A Bean Salad Is A Must-Have For Your Next Picnic

When you're planning a picnic for a beautiful sunny day, not much sounds better than a cool and refreshing veggie-packed salad. Many of the best salad recipes are built on a base of crisp leafy greens, which offer a crunchy vehicle for tasty toppings and delicious dressings, but they're also prone to wilting if left dressed too long or not chilled properly. Enter the bean, a new base for your picnic salad that doesn't suffer these problems. Plus, it travels well!

Arguably the most well-known bean salad is the three-bean salad, a potluck classic popularized in the 1950s and 60s that historically contained kidney, green beans, and wax beans. Today, there is some debate on which beans are used to make three-bean salad, but the truth is, you can make it with whatever beans you have on hand or happen to enjoy. Chickpeas, white beans, black beans, and even lima beans are all fair game. In fact, there are endless variations, from cranking up the number of beans to adding in grains like corn or quinoa. The one constant is that bean salads take best to acid-based dressings. The versatility and study base of a bean salad is one reason it's a perfect picnic food.

Beans salads win as tangy side dishes

Unlike macaroni and potato salads, which are somewhat beholden to creamy mayo dressings, the bean salad is the perfect vehicle for vinaigrettes. And unlike traditional green salads, bean salads get even better the longer they sit in the dressing. As such, it's beneficial to throw one together the day before your picnic for optimal flavor. You can mix it up in a large mason jar or other storage container, then pop it in the fridge so it's ready to grab-n-go when you head off to your picnic. It's a good idea to tote them in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack — beans can grow bacteria when left at room temperature for more than two hours.

With all the logistics squared away, it's time for the fun part: making a tangy, flavor-packed salad! There are loads of different ingredients and cuisines from which to take inspiration. Maybe you want a bit of Mexican flair with our jalapeño-lime three-bean salad, which contains avocado and corn, or something green and herbaceous like our fresh herb lima bean salad with grape tomatoes and onion. Craving something creamier? Go for roasted artichoke and white bean salad. Something crunchy? Try blanched green bean salad. And don't be afraid to get creative with any recipe by switching up the acid, oil, and veggies. Lean on apple cider vinegar for sweetness, toasted sesame oil for an Asian-inspired dish, or diced bell pepper for crunch.