potluck mixed bean salad

by Stevie on February 10, 2011

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I frequently make this bean salad when we’ve unexpected company and I need to pull something together last-minute, or to bring to work for potluck. Like most people, the folks with whom I work are meat-oriented. That’s cool, but for potluck can be a challenge for me. I like this salad as it’s simple to make, easy to transport on my bicycle, it’s healthy and I know that I can eat it. As an added bonus, it is popular among my colleagues, too.

potluck mixed bean salad

potluck mixed bean salad

I’ve made this in many different ways, and all the ingredients are essentially “optional.” What you put into it is more about your personal philosophy of the kitchen than anything else. Usually I mix-and-match from what we have at hand. Most recently, the majority of the ingredients were green so the final dish looks that color. I’ve made this before with more red things, black, white, whatever. It is kind of fun having the same salad with different looks, sort of like repainting your dining room depending on your mood.

I think that the key is to adequately salt it. Beans tolerate a fair amount. Olive oil is de rigueur. Also, I really like lemon zest and olives and/or capers. The first gives the dish a lovely citrus aroma and the brine from the second livens up the taste. I’ve tried adding lemon juice but it doesn’t really work that well. It sort of wilts the herbs and any greens, thus making the dish appear unappetizing.

potluck mixed bean salad


Use about a cup each of any of these: garbanzo, kidney, butter (lima), black, edamame, French green, peas, etc. If they’re canned, rinse well. If frozen, cook per package directions. For fresh, after you’ve rehydrated them, cook until done but still firm then rinse. Typically, to add interest, I add three or four kinds.


Use about a quarter cup each of herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley, mint, or whatever you prefer. I try to have at least two kinds. If you have spinach, kale or other leafy greens, simply clean, chop coarsely and sauté with a clove of garlic and a bit of salt in olive oil until just slightly wilted. Sometimes I have kale stems or similar. Chop those finely and either sauté like for spinach above, until just tender, or blanch.

Preserved ingredients:

I like adding a few tablespoons of olives and/or capers with a bit of brine. It is good with sun-dried tomatoes, too. I’ve added frozen or canned corn before. Also, sautéed frozen artichoke hearts are great (fresh is better if you have the time and energy). Rehydrated mushrooms work nicely, too (again, fresh sautéed is better.) If you’re feeling tropical, try adding Brazilian heart of palm. Of course, ample olive oil is a requirement for all variations.

Other fresh goodies:

Various kinds of peppers can be diced and tossed in raw or sautéed first. Whole cherry or grape tomatoes work great. Avoid cutting them as the dish will get too wet. Sometimes, I’ll toast about a quarter cup of pepitas or toss in a few walnuts.

Secret ingredient:

Lemon zest. The zest adds a subtle citrus note that is really nice.


Usually I just stick to salt and black pepper with a bit of crushed red pepper for some heat. Use your imagination here.

Simply sauté the things that you want to sauté. If you’re using frozen stuff, cook it as directed. Toss everything together in a bowl. It tastes better after sitting a while. That’s all.

For the mixed bean salad in the picture, I used edamame, French beans, butter beans, sautéed artichoke hearts, olives, capers, red bell pepper, parsley, cilantro and basil with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and black pepper. Easy.

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