shewmaker, Springfield

Bean salsa

1 can (14.5 ounces) black beans

1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans

1 can (14.5 ounces) peas

1 can (14.5 ounces) black-eyed peas

1 can (14.5 ounces) whole kernel corn

1 can (15 ounces) hominy

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with garlic

1 cup zesty Italian dressing

½ to 1 teaspoon seasoned salt

¼ to ½ onion, chopped, optional

Drain beans, peas, corn and hominy in colander. Place in a large bowl and add diced tomatoes, Italian dressing, seasoned salt and onion. Keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.