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Formula for lunch: Legume salad

bean salad

As might be becoming clear by now, I love a (non-green) salad. Quick to make, versatile and infinitely portable, legume salads are among my favourite. The butter bean version pictured here was yesterday’s lunch, made from leftover cooked beans and gussied up with herbs and cheese. While putting it together, I realized that my salads tend to follow a very specific formula, one that allows for infinite variations on the theme.

Legumes. This can be almost any bean you like, either soaked and pre-cooked, or straight out of a can and rinsed. Chickpeas, cannellini beans and borlotti beans work particularly well, but lentils and smaller legumes can be delicious, too. 

Cheese. Feta is the obvious choice for salads, as it holds its own against the flavour of the herbs. Most goat’s milk cheeses will work well, too, and that’s my other favourite cheese to use. If you fancy something a bit different, torn-up fresh mozzarella or a grating of pecorino romano could also be tasty. For a salad that feels more Asian in spirit, omit the cheese.

Onions. Green onions or scallions are the only kind that I can handle eating raw, but feel free to use red onions or shallots if that’s your thing. 

Herbs. I always, always use fresh, flat-leaf parsley, usually along with one other herb. For this salad that was coriander, but fresh mint, basil, tarragon or chives are all possibilities. Really, just use anything you like the taste of. 

Dressing. For the most part, I like a simple lemon-and-olive-oil dressing. But then I’m a lemon fiend, and like to use it whenever I can. Most kinds of vinegar will also lend the sharpness you want here. If you’re making an Asian-inspired salad, try a combination of soy sauce and sesame oil. 

Seasoning. I tend to add salt and pepper to my salads and leave it at that. Sometimes I like some chili flakes for a bit of heat, but in general I’m a purist. You might play around with different spices and condiments, though. I bet a scraping of vanilla seeds would be wonderful in a sweet-and-savory salad. 

Extras. The recipe below is at it’s utmost simplest, but additions are infinite: chopped raw or blanched vegetables, sliced sundried tomatoes, toasted nuts, dried fruit. If you’re a meat eater, you might like some bacon or pancetta, ham or torn roast chicken for some extra protein. I occasionally like a bit of canned tuna, too. The possibilites are endless, and all of them delicious. 

bean salad close

  • Butter Bean Salad with Cheese, Herbs and Lemon Dressing
  • serves one
  • 1 cup cold, cooked butter beans
    1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese 
    3 green onions, chopped finely
    1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
    1 Tbs. chopped fresh coriander
    1 Tbs. olive oil
    1 Tbs. lemon juice
    pinch of red chili flakes
    salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1. Combine all ingredients. Eat immediately, or store in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Before eating, drizzle a little extra olive oil over the top. 


  1. MH says:

    Yum! This looks amazing. Can you do a post on butter beans one day? I’ve had them before and loved them but I have no idea how to buy/cook them. Are they canned? Dry? Help!

  2. Ele says:

    Yes, you would love butter beans. They’re the “creamiest” in the bean world;) They are very similar to Lima beans- in fact some people think they’re the same thing. They aren’t quite, but are pretty interchangeable.

    You can buy them canned or dried. If dried, you need to soak them for 8 hours in a LOT of cold water (they soak it all up), and then simmer them for about an hour to an hour and a half. Then you can use them in all kinds of delicious things!

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