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This 4 bean salad has tender red, pinto and cannellini beans, plus protein-rich chickpeas, and a spicy vinaigrette. The perfect cold salad for a summer bbq, or add meat to make it a main dish!
Cold salads are the best for quick side dishes, and when they’re made without mayo, they’re perfect for serving on a hot summer day!
You can serve them as-is, load them with shredded chicken tinga or pulled smoked pork shoulder, or spoon it over the perfect grilled rib eye. This is the kind of side dish that feeds a crowd, because you can easily double or triple the recipe!
Zesty 4 Bean Salad
For this 4 bean salad, I use a variety of beans, diced tomatoes and red onion. If you’re looking for a little extra texture, bell peppers and celery are good additions, too. Fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley will give the salad even more flavor.
Obviously, any variety of beans can be swapped out for your favorites, or feel free to add more than four types!
Keep things quick and easy and use canned beans, or do what I do and cook up large batches of dry beans. They freeze well, so it’s a nice time-saver.
For a nice mixture of color and flavor, I use:
- Red kidney beans– I prefer the light red beans, but dark red are great too, and they have extra nutrients in them.
- White cannellini beans– These are also known as Great Northern beans.
- Pinto beans– Whenever I buy pintos, I always grab an extra bag or two of dry pinto beans to make a batch of authentic refried beans and/or refried bean dip. They’re great for cookouts, and they freeze well, so they make for easier meal prep during the week.
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)– Technically a legume, these “beans” are a great addition to a cold bean salad. They have a creamy texture, they’re packed with protein and fiber, and they’re SUPER easy to make from scratch.
Just follow the directions in the post how to cook chickpeas on Silk Road Recipes (my other recipe website).
To bring it all together I make a Tex Mex /southwest-inspired spicy vinaigrette, with a touch of ground cumin. Vinaigrette dressing tends to work best for a light salad like this one, allowing the flavor of the beans to shine.
Difference between vinaigrette and salad dressing
Vinaigrette – A vinaigrette is an oil based sauce that is countered in flavor with an acid, like vinegar or lemon juice. There are many kinds of vinegar to choose from, like balsamic, rice wine, apple cider, white, or red wine. Season with salt and pepper. Often times dijon mustard is added to emulsify it.
Salad Dressing – For a salad dressing, typically it’s the above ingredients, but a thickening agent is added. Think mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, avocado, or even fruit like in my Blackberry Tarragon Salad Dressing or my Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.
The nicest thing about using the spicy vinaigrette on my 4 bean salad is that it doesn’t need to be kept as cold as it would if it had a dairy product in it. This isn’t to say that it can kept out indefinitely; it just won’t curdle quickly in the hot sun like a mayo-based dressing might.
Main dishes to serve with cold salad
Any great bbq or cookout starts with the perfect protein! It could be some healthy fish/seafood like grilled shrimp or grilled salmon. Or, stick with traditional baby back ribs or spare ribs or grilled chicken.
For a step outside the American norm, make grilled lamb burgers with feta, or try any of these other picnic and cookout favorites!
- Southern Fried Chicken
My Southern Fried Chicken recipe starts with a hot sauce, buttermilk brine, and a well seasoned, flour and cornstarch crust for maximum crunch! This is a true family favorite and delivers on crunch, flavor and juicy chicken on the inside.
- BBQ Spatchcock Chicken
My grilled BBQ Spatchcock Chicken first gets a dry rub and then smoked on the grill for added flavor. Spatchcocking a chicken, or any poultry, is a great way to flatten the bird and get even cooking in less time than roasting whole.
- Kansas City Style Ribs
These are typically characterized by the thick, sticky sauce brushed on in the last 30 minutes of cooking. The dry rub and sauce are on the sweet side, using a brown sugar base, but are balanced with chili powder and pepper, producing some truly finger licking good ribs.
- Cilantro Lime Mexican Skirt Steak
The spicy vinaigrette on the 4 bean salad pairs perfectly with this Mexican skirt steak. It’s flavorful and grills up quickly so you can spend more time enjoying the party!
What ever you choose, even a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, it will be a great meal. Enjoy!
Zesty 4 Bean Salad
- Mince garlic, dice red onion and tomato and add to a large bowl.
- In a small bowl whisk together the Vinaigrette ingredients.
- Add drained beans, cilantro and parsley to diced vegetables. Pour vinaigrette over and toss well to coat.
- Refrigerate for an hour, covered. Stir before serving and taste for seasoning.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
This post, originally published on July 25, 2019, was updated with new content and republished on May 22, 2021.